Member Discussion

What Is A "Low Cost" Camera?

In another discussion (canon/milestone) a comment was made about "low cost" cameras. I consider under-$200US to be "low cost". A 1-channel Grandstream encoder is 150-ish, a 1-channel Axis encoder is $450-ish, as an example. The low end (Axis/Acti/etc) is under $200, generally. I don't think $400US for a camera is "low cost". What does this community (who has to sell these things...) think of these numbers?

This is a good question. Two years ago, the answer was different, because anything less than ~$300 was 'low cost' to me. I think I still use that as the benchmark, even through costs are dropping.

For example, we tested a $29 ONVIF camera a few months ago, and recently a whole 8 camera HD kit for $499.

I think you look at this in at least two tiers of "low cost."

There's the branded low cost cameras which would be from a reputable brand and available through channels or on-line between $100-$300. There you're paying for not only the camera but some degree of QA, warranty & support. I would consider cameras from Ubiqiti, Pelco, Sony, etc. to be in this class.

Then there's the no-brand parts straight from Asia that may go as low as $30-$40. Which is about the minimum theoretical floor on today's component cost for a simple IP camera consisting of a sensor, SoC, PHY and power circuitry.

I consider most of the "branded" cameras as risky as the no-names. D-Link scares me at least as much as anything I can buy on alibabba, because it's the same risk and it's sold in Office Depot and therefore is more likely to put someone at risk. See e.g. the most recent us-cert notice warning of some linksys router with bad URL processing. same sort of stuff happens in cameras as low end routers.

I concur with Steve's segmentation.

However, even among the branded manufacturers, there is variation of what their lowest cost offerings are.

For example, Ubiquiti and Dahua are two of the lowest with IP cameras at /or below $100 but the former offers no phone support ever while the later is difficult with going through re-labelers / OEMs.

Btw, here's some stats from our average IP camera cost survey, breaking down average cost per integrator:

So, ~$200s is a fair ballpark for low cost cameras, though, again the lowest cost branded ones have now fallen into the low $100s, including integrated IR.

This is honestly the art of salesmanship. Low cost, acceptable cost, all cost are determined by the customer. It is our job to convince them. Cost, like perception, is almost always reality-to the customer.

Cant we say "good value". Low cost does not say whether or not the camera performs acceptably for the money.

I didn't ask about good value, I asked about low cost. I am assuming there are low cost cameras that are good value. Also, I'm having trouble explaining why a $400 encoder is better than a $100 encoder (is TLS worth 4x the cost? Is the privilege of being supported by Milestone instead of Blue Iris worth 4x the cost?)

Some times there are legitimate functional differences between products - different feature sets - audio support, PTZ control, frame rate, etc. Also, there are variances in tech support and replacement policies.

However, a significant part of the difference is typically that the big brands accurately realize that they can charge a premium for a certain segment of buyers who 'trust' their products, either because they are better known, have a more active sales force who can close deals at the higher prices, etc.

As that famous cryptographer Ronald Reagan once said, "trust but verify". I'd rather see an eval than just listen to billybob the same sales rep you've been dealing with for the last 20 years. "Trust" is an exceptionally sketchy concept in this marketplace.