"Too expensive" is probably the most frequent complaint about IP cameras. While IP cameras have clearly come down in price in the last few years, they are still, on average, notably more expensive than analog cameras. Though it is becoming easier to justify MP cameras, price remains a barrier for many. Add in economic problems around the globe and real pressure exists to minimize spending on surveillance.
You can get really cheap IP cameras for about $100 but these are typically consumer level products that are rarely acceptable for professional deployments. We did a series of tests on these cameras last year and while some were impressive for their price, none of them were truly a professional option.
Professional Features at Lower Prices
We wanted to focus on finding IP cameras that provided professional features at lower prices than available from the big brands (e.g., Axis, Sony, Panasonic, Pelco, etc.).
To qualify these cameras, would need to meet a number of fundamental criteria:
- Box cameras that supported varifocal or exchangeable lenses. While cube cameras are cheap, they generally do not provide sufficient deployment flexibility to be used professionally.
- Dome cameras: Professional users like domes for their aesthetic low profile.
- Outdoor use option: If the cameras can only be used indoors, it is a big constraint.
- H.264: MPEG-4 and especially MJPEG have fallen out of favor among professionals.
- Megapixel: SD only is no longer acceptable for professionals.
- Day/Night support: Low light imaging is important and color only cameras are generally not enough.
In this report, we review low-cost or lesser-known manufacturers. Over the past few months, we have reviewed in detail the pricing and key feature sets of a dozen suppliers.
Here are the dozen manufacturers included with a link to our detailed review of each one:
There are many lower cost, less well known Asian manufacturers. We selected the ones we did based on integrator feedback and availability for direct branded sale in the US. We only analyzed manufacturers whose products were available for sale under their own brand and therefore excluded pure OEM providers.
We have included common low-cost manufacturers ACTi, Arecont, and Vivotek in the comparison as a comparison against other less known manufacturers can be judged. We have also included pricing comparisons to market giant Axis as a reference for mainstream pricing.
Inside the Pro section, we provide recommendations for interesting products in these lines and overall low-cost leaders.