Ranking The Lowest Cost Outdoor Cameras 2015

By Derek Ward, Published on May 14, 2015

Outdoor cameras can be expensive. In our last study of this segment, the variation amongst manufacturers for their lowest cost outdoor cameras was nearly 10x.

In this new analysis, we examine 13 manufacturer products (ACTi, Arecont, Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, D-Link, FLIR, Hikvision, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Vivotek), breaking down the following:

  • Fixed Focal Outdoor IP Cameras (lowest to highest)
  • Fixed Focal Outdoor HD Analog Cameras (lowest to highest)
  • Varifocal Outdoor IP Cameras (lowest to highest)
  • Varifocal Outdoor HD Analog Cameras (lowest to highest)
  • The 4 Major Competitive Trends / Differentiators

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Comments (12)

A quick search on Amazon offers multiple options that are much lower in price. for example, a 1080P VF IR Bullet for $125.

Quality and warranty aside, it seems like security cameras have become a "throw away every two years" just like our smart phones, making the life of the security professional a lot less rewarding :)

We limited to known true surveillance manufacturers who have some track record in the market, with all due respect to "GW Security Inc."

Becuase of that, we also left out Chinese spam manufacturers, much to the chagrin of Coco, Elvis, etc.

Guess Dahua is also on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dahua

Hikvision 1080P Bullet with IR for $85.90:http://www.amazon.com/Hikvision-DS-2CD2032

Free shipping..woohoo

Regarding the Hikvision Camera:
Estimated ship time: June 10 - June 26. Good luck planning an install job on this one. You or your clients will be robbed clean by the time this camera arrives.
Warranty: probably none, who knows, if there is a warranty, you gotta send it back to China.
Who to call for tech support: who knows, there is no # to call. Should we just google JOOAN CCTV Camera System. Do we ask for Jooan? I hope she speaks english.

Both Hikvision and Dahua have a nightmarish distribution channel. Its quite the joke actually.

Hikvision USA refuses to do business with online retailers and demands on sticking with the archaic model of selling only to the large low tech distributor types. Meanwhile, their mother company, Hikvision China, has pretty much no grasp on their distribution channels in China, they will sell to any Chinese Reseller, these resellers are happy to make a dollar or 2 profit off of a camera. Why wouldnt they be happy, they are basically flipping products with little to no risk of the product being returned, and they dont have to offer tech support to boot. Meanwhile consumers in the USA are getting shafted when they receive these product when they see a nice pretty Chinese time/date stamp on the screen, noone to call for tech support. And good luck if your product goes dead, your better off just taking a loss, its gonna cost you more to send the product back to China than what the product is worth.

Dahua also has always been a joke when it comes to distribution channels, basically no US presence. They will also sell to any Chinese reseller out there willing to make a dollar per camera profit. Worst distribution model out there in the CCTV industry.

Dahua/Hikvision, time to wise up. Clean up your distribution mess. Your products sell hot on the internet. Its 2015, not 1980, get an internet distributorship channel in plan to qualified resellers so these poor consumers that are trying to save a buck will not get ripped off anymore from these companies who just flipping your products. I promise you, you can make better margins with this model.

Hi Derek, thank you for a very helpful and enlightening report.

When I took the IP Camera Course - Winter 2014, it was stated that varifocal lenses were generally preferred because there was little or no price difference compared with fixed lenses. In retrospect, I'm not sure if this was a reference to the choice of lenses for box cameras or whether this also applied to dome and bullet cameras which include a lens.

Your May 2015 report states, "... varifocal [IP] cameras are on average two to three times the cost of fixed lens models." Given that, I wonder if varifocal lenses are still strongly preferred or whether fixed lens camera models have made a comeback?

"When I took the IP Camera Course - Winter 2014, it was stated that varifocal lenses were generally preferred because there was little or no price difference compared with fixed lenses."

Where did we say that? Course Reading? Powerpoint slide? Comment from someone?

It's possible but it's also possible you misheard. It's never been IPVM's position that varifocal lenses were the same prices as fixed lenses. Indeed in our Varifocal vs Fixed Focal Lens tutorial, we have a whole section talking about lower cost being an advantage of fixed focal lenses.

Hi John, I couldn't find this statement written anywhere on IPVM's site but it was in my own notes from the course. So I reviewed the morning and evening class videos for the IP Camera Course - Winter 2014 and found the sources of my recollection. I have transcribed them below.

