Camera Cabling: Jack And Patch Or RJ45?

I'm curious how many of you installers prefer to punch down the ends of your horizontal cabling to a patch panel on the closet end and to a faceplate or biscuit on the other end, and then use patch cables on each end to attach to the switch from the patch panel and to a camera from the faceplate or biscuit (for example in the case of a drop ceiling).

Or how many of you tend to just terminate the end of your horizontal cabling with an RJ45 (especially on the camera side).

Obviously it's pretty much standard practice with structured cabling to go the patch panel/faceplate route. But this is typically for attaching things like (for example) PC's in office where the use of a faceplate and a patch cable is much preferred. Our industry tends to be a little different in that cameras in or hanging from an interior ceiling location are rarely going to move, and as such you can more often get away with a service loop and then directly terminating the horizontal wiring with an RJ45 and straight into the camera.

I do think that directly terminating a horizontal run with an RJ45 invites a couple of risks: 1) it's a bit more tedious to correctly attach an RJ45 on the end of a piece of CAT5/6 than it is to punch it down into a biscuit, 2) when rotating/pointing a camera one invites the opportunity to pull and kink the newly terminated cable.

I can see the argument for terminating the camera side without a faceplate, but what's the argument for not using a patch panel on the switch side?

Since patch panels are cheap and the labor per run is low once the panel is mounted.

The typical argument is "Why do we need that?" or "There's nowhere to put it!"

My answers are "Because it's right." and "Yes there is."

Yes, I guess I'm really asking mostly about the camera-side. To use a faceplate or biscuit to a patch cable to the camera or not..

Depends on the camera, location and customer. Most smaller jobs we just use RJ45 ends and plug it directly into the camera. We find it's easier to put RJ-45 ends on then punch downs when your on a ladder or bucket truck. Our larger customers with drop ceillings we use jacks with patch cables. Outside cameras normally are RJ-45 and depend on the camera and how we can get the cable outside.

My preference is the less connections the less that can go wrong.

Always use patch pannels at the headend.

Above I see: "My preference is the less connections the less that can go wrong" and then "always use patch panels at the head end". Isnt that a contradiction? If you punch down into a patch panel you have 3 connections: the patch panel itself and then 2 rj45 connectors on the patch cable vs just 1 connection if you just terminate it into the switch. Not to mention the patch cable itself as another point of failure if you want to get specific.

What is wrong with terminating it directly into the switch? Like you said "less can go wrong" no?

Is there any code or best practice written by any organization for camera and security applications requiring a patch panel and/or a jack on the camera end? If you can please provide references.

Thank you

One note to Und 1's comment:

ANSI/TIA 568C is superceded by ANSI/TIA-862-B (or 862-BAS) Building Automation Systems Cabling Standard for surveillance, access, and other IP systems. (This vendor's note weighs in on the issue.)

Once the camera gets installed it normally isn't moved very often. At the head end you will need to unplug cables to test at some point. Solid core copper is not desiged to be flexed alot so it's important to use patch cables at the headend.

So lets look at this from a cabling perspective. I always patch my devices and the reason is because most standards for cabling is that you do not exceed a 1' bend radius with solid cored cable. So when you start shoving that solid core cable through camera housings, and into the back of the domes, you exceed that requirement. Not using face plates is up to you, we rarely use them, we have used surface mount sticky jacks to make it look cleaner if we do go that route, but generally just the bisket jack is all we will use, especially if its up in the joists of a building.

Not using face plates is up to you, we rarely use them, we have used surface mount sticky jacks to make it look cleaner if we do go that route, but generally just the bisket jack is all we will use, especially if its up in the joists of a building.

Without a fixed plate, isn't it a little like running an extension cord?

The "biscuit" is usually secured, somehow. Screwed to a wall, tie-wrapped to a joist, etc.

I used tons of these in my cable career (shown without jacks installed):

Is that the same (electrically) as what Craig is talking about?

Does it have one more insertion point, like a consolidator?

All it is is a small box to hold a jack. You punch the jack down and stick it in the biscuit.

