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Using a Car Camera as a Security Camera.

We often get asked by our customers if the camera they purchase (any version) can be used as a security camera.  The reason people ask this normally is that they wish to use the camera to make recordings of their car, which has been scratched or otherwise damaged by vandals or unfriendly neighbours, and they are hoping that they will be able to catch the culprit in the act should it happen again.  In our opinion, the anwser is no - our car cameras are really designed for use whilst out on the road, they are primarily to be used for making recordings of the road ahead and/or behind during normal day to day driving on roads and motorways.  They are also useful for off-roading situations and recreational or scenic recordings.

When considering a car camera for use as a security camera, a number of factors must be taken into consideration, and these, as follows, give rise to our conclusion.

1.  Camera Battery Power.

Most car cameras have a small internal battery which is used to boot the camera down in the event that power from the car battery (either via a hardwire or the lighter socket) is suddenly lost.  This can happen naturally as a result of the ignition being switched off as the car is stopped, or in the unfortunate event of an accident.  Some cameras have a battery of around 300maH - which, when new, is useful for making recordings with the camera detached from the car power supply (such as outside the car to secure evidence of damage) for around half an hour.  However, the lifetime of any battery is limited, it will only hold so much charge after a given amount of usage - this applies to re-chargeable batteries found in most cameras.  When this is considered, it becomes clear that even a new battery which will allow camera operation for around 30 minutes will not really suffice for camera surveillance over extended periods of time.

The question of "well can't I use the motion detection facility to preserve the battery to allow for longer periods?" often arises.  The answer is no, a camera scanning in motion detection mode uses almost as much battery power as one which is left constantly recording, so there is no benefit in terms of extending the time the camera can operate for.

This leaves us with one option as outlined below.

2.  Power the Camera From the Car Battery.

Often available as an optional extra, or in some cases as a component included in the package, is what is known as a "hardwire kit".  These allow the camera to be connected to the car power supply via the fuse box within the car, rather than utilizing the cigarette lighter socket.  There are two ways of connecting these to the vehicle.

a) Through the ignition - power is supplied to the camera only when the ignition is ON
b) Direct to the 12v supply - power is supplied to the camera whether the ignition is ON OR OFF

If a hardwire is fitted, and the method of connection is a) as above, then there will be no power to the camera when the car ignition system is off, and therefore this method cannot be used to power the camera in a surveillance type situation.

If the hardwire is fitted directly to the car battery as in method b) above, then the camera CAN be powered with the car ignition off, but the following points must then be addressed by the owner :-

a) The camera will flatten the car battery if left on for too long.  As electricity is drained from the car battery by the camera, there is a risk that when the owner returns to the vehicle, he or she will find that the car will not start and the camera has turned itself off.  This is clearly not an acceptable use of the camera.
b) When connected directly to power, the camera must be operated - in full - by the owner.  This means that each time the car is stopped and started, the camera must be switched off, then on again respectively, and most importantly of the two - it MUST be switched off to avoid completely draining the car battery.

Again, we find ourselves concluding that a car driving camera is not really a good option for security or surveillance.

In both methods of fitting a hardwire, there is a further option available.  This entails purchasing a hardwire kit which will protect the cars battery from being drained.  These can be wired either way (through ignition or direct) although logically the ignition method would not be used as whilst the engine is running, the car battery does not require the protection of the cameras hardwire kit!  Assuming the kit is therefore wired directly to a 12v supply, the camera can the be turned on by the owner and left running, however as soon as the voltage from the car battery reaches around 11.6v, the protection circuits will engage and the camera will be disconnected from its power supply.

Again - we conclude that this is not an effective form of surveillance.

3. Camera Field of View.

In addition to the above points, which we feel are genuine and fair concerns, it should be mentioned that the type of camera we are discussing here is designed and manufactured to be used whilst driving - essentially is a driving camera.  For this reason, the angle of the lens and the windscreen fittings are optimized for viewing out of the vehicle and at the road ahead.  It would be difficult to use such a camera for surveillance and attain satisfactory results - especially in the dark - and with a lens only covering part of the surrounding area.

We hope you have found this information useful, and whilst it may mean we lose a sale - we would rather see our readers kitted out with the correct equipment than have people dissapointed with their purchases.

Not good for surveillance.

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