What is the difference between an analog vs digital video surveillance system?

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    Mike Haldas

    Please tell me what the difference is between an analog video surveillance systems vs a digital video surveillance system. What is the best surveillance system might you recommend? I need 6 outdoor cameras and 2 indoor cameras.

    This is a question that I recently received from a customer. Below is my response.

    Analog refers to CCTV cameras which us an analog video signal that is transmitted over coaxial cable back to a video recorder or monitor. 10-15 years ago the recorders used were primarily based on VHS tapes (like the ones used in the moves we use to rent from blockbuster). VHS tapes are an analog recording media. Now, the signal is transmitted back to a digital video recorder (DVR) and stored on a hard drive (like the ones in Windows and Macs computers). So, the modern CCTV surveillance system (still sometimes called analog) is actually analog on the camera and cable side, but digital on the recorder side. The resolution of analog CCTV systems is 704 x 480 pixels.

    Here is a link to some CCTV systems that we sell:


    This is the digital recorder that is used in those systems:


    When referring to digital surveillance systems, sometimes people are talking about network IP cameras and sometimes HD-SDI (aka HD CCTV).

    HD-SDI surveillance systems is a new technology that we launched earlier this year and highly recommend customers to consider. HD-SDI surveillance systems use the same RG59 or RG6 coaxial cable that is used in analog CCTV systems to wire cameras to recorders and monitors, but the signal transmitted over the coax cable is not analog. It is a digital video signal and therefore can be much higher resolution than analog CCTV. HD-SDI cameras and DVRs are capable of full 1080p HD resolution (1980 x 1080). This is about 8 times the resolution of analog cameras.

    CCTV Camera Pros supplies hybrid DVRs that work with both CCTV and HD-SDI cameras. These can be found here:


    HD cameras that can be used with the HD-SDI ports on Viewtron DVRs can be found here:


    Last, network IP cameras are also digital and completely different than CCTV and HD-SDI cameras in that instead of the video signal being transmitted over a coaxial cable, it is transmitted over a network using CAT5 Ethernet cable. IP cameras are not hard wired from the camera back to the DVR (sometimes called NVR when referring to IP camera systems). One of the advantages of IP cameras is they are available in high resolution 1 to 5 megapixel. One of the disadvantages, is that they are more technically complicated to setup for most people because each camera gets it own IP address and essentially is a computer unto itself.

    CCTV Camera Pros is a master distributor for Zavio, Vivotek, Messoa, and Geovision IP cameras. You can find more information about these here:


    Last, here is an article that I wrote not long ago which compared the video resolution of CCTV vs. HD-SDI:


    Please let me know if you have any follow up questions.

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