How To Know If a System is Analog or IP: Tutorial

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Jun 14, 2012

A fundamental question often asked is: "How can I tell whether I am looking at an IP Video system or an Analog CCTV system?" Understanding which type of equipment you are looking at is critical when determining how to address the issue at hand. While both systems handle video, the equipment and cabling involved between the types is significantly different. In this note, we take at look on how to determine: Is it Analog or IP?

NOTE: This article is a tutorial focusing on the most typical cases and may ignore some advanced edge cases.

Can I Tell By Looking at the Video?

Ideally, you would like to simply look at the video onscreen and be able to tell which type it is. While you can make an educated guess and probably be right 75%+ of the time, this is not foolproof.

If people or objects close to the camera are fuzzy and hard to make out, the video is probably analog. Below is an example of this quality level:

almost certainly analog

While IP cameras can be set to lower resolution setting (like 320 x 240), it is statistically unlikely that this is done, especially since overwhelmingly IP cameras are now megapixel. That noted, it is not impossible as early IP camera deployments often did this. It is just that those installations are very few and far between in the overall market.

However, edge cases do exist that make guessing whether a camera is IP or analog simply by looking at the video harder. Take, for example, the image below:

analog or ip

The video quality is not that bad and it may be from an analog camera with a newer DVR or an IP camera (with low quality settings). Given that this video is from a UK bank, it is almost certainly analog. However, we only deduced this based on our knowledge of product selection within the banking market and in the UK, not by looking at the video itself.

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

To really know for sure, you generally need to look at the equipment itself.

Recorder

Often, the generic term 'Head End' is used to describe the recorder, regardless whether it is IP or Analog.

Determining if a head end is IP or Analog can generally be determined by looking at the back of the unit. In the images below, we describe why this is the case:

An IP Head End will contain one or more ethernet ports, but no other special connections. The backside of the IP unit (also called the NVR or VMS server) looks very similar to a 'regular' computer. The ports on the backside all correspond to typical computer/network connections.

The ethernet port (also called RJ-45 port) represents where the NVR is connected to 'the network' that also is where the IP cameras are connected. See red box above showing the position of these ports. In most cases, all the video from the networked IP cameras flow through this single port.

An Analog Head End will contain several (between 4 - 32) BNC-type video input ports. The back of the Analog unit (also called the DVR or Video Recorder) may have other special ports for audio inputs or alarm inputs/outputs. The red box indicates these ports on the unit below. These units may also include an ethernet port, but unlike the IP unit, they will always include BNC-type video input ports.

These BNC ports represent where an analog camera connects into the Analog head end. In order for an analog camera to be viewed and recorded, it must be directly connected to the unit via one of these ports.

Hybrid Exception

Some DVRs with analog / BNC connectors also can record / connect to IP cameras. These devices are often called 'hybrid'. From looking at the back of a recorder, you cannot tell if the recorder is analog only or hybrid. As a rule of thumb, if the unit was installed before 2010, it is almost certainly analog only. However, newer recorders may support both analog or IP. The best way to check is to do an internet search of the model number listed on the unit.

Camera

The camera performs a similar in both systems, but typically have different connectors. The easiest method of determine if a camera is IP or Analog is to see how the camera is connected. In the images below, we describe why this is the case:

Most IP cameras include an ethernet port on the back, shown in red above. This type of camera is installed with a cable directly inserted into the jack. You will almost never see an RJ45 port on the back of analog cameras.

By contrast, most analog camera include a BNC port on the back (shown in red box below), but BNC terminated 'pigtail' connections also exist. A variety of cables are also a part of this 'pigtail', but the cable that confirms the camera is analog is the BNC connected end.

IP Cameras With RJ-45 and BNC

In some cases, a camera may include BOTH types of ports. The BNC port is included on some IP cameras to help the installer focus and position the camera with CCTV installation equipment. In most cases, the 'analog' port is not designed to output the same video quality as the ethernet port. However, this is uncommon and rarely found in new cameras.

Cabling

Often, troubleshooting camera issues means working through cabling and connectors. In the case of IP vs. Analog cameras, the cabling is typically different. The image below illustrates the difference:

IP cameras generally use network cables to transmit video, specifically called 'twisted pair' cables, because a network cable is actually composed of several smaller pairs of wires twisted together. These cables can be found in different wire sizes, wire types, and jacket colors, but always are terminated in an RJ-45 type of connector. The specific type of connector and color order that wire pairs are terminated vary, but IP cabling will always have at least 4 'pairs' of twisted wire terminating in the connector head. These pairs of wires perform a variety of functions: the transmit video signal, audio, camera position for PTZ models, and camera power in PoE units.

