Today we have an article on the surveillance cameras and techniques by the popular tech writer Fredrick Nicholas. He’s going to look at what the best surveillance camera is, as well as share tips and strategies for getting the best surveillance footage. It’s an interesting sub niche in videography and it can be a very lucrative business.
What follows is initially covers strategies and tips for surveillance methods. If you want to see the cameras themselves, CLICK HERE TO JUMP TO THE CAMERAS.
The term surveillance means “watching over” a subject- behavior, activities or other changing information in order to direct, manage, influence or protect someone. The origin of this phrase is from France. Where sur means “from above” and veiller means “to watch”.
Most commonly surveillance is used by government undercover agents to gather intelligence for various purposes. For example:
- for the protection of a process mostly scientific,
- prevention of crime,
- protecting a person or group, or
- keeping a crime investigation confidential.
Another class of people using surveillance are the business personnel for collecting data from the users of its product so that they can give more useful products in the future according to the desire of its customers.
Last but not the least, surveillance is a major job of a private investigator; who hides behind a wall or a tree and sometimes disguises in order to accomplish his footage recording on his subject.
Those were the good sides of using surveillance, but you know that there is always an opposite side of a table where the criminal organizations use surveillance to plan and execute crimes such as robbery, kidnapping and human trafficking.
If I skip this part, then the surveillance the government and other groups of people are doing is sometimes considered as “violation of privacy” according to various civil liberties groups and activists.
You would be shocked to know that in this modern age surveillance can be performed through various media, such as
- Social network analysis
- Data mining and profiling
- Satellite imagery
- Identification and credentials
- RFID and geolocation devices
- Human operatives
- Human microchips
- Postal service
The Best Surveillance Camera Options
If you are here reading all this, then you might be on your way to initiating your career as a private investigator. Well, afraid not! Over here in the following sections, I will be discussing on what kind of camcorders are the best for such challenging field, what to look for when purchasing a camcorder, how will you test the features and also some details about the specs of a few best camcorders under 500 dollars.
The combination of a video camera and a videocassette recorder is called a camcorder as its name suggests. It is an electronic device, where its prime objective is to capture and record videos. There are also some exceptional camcorders out there that have more advanced features than the common ones.
If you are imagining how did the earliest camcorders look like, well they were tape-based ones (8 mm) and recorded analogue signals onto the videocassettes.
In 2006, the tape was replaced by storage media such as mini-HD, internal flash memory, micro DVI, and SD cards. If you are to purchase a camcorder then you must know that a camcorder has three major components- lens, imager and recorder.
- The lens is responsible for aperture, zoom, shutter speed, gain and neutral density filter.
- The imager converts light into an electrical signal and the recorder supplies the video signal onto a recording medium, such as magnetic videotape.
Camcorder vs. smartphone
In today’s date, there are so many high-end smartphones out there in the market, where some phones have a maximum of 40 megapixels camera along with dual-flash or AI-powered.
But you need to know that the primary function of a smartphone camera is to capture still photos or for photography like the DSLR cameras. The smartphone companies are trying their best to make their phone camera better than a DSLR camera but not better than a camcorder.
Limitations of using a smartphone to record videos
- Annoying limits of recording length.
- Most of the time wide angle video recording is unavailable.
- Zooming noise of lens can be problematic.
- The sound quality is not up to the mark.
Advantages of using a camcorder for recording videos
- There are no recording limits, can be recorded for 2 to over 10 hours on many camcorder models, depending on the video quality chosen.
- Editing software can be easily used to provide a professional finishing touch to your videos.
- The quality of the sound is great; no need to use an external mic but occasionally needed because of the weather conditions or when recording something in the middle of a crowd.
What features to look for when buying a camcorder?
Let’s look at some of the features to consider when looking to buy a camcorder for surveillance.
Mostly the working hours of a private investigator or a spy are probably during the night. So the first important feature to look for in a camcorder is the quality of the night-shot.
The night-shot of a camcorder is determined by “lux”. Lux is known as the metric unit for measuring the amount of light that falls on an object. The purest night-shot can be captured at 0 lux.
This indicates that you need to look for a camcorder which is close to 0 lux as possible. By doing so, this will save you from the discomfort of capturing gloomy footages and thriving for a glimpse of light.
When choosing a camcorder, the zooming feature is extremely important. Now there are three kinds of zoom available- optical zoom, digital zoom and intelligent zoom.
Intelligent zoom is called a hybrid as it is the combination of optical and digital zoom. This is a new zooming feature available in today’s market. According to me, intelligent zoom is almost similar to optical zoom, as it still provides a good quality surveillance.
Optical zoom is the most important feature among the digital and intelligent zoom as this feature provides high-quality video footage and is the purest of them all. The quality of digital zoom is lower than the optical and intelligent zoom as the video recording gets grainy. For this reason, the video will be useless past a certain digital zoom point.
The ideal zooming quality in a camcorder is having at least 50x or more optical zoom. Preferably closer to 70x optical or intelligent zoom with a strong stabilizer.
The function of stabilization is performed by a stabilizer in a camcorder, as its name proceeds. The better the stabilizer is, the better the stabilization of the footage. There are different manufacturers having different names of their stabilizer. So it is slightly difficult to name them all one by one.
