Subscriber Discussion

Should I Use Analog Cameras In A New IP Video System?

I have a client that was sold on the idea of having hybrid capability on his brand new video surveillance system. He expects to use analog cameras in areas of less importance in order to keep costs down. The job will remain under 50 cameras and be on a small school campus.

Our company only does IP, unless we have no other choice. Perhaps I am blinded by my IP preference but I do not see the benefit in choosing a mix of analog and IP on a totally new system.

What are your thoughts and experiences? Worth it, not worth it, tried it and worked great, tried it and it was a mistake...let me know.

So is he being sold on hybrid recorders, encoders, or what?

I can get behind the idea of using SD or SVGA cameras in areas of less importance, but running an entire separate infrastructure to support both analog and IP cameras seems silly, and not cost effective, nor future proof.

Brian, fascinating question. Thanks for sharing.

I am not sure how this is going to keep costs down. Let's say low cost is our objective. You can buy analog cameras for $40 but you can both 720p IP cameras for $100. And the analog camera requires separate encoding and then, as Ethan points out, you make future upgrades a lot more expensive.

In terms of encoding analog cameras, you have a few choices:

  • If you use encoder appliances, it will be far more expensive as even 'cheap' encoders costs $100+ per channel.
  • If you use a hybrid DVR, that might make a little more sense but the extra cost for the encoding will still be non trivial.
  • The absolute lowest cost approach would be to buy analog only DVRs (Dahua / Hikvision sub $1000 16 channel DVRs) and then mix and match in IP. However, with that approach, I think you will get locked in to only 1 vendor's IP offering.

Executing this to actually save money is tricky.

We've done it as a cost saving measure at the customers request. It works out using Avigilon's 4 channel encoder, on their VMS. You end up paying one license for 4 channels of video. 99% of the time, post install, the customer has regretted not going all HD.

Chris, no doubt Avigilon's encoders and bundling are quite inexpensive (members: see this review), but I don't think it would be any more money to use a 3rd party low cost 720p IP camera.

The simple fact is, there are some analog cameras that are better-suited to specific situations without a corresponding IP counterpart, at least not within a reasonable price range.

Case in point is a regular customer of ours: an upscale restaurant/lounge with fairly low lighting at night, complicated by lots of dark furniture and fixtures, making for some very contrasty situations (halogen pinspots over dark wood tables, etc.).

In all of the last 16-18 sites we've done for them, we've used primarily CNB VCM-24VF "Monalisa" cameras, because for the price point, the Monalisas provide outstanding TDN low-light performance. They're also a very versatile camera, being flush or surface mountable, IP65-rated, with a 2.8-10.5mm lens and a very well designed 3-axis adjustment gimbal. They also have an SBLC (super backlight control) that handles the dynamic range quite well. And most importantly, the customer doesn't hate the dome design too much (the designers would rather have no cameras at all).

Now we're getting in these 2MP/1080p Dahua mini-domes, costing almost exactly the same as the CNBs. They're smaller, lower profile (the designers love them), still a fairly wide view though a fixed lens, and give a really nice picture for the cost... but they're not TDN and frankly, they're lousy in low light. As much as I would have liked to use them instead of the CNBs for this latest site - operations are spread over four floors and being able to go all-network would have made things SO much easier - they just wouldn't be suitable for the dining and lounge areas.

They do, however, work very nicely in the back-of-house areas - office, staff room, lockers, etc - and we've used a number of them for those areas. But for front-of-house, it will be primarily the same CNBs for the foreseeable future.

We HAVE found very good results recently with the Axis P3384 domes and have started using more of those FOH, especially in their new flagship store, but those are about four times the price of the CNBs and minidomes - when you're looking at 30+ cameras per site, that adds up fast.

So in answer to Brian's original question: yes, there can be a benefit to a hybrid system, in certain circumstances. In a school situation, where they're not likely to operate with dimmed lighting, some cheap IP cams may suffice. Then again, if they're wanting to cover things like parking lots and outdoor areas at night, with only street lighting available, they may find it overly expensive to get suitable IP cameras for that task.

Matt, that's an interesting point. I can't think of any strong and cheap low light IP cameras, and the analog ones you sent are under $200.

