Top 5 Reasons Analog Cameras are Easier to Install than IP

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jan 15, 2010

While IP has many advantages over analog, ease of installation is not one of them. IP cameras are far harder to install even if the installer has extensive networking expertise. And for the majority of security technicians with modest IT skills, it's even more painful.

Bottom line: IP cameras take significantly longer to install, require more training and face more pitfalls than analog.

Here's our top 5 Reasons (actually 6):

  • Finding IP cameras on the network is time consuming and often problematic
  • Focusing/adjusting the Field of View on many IP cameras is much more difficult
  • Assigning IP addresses is an added step not necessary for analog cameras
  • Setting up security and user access rights is a new requirement with IP
  • Verifying VMS support is needed for each IP camera
  • Installation varies based on the vagaries of each IP camera manufacturer

Finding IP Cameras

The 'best' way to find IP cameras is with a camera discovery application. In our testing, many of these applications often do not find the camera (even if it's the manufacturer's own application).

Often manufacturers hard-code an IP address requiring the installer to change the IP address of their PC to be on the same subnet as the hard-coded address of the IP camera in order to change the IP address of that camera to be on your subnet.

Focusing/Adjusting

Analog cameras can be focused and the Field of View adjusted using a small and cheap handheld monitor. Most IP cameras lack such analog outputs. Some newer IP cameras come with auto-adjustable zoom lenses such as the Sanyo HD4000 and Axis Q1755. These are easier to focus/tune than analog but 3-5x the product price. 

While new appliances are coming out for IP hand-held monitors, most technicians setting up IP cameras are forced to use their laptops or communicate with a co-worker to awkwardly adjust the camera view. 

Assigning IP Addresses

IP cameras require the added step of assigning IP addresses. If you use static IP addresses, you need to coordinate what IP address to use and set it up (usually in the web interface requiring a reboot of the camera). If you use DHCP, you run the risk of the camera's IP address changing when the power recycles. If the IP address changes, you need to re-find the camera (by looking it up in your DHCP client list, etc.) You can prevent this change by registering the MAC address of the IP camera with your DHCP server but then you need access and specific knowledge to accomplish this.

Setting Up Security/Access Rights

Since IP cameras are essentially Linux computers, one needs to set up security and access rights. You could leave all your cameras at the default (root/pass, etc.) but this makes it trivial for someone to access your cameras (probably not a good idea).

Verifying VMS Support for IP Cameras

Most VMS systems do not support most IP cameras. Even if a VMS says it supports an IP camera, there can be issues with needing to install newer firmware on the camera or issues with the stability of support (we see this with our H.264 testing repeatedly - see the Sarix/Milestone integration as an example)

Varies by Manufacturer

Just because you learn how to configure one manufacturer's IP cameras, does not mean you can immediately and simply set up another's. Each manufacturer has their own camera finding application, their own web interface, their own defaults for assigning IP address, their own default username/password, etc., etc. For instance, this week, we spent 2 hours troubleshooting accessing the web browser for an IP camera only to find out the camera does not support IE8, only IE7.

Compared to Analog

With analog, the big issues usually are crimping cable, pulling cable and connecting power. Crimping and pulling cable are common for both types as surveillance cameras are generally put away from network drops. Small analog systems can have cameras plugged directly into a wall. Larger systems need to be connected to a CCTV power supply which is not that difficult, especially for the majority of installers who have years of experienced with low voltage equipment.

Beyond that, just plug in analog camera to a DVR and you have a live video feed - no finding or changing the IP address, no web browsers to access or security settings to change on the camera, etc. Even cheap CCTV kits like the EzWatch one we tested was trivial to setup.

How Much Will Standards Help?

'Standards' should help somewhat in a few areas - specifically finding cameras and VMS support (though note in our ONVIF test, both of these still showed problems). We believe this will improve and these two areas should become simpler. However, this still leaves the other issues.

What Do You Think?

For the People Who Vote that IP is Easier

If you believe IP is easier to install than analog, I strongly encourage you to leave a comment explaining why, including technical details explaining your case.

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