But worry not! The best way to test a stabilizer is by switching on a camcorder and comparing it with another camcorder by observing the shakiness between them while walking at a normal pace.
If you find that the footage of one of the camcorder is too shaky than the other then the stabilizer of that camcorder is not good enough and vice versa. So you see, stabilization is as important as zoom. An unstabilized footage is totally useless.
We live in a modern age where the technology used is from micro to nano or even smaller. So if you are still using the old 8mm tape camcorder of your grandpa then probably you are not from this era. In this age we have several different options like you can get an SD camcorder, an HDD camcorder or an internal flash camcorder.
SD camcorder vs Internal hard drive camcorder
- Accidently when you drop your internal hard drive camcorder, you may lose your video recording. On the other hand-side with an SD camcorder, you will not lose your video recording even though your camcorder breaks.
- An internal hard drive camcorder consumes more battery power than an SD one.
- Even after formatting the hard drive, an internal camcorder may take a longer time to power-on.
- As for having more number of parts by an internal hard drive camcorder, those parts might stop working as time passes or can break. Such kind of camcorder must be used cautiously.
As you have seen that, overall there is no special benefit of using an internal hard drive camcorder over an SD camcorder. So when you purchase an SD camcorder make sure that it records at a speed of 90 Mbps for HD recording.
The job of surveillance is full of action. So when an action is performed by your subject and at that moment your camcorder is still starting- you missed the shot.
The starting speed of a camcorder is also an essential one, especially when doing surveillance. So when purchasing a camcorder make sure to check this feature too.
The appropriate way to test this criterion is by pulling out the battery from the camcorder and then putting it back in- switch it on. If it takes more than 2 seconds then you need to reconsider your choice.
Nowadays focusing on an object is not that difficult- thanks to auto-focus. But not all camcorders have a good auto-focus quality. So what you need to do is, test this feature.
How will you do? Well, it’s simple. You need to take the camcorder outside the shop by the permission of the shop owner and start zooming onto an object across a busy street.
Determine whether the focus is lost when a vehicle passes through your shot. If the focus is lost for more than 0.5 seconds then drop this option and look for another one with a good auto-focus.
Well, there might be a lot of arguments or debate among different individuals that “this camcorder is better than that or my camcorder is better than yours”.
You know what? You need to forget their arguments or debate. The best thing to do is testing the camcorders yourself as per the guidelines I provided.
However, if you are too lazy to do that of your own, then below here are some fabulous camcorders I picked for you. Have a look!
SONY HDRCX405 CAMCORDER
- High-quality carl Zeiss zoom lens with 27x true optical zoom and a digital zoom of 54x
- Small and lightweight hence easy to carry.
- Image Stabilization.
- Quick auto-focus.
- Good video quality in a low light environment.
The absence of an auxiliary mic input for a wireless lavalier or a socked boom is a major drawback of this camcorder.
BESTEKER 1080p CAMCORDER
- Playback is either from the camera or SD card.
- Anti-shake feature.
- Light and easy to carry.
- Last but not the least- budget friendly.
- An actual zoom lens is not available, zooming is done digitally.
- Image stabilization is not that good.
CANON VIXIA HF R70 CAMCORDER
- High-resolution sensor
- Excellent lens with 57x optical zoom range.
- Effective image stabilization.
- A supplementary lens can be added.
- Auxillary microphone jack available.
- Easy to operate.
For this camcorder, there are no such major drawbacks.
PANASONIC HC-V770 HD CAMCORDER
- High quality 20x zooming lens.
- Panasonic’s excellent imaging sensor.
- Built-in microphone.
- HDR recording mode.
- Dual camera recording.
- Built-in light.
The HDR mode is very useful when recording videos as this mode increase the dynamic range of any scene.
The major drawback of this camcorder is the battery life. Due to the built-in light feature, the battery power runs out very soon. So if you are purchasing this model then you need to make sure that the battery is fully charged always or carry an extra battery if you are in remote locations.
SONY FDRAX53/B 4K HD CAMCORDER
- 4k video recording.
- Wide angled Carl Zeiss lens.
- Has a viewfinder besides the view screen.
- Has a great optical image stabilization called Balanced Optical Steady Shot (B.O.S.S)
- iAuto setting available.
- The SD card or memory stick gets occupied faster due to 4K recording.
- The price is a bit high compared to the previous models.
This camcorder is the newer version of the SONY CX900. The major difference between these two camcorders is that the SONY AX100 records video in 4K resolution while the SONY CX900 does not. This camcorder can capture the best night-shots than any other camcorder in the market.
The Best Cameras For Surveillance – Conclusion
I hope by now you have come to a decision of picking a suitable camcorder for your surveillance purpose. And once again I would like to remind you that you need to check the quality of the night-shot, zoom, stabilization, recording media, start-up speed and focus.
Fredrick Nicholas is a well-rounded blogger who has a wide variety of interests and specializes in doing in depth research for tech. He notorious Write, Editor, Blogger. Love to blogging. He currently is a blogger for Tech Whippet in a genuine effort to provide the best quality content to his readers.