I used them more commonly for WAPs and other wireless systems than cameras. But sometimes cameras, too.

The colloquial names of that particular piece are pretty varied: I've heard them called 'pucks', 'port boxes', 'jack boxes', 'biscuits', 'johnson boxes', and 'roach traps' among many others.

A few years back I had issues at a site with their cabling. It wasn't a CCTV site but the same issues apply. A lot of the problem was to do with using crimps instead of jacks/patch panels. A lot of suppliers aren't aware of the different crimps required for solid condutor cable (ie normal building cabling) compared to stranded conductor cable (ie patch leads).

Personally I would only ever use jacks/patchleads at both ends.

below is out of a document I sent the customer....

Network Cabling: All network cabling should be terminated correctly to specifications (depending on the spec of the network) ie CAT5, CAT5e or CAT6 typically. To future proof an installation for more than just a few years nothing should be installed to less than CAT5e (preferably CAT6) to get the longest life out of the cabling with advances in technology.

Cabling should be terminated on the wall socket then run back to the Patch Cabinet maintaining the correct specifications for bends, ties, pathways with regards to proximity to power cabling etc. At the Patch Cabinet the cabling should be terminated on the relevant specified Category of Patch Panel (CAT5e or CAT6 typically numbering in 16, 24 or 32 sockets combinations in larger installations and down to 4 way faceplates for smaller or domestic installations). This cabling may also be known as the “fixed cabling” as it should now not be touched by the end user. The Wall Socket is then numbered/labelled to match the corresponding socket of the patch panel.

At each socket, Patch Leads (aka flyleads) are used to connect the Wall socket to the network card in the Computer and at the Patch Cabinet a Patch Lead is used to connect the point of the patch panel to a port of the Network Switch.

“Fixed cabling” contains 4 twisted pairs of solid copper cable and although it can be bent it is not meant to be flexible on an ongoing basis. Patch leads however contain 4 twisted pairs of stranded copper cable and are made to be flexible and their crimped ends normally have a moulded “boot” over the cable entering the clear plastic of the crimped end to help secure the crimped cables

The fixed cabling being behind the patch panel and wall socket is then safe from being flexed and/or damaged and should not require any attention. Patch Leads on the other hand are accessible by the end user and as a result may be plugged in /out many times with no detrimental effect (provided the network is switched off at the time). Should they become damaged or “suspect” it is a simple end user procedure to simply get another one (Officeworks, Harvey Norman Dick Smiths etc) and plug it in.

This is how a network should be configured:
Computer/Device--Patch Lead--Wall Socket--Fixed cabling--Patch Cabinet/Patch Panel--Patch Lead--Network Switch

In House Cabling:

Your fixed wiring network (ie the cabling within the walls) has been incorrectly configured:
Computer--Patch Lead--Wall Socket--Fixed cabling/incorrect crimps--Network Switch

The network cabling has been configured incorrectly by having no Patch Panel. Instead the fixed cabling is coming straight out of the wall/ceiling and has then been crimped with RJ45 connectors on the ends of the cable which are then plugged directly into the Network Switch. The crimps on some cables haven’t even clamped the outer blue sheath. Also the cables have not been labelled very well. They are labelled in the cabinet with names that aren’t immediately recognised as to where they are with no plan as to what the room name refers to and at the wall socket end no labelling whatsoever as to whether the point is for data or phone or what number it is.

This immediately creates 2 problems:

  1. Cables are not easily identified making trouble shooting of a network issue quite time consuming.
  2. If a cable becomes “damaged” or “suspect” the computer on the other end cannot connect to the network until a “cabler” or suitably skilled person comes to the site to recrimp the cable. Whereas a patchlead can be purchased over the counter at various retailers and changed by you the user.

The likelihood of a cable becoming damaged is quite high due to the fact that crimping a solid conductor cable should not be done where the cable is likely to be plugged in/out a number of times, due to the fact the solid conductor cables tend, eventually to have a bad connection at the crimp.

