Security Camera System - Buyers Guide

December 30th, 2020

Although the application of CCTV security has not changed very much over the past years, the tools and equipment have significantly. Cameras became smaller, cheaper, and better, but the major breakthrough happened in recording equipment.

Therefore, many customers shopping in Chico, CA for complete CCTV monitoring and recording systems are confused by such a variety of available products. The goal of this article is to guide buyers toward the best possible and most economical type of CCTV equipment, based on intended implementation and requirements.

Selecting the right cameras.

It is virtually impossible to describe all types of available security cameras in this short article. We will focus our attention on the most popular and widely used camera types instead.

CCTV security cameras produce images using CMOS or CCD (Charge Couple Device) chips. Tiny, very low price CCTV cameras usually use CMOS technology, produce poor quality images, and have very poor light sensitivity. Decent quality CCTV cameras use CCD technology. The size of the CCD chip is normally 1/4", 1/3" or 1/2". As a rule of thumb, the larger the size, the higher the quality of the image produced and the higher the price. However, higher density 1/4" and 1/3" CCD chips can now produce as good an image as many 1/3" or 1/2" chips.

The number of TV lines in the security camera image is a measure of picture resolution (sharpness). The larger the number of TV lines, the better the resolution and hence, overall picture quality. Standard resolution camera may have 350-380 lines, over 400 TV Lines is generally considered good resolution while over 500 TV lines is considered high resolution. B/W chip cameras produce greater resolution and better light sensitivity, therefore suitable for use in dark areas where light conditions are poor most of the time.

On the other hand, color cameras offer a more realistic and natural pictures. CCTV cameras are usually divided into different types based on the body of the camera used.

Professional grade cameras.

Have box type body with the ability to use different types and size of lenses. Exchangeable lenses enable this camera, to monitor objects from virtually any distance.

Although for indoor use, they can be used outdoor when combined with weatherproof housing. They are considered to be the most flexible and widely used by professionals in Chico, CA for commercial installations.

Bullet cameras.

Bullet cameras are, as the name suggests contained inside bullet-shaped housing.

Most bullet cameras are weatherproof and sealed without the ability to use different lenses. A great advantage of a bullet camera is a small size and integrated design, some bullet cameras will even have infrared LED future built in. Infrared technology is simply LED light in the infrared spectrum (not visible to the human eye). This light will illuminate viewing area, making possible monitoring in complete darkness. This is a great future, but it only works up to a certain distance (usually between 10 and 50 ft. depending on model) Vary simple to install and esthetically designed, bullet cameras are great choice for residential and do-it-yourself installations where monitoring objects are within about 25ft from the camera location (with standard 3.6mm lens).

Board Cameras.

Board Cameras are basically fixed lens mounted on a circuit board. These cameras may be packaged in a small case (Mini Cameras) or dome (Mini Dome) or simply sold unpackaged, for mounting by the purchaser. Lenses in these cameras are either of a normal industry aperture or a "pinhole" lens of a very small aperture. Pinhole lens cameras are often called "spy" cameras and may be mounted in a concealed way for covert surveillance purposes. The most popular examples of covert board cameras are smoke detectors and motion detector cameras.

Since the lenses in board cameras are pre-mounted, have a fixed iris, and are usually of a short focal length (i.e. wide angle), their flexibility of usefulness is limited. However, this type of camera can provide a low-cost solution in the right situation, particularly in a home environment.

We have shortly described the most popular types of cameras, let's now discuss, how and where they might be used.

Professional type cameras with C/CS mount lens attachment generally offer best performance and many important futures, like lens control output, Back Light Compensation and many more…

Distance from monitoring object to the camera is not an issue, that is why the ability to select different lenses, based on camera location is so important. Installation is a bit complicated and professional installation strongly recommended. We recommend this type of security camera for commercial installations.

Most Bullet cameras in comparison, do not offer high resolution and lens selection flexibility but are likely to be weatherproof, some will have infrared light built-in, and most of all they are relatively easy to implement.

Bullet cameras usually come with 3.6mm lens which are considered to be suitable for most standard installations (good for covering small to medium size room or equivalent).

For larger rooms or longer distances, cameras with 6mm or higher lens may be required.

They are a great choice for any do-it-yourself installation.

