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CCTV camera wiring can make or break the effectiveness of a video security system and overall physical security strategy. Security camera cables connect to different camera types and transmit video and power in specific ways. In this guide, you will find a comprehensive list of security camera cables and connectors, followed by a comparison of the two most common camera cable types to help you decide which is best for your video security system.
Security camera cable types
In the security camera industry, there are more camera wire types than you might think. While it is possible to mix and match security camera cables and connectors to a certain extent, installation and management of a security camera system is much easier when the most compatible CCTV camera wiring is used. The overarching categories are IP cameras and ethernet cable vs. coaxial cable and analog cameras.
Network ethernet cable
These cables transmit video data over an internet connection. They can also power certain camera types, known as “power over ethernet”, or PoE IP cameras. On the whole, ethernet wiring is an IP camera cable type, although it can be adapted for analog cameras with a connector known as a video balun.
Coaxial cable / siamese cable
These cables transmit unprocessed video signals. They are usually an analog security camera cable, although they can also be used for IP camera wiring when combined with a signal converter in an Ethernet over Coax system.
A siamese cable combines a coaxial cable and a power cable in one casing. The most commonly used camera coax cable is the RG59 siamese cable. Coaxial siamese cable is always shielded to reduce signal interference.
Plug and play cable
These pre-made cables are set up with color coded connectors that are already attached. They are also thin and flexible, making them very easy to install no matter your level of expertise. Their convenience does come at a price: as well as being more expensive, plug and play cable is usually sold in fixed lengths, making it difficult to tailor to exact site specifications.
Plug and play cable is not shielded, making it prone to electromagnetic interference. This is common in unshielded camera cable types, and you will need to carefully consider your installation plan to minimize crosstalk. Coaxial siamese cables are always shielded, and ethernet cables come in both shielded and unshielded options depending on how they will be used.
High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cables are not used in CCTV camera wiring, but they are useful in a video security system. They are most often used to transmit video and audio from recorders (such as NVRs or DVRs) to monitors for remote viewing.
Similar to HDMI cables, a Video Graphics Array (VGA) cable is used to send video and audio data from a storage and/or encoding device to a display for remote viewing. Unlike an HDMI cable which simply plugs in, VGA cables also have two screw pins to secure the connector into the socket.
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Security camera connection and cable types
Video security systems require different camera cable types, which also means there are different types of security camera connections to consider. If you are planning to create your own CCTV camera wiring rather than buying pre-made cable, then it is important to understand the different camera cable connector types available, and which ones are appropriate to each system. Below are some of the most common security camera connection types.
Coaxial siamese cable connectors
The F type plug is the standard connector used for terrestrial and satellite TV signal. They are also used in internet connections with cable modems. These are not the most common security camera connections, but they are often used in more general video transmission with coaxial cables.
Of all the camera cable connector types, the Bayonet Neill-Concelman (BNC) connector is the most commonly used with coaxial cable security cameras. BNC connectors are widely used for video and radio frequency connections (i.e. analog signal). It is easy to connect and disconnect owing to its twist-lock bayonet mechanism, as opposed to screw thread connectors such as F type, TNC and N type.
TNC and N‑type connectors
The Threaded Neill-Concelman (TNC) connector uses the same technology as the BNC connector, but is threaded. The N type connector is also threaded. Both these types of security camera connections are stronger and more weatherproof than BNC connectors, making them a good choice for environments where sturdier security camera wire types are needed – such as with a ruggedized coax security camera.
The RCA connector is named after the Radio Corporation of America, who first introduced the design in the 1930s. It is most often used for quick video and audio connections, and so can often be found on pre-made or plug and play cable varieties. However, it is also possible to buy these connectors separately, to create your own CCTV camera wiring.
A direct current (DC) connector is used at the end of power cabling to supply power to analog and HD bullet, panoramic security cameras, and other camera models. If you use an RG59 siamese cable, one connector will transmit video, and the other will supply power – usually, these two connectors are a BNC and a DC.
Ethernet network cable connectors
The RJ45 connector stands for “Registered Jack”, with “45” signifying its specific industry standard. It is also referred to as an 8P8C (8 pin 8 conductor) connector, with 8 pins and conductors to connect to the four pairs of twisted copper wires in ethernet IP camera cable types. As this connector is most often used with ethernet wiring, the RJ45 is generally considered to be an IP camera connector. To use RJ45 connectors and ethernet cabling with analog security cameras, a video balun is required.
CCTV video baluns are also referred to as UTP baluns and CAT5 baluns. They are a useful connector for analog CCTV cameras and HD security cameras.
Video baluns provide installers with greater flexibility over their choice of security camera wiring types. Usually with an analog security camera, security coaxial cables are used. By using a video balun, you can connect ethernet cabling to coaxial cable security cameras.