That said, I am curious if this is what Brian is going for. I read his statement of "use analog cameras in areas of less importance in order to keep costs down" as implying low end analog cameras, i.e, buy a $50 analog camera...

Same thought applies, I suppose - the CNBs aren't particularly "low end" or "cheap", but we're paying more in that case for (primarily) the low-light capability. An analog camera that does the equivalent of the 1080p dome just without the resolution (sorry, "pixel count") would probably run $50 or less, easily - if that was a suitable spec, then yes, the "cost savings" argument applies.

For the cost savings argument to apply, I think the analog camera would need to at least be $100 more than the IP just to cover the additional cost of encoding, not to mention that the benefits of IP giving HD and not having to worry about using/reusing coax in the future (or adding cost by using baluns etc.)

I believe he is being sold on a Proprietary system a local integrator has branded his that is really based on a Geovision platform. I agree with Nathan's points and I think it is a mistake. I am a big believer in 'you get what you pay for' so I was interested in providing Axis cameras instead of letting cost be my primary deciding factor, probably not the best way to get the sale. I am sure they will regret going with non HD cameras but by then this guy will be their incumbent and there will be little chance of them changing sources, unless he screws up bad. Very interesting concept of using Avigilon's encoders with the corresponding savings in licenses though.

As far as the 'Specific Situation' brought up by Matt I agree to a point. For instance we only use analog LPR cameras when implementing anything having to do with capturing plates. I would disagree that spending less money on low light capable SD domes is a better decision than spending much more on a low light capable IP camera, but it's easy for me to say that because it's not my money I'm spending.

Ultimately I believe this is going to come down to the well oiled marketing machine this integrator has in place, in addition to some not so honorable sales tactics he may have employed. I guess you can't win em all.

"A Proprietary system a local integrator has branded his that is really based on a Geovision platform"

Ugh, maybe you can send the end user the post on phony manufacturers :)

I would disagree that spending less money on low light capable SD domes is a better decision than spending much more on a low light capable IP camera, but it's easy for me to say that because it's not my money I'm spending.

We've been through a number of different IP cameras with this customer over the years - IQEye, Arecont, HIKvision, Panasonic, Vivotek, and most recently Axis. Some have worked "okay", some have been terrible. Resolution (sorry John, I keep forgetting - PIXEL COUNT) isn't worth a damn if you can't see anything in the shadows or if someone crawling across the floor at closing is smeared by motion blur. Fact is, on all the previous sites over the last five years, we haven't yet found a MP camera that performs as well with their lighting.

A particular 1080p Vivotek is possibly the best overall we've seen so far in their situation, but it's only available in a "box" style, so it's not really suitable. The Axis has yet to be proven on an operating site (opening day is a week or two away) but it looks promising so far. We actually first installed this model at their head office, covering their parking lot there, and the IT manager was so impressed, he decided on a dozen of them for this site... but again, they're over four times the cost of the analog camera, and it IS his budget that has to come into consideration.

Let's not forget, too, the added pixels mean additional storage is required - we've got 40TB on this site (16 x 3TB drives configured RAID6+spare), but others won't have the same budget. And they want 90 days' retention!

As you might have gathered by now, low-light and dynamic range are my version of Carl's PTZ latency ;)

BTW, just to be clear, I'm not saying that SD/analog-for-the-sake-of-cost is a better idea in your situation... just that there ARE times where it's hard to find a suitable MP equivalent at a reasonable cost... or at ANY cost.

For the cost savings argument to apply, I think the analog camera would need to at least be $100 more than the IP just to cover the additional cost of encoding, not to mention that the benefits of IP giving HD and not having to worry about using/reusing coax in the future (or adding cost by using baluns etc.)

Depends whether you're talking about external encoder, or a true hybrid DVR (or maybe, using a cheap standalone DVR as a multichannel encoder? ;), I suppose. Looking at a Vigil build chart, for example, adding an 8-channel hardware compression card to an all-IP machine, adds anywhere from $400 to $1000 (MSRP) depending on the resolution and framerate options (D1@30fps on all channels adds the highest cost, of course). So basically, adding hybrid capability to a Vigil NVR starts at around $50/camera (MSRP).

As for the cost of cabling, I don't think that's a major consideration these days. Cat5e is can generally be had cheaper than decent RG-59, and you still need to get power to the cameras... baluns are almost at commodity prices, not substantially more than quality BNCs. We don't even stock coax anymore - with total price being similar enough, added to the greater flexibility and "future-proofing" we get with UTP, there's just no point.