Analog cameras make use of a older technology type of wiring called 'coaxial cable'. These wires are always terminated in BNC connectors. When compared to IP cabling, Analog cabling is a single core wire, surrounded by an insulating material (called the dielectric) and a thin metallic shield layer, wrapped up in a single jacket. Each of these four elements is very important to delivering quality signal.

Special Cases

While the cable types above cover 90% of all examples, there might be special cases in which a different type of cabling is used for either type of camera. For example, a device called a 'video balun' can be added that allows analog cameras to use twisted pair cabling instead of a typical RG59 cable.

Likewise, in some cases where substantial coaxial cabling already exists but IP cameras are desired, an 'ethernet over coax' adapter may be used. (See our report for an example adapter for additional details.) This device enables an IP camera's video signal to be combined, sent, and subsequently reorganized using RG59 cabling.

While uncommon, these special cases describe why also checking the Head End and Cameras is important.

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on Cabling

Installing Cameras in Plenums Tutorial on May 15, 2018
There is often confusion about plenum ceilings, with misinformation about what is required when running cables through them and mounting cameras...
IP Network Hardware for Surveillance Guide on May 02, 2018
Video surveillance systems depend on IP networking equipment. In this guide, we explain the key pieces of equipment and features, explaining where...
April 2018 IP Networking Course on Apr 19, 2018
This is the last chance to register for our IP Networking course. Register now. NEW - 2 sessions per class, 'day' and 'night' to give you double...
Network Racks For Surveillance Guide on Mar 21, 2018
In this guide, we look at network rack infrastructure, one of the fundamentals of IP video surveillance. Inside, we cover: What is a rack unit...
Access Control Course Winter 2018 on Jan 04, 2018
Learn more below about the Winter 2018 IPVM Access Control Course. Register here. IPVM offers the most comprehensive access control course in the...
Cabling Best Practices Guide on Jan 03, 2018
Surveillance cabling can be a major problem. Poorly installed and maintained networks are often costly, lengthy, frustrating ordeals to...
2018 IP Networking Book Released on Jan 03, 2018
The new IP Networking Book 2018 is a 228-page in-depth guide that teaches you how IT and telecom technologies impact modern security...
STP vs UTP for Video Surveillance Tutorial on Dec 20, 2017
For many video system designers, deciding which ethernet cabling to use is a quick decision: go with the cheapest.  However, this overlooks the...
Selecting Access Control Readers Tutorial on Nov 09, 2017
Given the variety of types available, specifying access control readers can be a daunting process. However, focusing on a few key elements will...
Average IP Camera Cable Run Distance on Nov 07, 2017
Estimating cable lengths can be tricky, seemingly either all guess work or requiring each and every run to be measured, a time consuming task.  To...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Dahua Intrusion Analytics And VMD Tested on May 21, 2018
Dahua ships basic analytics on practically all their cameras, ranging from low cost to high end. To see how these analytics work in real world...
Exacq Improving Technical Support, Responding To Integrator Complaints on May 21, 2018
Exacq had been a long-term favorite of integrators, but since their 2014 Tyco acquisition, Exacq has fallen in IPVM integrator studies (though...
Best Manufacturer Technical Support 2018 on May 21, 2018
While 5 manufacturers made the worst technical support 2018 list, only 3 stood out as providing the best technical support to 190+ integrators in...
Stealth / UCIT - Remote Video Monitoring Provider Profile on May 18, 2018
Can 2 remote video monitoring companies, Stealth Monitoring from the US and UCIT from Canada combine to impact the market and compete in a changing...
Cybersecurity for IP Video Surveillance Guide on May 18, 2018
Keeping surveillance networks secure can be a daunting task, but there are several methods that can greatly reduce risk, especially when used in...
Forced Entry / Duress Access Tutorial on May 17, 2018
Even though access control normally keeps people safe, tragedies have revealed a significant issue. If users are forced to unlock doors for...
ADT Stock Drops 50% Since IPO on May 17, 2018
It has been a brutal 4 months for ADT. They first expected to IPO at ~$18. They IPOed at $14, dropping immediately to $12.39 And now, not even...
Dahua 12MP Fisheye Camera Tested (NK8BR4) on May 16, 2018
Continuing our coverage of 12MP sensor fisheye cameras, we bought and tested the Dahua NK8BR4, examining: Default vs. Optimized...
Worst Manufacturer Technical Support 2018 on May 16, 2018
5 manufacturers stood out as providing the worst technical support to 190+ integrators in new IPVM results. These integrators answered: In the...
Installing Cameras in Plenums Tutorial on May 15, 2018
There is often confusion about plenum ceilings, with misinformation about what is required when running cables through them and mounting cameras...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact