Best Security Camera?


Just had some lowlife steal my generator from my front yard last night. I've been trying to sell security cameras to my wife for awhile and this should be the straw that broke the camel's back as far as getting her approval.

I just want one camera to start. It needs to be able to see 100' in the dark to see all the way down the driveway. It also needs to be small and unobtrusive. It also needs to be able to record to a computer hard drive. Any suggestions on cameras and DVR cards for computers that won't end up costing a fortune? Any manufacturers sell some sort of kit?

Cheapest idea would be the $10 color night vision web camera from Then buy a $55 IR LED light (AutomatedOutlet has them) to put down by the driveway to get additional light. Use WebcamXP or some other software with motion detection.

At $60, this is the cheapest solution. A night-vision camera that can actually light something up and see it at 100' is going to cost $250 or so, plus you need a DVR card at $50-$200. If you can afford that, it is a much better solution.

Hey, you spend $10 on a camera and get the WAF up, then she will be more open minded to better cameras later. My woman is hooked on the security cameras. I have a 15" LCD right under my Plamsa so when we are watching TV, we can see EVERYTHING going on around the house.. It is so effective that I removed our doorbell (HA helped there too...)

Lens make a big difference too! Don't go thinking you are going to protect your house with a 90-degree lens, they can't hardly see anything... you will need a combonation of Fish-eye, wide angle, and narrow angle... Fish-eyes are good for action, they will let you know something is going on, but coverage of the cars or doors need narrow angle to get the clarity to actually recognize anyone in the footage... I have 3 camera just on the front of my tiny house and still have coverage issues...

If you are looking to jump in at a higher level, just say what you are looking to spend and we can give more appropriate advice.

Without more information, it's really hard to know what the best solution would be. Cameras & DVRs are all about what you spend. You get what you spend. Don't expect a $1000 dollar solution for $100. If there are street lights and it's not pitch dark, you may not need IR. KT&C offers a Sony b&w that can see down to .0003 lux and you can pick one up for about $150. There are a lot of better quality options but as I stated earlier, if you want a top quality option, you need to pay a little money. Another cheap alternative is one of the "made in China" LED cams. They aren't great but for a small distance, they are effective and many of those low-end units are also wireless so you just have to get power to them and then hook the receiver to your TV/VCR. The last time I saw anything from X-10 (the company not the standard), it has NO night capabilites so I would stay away from them. There is another option that would be a good choice using X-10 (the standard). If you have a flood light near there, you can get a bulb camera that sends the signal through the wiring of your home and you can just plug the "receiver" in to an outlet to get the picture. It looks like a regular bulb and has LEDs built in. They are around $150 too.
The biggest problem with cheap solutions is the quality of the image. You won't be able to see many details that you could on a higher-end option. As long as that's not a concern, you have lots of options.
Sam's club has some $39 indoor Color day/night camers that are only 380lines, but excelent quality overall (Wisecam cameras) They have an outdoor model on their web site but I have yet to order one. I am trying to move up to 480lines minimum.

Microcenter, RadioShack and others see Q-See and Swann cameras. They have both CMOS and CCD versions. Their $79 color outdoor day/night camera has excellent quality for a CMOS. a 4-port DVR card and a couple of those would do you well.

Just remember, you can not change lens on these cheap outdoor cameras easily because the LEDs in them will reflect off of the outdoor enclosure. But to get a 13-led color day/night outdoor camera for $79 is pretty sweet and had to complain about something like the lens...
Thanks for all the good info.

Yes, there is a streetlight at the end of the driveway with a 60W bulb in it, so I guess a night vision camera will be able to see better than if it were pitch dark.

As far a budget goes, I need to keep things under $500 for now. Seems a real cheap solution is no solution since I won't be any further ahead if I can't make some sort of ID on the bad guys due to poor image quality.

Any comments on this USB video interface? or would some sort of DVR capture card be better?
I can see why you want to do this camera setup, and I'm not questioning your motive; but, you might want to also consider other technology to deter the potential theft before it occurs as well.

For instance you might get a camera shot of someone stealing something in your house; but, the theft has occurred, you are at a loss for the item, and all you have is a picture that may, or may not be of any use in getting the item back.

You might want to consider "pull tab" sensors for your critical items outside your house. Maybe even automated lighting/voice announcements as well.

Just a thought.


You might want to consider "pull tab" sensors for your critical items outside your house. Maybe even automated lighting/voice announcements as well.
I googled "pull tab" sensor, but the results didn't make sense; does this mean that when an item is removed from its location, an event/alarm is sent [ie to an Elk]?

