When Cabling From Scratch, Would You Choose Coax Or Ethernet Cabling For HD-CVI Cameras?

If trying to install a HD-CVI camera system in a house or building which has no pre-existing CCTV cabling, would you choose traditional coax or would you use Cat 5e cable with a balun at either end?

I am tempted by the idea of installing Cat 5e so it could be easily used with IP cameras in the future without needing to recable, or without having to use a bunch of EoC converters.

Testing HDCVI Over UTP showed that HD-CVI cameras worked very well over Cat 5e as long as one used cables of less than 500 feet.

So that leaves me wondering if trying to install a HD-CVI system, is there any compelling reason why I should install coax or would Cat 5e and pairs of baluns be a wiser choice? Thank you for your thoughts!

Did you verify that CVI over 500' of UTP works fine with 1080P cameras, as well as 720P?

Are the lengths short enough that you can run 24VAC thru the baluns/cat5e too, along with the signal?

If yes to both, then yes to UTP.

Hi A, you have raised two very good points. Testing HDCVI Over UTP didn't cover 1080P cameras so I would need to test that combination myself.

I haven't used the balun/cat 5e combination before. I wonder how one works out if power can be run over a particular distance or if there are some recommended maximum lengths? Having read your post, I'm very glad I posted my question so I didn't miss these points. Thanks very much!

The question I would ask is "why". With the price of copper and thickness of running coax and power it would seem Baluns an easy choice. This does limit the distances to 330' for the installation of future IP cameras.

If you are doing it to "future proof" you should know that the core technology behind CVI can be used for cameras up to 4k although none are sold yet. It supports full bi-directional audio/control/programming like IP products. What would changing out the system do for you later?

Except the baluns cost the same as the HD-CVI camera....

Joking somehwat...

Lol. For two active baluns probably even more than the camera! Though you can economize too: For the head-end you can use an 8ch unit, like this one $25 on aliexpress...

Gotta couple of cameras in proximity to each other, but far from the head end? You can defray costs further by putting up to 4 cameras* on one cat cable.

*Note: if and when you start using Ethernet you will need to either run additional cat or run a remote switch, since although it's technically possible to run 2 seperate 100Mb lines on one cat cable, experts take a dim view of such practices.

Hi A, thank you for posting the 8 channel balun picture. That could be very helpful in keeping costs down. I don't think I woud put more than one HD-CVI camera on each cat cable as it would make reusing the cables messy in the future and it might well introduce technical problems. It's a nice idea but I prefer a robust solution rather than one that's on the edge of working or not.

Hi B, that's a good question. The attraction of HD-CVI in this case is its very low price for a surprisingly good quality image. However if the material costs of coax vs Cat 5e and the addition of baluns grows too high, then it would be better to just install the equivalent IP cameras from the outset.

I thought that 330' was the usual approximate limit for running IP cameras anyway. Is there something about the setup I've described that is more limiting than normal for future IP cameras?

Technology is rarely completely futureproof so I'm not too concerned about higher resolution HD-CVI cameras in the future. I'd rather than Dahua developed true WDR than higher resolution cameras.

Swapping out the system later would simply occur when the current equipment started to wear out some years down the track and IP cameras might be much lower cost by then. Thanks for some great questions and points!

We have installed HDCVI both ways; with CAT5e and passive baluns, and with RG59 Siamese. In my opinion, the COAX seemed to have a better image, but they weren't side by side comparisons at the same site, to be fair. Both sites were under 300ft per run, so distance shouldn't have been a factor either. We were using inexpensive (>$20) passive baluns with the CAT5e at the first site. These baluns allow a terminated 8P8C connection on both ends and the other side of the balun has the BNC and power in/outs. These baluns used one pair for video and three pairs for power. We used a 12VDC PSU in both cases. Both sites used the same model camera and DVR.

There are other factors to take into account, but on face value, if video quality is paramount, I would recommend COAX.

Hi Jon, thank you for posting your experience of installing HD-CVI camera systems with traditional coax and with Cat 5e/baluns. It's very helpful to hear how it has performed both ways and what you think is the better solution. Thanks so much!

I've done it both ways, too. We used to use CAT5 for everything, and just added baluns for analog cameras. But, as they say, "You learn all the good stuff the hard way!"

The real 'gotcha' in using the UTP+balun approach is long-term service: The balun adds another two parts per camera (barring the use of multi-line baluns at the head end). This unnecessarily adds another opportunity for failure. And another, if you have ever had the screw-down connectors pinch and weaken the somewhat brittle 24ga solid conductor of CAT5. They do break, especially when exposed to heating/cooling cycles over time (at the camera end) or when jostled in the closet (at the DVR/Encoder end).

Using RG59 and compression-type BNC connectors is the way to go in my book, unless the analog is a short-term solution before a conversion to pure-IP system is rolled out.

If you are using baluns that have screw down terminals, I would expect a high rate of failure. We use baluns that accept a standard 8P8C/RJ45 terminated cable. Solid CAT5e shouldn't be used in a screw down terminal like that IMO.


Hi Jon, thank you for posting the picture of your preferred type of baluns. That is very helpful.

Hi Michael, thank you very much for sharing your experience and for your specific warning about screw-down connectors. That's very helpful.

I agree that keeping infrastructure as simple as possible avoids extra potential points of failure. I've avoided the Cat 5e/balun combination to date for that very reason. However that means I haven't worked through the pros and cons myself so I've got a lot out of the responses of everyone in this thread.

Thank you also for your recommendation!

Luke, it appears many have responded, which is good. My point was simply are you choosing between Cat5 and Baluns or Coax because of cost, ease or future proofing for an ultimate IP solution? Either wiring method with a future adapter could support either technology for the most part.

Hi B, yes, the posts to this thread have been varied and very helpful and I value everyone's comments and advice.

My conclusion is that there should not be just one answer to my question but it depends on the aims of each job. For simplicity, low cost and durability, traditional coax seems to be the way to go. If the budget only allows for HD-CVI now but the aspiration is for an IP system in the future, then Cat 5e with baluns might be the way to go. However the cost of baluns and the limitations they may introduce for length of cable runs would need to be worked out for each job.

While you are correct in saying that either wiring method with a future adapter could support either technology for the most part, I have a preference for the passive baluns because they do not require supplementary power and so there are no additional running costs. The EoC converters will have an ongoing need for power so I would only want to use them if it was going to be too painful or impractical to recable a building.

Thank you very much for all your considered thoughts and advice.

For the past 5 years, we have pulled both. We use the coax for video and CAT5E/6 for power. Our infrastructure is future proof. Since the CAT cable has multiple conductors, combine them for the power of analog or IP cameras as necessary. You will have all the cable you need. As for which is better for the video signal of Analog HD, in my experience, coax.