We've been through a number of different IP cameras with this customer over the years - IQEye, Arecont, HIKvision, Panasonic, Vivotek, and most recently Axis. Some have worked "okay", some have been terrible.

Us too, we have high hopes for Lightfinder but have yet to deploy any.

Raid 6 with a hot spare huh? Nice.

Once the place is under its operating lighting, I'll see if I can get you some stills. The cameras have separate "WDR" and "Lightfinder" modes, and so far under raised lighting, the difference is striking - tables by a window are blown out vs. tables in the interior when using Lightfinder... switching to WDR makes everything nice and even. I have doubts the WDR will stand up under the reduced night-time lighting, but I'm going to look into the scripting these cameras support to see if I can force them to switch modes at given times or at given light levels or something.

I think John addressed the WDR/Lightfinder issue in training, if I remember correctly the latest firmware handles that automatically?

Hmmm could be, I didn't notice a switch option, but I wasn't looking for it either. I'll double-check the firmware, although these were bought brand-new less than two months ago (our supplier actually had them aired direct from the factory since they couldn't find any in any of their North American channels).

I have been through the mill with hybrid versus pure HD IP based vs. migration path for legacy to IP. In my experience the key is to have a goal, design with the intent to meet that goal and budget correctly to meet any specific need (ie. lighting improvements) that should be considered in order to deploy correctly.

Other fun things I have learned is:

  • Math is fun. Cheaper is better, less is more, rich people have more fun...or was it blondes or blonde rich people?
  • Not all pixels are created equal.
  • More pixels = more light.
  • Cameras need light to work properly.
  • Security is proprietary.

David, we are not considering here 'migration path for legacy to IP.' This is specially about a greenfield scenario where all the cameras, whether analog or IP, would be new.

I was looking for an analogy but maybe there is no appropriate analogy; I wouldn't buy a new car with an old engine. I might buy an old car with a new engine but only if I had a guarantee = ROI. There is more to it when it comes to security. Deterrent, employee safety, risk mitigation, theft, evidence of all of the above and on and on...

For the end user, it all correlates with the cost of ownership - including the ability to buy, operate/use, upgrade, expand plus meet industry and govt mandates. For the reseller it is the cost of permitting, buying, installing and guaranteeing it. The case is for buying old analog technology and mixing it with new IP technology. Personally I think it is a ridiculous thought to buy a "hybrid" just to save 20 or 30%. The same thought applies to anything with coax cable originally purposed for use as an RF antenna.

For a brand spanking new install, if you drill down passed the cost, the intent to accomplish a specific goal should be prevalent. If the goal is specific, eg. 8 situational awareness cameras, 8 forensic detail cameras and record on schedule with event only at night then you'll have an easier time putting the issues of cost to bed on hybrid vs. anything else.

I think everyone is forgetting the network cost. For enterprise installs Catalyst switches are less costly if they are not POE. Then you have the question of leveraging existing equipment. So all in all, there isn't a clear and concise answer as to which is more economical- just like everything else, it's project specific. I agree that the install time is drastically less than on an analog system. However an IT hourly rate will likely be much higher than a standard low volt install rate, overall.

David, a better analogy might be the choice between a car with a 1.6 liter four-banger or an 5.7 liter V8 - one will move you faster, the other using less gas, but both will still get you where you're going.

Infrastructure costs aside (we could go on forever arguing cost of switches vs. cost of encoders or capture cards), the fact remains, there are still tasks for which there are good analog cameras without suitable megapixel equivalents, or at least, not cost-effective equivalents.

The CNBs I mentioned above are a good example for when one needs a versatile, multi-use camera with outstanding low-light response - again, the Axis P33 line handle similar conditions well (although I haven't tested them with very low light yet), but at 5-6 times the price.

I also still haven't found a megapixel camera that can match up to Panasonic's SuperDynamic analog cameras for extreme backlighting (that includes the SuperDynamic MP cameras). Not saying they don't exist, but nothing I've tried thus far has done the job. I can take SOME advice from IPVM's reviews, but at the end of the day, anything I put in still has to work in my customer's specific situation.

