What Cameras Are A Pain To Install?

A camera can have great image quality and advanced software features, but it might be difficult to install, causing problems in deploying. Share what cameras you have had issues with and why.

Anything that won't attach to a standard electrical box. Anything with a 6 foot whip. (can be helpful - often not).

Dome cameras that are unable to provide full 3-axis capabilities. Dome cameras whose camera axis' don't maintain position well (lock in place). Dome cameras with limited tilt range (can't be aimed near-horizontal). Varifocal lenses that are "touchy" to adjust and lock or whose adjustments aren't "smooth". Bubbles that distort focus.

Examples of poor design include Pelco's Camclosure series for tilt range, inMotion's indoor domes for loose aim lock, many domes for bubble issues (especially with long FL lenses) and most plastic varifocal lenses for "touchiness", especially S-mount (12mm) lenses.

Agree with all of Carl's points above... also James' point about the tails. Most of the dome cameras I use will bolt straight to a double-gang, square, and/or octagon box, but I've found it of limited usefulness - the one time we tried roughing in double gangs, the boarders didn't cut tight around them and we had cut-out corners sticking out from beneath the dome.

Also, much as I love them for the price-to-image-quality ratio, the Dahua mini-domes offer very limited range of adjustment and almost no side-to-side rotation, which means you have to mount the camera fairly close to the final angle you want it aiming. One of the mounting holes being right beside the tail make mounting tricky in surfaces like drywall, too. That aside, we've learned to work around it and come up with some pretty creative solutions...

Although I love both the build and image quality of the Bosch IP Flexidomes, the pig-tail style "cable tree" with the attached heating element is difficult to fit into the camera if all connections have to be made within the housing. To complicate it, try doing it in sub-zero temperatures.

I also agree with Carl, Matt, and Vincent. With over 15 years of installing cameras I have run across many however that 15 years has also washed my memory of the model numbers.

I remember a Sony PTZ that had an IP RJ45 input but the base wouldn't attach without bending the connector into a U shape and forcing it into the female port. The American Dynamics Ultradomes were a pain to mount the dome to the bracket with the nylon split washer, rubber gasket, and 1 1/8 inch nut all while keeping the cables from being twisted. Snapping in the I/O board with the cables crammed up inside is especially fun. I have also learned to make sure the twist lock camera is actually locked and won't fall out as I have watched an Ultradome dropping like a WWII bomb then disintegrating into a hundred pieces. Putting the LED’s on the I/O board for power and communication was ridiculous and the camera had to be removed to test for these. Speaking of the I/O board, they were NOT backwards compatible and you couldn’t use old stock for new ultras.

Stardot’s megapixel domes were hard to keep in focus when the lens was pointed straight down. The dome cover pushed the camera up and out of focus. Of course if you were mounting with the cables you used to focus it inside, you don’t realize it until you get back to the head end.

The old Kalatel Cyberdome had those rubber feet that fit into the mounting plate, but wouldn’t if the little cover to the circuit board came unlatched just a wee bit. Then their “improved version had us removing them and replacing them with nylon ones that wouldn’t deteriorate.

Carl’s mention of no horizontal capabilities is a real sore spot with me. We won a large 400 camera project and over half were in hallways and the small AD domes that “just came out” had to be replaced with a different, and more costly, brand camera. Because of this, I insist upon testing any new domes we bid jobs with.

All that being said I have to say the Pelco Spectra series was easy to install, and the Bosch PTZ had a hook you could use while wiring.

Most mainstream varifocal IR bullets from Asia (Dahua, Hikvision, Dynacolor, Hunt, SMax, Vivotek, ACTi etc...) have a bunch of alarm I/O, audio I/O, Ethernet, 24VAC/12VDC power, etc.. cables in a long and ugly mess of a dongle thats VERY hard to hide away -- super annoying - so much so that we try to not sell bullets now - and prefer to offer well designed domes with modular cables and right angled wall brackets. These manufacturers need to learn a little from Ubiquity AirCam - whose installation design is excellent (RJ45 jacks on the back - nothing to hide or worry about). The Engineers obviously have NEVER installed one of their own bullets on a real concrete wall ever in their lives.

