How to Upgrade a CCTV System to an HD Security Camera System

Upgrade CCTV System to HD Security Camera System
This article will discuss how to upgrade an analog CCTV camera system to an HD security camera system. Let’s get some terminology / definitions out of the way first. Analog CCTV camera systems refers to video surveillance systems that use traditional standard definition (SD) analog cameras that are hard wired to a DVR using coaxial cable. CCTV cameras generally support CIF (352 x 240) and D1 (704 x 480) resolutions. Newer CCTV cameras support 960H resolution (960 x 480).

HD security cameras and HD video surveillance systems refer to newer generation high definition CCTV cameras and DVRs that use the same coax cable as traditional CCTV, but support 720p (1280 x 720) and / or 1080p (1920 x 1080) HD video resolutions. If you want to see a comparison of video resolutions of the HD security cameras vs SD cameras, please check out these articles.

Can I Upgrade My System?

Can I upgrade my CCTV system to HD? If you purchased an analog CCTV camera system in the recent past, you may be feeling that you should have waited for HD cameras. Maybe you are now wondering if you can use some of the equipment from the original system purchased and upgrade to HD surveillance. Here are some points for you to consider and some good news for you.

Coaxial Cable

RG-59 Siamese CCTV Coax Cable

Can I use my existing coax cable? If you used RG59 or RG6 coax cable to run the video from your CCTV cameras back to your DVR, there is good news when it comes to upgrading. You can use this same cable to run video from HD security cameras, including AHD, HD-SDI, and TVI HD camera types. One special note when it comes to HD-SDI cameras: the distance that you can run video from SDI cameras is more limited than CCTV and the other HD technologies. Generally, you can not run coax cable longer than 200 feet to SDI cameras unless you use powered HD-SDI video repeater. AHD CCTV cameras are able to use RG59 up to the same distances as SD CCTV cameras, which is about 700 feet. HD-TVI cameras support 1080p resolution and can go even further with RG59 – up to 1640 feet!

If you used spools of RG59 Siamese cable on your original installation, there is more good news. You can also use the 18/2 power wire to run power to HD cameras, just as you did CCTV. The BNC connectors and power plugs are the same too.

If you used pre-made CCTV camera cables, you may be able to re-use your cable with HD cameras. If the premade cables are RG59 gauge, then you can use them. If they are a thinner gauge cable, then you need to test to be sure. HD cameras generally require coax cable of RG59 gauge or greater.

CAT-5 Cable / UTP Cable

CAT-5 CCTV Video Baluns

Can I use my existing CAT-5 cable? If your existing surveillance system uses CAT-5 or another type of UTP cable supported by video baluns, you may be able to leverage that cable when upgrading to HD. Many existing CCTV systems use CAT-5 connected to video baluns in order to run video from cameras to a DVR. Some of the new HD technologies also support CAT-5 / UTP and video baluns. For example, these HD video baluns support AHD, HD-TVI, and HD-CVI cameras. Unfortunately, HD-SDI cameras do not support UTP cable with video baluns. You must use coax cable with SDI cameras.

Camera Power Supplies / Power Supply Boxes

Security Camera System Power Supply Box

Can I use my existing power supply box? Just like CCTV cameras, HD security cameras use either a 12V DC or 24VAC power supply. If you have an existing 12V DC power supply box, you should make sure that the HD cameras that you purchase are also 12V DC. Same goes for 24VAC. You should also confirm that the amperage required by the HD cameras is within the range supplied by your power supply box.

If your current system uses individual camera power supplies (pictured above on the right), the same rules apply. If you want to leverage your individual power supplies, make sure that the HD cameras you are upgrading to use the same voltage and amperage.

Hybrid SD / HD Security camera DVRs

HD CCTV Security Camera System

Can I use my existing DVR? It depends. If your existing DVR is what is known as a hybrid, then yes. If you bought your DVR before 2014, it is unlikely that you have a hybrid. Hybrid DVRs support more than one video standard. For example, this surveillance DVR supports both analog CCTV cameras and HD cameras (AHD  type – 720p and 1080p resolutions  and 1080p TVI cameras supported). This allows owners to mix and match SD and HD cameras on the same DVR. It also provides a nice upgrade path so owners can use existing SD cameras and later add HD cameras to their system by replacing the SD cameras over time.

Unfortunately, if you have an existing CCTV DVR that is not a hybrid and you want to upgrade to HD, you have to replace your DVR.

HD Security Cameras

HD Security Cameras

Can I use my existing CCTV cameras? Unlike DVRs, cameras are either HD or SD. There are no hybrid security cameras. If you want to upgrade from CCTV to HD surveillance, you must replace your cameras with HD security cameras. However, as mentioned above, if you have existing CCTV cameras that you want to continue to use and you want to add a few HD cameras to your system, you can use a hybrid DVR that supports both technologies.

HD Surveillance Resources

If you are interested in researching HD video surveillance equipment further, here are some additional resources that I recommend.

  • iDVR-PRO demo videos – the iDVR-PRO is a hybrid AHD / CCTV DVR that was a very easy to use interface and some of the best apps for iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows.
  • HD CCTV vs SD CCTV comparison video – this video compares the resolution captured by an analog CCTV camera to a 720p AHD camera.
  • 1080p HD security camera demos – click here is see 1080p videos capatured using the latest analog high definition cameras.
  • AHD HD CCTV cameras – see some examples of the different types and styles of HD cameras that are available.

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