Matt, P series cameras are below average in low light compared to other day/night MP cameras so saying they are similar to the CNBs is faint praise.

As for the Panasonic SuperDynamic analog camera's WDR, have you run them against the Axis P3384? I'd truly be stunned if any Panasonic analog camera matched that. Btw, Panasonic MP WDR cameras are mediocre compared to other MP WDR cameras. Sony V series and the new Axis WDR models (like the Q1604) tested better.

Last year I quoted about 2 or 3 systems with an exacqVision hybrid with IP cameras inside the facility and for my close outdoor camera runs. For my long runs ~600 plus feet, I had cheap Bosch IR Bullet cameras 200 series quoted. The only reason I quoted those systems that way was because the facilities only had 1 area for network switches to be placed at. One of the places I quoted ended up going all analog with just 16 cameras to start. Unless you forced by facility for limited space on your equipment, go all analog or all IP. If a client see HD, they will want almost all their cameras HD except for maybe 1 or 2 cameras. Samsung has some super cheap SD IP cameras they released last year.

But if you are confotable with all IP, pitch them on the Axis lightfinder technology. Just tell them nobody can give them an HD low light picture (P3364, P3384) as good those cameras can. We have exploded in installing Axis lightfinder technology in the last month and a half in customers we would have been quoting analog just a year ago. I tell them upfront, if you want the best, you have to pay for it. Granted these ACC sites without license fees which helps and isn't a good example for your school. I would say compared to 2009, 2010 customers are more willing to spend more for a better system now when i quote it both all analog or an all IP system.

John are you referring to the old Axis P series cameras or their new lightfinder ones? The P3364 outperformed the Bosch 1080p in our office shootout because the Dinion went into black & white mode and had more motion blurring. We have a P3384 in our front lobby and I get a color shot at nightime (Lightfinder turned on, Lux level below 1) and can still see a WDR shot in both day and nighttime. The analog camera (Pelco Camclosure) we have in there is in black and white

Steve, good point. I was referring / assuming Matt was talking about the existing / old P series, not the new ones.

Well, John, you know what they say about assuming... ;)

Yes, I was actually referring specifically to the P3384-V and -VE that we've used lately. Sorry if I confused things :)

BTW, give you another example of where analog is still useful: on this latest job, where the site is spread over four floors of the structure, the loading bay is off an industrial access road on the lowest level, while the kitchens are on the third and fourth (street) levels... the customer wanted a camera at the loading bay man-door that would be displayed on monitors inside the loading area at the shipping desk, and in the third-floor kitchen. Naturally, they also wanted to record it on their CCTV system.

Much as I would have loved to go with a simple video-entryphone system, they decided they'd prefer to have the back door buzzer feed into the phone system, where it could be routable to any sets in the future, and the monitor system should be separate. In this case, it made FAR more sense, both cost-wise and logistically, to put a small analog vandal dome at the back door (at face level), run it to an active splitter in the IT room (about $40), then send it back out to the monitors and hybrid DVR. Cameras and monitors are each powered over a single piece of Cat5e with passive baluns, making a very simple and effective setup.

Doing something similar with IP cameras would probably have cost at least 5 times as much and been a logistical headache, and there's really no need for HD picture in this case.

My opinion, do the cost analysis to see if a hybrid solution really would be that much cheaper than all IP. If it is, your duty may be to at first inform your customer that you still don't think it a good idea for the long term, but you have the right to sell them what they want if they want it anyway. And then you can sell them the upgrades from analog to IP with a clear conscisous. The customer is always right when they insist they are, even if they're wrong.

I do this all the time by using Interlogix and selling their IP recorders and analog recorders and mixing them on the same system or deploying at different sites. Then the client views either or both via the Nav software so it looks like one large system. I've found this very cost effective and analog still have tremendous value in the marketplace.

I really think their are many questions to answer from what their existing infrastructure is to what price / performance do they want to achieve.

It's a complex question but can be answered.


Michael, why pay more for Hikvision? :)

It's not all Hikvision anymore and the price points have dropped drastically over the last six months. I think they realize that they can't add 30% for a logo like GE used to do. The warranty is solid and I get great support from the video team which is worth a lot to me and my clients. That said, they still allow anyone to whore it on the Internet which undermines our position as a dealer, but they don't get the support or warranty service through the grey market channel.