Comparison of Commercial IP Camera Systems and Home Cameras

Comparison of IP Camera Systems

What’s the difference between a home surveillance camera and a commercial IP camera system used in schools, office buildings, and hospitals?

IP Camera Systems for Home and Office
IP Camera Systems for Home and Office

Home IP Cameras cost between $20 and $100, while the professional IP cameras range from $150 to over $2,000.  There is a difference. This article compares the capability you should expect from a home camera versus a commercial surveillance IP camera system.

IP Cameras for the Home

Home surveillance IP cameras are available from Nest, Ring, Blink, SimpliSafe, and others. They provide at least 2-Megapixel resolution (1080P), wireless connections, and in most cases, cloud type video storage.  They are suitable for recognizing a person if they are within a few feet of the camera. They can’t read a license plate over 25 ft.  Some cameras include an IR illuminator so they can see at night, but again don’t expect them to allow you to see too far away.

Some of the home IP cameras include two-way audio, which makes it nice if you want to talk to an intruder. “Hey, get away from my house!”

Home Surveillance System
Home Surveillance System

These cameras are all simple to install. They include an app for your smartphone to view the real-time and recorded video (if you purchased the cloud option). The cameras connect to your WiFi network, and some are battery-powered, so you don’t even need to provide power. Of course, you need to remember to change the batteries. 

What You Can See With a Home IP Camera System

One of the key differences between a home camera system and a business IP camera system is the lens. The lenses provided with home IP cameras are suitable for close surveillance in and outside your home.

Consumer type IP cameras include wide fixed lenses. For example, the Blink has a 110-degree lens and 2-Megapixel sensor, and the Nest has a 130-degree lens and a 3-MegaPixel sensor. These lenses allow you to see a very wide area but are only suitable for short-distance identification of a person’s face or license plate.

The IP Camera Viewing Calculations

To read a license plate, we need about 20 pixels across a character (2.75″) on the license plate. The license plate is about 1 ft. wide. If we have a 2-Megapixel camera, the horizontal pixel count is 1920 pixels.

Using this information, we calculate that we need about 87 pixels/ft to read the plate. This means we have a field of view (FOV) of 22 ft. (1920/87).

We can use a right-triangle to calculate the maximum readable distance.

With the 110-degree angle, the calculations indicate that we can read the license plate up to 12 ft away. For details about calculating the distance, please look at our article, Calculating What You Can See With Your IP Camera.

Commercial IP Camera Systems

The commercial IP Camera systems are best for providing surveillance of much more extensive areas than your home camera.  They have a range of lenses that can be selected for the application.

Most importantly, these are Systems consisting of many cameras rather than one or two home cameras. The systems include sophisticated video management systems.

What You Can See With a Commercial IP Camera System

IP camera systems provide better surveillance capability than home cameras. Primarily the cameras allow you to see things further away, with higher resolution, and with a wider field of view. There are 4K resolution panoramic cameras that give you 360-degree situational awareness and PTZ cameras to zoom in to see a license over 900 ft. away.

IP Cameras with Longer Lenses.

IP Camera System Lenses
IP Camera System Lenses

You can select the lens depending on how far away you need to see things. Like a telescope, they magnify the view.  For example, there are dome and bullet cameras available with remote zoom lenses that can adjust from 5.2 mm to 62.4 mm. The longer zoom lenses allow you to read the license plate over 200 ft (656 m) away.

You can choose IP cameras for a lobby or out in the parking lot.  Wide-angle cameras can view a doorway, while dome cameras can view people walking through the hallway. Cameras with fisheye lenses can see everything in the room at one time, while others are watching the cars on the street.

Higher Resolution IP Cameras Provide a Wider FOV

Field of View Comparison
Field of View Comparison

IP cameras for business applications not only have longer zoom lenses, but they also provide a much higher resolution—the greater the resolution, the larger the field of view. The 8-Megapixel 4K IP cameras provide over twice the field of view of the 2-Megapixel camera. This means that at the same distance, you will get a horizontal FOV that’s 44 ft. wide, instead of 22 ft. 

Intelligent IP Camera Systems

Intelligent cameras provide immediate notification of an alarm situation.  The commercial IP camera systems’ advanced features include intelligence that tells you when an object is left in the lobby or when someone takes the laptop off the table. Our article, IP Camera Systems Are Getting Smarter describes how the IP cameras with AI can distinguish between a person and an animal and ignore the cat walking while providing information about the person such as clothing color.  It can even distinguish between a car and a truck. 

PTZ cameras Provide Long-Range Surveillance

The PTZ cameras are excellent for providing surveillance over a wide area. With their very long zoom lens, they can detect a vehicle hundreds of feet away. For example, the XNP-6550 is a 2-MegaPixel camera with a 55X optical zoom lens. The lens allows you to read the license plate over 1000 ft. away (310 m). Please read our article, Detection, Recognition, Identification: The New Criteria, to learn more about how far we can see things.

The very long-range PTZ cameras can see cattle in pasture or military vehicles on the road 2-miles away. 

IP Cameras with IR See in the Dark

Many of the commercial-grade IP cameras include IR illumination. This allows you to see in total darkness. Some of the home-type IP cameras provide short-range IR illumination, but the commercial cameras provide a much longer illumination distance.   For example, the XNO-6085R bullet IP Camera includes an IR with a range of 229 ft (70 m).  The extreme range laser illuminators can illuminate a target that’s over one-mile away.

Video Management Software Makes the Difference

When you only have one or two home cameras, you don’t need sophisticated recording and video management systems. Commercial IP camera systems can have hundreds of cameras and need better video management. Video management systems provide the video recording and control capability you need to handle these large numbers of cameras.  

The Video Management Software (VMS) records video only when motion is detected and notifies the security person if an alarm condition is detected. When the software is teamed with the intelligent IP cameras, it can notify you when a gun-shot is heard or someone screams. To learn more, please look at the article, The Intelligent IP Camera.

Video Management Software

Summary of IP Camera Systems

Home-type IP cameras are inexpensive and are easy to install and use. The commercial IP camera systems provide much more capability. They have better lenses, higher resolution, and more extended night-vision capability. The commercial IP camera systems are designed for everything, from schools to military surveillance. Usually, only a few cameras are used in a home, while businesses can require hundreds of cameras. IP camera systems use a variety of different cameras and use sophisticated video management software.

If you would like help selecting the right IP camera system, please contact us at 800-431-1658 in the USA, 914-944-3425, everywhere else, or use our contact form.