Thinking outside of the box, bullet and dome
Specialty cameras that are different from the typical range can address specific surveillance needs
By Colin Bodbyl
Most people are familiar with the common camera types.
Box, bullet, dome and turret cameras are all popular choices.
These four form factors will meet the needs of almost any application, but there are niche cases where a different type of camera could be a better choice.
Specialized cameras are nothing new, yet many integrators avoid them either because they are outside of their comfort zone, or because they have had a negative experience with them in the past.
Familiarizing yourself with these cameras and understanding their limitations is key to delivering the best surveillance solutions.
Fisheye cameras have been around a long time, but their popularity is gradually increasing as dewarping software becomes more common. Fisheye cameras use a single wide-angle lens to provide a circular, 360° view.
They work particularly well in small, indoor spaces where detail is not as important as the ability to track activity throughout a scene.
Fisheye cameras do not work well for scenes where great detail is required or where lighting is poor.
Their image sensors are required to capture an enormous field of view. This leads to the most common mistake when specifying these cameras, which is not understanding the impact this has on the camera’s range. For large spaces or areas where objects will be at a great distance, fisheye cameras are not the right choice.
Panoramic cameras are another type of camera that can achieve 360° coverage, but they are typically more expensive than fisheyes. For that extra cost, you get a camera that overcomes many of the shortfalls associated with fisheyes.
Panoramic cameras are very good at capturing details and can perform well in low-light environments. Panoramic cameras are typically made up of anywhere from two to four image sensors inside a single housing. Sometimes these sensors are fixed in place to provide complete 180° or 360° coverage.
In other cases, panoramic cameras allow users to reposition each sensor and customize the coverage area. Panoramic cameras have the add- ed benefit of requiring only one network cable, whereas integrators looking to achieve the same coverage with multiple cameras would need to use multiple cables which can quickly increase costs.
The major downside of panoramic cameras is the upfront cost, though this is usually offset by operational savings in the end.
Covert cameras are probably the most famous of specialty cameras, but their uses are not always as nefarious as some might think. Covert cameras have found their place in applications where traditional cameras would be obtrusive or simply would not fit.
ATMs are a popular application for covert cameras, where the device needs to be discrete while only inches away from a customer’s face. Another popular application for covert cameras is where finishes or architectural design would be disturbed by traditional surveillance cameras.
In these cases, using a camera that can be hidden or at least blend into the environment can provide the surveillance required without taking away from the aesthetic of a carefully designed space.
Due to their size, covert cameras lack features like varifocal lenses or IR illuminators. Because of this, they are not good for large scenes and should never be used in low-light applications.
It can be difficult to know when specialty cameras are required or when traditional cameras are a better choice. As manufacturers expand their specialty camera product lines, end users will become more aware of them and start asking for them specifically.
In the meantime, it is up to the integrators to challenge themselves to learn and apply these cameras as part of their solutions.
In most cases, a traditional camera will still get the job done, but switching to a specialty camera can take a project to the next level.