Video Surveillance Buyer's Guide 2012

By: John Honovich, Published on May 05, 2012

With so many manufacturers and so many new products, deciding what products to buy can be overwhelming. Last year, to make this easier, we released our first ever Video Surveillance Buyer's Guide - a huge success. Now, we are updating the guide to help you understand the most impactful new products changing buying decisions.

We reviewed nearly 100 products since the last guide including:

From those, we picked a dozen that most significantly shift competitive market positioning. These are the products that most likely merit changing from an existing product to a new one.

A number of camera lines have significantly impacted competitive positioning:

  • Low Light: Axis's Lightfinder cameras have made the biggest impact on low light options. Without using slow shutter tricks or requiring IR illumination, Axis's Lightfinder has significantly increased low light performance relative to top-tier competitors. See our test results of the non megapixel Q1602 and the 720p Q1604. Axis has also recently announced that they are expanding Lightfinder integration into their new dome series.
  • Ethernet over Coax Adapters: Historically reusing coax with IP cameras was quite expensive. Now, Intersil's SLOC is cutting that cost in half (see our EoC guide). Best example is the Altronix eBridge. If you are looking to migrate an existing analog system, this should be carefully considered.
  • Hybrid Coax / IP Cameras: Sony's upcoming IP cameras that integrate Ethernet over Coax adapters inside their cameras promises to simplify and reduce cost of reusing existing coaxial cables. Plus, on the receiver side, low cost Intersil enabled EoC adapters like the Altronix eBridge can be used. The problem is these cameras are still not shipping, well more than a year after they started promoting them.
  • Really Inexpensive VGA Cameras: Samsung has released a line of extremely inexpensive VGA IP cameras. While it does not improve resolution over analog, the Samung VGA cameras are so low, that it actually can be less expensive to use them plus a NVR rather than buying a DVR. If you are looking for a budget option for VGA IP, this is worth considering.
  • Really Inexpensive Megapixel Cameras: ACTi has announced the most inexpensive megapixel cameras we have ever seen from a major players. The prices are so low that it rivals analog camera pricing. On the other hand, ACTi has developed a reputation for quality problems so be careful when evaluating.
  • Unbelievably Inexpensive Megapixel Cameras: Even less expensive is Ubiquiti's new Aircam line with all 3 camera offerings priced at under $100. However, these cameras have a built-in fixed lens, no D/N and only integrate with 3rd party systems through ONVIF. However, for those motivated by cutting product costs, this is attractive. Plus, Ubiquiti has proven to be a very aggressive, strong product developer that is targeting new professional surveillance cameras this fall. They are the company involved with the Chinese mafia / counterfeiter craziness.

VMS Software

While many providers have released incremental upgrades to their VMS software, very few have amounted to a shift in the company's overall competitive positioning. Here are the exceptions:

  • Low Cost Alternative: The combination of Axis Camera Companion and upcoming low cost HD cameras provides a strong alternative to traditional VMS software for small camera count applications. While ACC has many limitations, we think this will already have an impact that may grow as Axis expands the offering.
  • Milestone Support Changes: On the plus side, Milestone has a new client version that rectifies a number of its usability issues. On the negative side, their head scratching support plan including restrictions to device packs and likely charges for many calls makes their offering riskier to use. Overall, the support plan should make you more careful about using Milestone.
  • Exacq Edge: Exacq joins Genetec as the only two major VMS providers to offer support for long term 3rd party edge recording (See our review of Exacq Edge). This combined with solid improvements in their 4.9 release, moderately improves their overall position, especially relative to competitors who have traditionally and rightfully viewed as higher end.
  • DVTel Smartphone Camera Support: Using smartphones as surveillance cameras has recently become a hot trend, with many larger end users requesting it. DVTel has taken a lead against direct competitors Milestone, Genetec, etc. by shipping theirs (TrueWitness). Many VMS companies are claiming to be releasing the same offering in the near future with Milestone already saying sometime in 2012. It will be interesting to see how quick and how well VMS companies implement this feature.


Traditional centralized storage has not changed much in the last 6 months. The surge of hard drive prices was the biggest issue, though the worse has already passed on that issue.

The big storage shift occuring is the 'rise of edge storage'. Finally, after many years of over promises, edge storage (at least via Axis) is starting to become a viable feature in video surveillance systems. See our edge storage / SD card guide for details.

Video Analytics

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

How low has video analytic innovation been? A 4 channel video analytic encoder won the ISC West video analytic award. Worse, it was not as if there was much better competition to beat it. Bottom line - not much has changed in product options for video analytics.

The big spectre continues to be ObjectVideo global litigation campaign. Undoubtedly though OV is out for blood big money. The outcome will impact the future of the industry. Unfortunately, the legal battles, including the US ITC court case and the patent invalidation contests, could easily continue until 2013.


