1 Billion by 2021 – that’s the number of security cameras that will be installed across the globe, according to a report by IHS Markit – a leading source for critical information and insight. A pared down version of the study, which was reported in an article on CNBC, says that 770 million cameras are already in place with 54% of them installed in China. As stated in the Wall Street Journal, the number of security cameras in the U.S. would grow to 85 million, currently at 70 million, as schools and businesses look to increase security.
With these numbers, it’s not surprising that there are hundreds of security camera manufacturers on the market trying to get a piece of the pie. It’s nearly impossible to distinguish between each security camera brand. I’ve been in the industry for over 15 years and I still can get confused on which brand to choose when consulting with a customer. In the past few years there has been a lot of breakthroughs with image quality – cameras reaching 30MP resolution, and artificial intelligence – cameras being able to spot people, vehicles, and distinguish between faces. This has all fueled the demand for more video surveillance and we’ve seen a lot of different manufacturers come into the industry.
Where does a business start when looking for the best commercial security camera system?
It’s not an easy question to answer, but I’ll give it a shot. My answer is based on over 15 years of being in the security industry, seeing thousands of security cameras installed, and reading security camera comparison reports from online resources such as IPVM who are leading authorities in reasearch and testing of security equipment.
Most of my experience is in commercial and business security systems, so anyone looking for a residential security camera system will likely not be interested or have heard of the brands I am mentioning. There are a ton of residential security camera systems on the market and I’ve looked at almost all of them because I keep getting friends asking me for security cameras at their home.
My advice for residential security cameras is this: If you are going with wireless security cameras and looking to install them yourself, be careful because these could be painful to deal with. For wireless security cameras, I’ve seen Arlo and Nest work really well and I would likely install those at my house if I had to choose. Wyze makes a really low-cost camera and I’ve read some really good things about them as well (yet never had anyone that installed them, so I can only go off of reports I read). I’ve personally installed Ring at my home and had to change it 3 different times until I eventually gave up and sent the product back. I would notice that it wasn’t consistent and often saw people standing at my front door waiting for someone to answer. The Costco specials can do the trick if you stick with the wired systems, but I would highly recommend finding a residential installer to help you out.
Business security camera systems are different and more complex. If you have a small business and need a handful of cameras, you can likely get away with some of the brands I mentioned above. But if you are looking to put in more than 6-10 cameras, you want multiple people being able to log in at once, and plan to use the system as a tool for your business, then I would stay away from the low-cost systems. Like everything else, lower cost typically comes with lower functionality and more headaches.
Not all cameras are created equal. You may see a 5MP camera price varying widely across different manufacturers. I’ve seen five different camera brands, all with the exact same specification, each with a huge variation in image quality. A $1400 dollar 5MP camera will give you results that are at least 5x better than a $450 5MP camera. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you need to put in $1400 security cameras all around your building, but you do need to know that there is a difference. Also, you can get away with a $450 5MP security camera inside your office where lighting is consistent, but you should strongly consider the $1400 5MP security camera for your parking lot if you want to get details at night. The cheap security camera just won’t cut it there.
A good security camera systems needs to give you the detail you expect, be easy to use and manage, and offer great support when you need it. With this criteria in mind, here are the top 3 security camera brands for business:
1. Axis Communications:
The world’s first IP camera. Axis Communications invented it in 1996 and they are still considered the leaders in our industry. It’s no wonder that Canon – who failed at entering the security camera industry – ended up purchasing Axis in 2015 $2.83 billion. It was a bit scary because a lot of people thought that a good brand was going to get ruined when it was purchased, but they continue to thrive as the leaders. They make a wide range of security cameras for pretty much any situation and they focus on producing excellent image quality at lower bandwidths and lower storage. Axis was founded and is still headquartered in Sweden. They are one of the few security camera manufacturers that are not made in China and you can really tell that they are well made by simply holding one in your hands. With cybersecurity being such a huge threat, it’s good to know that Axis is committed to making quality products and not adding to a network security problem. I am not sure how many years in a row it’s been that they end up at the top of the IPVM.com Manufacturer Net Favorability Results, but it’s been a few years in a row.
Pay attention when you walk into any major airport or other facility that takes security seriously and I am pretty sure you will see an Axis camera. Toronto Pearson Airport has literally thousands of them around every corner and you will typically see them in malls, commercial plazas, warehouses, and pretty much anywhere else that requires a reliable camera. Out of all the security cameras that Spotter has installed, I can count on one hand how many Axis cameras had to be sent back to the manufacturer. Sure, they are a bit pricier, but they hardly ever let our customers down. We had a customer that called us back to add cameras after 5 years and when I asked him why he hasn’t called us for service his reply was “Do you remember when you told me to spend a bit more money and buy a better camera system? Well, we haven’t had any problems since you installed it.”
