We know that selecting your CCTV cameras and video recorder may have been a little more work than you might have anticipated. We’re sorry to say that the decision making process isn’t over just yet. We can say with confidence that about 90% of tech support related issues are a result of problems with cabling. This makes your choice in cable one of the more important decisions you’re going to make.

Siamese Cable

Siamese cable is really two different cables fused together. You have your coaxial cable (RG59) for video, and power cable. The video portion will serve to relay the video feed from your camera back to your DVR, while the power cable will relay power from your power supply to the camera. Siamese cable is appropriate for any analog, HD-CVI, and HD-SDI security camera system.

This is easily the most popular choice, but there are different levels of quality which can tie into the decision making process. You’ll often see the acronym “AWG” along side of this type of cable. American wire gauge (AWG) is just the unit of measurement that represents the “gauge” or thickness of the wire.

Your standard pre-made Siamese cable will usually be 24AWG or 26 AWG. This is going to seem thin when you hold it in your hand but it’s still very practical. Cable like this is functional for runs up to 150 feet. We don’t recommend going much further than that as you’ll very quickly begin to experience video and/or power loss because of the thinner gauge copper wire. Also, because of it’s thin gauge, pre-made Siamese cable can only be used reliably with standard analog cameras. You will not be able to use this with HD-SDI or HD-CVI cameras.

Pre-made Siamese Cable


The alternative to pre-made is to purchase Siamese cable sold by the spool. This is also commonly referred to as RG59 cable. The coaxial cable that comes off of a spool is normally 20AWG while the power cable is 18AWG. There are two different types of coax in this industry and most of it is copper clad. This means that the center wire is aluminum or silver but cased inside of a copper shell. This type of cable is good for runs up to 300 feet. Some people have been able to push this as far as 400 feet, but usually after 300, you begin to experience video degradation. The other option is solid copper Siamese cable. Unless you have an HD-CVI system, this probably isn’t going to be necessary for you, but you might find that this is a good solution for you if you just need to stretch those 300 foot runs a bit further without video loss. Just keep in mind that standard analog and HD-SDI systems are only designed be able to go up to 300 feet. Whether it’s copper clad or solid copper, either one should work just fine for you. Solid copper cable only comes into the picture with HD-CVI systems because there runs can go up to approximately 1600 feet. Without solid copper Siamese cable, you start to experience video degradation pretty early on.

Siamese Cable from Spool with Various Power and BNC Connectors



Cat5e Cable

Cat5 and Cat5e are absolutely different no matter what anyone tells you. Ordinary Cat5 cable should not be used with CCTV products. The quality of the cable is too poor for this application and will cause frequent problems if it works at all. If you choose to run this type of cable, it needs to be at least Cat5e (we’ll get to Cat6). You can use this type of cable with standard analog cameras, and it’s required for IP/network cameras.  If you choose to go with Cat5e for your analog cameras, you shouldn't have any issue with runs up to 1000 feet.  If you are using Cat5e with IP cameras that are power over Ethernet (PoE), your cable runs can go as far as 300-1000 feet, while non-PoE cameras will be limited to the power supply being used with them (usually about 300 feet).  The power consumption of your PoE IP camera will ultimately dictate the maximum length of your run but you can usually expect at least 600 feet (12W power consumption).

Analog cameras, as you may have already realized, aren’t really set up for Cat5e cable. The work around for this is to use baluns. Think of baluns like converters that attach to your cameras to make them compatible with Cat5e. There are various types of baluns to choose from depending on your needs.

Network camera, or IP cameras, have a network cable port on their pigtail. Whether the IP camera is power over Ethernet (PoE) or not, the network cable port will be there. You’ll also have a female power terminal on the pigtail very similar to that of any analog or HD camera.

If you have a camera that’s PoE, you can run that single length of Cat5e cable and you’ll have video and power going through the same cable. If your camera is not PoE, you will need a dedicated power source to power the camera. The Cat5e cable will still be good for video, but you’ll most likely need to run a separate power cable in addition to your Cat5e cable unless you have an outlet close enough for the power supply to reach the camera.

The alternative to running two separate cables is to use simple PoE power adapters for non-PoE IP cameras that will essentially convert your non-PoE camera into a PoE camera. They’re identical in purpose to video and power baluns. You’ll still need a dedicated 12V DC power supply for the camera, just like you would any analog camera, but these adapters will enable you to position your power source somewhere much more convenient; for instance, next to your network switch or network video recorder (NVR).



Cat6 Cable

This type of cable is almost never necessary. The fact is that as of right now, there aren’t any IP cameras that require Cat6 cable, but because of the fact that Cat6 is backwards compatible with Cat5e, there is absolutely no harm in using Cat6. Due to the fact that Cat6 is the newer, bigger, and better thing out on the market though, a lot of people choose to go with Cat6 cable in an effort to predict the future in a way. By using Cat6 cable now instead of Cat5e, you may be preventing yourself from having to run new cable later when you upgrade your system. Predictably, cameras will only be getting more advanced and as such will probably require a more advanced cable in the distant future, such as Cat6. Theoretically, Cat6 may be able to lengthen the maximum distance of your runs, but testing for it is so scarce that we wouldn't be able to confirm that with any confidence.

Don Stephens is a Technical Support Manager at CCTV Camera World, a leading Security Camera distributor located in Buffalo, NY. His area of expertise is in designing professional security camera systems for medium and large scale businesses, schools, and government projects.

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