Class 1, 9am session, 56:11 - 56:33

“With a varifocal lens … the price, at this point, is not tremendously different.”

Class 1, 5pm session, 53:30 - 53:37

“In the past, it was cheaper to use fixed focal lenses ….”

Maybe I misunderstood what was being said in class but I came away with the impression that there was now only a modest difference in price between fixed and varifocal lenses.

In any case, you have now set me straight so thank you!

I purchased a DS-2CD2332-I from Amazon.

Shipping was prompt. The Amazon picture had shown a standard consumer red and white box with image of a camera and some printing on the outside, but mine came in a plain brown box. Beyond the packaging, it was not just a matter of warranty or reliability. Many features were simply inoperative.

It took some Google time to figure out how to read English and not ideograms.

It was set to a 50 Hz frequency standard, not 60 Hz. This had a drop down menu to change, but no way to save the selection.

In daylight, it was a great picture. The nighttime IR was great too. However, for unusual conditions, image settings could not be changed from the default. So, for example, faster shutter speed (and many other settings) had a drop down menu but no save button, which pretty much ruled out faster motion capture, such as license plate capture.

The built in analytics were simply non-functional. These were advertised as motion detection and face detection. Neither functioned.

At first, I thought this was typical of some third rate products which don't seem to have been subjected to beta testing. However, after noting that IPVM appeared to have had much better experience with Hikvision, I touched base with Hik USA who confirmed my camera was likely for the domestic Chinese market, likely with hacked firmware to "support" the English market.

Next I tried to communicate with the vendor who was fulfilled through Amazon, but never heard a peep after three emails from them. I used the email address on the card in the box (you may know the type: consumer please don't return this; instead contact us here).

These issues are a blot on Hikvision's reputation. After my experience, I tend to agree with Mr Nelson. Hikvision mass distribution seems to be a wild west. It took a fair amount of experimentation and reading to appreciate that this wasn't business as usual, but rather an inferior and probably hacked version. Fortunately, I hadn't purchased the quantity that I needed for the project (Arecont had taught me the importance of testing one before ordering the lot!), and Amazon supported a return with full refund. The time: well, that's gone.

Since a lot of what is paid for is tech support and actual (rather than advertised) warranty service, it would be interesting to read about the quality of those 2 factors for each manufacturer listed.

More difficult to get data on would be average lifespan of certain cameras. On the lower cost cameras, it's often easier to replace it right away than it is to go through the warranty process.

"Since a lot of what is paid for is tech support and actual (rather than advertised) warranty service, it would be interesting to read about the quality of those 2 factors for each manufacturer listed."

Look at the fixed focal list, the 2 most expensive are Axis and Arecont. Axis M series (on that list) only has a 1-year warranty (unlike most on that list with 3). And Arecont's support issues are essentially legendary. And the 3rd most expensive on that list (Sony) had lots of reported support problems as well (see: Worst Manufacturer Support 2014).

I get theoretically why one would question or suspect that trend but we do not see that in our survey results.

There are some manufacturers that clearly have exceptional support and warranty risks (i.e., the 'spam' chinese manufacturers) and for that reason, we simply omitted them from this list.

No support and warranty products/manufacturers should be omitted for sure. However, I have recently had an issue with an established company with extra long warranty (5+ years) but the process was unacceptable (extensive testing, send it in for inspection and more bench testing, long wait time, no problem found and returned as is with no explanation, and it still did not work when re-installed) - granted it wasn't a camera but a DVR hard drive. Nonetheless, the time and aggravation was not worth the warranty savings.

So depending on the application, a "quality" low cost solution with reasonable failure rates and adequate performance can be the answer if you can stock or get a replacement for the occasional service needs.

Is there an IPVM report on average lifespan of various pieces of equipment based on manufacturer/OEM source? Information like, "how long will an Axis or Hikvision camera lasts on average in a typical outdoor application (apple to apples, say a 1080P IP bullet camera) could be very useful information when specifying equipment for various projects.

Typically, hardware warranty does not include installation (troubleshooting and replacement), but if the failures occur too often and too quickly, charging for installation will antagonize the client in a bid way (in addition to too many service visits to begin with). This is when the "risks" are too costly for sure.

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