Board cameras in contrast are widely used in covert camera installations, sometimes called Spy Cameras. Many wireless cameras are basically board cameras with built-in transmitter.

We are not going to go into wireless cameras right now, as this would be enough material for a completely new article.

Board cameras are sold as a plain circuit board, for integrating into hidden camera devices. They are also available in dome housing, as vary popular Dome Camera or integrated with Smoke Detector, Motion Detector, Exit Sign and so on.

Most board cameras also come with 3.6mm lens although some will allow lenses to be replaced.

Over the time, the most practical design has been Dome Camera with the esthetic appearance it blends into surroundings, especially with drop down sealing, great for use in stores, lobbies, gas stations, and other public places. The practical solution for covert installation is also, Motion and Smoke Detector cameras, they are absolutely no substitute for your security alarm or fire protection.

Cameras should always be selected based on the location of the camera (inside/outside), distance from the monitoring object, light condition, and budget.

When shopping for security cameras, customers are faced with the fact that they will need to select one or another recording device.

The days of well-known CCTV time-lapse VCR recorder are almost over.

Although some customers still prefer this old-fashioned recording solution, it is well worth to invest some extra money to purchase a good quality digital video recorder (DVR). Digital recorder transfers analog camera video feed into digital format and stores it on the hard drive. There are two major types of digital recorders on the market right now.

PC Based Systems.

A special board and software installed on the computer will allow camera inputs and store video on the hard drive.

Many people are under the misconception that a personal computer with additional hardware installed will do the job. This explains the hundreds of companies that have hung up a sign, taken out some ads and begun working out of basements and garages, holding themselves out to be DVR manufacturers and security specialists. The main problem with this type of CCTV recorders lies in the main component of it… Yes, it is a computer, designed to do unlimited tasks, but non well. The truth is that any computer based digital video recorder is, and will always be vulnerable to software crashes, hang-ups, system instability, virus related problems, etc…

Stand Alone Systems.

Very similar in appearance and control functions to standard VCR recorders are truly remarkable devices. Most video processing is done by hardware, therefore eliminating system crashes, video is also stored on a hard drive-in digital format. The basic operating system, usually Linux, is permanently stored on a special processor, which is impossible to overwrite or corrupt. Designed and manufactured with a single application in mind, it is by far better in performance and reliability than its PC based rival.

Some DVR systems will even have remote monitoring capability, useful when monitoring is required in different locations thru the Internet or network. The most important futures to look for when selecting the right DVR recorder are motion detection and frame speed. The higher the frame speed the more fluent video recording. Motion detection will allow recording video from each camera only when motion is detected; this is great for extending video recording time.

Security Monitors.

Video from the Security recorder could be displayed on a regular TV monitor. It is OK to do it this way, for baby monitoring or residential application, when the quality of the picture is not that important. However, for professional installation, security monitors are as much important as cameras. They offer extended life of picture tube (necessary with any static picture, that can cause picture burnout) and much greater resolution.

Cables and wiring.

Finally any camera installation will require proper wiring. Good quality cable will prevent video degradation over long distance runs. It is recommended to use RG59 or RG6 coaxial cables as it is fully shielded and will prevent video loss up to 400 ft. Coaxial cables will require BNC connectors and proper installation possibly done by an experienced technician. In short runs plug and play non-coaxial cables with factory installed BNC connectors may be used (up to 150 ft.). The plug and play cables are easy enough to install by not experienced users.

Cables for CCTV cameras consist of two cables bundled in one jacket. One cable for video and one for power delivery.


Every CCTV system is as good and reliable as its weakest component. Investing in the highest quality and performance cameras, while purchasing low performance recorder, from an economical and practical standpoint just does not make sense.

For example, why use cameras with 500 TV lines of resolution with monitor that offers only 380 or less. All the benefit of high-resolution camera is effectively sacrificed by limited capability of monitor. Asking questions is important before purchasing video security system, and your vendor will probably be able to give more details and recommend equipment for specific needs and requirements.

What Our Customers Say

"I had the Alibi system installed several years ago. It has functioned flawlessly. The image quality is exellent both night and day and in all weather conditions. I particularly like the replay (which can be set at various speeds) and zoom functions of the system. Tech support from Crimefreeliving has been excellent. I have received quick responses to questions, and timely home visits — as when I changed IP carriers and my Alibi system needed to be reset. I have recommended Crimefreeliving to several friends."


