- Most modern video surveillance systems use dome, bullet or turret cameras.
- Each of these types of security camera has a distinct appearance and features, and are best suited for different security needs.
- Factors to consider when determining the best camera for your needs include installation, indoor/outdoor use, pricing and visual range.
- This article is for business owners who want to install an effective video surveillance system to secure their physical location(s).
If you're in the market for a new video surveillance system for your business, you should know that not all surveillance cameras are created equal – and not all systems use the same types of cameras. Most modern security surveillance systems use at least one of these three types of cameras: dome, bullet and turret. Each has a distinct visual style and a variety of features. The one that's best for your business may depend on where you're placing the cameras and how you intend to use them.
Deciding which camera to use (or if you should use a combination of cameras) can be complicated. Here is what to keep in mind when choosing a camera type for your business security needs.
What is a dome camera?
Named after its dome-shaped structure, this security camera was designed for both internal and external use. With its built-in infrared LED lights, it works well in low-light or no-light situations. These cameras can also send signals over the internet, so their footage can be accessed at any time.
Dome cameras are easy to hide and can blend in with aesthetics. Because of their round shape, it is difficult for an outside observer to know where the cameras are pointed, which may deter criminal behavior if a potential thief or vandal thinks they're on camera.
These cameras are encased in durable covers that are resistant to vandalism and damage. However, if not sealed correctly, moisture can accumulate inside the dome, blurring the picture. Depending on the light, they can also be prone to glare or reflection.
Key takeaway: Dome cameras are a discreet surveillance option featuring a durable, dome-shaped enclosure. It can be used in locations with little or no light but require proper sealing to ensure a clear picture.
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What is a bullet camera?
Known for its cylinder-shaped casing, a bullet camera is a more visible security camera than the dome option. Its presence may deter criminals and make your property less desirable to them – at least in the location(s) where they know a camera is pointed.
On top of the casing, there is a small flap over the lens that protects it from sun glare or inclement weather. This can be helpful if you need an outdoor camera.
Of the three cameras, bullet cameras are the easiest to vandalize. Because they are stationed on the arm of a wall mount, they can easily be covered, moved, or smashed, rendering them useless. If you already use an analog bullet camera, it's easy to upgrade them with a hybrid surveillance system.
Key takeaway: Bullet cameras feature a cylinder-shaped casing and are more visible. These conspicuous cameras may deter crime, but they are also easy to vandalize.
[Read related article: A Comprehensive Guide to Security Equipment for Small Business]
What is a turret camera?
Also known as a "mini dome," the turret camera is a ball-and-socket type of camera that looks like a hybrid of dome and bullet camera. This eyeball-shaped camera offers high-quality imagery without the glass casing of a dome camera.
Because it doesn't have a housing case, a turret camera is more prone to vandalism than a dome camera, and it is less malleable than a bullet camera. In recent years, turret cameras have become increasingly popular and are viewed as an easy-to-use alternative to traditional bullet or dome cameras.
Key takeaway: Visually, a turret camera is a cross between a dome and bullet camera, and offers high-quality imagery without an external case. This small, easy-to-use camera has become a popular alternative to dome and bullet-style models.
Bullet vs. dome vs. turret cameras
Each of these three cameras has distinct features, advantages and disadvantages. Here are how dome, bullet and turret cameras compare with one another in major purchase consideration categories.
Because of their glass cases, dome cameras are the most difficult to install. The glass adds an extra complicated layer to the process. If you're looking to install multiple dome cameras, it's best to call in a professional to assist.
Bullet cameras tend to be the easiest to install, as they typically are either affixed directly into a wall or are mounted to a wall or ceiling. This also makes them easiest to move and change if you need to rearrange cameras. Bullet cameras are ideal for those looking for a DIY installation.
Easier to install than a dome camera, a turret camera is generally fashioned to a mount on a ceiling. They perform better indoors and in a controlled environment than outside, where there are fewer ceiling options on which to mount them.
Dome and turret cameras have a similar range when used indoors. They can both be easily maintained and have a wide field of vision. The only difference is that dome cameras, because of their glass casing, need to be cleaned for dust and fingerprints more frequently. Their size and shape also make them more discreet and less distracting when used indoors.
Bullet cameras can also be installed and used indoors. This model is known for its range, so you may not be using it to its full potential when installed inside. Being indoors also typically makes bullet cameras more visible and accessible, and therefore easier to vandalize.
As mentioned above, if you do not tighten the glass casing of a dome camera entirely during installation, moisture can get in and blur the image. Even when properly tightened, the dome camera can still trap condensation inside. Dome cameras can also get unwanted infrared reflections, known as IR bounceback, when placed outdoors.
Although they are typically waterproof, bullet cameras can get damaged from severe rain or snowstorms. Their shape and warmth also make them subject to birds building nests on them. Without the complications of a glass dome, they have clear night vision capabilities.
Without the glass dome, turret cameras can have the same line of vision as a dome camera but without the risk of condensation or IR bounce back. They also have great night vision capabilities that are clearer than those of a bullet camera.
Though it depends on the quality of the camera, bullet cameras tend to cost less than dome and turret cameras. The average bullet camera costs between $30 and $80, while the average dome camera costs between $80 and $120. Turret cameras can cost anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars each.
If a business is looking to buy a high quantity of cameras, going with bullet cameras could save money in the long term. Bullet cameras also take less time to set up.
Another significant factor affecting the price of a security camera is whether you use a wired system or a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system. What you buy depends on your specific needs, keeping in mind that while more reliable, CCTV cameras are more expensive and have additional system and installation costs. [Wondering how much storage you might need? Check out our video surveillance storage article.]
The visual range of a camera largely depends on the quality of the camera and system itself rather than the type of camera. Even though they are known for having a wide view range, an inexpensive bullet camera could have significantly less range than a high-end dome camera. When researching cameras for their range, be sure to consider their lens type, wide-range dynamic, resolution and backlight compensation.
On average, bullet cameras have a much longer range than others, which makes them ideal for outdoor settings, such as a parking lot or backyard. The field of view itself can be narrow; however, depending on the model, you can install a larger lens. Bullet cameras are great for capturing clear images of people or cars and getting a wide range of images.
Because of their smaller shape, dome and turret cameras have smaller lenses and therefore less of a range of vision.
If you're in the market for new or updated security cameras, make sure you combine them with the best surveillance system possible and one that is right for you. Consider all national and local video surveillance laws and regulations before any installs.
Key takeaway: Any of these three camera types are a satisfactory option, but the best video surveillance camera for your business depends on your desired location(s), range, system complexity, and budget.