Ethernet network cable categories
Ethernet cable is most often used in IP camera wiring. These cameras transmit video over a network connection, so IP camera wire must be able to carry data over the internet. There are many types of ethernet cable, many of which you might recognize from pre-WiFi days of LAN internet connections. These same wires are used to link IP cameras such as fixed IP camera models to a recorder for video storage and remote viewing. They also can also supply power without the need for a separate power cable.
The “cat” in ethernet cable naming refers to “category”; ethernet cable categories still in use include: 3, 4, 5, 5e, 6, 6a, 7 and 8. The most common IP camera cable types are Cat5 cable, Cat5e cable and Cat6 cable.
Cat 5 cable is a twisted pair cable commonly used in computer networks. Twisted pair refers to the copper wires which make up the cable: in this case, 8 wires twisted into 4 pairs. Cat5 cabling is usually unshielded, relying on the twisted wire structure to minimize interference. Cat 5 cable is rarely ever used now, as it has been superseded by Cat5e cable.
Cat5e cable is a more recent version, released in 2001. The “e” stands for “enhanced”, and its improved performance is the result of improvements to reduce crosstalk. Nowadays, it is much more common to see Cat5e cable used in IP camera wiring systems than Cat 5 cable. After 2001, most Cat 5 cable was deprecated in favor of Cat5e.
Both Cat5 cable types have a bandwidth of 100 MHz over a maximum distance of 330 feet (100 meters). Any IP camera wiring longer than this must connect segments together using a repeater.
Cat6 cable is another, more recent type of IP camera wire. Cat6 improves on Cat5 cables by reducing crosstalk and system noise, and has an increased bandwidth of 250 MHz. Unshielded Cat6 cable has a maximum length of 55 meters (180 feet). However, a newer version, Cat6a, can run to 100 meters – the same length as Cat5. Cat6 cable does come in a shielded version to further reduce interference.
IP security camera wiring diagram
The RJ45, or “8P8C”, is the IP camera connector used at either end of ethernet cables. The 8 pins and conductors each connect to the 8 corresponding wires making up the cable. Below is a 4 wire color diagram, splicing security camera wires and attaching them to the connector:
In this security camera wiring diagram, you can see that each of the individual 8 wires connects to each of the 8 pins in the IP camera connector. As the pairs are color-coded, you can also see the order in which the wire pairs have been connected.
Ethernet network cable advantages
There are many advantages to using ethernet cable for CCTV camera wiring, such as:
Ethernet connections are fast and reliable. If you have IP cameras, using ethernet is a much safer choice than WiFi. A wired connection is fast and unlikely to drop out, unless your network provider has an outage.
The cables are thin. This does not sound like a big advantage, but depending on how your site is set up, using thin, flexible CCTV camera wiring can make a big difference to ease of installation.
They are versatile and widely available. Ethernet cabling is already used for all kinds of connections, so not only is it easy to get hold of, it is highly likely that you already have some of this wiring on your site.
It is cheaper than siamese cable. The price point for ethernet cables is lower than siamese cable. While overall, an IP camera system has more expensive equipment, the wire is cheaper. Again, this might not seem significant, but if you plan to lay hundreds of feet of cable, it adds up.
It is easy to set up. When used with IP cameras, ethernet cable is as close to a plug and play system as you can get. Once you have plugged in each end to your cameras and recorder, you are only a few clicks away from streaming high-quality video.
Ethernet wiring for an IP security camera system
Ethernet cables are the most commonly used IP camera wire. They are designed to work with IP camera systems, because these cameras need to be connected to a network in order to send video data back to a recorder.
Ethernet cables carry out two roles: they connect IP cameras to the internet, and they also power the cameras. In their first role, these cables can link your IP camera system to your site’s existing network. When connecting any new devices to your network, be mindful of cybersecurity to avoid breaches.
In their second role, ethernet cables can also act as power cables. You can turn this function on using the Power Over Ethernet (PoE) switch, which is usually found on the back of your Network Video Recorder (NVR).
Ethernet cable for analog CCTV and HD camera systems
Generally, you would not consider ethernet wires to be a viable analog camera cable type. However, they can be used with analog systems, and in some cases ethernet wiring is a better option than the more traditional RG59 siamese cable.
The first important difference to note when using ethernet cables for analog cameras is that you are not connecting these cameras to the internet. You are using them in exactly the same way you would use the RG59 siamese cable – to transmit video signal to a recorder. By using a video balun, you can convert the RJ45 connector to a BNC connector. This allows you to use Cat5e cable or Cat6 cable with analog cameras.
So why would you want to do this and not use RG59 siamese cable instead? Here are 3 reasons why you might want to use ethernet cable instead of siamese cable:
- When laying a lot of cable, ethernet wiring can work out cheaper than siamese cable – even when you are making your own cable from a roll.
- Ethernet wire can carry data for longer distances than coaxial cable without signal loss, making it a great alternative if you are connecting analog cameras over a very long distance.
- As most sites nowadays are set up with a network connection, it is highly likely that ethernet cable has already been laid. You can take advantage of this when connecting your cameras, saving on installation time and costs.