This is a very useful discussion and hopefully camera manufacturers will take notice.

So how about asking the opposite question - which IP cameras are the easiest to install ?

Axis P33xx domes and others like the Dahua HDBW3202 which have detachable cables, base brackets from the camera modular itself AND motorised lenses.

Detachable cable is important to avoid having to waterproof extranous cables that are not used (audio, analogue, AC/DC, I/O et al)

Detachable base bracket is important to allow heavy duty tools to be used for rapid installation of the base bracket without damaging the camera.

Motorised lenses are a MUST for easy, successful installation of megapixel cameras - finger twitching knobs are just no good for achieving sharp megapixel images.

I'll second most of what Bohan lists there (including the P33xx). As far as "easy" cameras, one of the reasons the CNB VCM-24VF has been our go-to analog dome for a few years now, besides the great low-light images, is the ease of installation and flexibility they provide: FULL 3-axis adjustment, have NEVER had one shift its aim despite not needing any screws to lock things down (you reading this, Panasonic?), easy flush- or surface-mounting, lots of room in the back-box for connections, and the 2.8-10.5mm lens is a very versatile range to work with. Other camera designers should use this as a template.

I agree. This is an excellent discussion. Ethan and I talked about doing a video demonstration of these issues as I think it would help those without field experience to better 'see' what the physical problems are. I am hoping we do this in the next month.

Please keep the ideas and issues coming!

@ Vincent - Appreciate your comment above about the Bosch IP Flexidomes. We have addressed this issue in the new NIN Series by (1) removing the large "block" from the pigtail, and (2) slightly deepening the backbox for easier cable management. You'll find it much friendlier to work with than the previous design.

Since I'm on the topic, I'll mention some unique features of these cameras designed to improve the installation experience. (Lens Wizard) - upon entering the remote focus/zoom menu, this feature automatically opens the iris of the camera to maximum possible. This shrinks your depth of field to facilitate accurate focus setting for all lighting conditions. (Bubble) - the camera sits a bit deeper into the bubble than most which allows a full 90 degree tilt with +-90 degree twist - for looking back against the wall you've mounted it on. (User Modes) Preconfigured camera settings are available to simplify setup in like applications including Indoor, Outdoor, Motion, Low Light, WDR. You can pick the one that suits the application - even "tweak" it to suit your needs. And my favorite (User Mode Switching). Since no 1 single mode can be the 'optimum setting' 24 hours a day, it is possible to switch from one mode to another based upon time schedule - or alarm input. For example: a camera positioned at a dock delivery door in a warehouse needs to be configured for best WDR performance during daylight hours, however, at night, these settings are not optimal for low light performance. By implementing a simple script in the camera's ATSL engine, your camera can switch from WDR mode to Low Light mode at a predefined hour of the evening - than back to WDR mode again in the morning, etc...

Didn't mean to offer a sales pitch here :-), however I thought these items were relevent to the topic of discussion.

Not to rain on your parade, Mike, but a lot of cameras have the same or similar features... the aforementioned Axis models, for example.

Working with a high-end restraurant chain that likes their dim night lighting, I do like the ability to switch between WDR in the day, and Lightfinder at night, on the P3384 domes... however, the one thing missing from them, and from your description of the Bosch models, is the ability to make that switch based on light levels. I can SORT OF program the Axis cams to do it based on their day/night switching, but it has some odd... uh... side-effects. I suppose I could add a light sensor to the alarm input on the camera, but with 14 of them covering the main public areas...

The problem with doing it on a schedule, of course, is that the sunrise/sunset change throughout the year, so if you have any outside light coming into the place, you end up having to change the schedule regularly for best results. I'm fortunate (sort of) with this customer in that they dim the interior lights on a set schedule so I've programmed the WDR/LF switch to match that, but it's still imperfect.