Swann CCTV cameras and CCTV kits are one of the most widely sold in the budget DIY security market. Retailers like Maplins, Screwfix and the DIY chains sell boxes with everything you need at various price points. We are quite vocal in suggesting these products aren't particularly effective and wanted to explain why. We are approached on a weekly basis by people who have purchased Swann systems, including their more recent HD systems but are unhappy with the results. So what's wrong with them?
The single biggest problem with Swann CCTV kits is the cameras. They are fixed-lens wide-angle cameras and that's not good. With a wide-angle lens, the pixels spread apart rapidly as you move away from the camera meaning detail capture deteriorates quickly. We cover this in our Optical Range section. The effective range of the cameras bears little relation to the numbers used on the box. By effective range, we mean the distance at which you can clearly identify an unknown person.
There is a lot of what, at best might be considered confusing information within the Swann promotional material. Being less diplomatic you might even suggest they are not telling the whole truth. Take distances for example. We have already discussed wide-angle cameras spreading pixels apart rapidly as you move away from them and yet Swann makes great claims when it comes to the effective range of their products. They quote IR range and then go on to discuss how people can be clearly identified but it is the lens fitted to the camera which limits effective range, not how bright the Infrared is. The optical range is very different to the IR range as we explain in the linked article.
With pre-packaged CCTV Kits, the cameras are generally all the same, with fixed lens wide-angle. Most good CCTV systems use a variety of different cameras based on specific tasks. A wide-angle camera that gives an overview but no detail is very different to a camera zoomed in on a target to provide identification levels of detail. Choosing the correct cameras is the single most important thing to get right. Get it wrong and it doesn't matter how many Megapixels you throw at the problem you will never capture sufficient detail to identify and subsequently prosecute. To be fair Swann isn't the only culprit when it comes to CCTV kits but they are one of the biggest players. We have put together a selection of camera upgrades for Swann CCTV kits which feature varifocal lenses that can be zoomed in on target areas to increase detail capture.
Discussing a rival company like this might be seen as unprofessional and for that, we apologise, but we are passionate about CCTV. We created CCTV42 on the back of a disappointing buying experience. We want to make sure you buy CCTV which meets your expectations, so much so that in January 2014 our MD took all his clothes off and stood naked in front of a Swann CCTV camera to demonstrate the difference between marketing claims and reality. Here is the video featuring standard definition Swann camera footage. It isn't pretty and it definitely isn't for the faint of heart or those eating breakfast but it does graphically show our point.
Swann has asked us to point out they now sell higher-resolution equipment than the 535 camera featured in the video. The problem is they still base their kits around fixed lens wide-angle cameras meaning any gains from throwing pixels at the problem are soon lost as you move away from the camera. It's a bit like increasing the power of your central heating boiler but still leaving the doors and windows wide open.
If you are planning a system and need help understanding what equipment to choose please don't hesitate to contact us. Advice is given freely without obligation.