Analogue and Digital CCTV Cameras - What You Need to Know

While the main differences between these types of cameras are fairly straight-forward, there are a few common terms that can be confusing or misleading.

In this article we’ll have a brief look at some descriptors like “CCTV” and “Network Camera” and explain some of the differences between digital & analogue cameras.

What Does CCTV Mean?

The acronym “CCTV” stands for Closed-Circuit Television.

This essentially means that any camera that doesn’t openly broadcast its footage for anyone to see fits the definition of a CCTV camera. A good comparison would be a private phone call (Closed-Circuit) versus a public radio broadcast (Open-Circuit).

As such, all security cameras can be considered CCTV cameras regardless of whether or not they’re analogue, digital, network cameras, IP cameras, etc.

What Are Analogue Cameras?

Analogue cameras are characterised by how they transmit surveillance footage.

The camera converts the light entering its sensor into a continuous analogue signal. This signal is then sent off (typically over coaxial cable) as a voltage before being decoded at the other end into a usable image.

While analogue technologies have made significant improvements over time, this transmission method has a few disadvantages.

Analogue signals tend to be more easily impacted by interference and are largely limited by the cables used. Generally speaking, analogue CCTV cameras deliver poorer quality footage compared to their digital counterparts. Over time they're becoming progressively less popular in CCTV systems as a result of these drawbacks.

Many of the analogue camera’s disadvantages also work in its favour for certain applications. For simple scenarios like cash register or exit monitoring, analogue CCTV cameras can often be the preferred option. These cameras are considerably cheaper than digital equivalents and can be much more cost effective if used appropriately.

What Are Digital Cameras?

Digital CCTV cameras account for the vast majority of surveillance options today and offer a number of advantages over the analogue alternative.

The term “Digital Camera” is more of an umbrella term than a specific type of CCTV camera, and is the opposite of analogue CCTV cameras.

In a digital CCTV camera, footage is converted into a digital signal before being transmitted. The signal can be transmitted in a range of different ways depending on the type of camera. This can include optic fibre cables, ethernet, Wi-Fi, or any other digital medium.

Thanks to the way data is transmitted and the different transmission mediums, digital cameras are very capable and reliable.

What Is The Difference Between IP & Network Cameras?

When a CCTV camera is referred to as an “IP” camera, this means it uses the Internet Protocol to transmit data.

The protocol essentially defines how the CCTV camera communicates with other devices. It’s also the same protocol that allows our computers to connect to the internet and interact with other computers & devices on a network.

IP cameras often use ethernet cables for transferring data, which can also double as a power supply for the less power-hungry PoE cameras.

While these are the most common types of connectors, any camera is an IP Camera if it uses the Internet Protocol to transfer data. This means that Wi-Fi cameras are also a kind of IP camera, as they too use IP for data transferral.

The titles “Network Camera” and “IP Camera” are used interchangeably, and refer to the same thing. Both use the Internet Protocol, communicate over an IP network, and are digital CCTV cameras – the difference is in name only.

Common Mistakes

As mentioned above, network cameras and IP cameras are two descriptors that are often misunderstood.

In reality, there’s no discernible difference between the two. It’s easy to understand why this happens and it can be worthwhile making sure you have a clear understanding of how cameras differ.

Another mistake is the crossover between “CCTV” and analogue cameras.

A fairly common mistake is to imply that only analogue cameras are CCTV-capable, and that digital cameras aren’t CCTV cameras. E.g., “Analogue CCTV Cameras vs Digital IP Camera”.

Both types can be used as CCTV cameras, regardless of what tech they use.


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