Also, by voice announcements, do you mean something like the system speaking "yo dude, you're on videotape and i'm calling the cops"?
Something like that. I'll try to find the sensor I'm talking about, but it's nothing more than a pole inside a socket so when it gets separated it creates an open circuit.

The voice announcement will then come on.
They are called Pull-Apart sensors, like the Sentrol 1500. You can see some at this link:

And that USB cable is bad... OMG first of all, it is a $29 cable, not $95! You can get a 4-channel cable like that from for $60. Anyways, it is horrbile, buy the $10 USB camera before you spend $95 to turn a $100 CCTV cam into a junky USB1.1 camera!

Man, I have 3 extra 4-port DVR cards I would sell each for $35 before I saw you use that USB cable... I have 2 Swann and 1 DigiView cards sitting unused. If not, cool, but find yourself a deal on a real CCTV card or use USB cameras, but don't go the hybrid route or you will end up like me with $hundreds in equipment not being used.

In the $300 range you could get a 4-camera wireless 2.4g system, you could get a DVR card and 4 cameras, you have so many options. There is too much still to give you a definitve recommendation... How are you going to wire them, can you dedicate the PC the feeds are going to? What about power to run them? What about battery backup for them? Will any of them need to be mounted upside down, some camera's mounts don't flip well, is there direct sunlight...

So what I suggest is start with the DVR card and 1 camera. If you realize there are factors you missed, you can reassign that camera to a different position and get a more sutable one. By your 4th camera, you will have all of the features and locations covered... And go to Sam's, their $39 camera can not be beat... Color, Day/Night, 8-Leds, standard replacable lens, 100' cable, microphone... It will let you test all of your placements and provide your first camera, you can get some more high end ones once you know exactly what you need...

Lastly, if you are still thinking crazy though, consider like an ATI AIW video card where you can plug a CCTV camera straight into your video card... at least for your $100 you also get a cool TV card, plus you get to use a CCTV camera instead of just getting a USB converter.

Let me know if you want links to any of this. I will gladly let you log into my system and see my 8-channel system built using cheap parts..


Attached is a little picture of my in-wall camera system under the plasma, it is not much to look at, but I had it handy...


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I wish there were a good solution for relocating expensive stolen items. Like a lo-jack system for you lawnmower or generator or v. It seems that if they can track wild geese with radio transmitters and the movement of killer whales in the ocean, then there should be a way to track lawnmowers, generators, and other things that get stolen too often.
Maybe I just need to apply for a research grant to study the Migratory Patterns of Lawnmowers.
Some of the latest GPS dog collars and child locators fit the bill perfectly. Costs are under $200 on some units and many use the PCS network to call in their location.

ver0776 said:
Man, I have 3 extra 4-port DVR cards I would sell each for $35 before I saw you use that USB cable... I have 2 Swann and 1 DigiView cards sitting unused.
Hi Vaughn;

I'm helping my friend build his home and I'm needing some camera monitoring capability.

Presently in my home I'm running a cheap ($25) ATI TV Wonder VE capture card in my HomeSeer server (has only one channel) with a decent 420 line low light camera. I use WebCamXP ($35 when I bought it) to take capture shots of the motion detection and also have these shots as thumbnails for easier viewing.

This is all available via the web as WebCamXP also has a built in webserver.

Well, WebCamXP raised its price and I don't like the fact that it has to "call home" with its software. I'm looking into ActiveWebCam as it has similar features at a lower cost for his home.

I have not decided on a capture card. I have a couple of extra ATI TV Wonder VE cards but I will probably need two channels and you can't use two of those cards in one PC.

Do you know if any of those capture cards you mentioned work well with ActiveWebCam?


I don't know that you can use WebCam software with CCTV cards. I have not tried, I just ran dual systems, using the software that comes with the cards for my CCTV cameras, then WebCam software for the few cases when I use a web cam.

If you are supposed to be able to do that, I can test them. I assume that the feeds were encoded and not available to DirectX and the such...

hi everyone
i have a problem with my car too
some dorks just pour acid water on my car last week (they already did it once month ago for my another car)
i had to get a new paint job for my 2nd car , the entire car!!! however, the 1st car i'm not going to get a new paint job because the insurance just a liability one... so...
i'm really pi$$ about it, so i'm going to get a camera that can see their faces and their cars license plate number or.. just the model
my budget is around $300 to start
i m going to put the camera inside my house so they can't see it
so any good suggestion?
here's picture outside of my house, still has some street lights...

it is a one way street i'm sure they will go thru this street if they going to do it again
the distance from my 2nd story to my car is about 15 feet, and the distance from my house to cross street is about 30 feet
please help me out
i know nothing about cameras..