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Help me Pick a Surveillance Camera

I need some advice about home security cameras.

Relatives are having trouble with a persistent and nasty vandal. They know who he is, but he strikes randomly and at night and they can’t prove he’s the culprit. They want to photograph him in the act. A few clear photos, or a video, combined with his past criminal history, should earn him a nice state funded vacation.

We need something fairly easy to set up and use that will take infrared pictures without him noticing.

I tried a Field Camera, a self contained unit designed to be left in the woods, attached to a tree, to take pictures of critters that cross its path. It has a single LED on the front to indicate its status, and a bank of infrared LEDs to illuminate the subject. The status LED blinks red when it detects motion, then green when it takes the picture, and is easy to see on a dark night. I could cover it with a bit of electrical tape, but that won’t solve two bigger problems with it. When it takes the picture the bank of LEDs glows red – they’re easy to see in the dark. Even worse, the pictures are completely washed out, without enough detail to identify the person.

This was a $100 camera, with the Wildgame brand. (It will be going back to the store tomorrow.) Would a better camera give me a clearer picture, and have LEDs that really are invisible when they illuminate the vandal?

The other option is to mount a camera on their garage. (The layout won’t allow the simple solution of leaving a camera running in one of their home’s windows, and there are no windows in the garage facing the direction of the vandilism.) I can run external power to it if necessary, but I want something that either saves to digital media or does a wireless broadcast that can be picked up on a PC inside. Cameras with an analog output aren’t acceptable. And cheap is better than expensive – it would be great to keep it at $150 or so, if possible.

Despite surfing and reading and comparing of reviews I remain unsmartenized on the subject. If you’ve had any relevant experience with home surveillance gear, good or bad, please leave a comment and smartnize me.

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2 Comment(s)

  1. try cabelas. They have tons of game cameras, all with a bunch of reviews. You should be able to find something that will do what you want for a little more than 150. The other thing is, they are VERY lenient with returns. Pick up a 5mp infra red and you can put it far enough away so if there’s a glow it won’t be noticable, yet you’ll have enough resolution to zoom the image.

    johnny virgil | Apr 5, 2010 | Reply

  2. I’m in a similar situation.

    I think I will try to get the camera closer to face height to better id the subjects (maybe in a car). I am also inclined toward a wifi camera so that I’ll still have the evidence if the camera gets smashed or stolen.

    Please post your further adventures in this vein so that I can steal an idea or two.

    Kneil | Apr 17, 2010 | Reply

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