This bad connection problem has been greatly increased due to the fact that the wrong crimps were also used. As can be seen in the photo below the left the Stranded Conductor Crimp has 2 points that pierce the stranded cable to make a good connection whereas the Solid Crimp has 3 prongs which connect by using the IDC (insulation displacement connector) method ie the solid conductor becomes wedged between the prongs. What has been used at the Resource Centre is the Stranded Conductor Crimps which when crimped on a Solid Conductor will make a connection for a period of time but will eventually fail, especially when physically handled when looking for a particular cable or simply when unplugged and plugged into the network switch.

RJ45 Crimp Connectors

Whenever possible, I'll use a patch panel at the head end, and RJ45 at the camera.

For us, at the head end it's as much for versatility as cleanliness. UTP runs can be useful for things besides cameras - I've had to add the odd WAP to a spare run, or extend one for a POS network drop, or for who knows what else. If the cables are all bundled and trimmed to length and plug right into the switch, it makes it a lot harder to repurpose that spare. Or more accurately, it's just far easier to be able to simply run a patch cable over to the customer's switch as needed.

It's also a bit of a holdover from the days we were doing a lot of mixed analog and IP, using rack-mounted balun/power units - having it all in a panel makes it way simpler to change out a failing analog camera for a network camera - just move the patch cable, or use one of a different length if needed.

At the camera end, I actually find it takes me longer to terminate in a keystone/biscuit than into an RJ45, especially as there are so many variations from brand-to-brand in how keystones accept wires. And punch tools don't work very well if you don't have something solid behind the jack.

Plus, you can't push the end of a patch cable through a weather-tight grommet (Axis P3384-VE for example). You can't use the weather-tight jacks that come on a lot of Chinese cameras now (they typically need to be assembled over the cable before it's terminated). All kinds of ways it's easier to run the end of a plain Cat5e into a tight space where you wouldn't be able to jam the end of a patch cable, let alone have room for the keystone AND the patch cable.

As an end user who installs many of our cameras myself, I've always done it RJ45 directly to the camera and then RJ45 directly into the switch.

Our network admin has never really given me a clear answer as to if it's OK or not. I think he always says something to the extent of it needs to be the same on both ends. Meaning if there is a patch cord on one end then there needs to be one on the other end. Of no patch cord on one end then no patch cord on the other end.

I think he always says something to the extent of it needs to be the same on both ends. Meaning if there is a patch cord on one end then there needs to be one on the other end...

By any chance does the guy have a pile of RJ-45 gender-benders on his desk? ;)

Meaning if there is a patch cord on one end then there needs to be one on the other end. Of no patch cord on one end then no patch cord on the other end.

Well that's just silly, at least from a technical standpoint. I've snipped the molded plugs off the tails of some cameras and hard-spliced my incoming Cat5e directly to the wires with beanie caps... certainly not going to replicate that at the switch end. At the end of the day it's all just electricity.

I think he always says something to the extent of it needs to be the same on both ends.

Sounds more like he means the wiring standard(T568A OR T568B) to me.


Sorry it is not just electricity its high speed data. Most cameras are running at 100Mb/s, so at a minimum they should be running over CAT5 cable. For CAT5 (and above) there are strict termination rules eg radius bends of the cable which may or may not effect the data depending on how lucky you are. One definite rule to adhere to is the pairing of the wires used in the cable. Just connect the cable pin to pin and don't worry about pairs and see how far you get. Also no single pair should be untwisted for more than 12mm (just under half an inch). It may still work but data transmission feeds will be affected. Make the twist greater than 12mm and no decent cable tester will pass it and I'm not talking about some cheaper tester that shows open circuits and whether pin 1 to 8 is connected to pin 1 to 8 at the other end but a tester that measures attenuation, crosstalk, cable length etc.

Its not just electricity its data.

Okay, chief.

Edit: okay, lemme put it this way. I know what "the rules" are. One of the advantages of not just knowing what the rules are, but WHY they are, is being able to known when you can bend them and when you can break them, and still achieve what you need to.

