You've got your CCTV camera-analog, digital, color, monochrome, wired, or wireless-and now you need a monitor. After all, the camera's useless if you can't see what it's recording. As the "TV" part of the CCTV system, the monitor is what receives the signal from the camera and displays the picture-so it's important to get one that gives you a clear picture with all the details you need.
Types of Monitors
CCTV monitors can be regular television monitors (also known as tube monitors), computer monitors, or LCD (flat-screen) monitors. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Tube monitors, for instance, are less expensive, but they're bulkier and may not stand up to long-term full-time use; computer monitors may be a better bet if you want to save money (and are probably what you'll use anyway if you have an IP or wireless camera). LCD monitors, on the other hand, take up less space and have better resolution, but they also tend to cost more. Keep in mind, too, that both tube monitors and LCD monitors come in all different sizes and styles, so the features, resolution, and prices of each kind will vary.
What to Look For in a CCTV Monitor
When buying a CCTV monitor, there are several aspects to consider:
- Size. How much space do you have? How big a picture do you want-especially if you want to splice images from several cameras onto the same screen to save space? You might also want to think about heat output (LCDs produce less heat than tube monitors) and the viewer's proximity to the monitor (smaller screens for close up, larger ones for longer distances or for viewing multiple images).
- Resolution. How much detail do you need to see? The quality of the picture can make a difference if you need to identify an intruder or catch a license plate number. LCDs are known to have top-notch resolution, though you can find plenty of modern tube monitors with good resolution, as well. Just make sure you get a monitor that matches the resolution of your camera, because if you don't, you're cheating yourself out of both picture quality and money.
- Color vs. monochrome. Color monitors can be useful when color is important for identification-to see the color of a burglar's clothes, for instance, or of the getaway car. Black and white monitors are better for displaying camera images taken in low-light conditions, and they're also cheaper than color monitors. Again, make sure you fit the monitor to the camera-there's no point in buying a color monitor for a black-and-white camera, and vice versa.
- Suitability for its application. Who's using the CCTV system, and what is it being used for? Where is the monitor located? How many hours a day will it be on? The answers to these questions will determine, among other things, the type and size of the monitor, monitor portability, the number of monitors, and the necessity for special features like audio, Y/C inputs, or built-in DVRs.
- Price. How much are you willing to spend? As mentioned before, color monitors, especially LCDs, are more expensive, and any additional features will add to the price. Your budget will also determine the size and resolution, since the bigger the screen and the higher the resolution, the more the monitor will cost.
- Your vision. If the viewer has special vision considerations-light-sensitivity or extreme nearsightedness, for example-you might want to get a monitor with adjustable brightness, magnification capabilities, or a bigger screen. Ultimately, you want an affordable, quality monitor that will bring out the best in your CCTV camera. Assess your security needs, your viewing environment, and your budget, and decide which kind of monitor works best for you.