The Axis Camera Line has a wide range of products to if almost any environment. Until recently, Axis focused mainly on making security cameras. In the past few years they’ve invested more time and money into developing their own software, Axis Camera Station, and also into other security devices such as Axis Access Control, Axis Network Door Stations, and Network Audio Systems.
2. Avigilon Security Cameras :
Avigilon was founded in 2004 and was a Canadian company, based out of Vancouver, until it was purchased by Motorola in 2018. When the security camera industry was just starting to talk about VGA quality IP cameras, Avigilon was selling High Definition 11MP cameras. They quickly expanded to include a wide range of high-definition security cameras ranging from 1MP all the way up to 30MP. When I first heard about Avigilon cameras, around 2007-2008, I didn’t believe that it would work. It took me another few years before calling them up to become a dealer.
In 2013, Avigilon purchased a company called VideoIQ which was very strong in Video Analytics. They quickly integrated awesome features such as people, vehicle, and loitering detection and pretty much changed the industry. Nowadays we hear a lot of talk around Artificial Intelligence and video analytics in security cameras, but Avigilon has held the top spot in this space for a long time. I’ve personally worked with hundreds of these cameras and can tell you that they are the easiest video analytics to setup. The false alarm rate is low, and I would take a lot of convincing to get me to recommend another video analytic camera. We use the Avigilon Video Analytics extensively in our camera monitoring service to remotely monitor construction sites and outdoor storage yards. It would be extremely difficult to monitor outdoor activity without using their reliable analytics.
When Motorola purchased Avigilon, I held my breath and worried that this nice Canadian company would fall apart. But they’ve done a good job at taking Avigilon and making it better. Pre-Motorola days, it felt like you were dealing with a small company that had quite a bit of kinks to work out. There was a short period of time that camera quality and support was starting to slip, hinting at larger troubles within the company. Once Motorola fully took over though, the story has changed and it appears that Avigilon is back on track and thriving.
The Avigilon security camera line may not be as comprehensive as the Axis Camera line but they have everything that a business would need. From the Avigilon H4 Mini Dome cameras for well lit indoor areas, to the newly released, next generation Avigilon H5A Security Cameras, you can pretty much find an Avigilon camera for any application.
Avigilon also makes their own software -the lastest release Avigilon ACC 7, is simple to use yet powerful. They recently released their cloud video platform, Avigilon Blue, which is still in it’s toddler stages but looks very promising.
3. Hanwha Techwin Security Cameras:
I don’t have hands on experience with Hanwha, but I keep hearing and reading good things about this security camera manufacturer. Hanwha Techwin is a South Korean video surveillance manufacturer and was originally founded as Samsung Techwin which was owned by Samsung Electronics. In 2014, Samsung Techwin was sold to Hanwha Group who turned around and changed the name to Hanwha Techwin in 2016. Many people in the industry, including myself, found this really odd since Samsung was such a recognizable name even with “Techwin” next to it. Sorry for the history lesson on Hanwha, I just felt that it deserves a bit of an explanation.
Aside from the weird marketing move, note that I am not a marketing expert so I shouldn’t judge, this company has been doing a great job of releasing reliable products. Their Hanwha Security Camera Line is extensive and gives Axis a run for their money. They tend to always come up favorable in camera shootouts and the 2019 IPVM.com Manufacturer Net Favorability Results has them ranked at #2, as far as security camera manufacturers are concerned, slightly ahead of Avigilon and Bosch.
Hanwha makes there own line of video recorders and video recording software but I don’t have first hand experience with them and we typically see their cameras being sold with a more advanced video management software such as Milestone Systems.
Honourable Mention –Bosch
Bosch security cameras have been around forever, it’s not even worth it to search up an exact date. We sold and installed quite a bit of Bosch analog cameras 10 years ago but they were late to enter IP camera world and lost quite a bit of market share. They did catch up and we are starting to see them more often, but they are still not as popular as Axis, Avigilon, or Hanwha…. At least not in the areas that we sell and install in. They’ve always been a top security camera brand and from what I can tell from online research they still are.
The 2019 IPVM.com Manufacturer Net Favorability Results has them at 3rd place, slightly above Avigilon, and from all the camera shootouts I’ve seen them in they look pretty good.
They also carry a pretty wide range of security camera models which helps in designing a proper video surveillance system.
The reason I didn’t include them in my top 3 is because I don’t have any recent experience with their products, and I don’t see them around as much. This doesn’t mean they couldn’t easily beat out Axis, Avigilon, or Hanwha in this top 3, I am simply talking from my own point of view and experience.
Good luck with your search, if you’d like to see some image samples or comparisons, please reach out.