So I know that I can chop the jack off the tail of a camera and hard splice my Cat5e to it, and the camera will still work. Why? BECAUSE IT'S STILL MOVING ELECTRICITY.

I don't see the point in getting out the micrometer to make sure I have less than 12mm of the UTP untwisted, when the camera has a 12" tail on it that has no twisted pairs at all...

Fortunately, between the twisted pairs, the balanced signal, various layers of error correction, etc., the spec involved is designed to keep working properly under FAR WORSE conditions than b-cons and an untwisted camera tail, which is why I know I can get away with doing some creative things to make an installation work.

Would it also shock you to know I've converted entire offices from token-ring to ethernet over existing Cat3 simply by changing pairs in a BIX panel, and swapping out a modular jack at the computer end? Yeah, it actually works. Why? BECAUSE IT STILL MOVES ELECTRICITY.

+1 for <edit> of the year

Sorry duplicate entry edited out.

Most cameras are running at 100Mb/s ?

Example please

Say I drive 60 mph for 10 miles to the magazine stand, read a magazine for 40 minutes and drive back home at the same speed.

On the way back I get pulled over by a cop for speeding, can I tell him I was only doing 20 MPH?

Every Ethernet frame sent by a camera travels at the interface's highest speed. There's just a lot of magazine reading in between...

Exactly..why stop and read magazines. Your 20 min trip just took you an hour. So if they want to treat cabling with the idea "its just electricity" they may as well stop and read as many magazines as they want because they're probably not going to have a job much longer anyway.

In context of the post I was replying to - the boss who insisted on the same type of connection at both ends, RJ45 vs. keystone - it's about as relevant as the difference between driving into the parking space at the magazine store and then backing out when you leave, or backing in when you arrive and pulling straight out after.

Or even more to the point, it's like backing in at the store simply because you backed in previously when you parked at home. Backing in vs. backing out is all a matter of preference and doing it one way at one end simply because you did it that way at the other end is specious reasoning at best.

(And before this devolves into the ever-popular backing-in vs backing-out argument... meh, never mind.)

Ok the cameras aren't running at 100Mb/s but their network connection connecting to the switch is 100Mb/s and if the switch is trying to run at 100Mb/s and the link can't take it then it will probably auto switch down to 10Mb/s then possibly later try switching back up to 100Mb/s. This continual negotiations between the switch and camera can cause data transmission problems. My original still stands.

Its not just electricity its data..

"This continual negotiations between the switch and camera can cause data transmission problems."

I can see your point but I never seen such condition my self

I haven't actually seen it happen with any cameras I have connected but thats more because I haven't connected any cameras to dodgy cabling. I have definitely seen it happen with PCs where in the end I've had to force the NIC of a PC to the lower speed to settle it down. But the potential is there for it to happen with cameras as well. Crap cabling can result in time consuming intermittent problems that cause no end of headaches.

Which comes back to the original post re crimps and jacks. Even an idiot can follow the colour coding of a jack and provided proper cable twists are maintained up to the connection all is good with the right pairing. But how often have you come across a crimped cable connection where coloured pairs are side by side and the cabler says it tests pin to pin ok ......yes it does but its not correct and it will cause problems.

If you're wondering why I'm so pedantic about this its because I had my own network cabling business for 12 years and was called in numerous times to fix cabling that "tested ok!!!!!"

...was called in numerous times to fix cabling that "tested ok!!!!!"

Were you using a decent tester, not some cheap tester, but a tester that measures attenuation, crosstalk, cable length etc?

If so, wouldn't you say the converse is also as common, that the decent tester reports some abnormality, yet the cable, today (in this application at least), performs as good as any other?

Anomalies are fine, as long as they're within spec :) We cabled one site where the longest runs came in at a hair under 350'... never had any issues with computers plugged into those ports. It was all still 10/100 then, but none of them were any slower than any other systems in the place. It's not like ethernet will work at 330' and then just NOT work at 331'.

We have done the same following a run that was already working and replaced that camera and added an additional camera with a coil in the cable tray midway in the event we needed to add a midspan or extender. The runs were at least 350-400. We haven't had any issues with those cameras and the client never had issues with the previous camera. It was just bad placement for a PTZ.

