High efficiency video coding
As we all know, the higher the resolution, the clearer the image. However, streaming high-definition (HD) videos requires a lot of data, which may give rise to stuttering issues. Therefore, consumers should try to choose cameras that support H.265 / H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) technology which is capable of delivering HD videos with compressed data, thus making streaming much smoother.
Unobstructed wide-angle view
The field of view indicates the angle covered by the lens. For example, a lens with ≥100° angle is classified as ultra-wide angle. A ‘fisheye’ lens with an angle of up to 180° can capture more, but the people and objects captured will be shrunk; space will be distorted; and the pictures captured will become blurry when enlarged.
If you want the images to be large and clear and to cover a wide area, an automatic rotating camera will be a good choice! Users can control the pan & tilt function remotely via a mobile phone or windows app. Some models can cover ~360° horizontally and ~120° vertically. However, such models are usually larger in size and more expensive. And unlike cameras with ultra wide-angle lenses, they cannot offer a panoramic view in a single shot. And the images captured by the camera are constrained by the position of its lens at the time.
Consumers who do not prefer automatic rotating cameras may install multiple surveillances cameras at various spots at home. But then they will need to think about power connection issues.
No more blurry pictures with infrared night vision feature
In a dim environment, the images captured will be dark and blurry. Cameras with infrared (IR) LED light or night vision feature can capture images more clearly and will not cause any nuisance to users as human eyes cannot detect IR rays. However, consumers should choose products with automatic IR-cut filter control, which can adjust the IR filter automatically according to the illumination level. Otherwise, camera sensors will receive both visible and IR light, resulting in overexposure and low-quality images.
Generally speaking, the intensity of IR light can be roughly estimated based on its wattage or claimed illumination distance. Compact homes may not need strong IR lighting. Also, such feature may be redundant if users only use the cameras during the daytime to monitor their homes while at work.
The importance of the video recording function of a surveillance camera needs no further elaboration. However, consumers should pay attention to the choice of storage, e.g., memory card, USB device or cloud, etc. For example, if a memory card is full, the camera will automatically delete the oldest clip to make room for the new clip. Consumers who want to keep a few days’ videos may opt for a memory card with a larger capacity. Also, cameras using H.264 video coding technology take up less storage space as data will be compressed.
Two-way real-time audio
Most home surveillance cameras come with microphones, allowing users to listen to the audio background captured in the videos. But if consumers want to interact with their pets at home or talk to family members in real time, they will need to choose a model with a built-in microphone/speaker and two-way audio transmission feature.
We sometimes hear about situations where people’s private moments were exposed on the Internet because their home surveillance cameras had been hacked. Therefore, it is important to choose products with enhanced privacy features and consumers should raise their level of vigilance about network security and privacy protection.
Choose reliable manufacturers
Many home surveillance cameras are automatically connected to the manufacturer's server, so it is important to use products from reputable manufacturers.
If the camera does not have sufficient security features, hackers can still easily hack the operations and obtain information even if data is encrypted.
Change passwords regularly
Change factory default passwords before use.
Ensure that passwords are strong enough (including letters, numbers and even symbols, and should not be less than 8 digits).
Change passwords regularly.
If the camera is installed and set up by a technician, change the password immediately afterward.
Only use private devices to log in
To prevent your password from being stolen, do not log in using public, unsecured devices or devices which you don’t possess administrative rights over.
Do not keep the camera on
Only activate the camera when necessary.
Responsible manufacturers will continue to enhance the operation and correct bugs after the product launch. Users should always check and update firmware (which is the software embedded in the products).
It is worth mentioning that when installing home surveillance cameras, in addition to informing every member of the family (including domestic helpers) and visitors, the scope and extent of the surveillance must also be carefully considered. For example, monitoring the activities of domestic helpers using home surveillance cameras may have already violated their privacy, and as such employers should consider other possible ways. If video surveillance is still preferred, it is necessary to communicate thoroughly with the domestic helper(s) and handle the video recordings properly. For further information on personal information and privacy matters, please contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data or visit its website: www.pcpd.org.hk.
Have you ever considered buying second-hand surveillance cameras? Some people may no longer need their surveillance cameras as the elderlies at home have moved to nursing homes or they no longer employ any domestic helpers. Others may simply want to switch models and sell their current ones. Buying these second-hand cameras is a good way to use resources effectively.
Generally speaking, a good quality camera, if has not been dropped or water-damaged, can usually last for more than 5 years. Consumers should check to make sure that the second-hand camera is not too old and that its features are desirable. At the same time, the original invoice may be missing or the warranty period may have expired, thus it will be difficult to obtain after-sales service. Therefore, consumers must check thoroughly to make sure the second-hand camera is functioning properly. If you suspect that the internal settings have been altered, you can reset the camera and restore its original factory settings.
In addition, consumers may consider choosing the latest or more popular models, as they can access to technical support more readily, and more users will share their comments and experience on the Internet. Third-party resources can also be found catering for these models, such as third-party software to add extra features to the lens. However, it should be noted that products bought outside of Hong Kong may not have designed for local use. As such, the connection speed may be slower or the products may simply not work due to regional coding. Consumers should pay heed to these factors before purchasing.
For more information, please refer to the article ‘How to Choose Home Surveillance Cameras Experts Teach You Ways to Prevent Privacy Leakage’ (Chinese version only) in Issue #485 of Choice Magazine.
Further reading: Electronic door locks
With the emergence of electronic door locks, consumers no longer need to worry about forgetting or losing keys, and their associated security features can also enhance home safety. What are the factors consumers should pay attention to before purchasing? Please refer to the article, ‘Best Gift for the Absent-Minded: Choose Electronic Door Locks with these 3 Tips’ (Chinese version only).
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