Overall, wireless surveillance options have not really changed too much. This is especially true with mesh networks, where innovation has essentially ground to halt. We see a few developing areas for wireless:

  • Cellular: As 4G and LTE networks continue to grow, these are becoming a more practical way to do remote surveillance. While experts continue to debate the limitations involved, the massive increase in bandwidth clearly are making cellular more realistic for surveillance users. See our Cellular Surveillance Guide for more.
  • Whitespace Wireless: As spectrum once used for analog TV frees up, opportunity is growing to use that for surveillance. It is early and bandwidth will be limited, especially compared to today's super high-speed wireless networks. However, the big advantage for whitespace wireless is that it does not require line of sight - a painful limitation of most wireless offerings in surveillance. See our Whitespace Wireless Surveillance Guide for more.
  • Gigabit Backhaul: Getting wireless throughput of over 100Mb/s is typically quite expensive. Approaching a gigabit can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Against that, Ubiquiti has released a gigabit wireless offering that costs ony $3,000 for the pair. While this has limited use for surveillance, it could be valuable for connecting building on a campus where dozens of cameras need to be transmitted in bulk. See our Ubiquiti gigabit backhaul review.

Manufacturer Rankings Remain

Given that it has only been 6 months and the overall market has not changed that much, we are leaving our rankings as is. These can be reviewed in the following 3 posts:

Who Else?

If you have questions  about other products, please feel free to ask in the comments. One important point - in this post, we focused on companies whose positioning has recently changed. For instance, Genetec has a strong product offering but it has not significantly changed since our last guide (October 2011) so we did not cover them. In our comments, we will segment responses into overall product positioning and recent improvements/declines.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

HD Analog vs IP Guide on Jul 16, 2019
For years, HD resolution and single cable signal/power were IP camera advantages, with analog cameras limited to much lower resolution and...
Last Chance - Register Now - October 2019 IP Networking Course on Oct 10, 2019
Last Chance - Register Now - Fall 2019 IP Networking Course. The course starts next week. This is the only networking course designed...
2020 Camera Book Released on Jan 10, 2020
This is the best, most comprehensive security camera training in the world, based on our unprecedented testing. Now, all IPVM PRO Members can get...
History of Video Surveillance on Jul 19, 2019
The video surveillance market has changed significantly since 2000, going from VCRs to an emerging AI cloud era. The goal of this history is to...
2020 IP Networking Book Released on Jan 06, 2020
The new IP Networking Book 2020 is a 280 page in-depth guide that teaches you how IT and telecom technologies impact modern security systems,...
Hikvision HDTVI Power Over Coax Tested on Feb 05, 2019
After years of delay, Hikvision's Power Over Coax (PoC) HDTVI models are finally shipping, aiming to make HD analog installs as simple as PoE, with...
Avigilon Launches 'Renewed Products Program' on Mar 19, 2019
There are lots of 'pre-owned' cars but pre-owned IP cameras? While such programs are common in other industries, in video surveillance, they are...
Axis Supports HD Analog on Apr 15, 2019
In 2017, Axis declared 'Everything is IP': Now, in 2019, Axis has released support for HD analog, with their new encoders.  Why the change?...
Manufacturer Favorability Guide 2019 on Jun 12, 2019
The 259 page PDF guide may be downloaded inside by all IPVM members. It includes our manufacturer favorability rankings and individual...
Axis HD Analog Encoder Tested on Oct 11, 2019
Two years after declaring "Everything is IP", Axis has released their first HD analog encoder, the P7304, with support for AHD, CVI, TVI, and SD...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Axis and Genetec Drop IFSEC 2020 on Jan 23, 2020
Two of the best-known video surveillance manufacturers are dropping IFSEC International 2020, joining Milestone who dropped IFSEC in 2019. The...
Multipoint Door Lock Tutorial on Jan 23, 2020
Despite widespread use, locked doors are notoriously weak at stopping entry, and thousands can be misspent on locks that leave doors quite...
Avigilon Shifts Cloud Strategy - Merges Blue and ACC on Jan 23, 2020
Avigilon is shifting its cloud strategy, phasing out its Blue web-managed surveillance platform as a stand-alone brand and merging it with its ACC...
Verkada Paying $100 For Referrals Just To Demo on Jan 22, 2020
Some companies pay for referrals when the referral becomes a customer. Verkada is taking it to the next level - paying $100 referrals fees simply...
Camera Analytics Shootout 2020 - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Uniview, Vivotek on Jan 22, 2020
Analytics are hot again, thanks to a slew of AI-powered cameras, but whose analytics really work? And how do these new smart cameras compare to top...
Intersec 2020 Final Show Report on Jan 21, 2020
IPVM spent all 3 days at the Intersec 2020 show interviewing various companies and finding key trends. We cover: Middle East Enterprise...
Vehicle & Long Range Access Reader Tutorial on Jan 21, 2020
One of the classic challenges for access control are parking lots and garages, where the user's credential is far from the reader. With modern...
Clearview AI Alarm - NY Times Report Says "Might End Privacy" on Jan 20, 2020
Over the weekend, the NY Times released a report titled "The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It" about a company named...
Favorite Camera Manufacturers 2020 on Jan 20, 2020
The past 2 years of US bans and sanctions have shaken the video surveillance industry but what impact would this have on integrators' favorite...
"Severely Impacted" Mercury Security 2020 Leap Year Firmware Issue on Jan 17, 2020
One of the largest access controller manufacturers has a big problem: February 29th. Mercury Security, owned by HID, is alerting partners of the...