Yes, it's not just electricity but data is a statement that's getting old. It's like saying it's not just electricity, it's sound (for loudspeakers)

There are ideals and standards for everything. They work well for classrooms and test labs for learning. That doesn't always mean you can't bend the rules. Most "Ethernet" lines I've seen going into a camera are far from ideal. They are also within the camera and aren't as suseptable to outside noise as is typically found across the whole cable run. The POE part of the cable is just "electricity" to my knowledge.

This is not to say I don't advocate for best practices but you take calculated risks once in a while to get systems working and clients happy.

Most of what I have seen has never been crap cabling. It has simply been poor installation. We just renovated the poorly installed AV system at a bar. We were having problems with the wireless AP provided by others. There was also a busted POS monitor. Employees reported bad WiFi.

I then asked why the monitor was shattered. An employee was frustrated. Then I was told another POS station sometimes works. The cable was fine but there was no wall box and patch cable and was a direct line to the POS. To get it working until they want it done correctly, I wacked off the ends and reterminated. Problems immediately went away.

The jack was terminated properly, but solid copper going to the client. If it was a stranded patch cable from the box and this happened, it's much easier for the manager to replace the patch cable themselves vs a service call to replace an 8P8C.

Yes it was a decent tester it did the usual wire map, cable length, attenuation, crosstalk etc. It was years ago now. I think the tester was called Wire Scope 100. I was called in to test cables and rectify after someone else had installed the cabling and tested it with some mickey mouse pin to pin tester and said "yes cabling all good its tested ok". In one case the patch panel had been wired with cables untwisted about 3 inches and single wires then punched down nowhere near the other wire of the pair other than right at the jack in the patch panel.

I have never had a cable test ok and then have problems that were not caused by some external or third party problem eg someone else has crushed or damaged it at a later date.

Yes a tester could report a problem and yet the cable could appear to function ok. But thats no reason to not fix the problem. The same could be said for driving a car with very little oil in it. If it burns no oil it could be ok for years but at some time it would probably be a good idea to attend to it.

I was just trying to make a point re cabling.


No more comments from me...

The difference between doing it correctly and any shortcut is minimal, and the benefits of doing it correctly are many.

Our requirements are;
Indoor Cameras.
A. PVC or Plenum (as required by code)
B. Terminated at the camera (s) on suitable block, panel etc. for neaby cameras
C. Terminated at Head or IDF on suitable panels, or biscuits
D. Dressed, terminated, and certified (printed or PDF reports) tested end to end with commercial patch cords.

So often and client will add another camera in these areas, and having an accessible tested cable is a must. We have many solutions to power multiple POE cameras across that connection..

Outdoor Cameras
A. FSTP PVC, PLENUM, and/or Direct Burial, and sometimes messenger required.
B. Remote terminations are in Seal Junction Boxes, with Glands
B. Terminated on shielded jacks, properly bonded to streel building structures, Prefer CAD welded grounds when available.
Lightning Surge Devices on both ends... 6' minimum cables, provide they are 3' longer that SPD wire length to grounds.

We have a legal release for anything less....

If only "doing it right" was an option every time....

Unlike plumbing, the crap runs uphill and this will be reflected in the reliability and confidence the client has in you and the system. Juse this week, we provided a report to a client for all problems spanning six years, traced to legacy and client staff cabling. IDC termination on blocks is faster than RJ45, factor labor and it's cheaper too.

Thanks for all the thoughtful replies to this thread. As I suspected the consensus appears to be that the “right way” to do it (with patch cables at both ends) appears to be preferred—with the understanding that it may not always be necessary/possible.

We use a network of installers all over the US and are finding that the risk of a ‘flaky’ cable increases dramatically if the installer is putting RJ45 on the horizontal cabling directly. Variability in skill level between individual installers will probably emerge as the culprit. I believe that punching down the solid copper into a patch panel or faceplate/biscuit simply carries less risk that a cable will later turn out to be marginal—even if it initially passes testing.