"As a small business owner here in Chico we definitely saw the need for video surveillance. After expressing our needs and concerns Tim did an excellent job getting us set up with the set up with the appropriate equipment. He really took the time to address our concerns in a very friendly, professional and knowledgeable manner. I highly recommend Tim for all of your business and residential video surveillance needs."

Ron H., Owner/Auto Doctor

"I have to say I love having my security cameras at my home. Tim Truby did a wonderful job of installing the five cameras. He is very neat and cleaned everything up after the installation. He explained to me how to operate the monitor, my phone and IPad. However, I have had to call Tim because I'm not tech savvy and forget what he has told me. He usually just helps me over the phone and then all is well. I'm 80 years old and enjoy the comfort of knowing I have these security cameras."


"Tim Truby designed and installed a 32 camera system for us here at the Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District. We had received several other quotes from security system vendors, but Tim’s quote was the least expensive. Tim also installed the system quickly and has always been available when we needed him. We are very happy with our security camera system and we can highly recommend Tim Truby for all of your surveillance system needs."

D. Weseman, Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control District

Crime Free Living updated our old video system with a new 16 Channel HD Alibi Video Security System. The old system had been added onto by different installers which resulted in a cabling mess. There were cables that worked and cables that went nowhere. It was a mess. Tim sorted it all out and installed cameras that are very clear. He also installed a monitor for our cashiers to watch hidden areas, a monitor to watch the entry door, and a monitor that allows employees to watch the outside parking and gas pump area. All work was done on time and very professional! Will always recommend Tim and Crime Free Living.

S. AM PM Chico Arco Station

"I had Tim install an Alibi Video Security System at my residence and a couple business locations. The remote view option is invaluable to absentee owners or anyone who travels a lot. The clarity and quality of the cameras have allowed for viewing employee theft. The evidence provided from the HD video cameras was fantastic! Tim was professional and provided extra value from his law enforcement background."

J. Folsom Arco Station

"Tim, I want to thank you again for doing such a fantastic job on installing a wireless IP security camera system at our dream home. The extra time that you took to hide wires, and install a clean, professional system is much appreciated. I still can’t believe the clarity, quality, and ease of use of this new system. I wished that I would have met you before our original inferior system was installed by another company. Now, whether I am at home, or monitoring the system from around the world, I know that my home and family are safe and sound."

John M.

"In April of 2017, my husband and I made a phone call to Crime Free Living that turned out to be a smart and wise decision. Amazingly, in just a few hours, Tim installed four Dome Security Cameras, weatherproof enclosures, and hooked up into our home a 23" Full HD Widescreen Security Monitor. Even more than his professional expertise was the time spent with us in making sure that this system was working correctly and properly installed on our phones so that anywhere in our travels we can monitor our new home in Magalia."

Tieka and Don S.

"I have been using Crime Free Living for the last couple years ar work and at home and I really recommend this product. Tim is a very good service provider. If he can't figure it out, he's got good tech support with the system that he offers."

Gary D.

"I have known Tim for over 10 years. To date, Time with Crime Free Living has installed two separate surveillance systems for my company. With each system, Tim has listened to my needs and custom dsigned surveillance systems for my specific needs and within my budget. The equipment used is always state of the art, the workmanship is top notch, and Tim is the example of trustworthy. I would recommend him for any job."

Steve D., Down Range Indoor Training Center

images Certifications & Training

With 16 years of experience in law enforcement, Tim Truby, CEO, is fully certified in video surveillance and training.

  • Certified Advanced Crime Prevention Specialist
  • Academy Instructor Certification
  • California POST Certification in Specialized Surveillance Equipment
  • California POST Certification in Basic Crime Prevention
    • Advanced Crime Prevention through Environmental Design
    • Certified Alibi Security Dealer
    • Enhanced Risk and Threat Assessment (FEMA)
    • Incident Command System (100 & 200)
    • Certified Cognitech Video Forensic Investigator
    • Neighborhood Watch Toolkit Trainer
    • Computer Crimes/Investigations
    • Domestic Crisis for Crisis Negotiators