Coaxial siamese cable
The term coaxial is synonymous with analog security camera cable. For decades, siamese cable has been used in traditional, closed-circuit analog camera systems. When you remove internet connectivity from the equation, CCTV camera wiring relies on the RG59 siamese cable to transmit raw video signal and to supply power.
What is RG59 siamese cable? RG59 refers to the cable’s thickness. The thicker the coaxial cable, the further it can carry video signal – but it becomes very bulky and difficult to work with. The thinner the cable, the easier it is to install, but you compromise on signal quality. RG59 siamese cable is thick enough to carry signal over most sites, but thin enough to install easily, making it the most popular analog camera cable choice.
Coaxial siamese cable advantages
RG59 siamese cable is highly durable. Coaxial cable is designed to transmit video over long distances, making it the ideal choice if you want a system that is built to last.
It is always shielded. Camera coax cable has shielding built into its design, so interference is reduced. Not all ethernet camera cable types are shielded, so if minimizing crosstalk is a priority, then siamese cable could be the better option.
No need for an internet connection. If you are in an area with poor network connectivity, relying on an internet connection for your video security could be problematic. Network outages could put your video security at risk of disruption or total loss. Coaxial CCTV camera wiring is “closed circuit”, so the analog signal is transmitted to a recorder, at which point it is digitized.
Reduced cybersecurity risks. By definition, IP devices are linked to the rest of your network, increasing the number of entry points for hackers. Taking some of your video security system offline by using analog camera cable can reduce your exposure to cyberattacks.
Overall, an analog system is cheaper. Whilst RG59 siamese cable is more expensive than ethernet cable, all the associated equipment and running costs of an analog system are cheaper. This is simply because the technology for analog (vs. IP cameras) is older and less in demand than IP.
Coaxial cable for analog and HD camera systems
RG59 siamese cable is most often used with analog coax security camera systems. Combining power and transmission in one casing makes it the most convenient solution, especially with twist-on BNC connectors.
Siamese cable is easy to install when you know the basic principles. The most important things to bear in mind are:
- Make sure your cameras are set up close enough to a camera power supply. If your cameras are too far from a power outlet, then the cabling will be too long to carry the signal back to your recorder. This could lead to video signal degrading in transit.
- Run RG59 siamese cable at least 6 inches away from existing electrical wiring to avoid signal interference. Shielding should help to mitigate this, but to be on the safe side it is always best to leave some clearance between cables.
Coaxial cable for IP camera systems
It might seem counterintuitive to use RG59 siamese cable for IP camera wiring. However, it is possible, and it can work well. This type of system is known as IP over coax, or ethernet over coax.
Upgrading your camera system from analog to IP cameras can be costly. Pulling up old CCTV camera wiring and installing new cable is one of the many hidden costs involved in a large-scale upgrade. If you cannot afford to completely overhaul your system all at once, it is possible to keep your old camera coax cable for newer IP cameras such as panoramic IP cameras, with the help of converters.
Aside from financial savings, an ethernet over coax system has other advantages. Cables are run over hundreds of feet all around a site; ripping these up can be extremely disruptive. Using your existing RG59 siamese cable can save you installation time, as well as reducing disruption to your day to day operations.
Buying pre-made cable vs. bulk cable
The final decision to make when choosing which CCTV camera wiring to buy is its format: either pre-made cable, or bulk cable on a roll with separate connectors. Both security camera wire types have their advantages and disadvantages; ultimately, your decision depends on the specific needs of your site and its security.
Buying plug and play cables saves you prep time cutting and measuring, but is significantly more expensive than bulk cable. This makes it a better option for smaller projects. Also, be aware that pre-made camera cables come in set lengths, so the finished result may not look as professional compared to cables that are cut to measure.
On the other hand, buying bulk cable is cheaper and customizable; you can reduce waste and create a much more professional-looking, tailored result by cutting wiring to measure and using the exact connectors you want. Nevertheless, making lengths of cable is time-consuming and requires specialized equipment.
For example, if you choose BNC connectors, then you have two attachment options: crimp-on or compression. While crimp-on is quicker and cheaper, compression offers a longer-lasting result. This is because crimping the cable flattens it, causing a weak point, whereas compression applies even pressure all the way around the cable, preserving its shape.
In short, you will need more specialist knowledge to make your own CCTV camera wiring, but if you know how, then buying in bulk is more cost-effective and more likely to give a better result.
Choosing between security camera wiring types
So, you’ve done your research – now how do you decide which of the many security camera wiring types is right for your business?
Hopefully this article has demonstrated that it is possible to adapt different security camera cables and connectors to your needs. While it is true that certain camera cable types are more compatible with particular cameras, it is also equally possible to choose security camera connections that match your budget and site specifications.
The best way to choose which commercial security camera accessories are right for your security needs is to assess your budget and your specification. Combined, these should help you to decide between security camera wire types to create a system that provides the best quality video, at the best price.
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