It's not uncommon for people to inherit CCTV systems.  The problem is that most of the time, the previous owners aren't very forthcoming with information and people normally don't know to ask.  More often than not, you'll find yourself needing to repair, or wanting to upgrade these systems.  You'll soon find that not knowing the finer details of what you have is going to cause you problems down the road.

**If you have a proprietary system, you will not be able to identify it without locating a brand name on the devices.


Check for any labels or stickers located on the devices in question.  Most of the time, serial numbers are only used for identifying a build date, so you'll specifically want to be keeping and eye out for anything that might be a model number.  If you're able to locate the brand name, that will also help to narrow things down.  If you're able to find these, use the power of the internet to attempt to locate the seller and have them help you identify the cameras and/or recording device.


There are certain words and acronyms you'll also want to be looking for during your visual inspection of each device.  These will more commonly be found on video recorders, but it's worth checking the cameras anyway.

Acronym Meaning
DVR Digital Video Recorder - Used to record standard analog, HD-CVI, or HD-SDI cameras. These are not interchangable from one type to the next, so you'll have to specifically identify whether it's standard analog, HD-CVI, or HD-SDI. Hybrid DVRs will also be identified with the DVR acronym but can also record video from IP cameras (these are more easily identifiable).
NVR Network Video Recorder - Used to record video from IP/network cameras
IP Internet Protocol - The device is either an IP/network camera or NVR. This is not to be confused with the IP (ingress protection) system used for weather ratings. A marking for Ingress Protection with always be followed by a number (usually 55 through 68).
HD-SDI High Definition Serial Digital Interface - Type of camera and recording device
HD-CVI High Definition Composite Video Interface - Type of camera and recording device
ANA/ANLG Analog - This will only elimate the possibility of the device being an IP camera or NVR. Standard analog, HD-SDI, and HD-CVI are all technically analog. You will need to gather additional information to narrow things down further.



For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term "pigtail", this is in reference to the cable coming out of the back of the camera.  In almost all cases, you'll have at least two different connectors here.

There are three commonly used connectors at the end of the pigtail to look for.  These types consist of BNC, network, and power terminals.  These are pictured below in that order.




The BNC connector will tell you that the camera is analog.  However, if you went through the chart of acronyms and keywords, you'll know that this isn't enough information to tell you whether it's standard analog, HD-CVI, or HD-SDI.

The network connector will mean that the camera is an IP/network camera.  These ports will be used to move video from camera back to your recording device, but IP cameras can also be PoE (power over Ethernet) capable and if they are, this connector can also be used to supply power to the camera.

The power terminals will be used just for that; supplying power to the camera.  Some will indicate what type of power source is required for that camera (DC12V, AC24V, etc...).  This is extremely important as the wrong power supply can very easily damage, if not destroy, your camera.

Keep an Eye Out

There are other connectors that may help you in the identification process.  HD-SDI and HD-CVI cameras will occasionally have two separate BNC connectors.  If they do, they should be labeled.  One will indicate which type of HD camera it is while the other will just be a standard analog connector.  That analog connector is simply for testing purposes with a standard CCTV video testing unit.

Be aware that in cases like this that there isn't always an extra BNC connector.  Sometimes there wont be anything extra and some of these cameras will just have two bare wires.  Their purpose is the same; being used with a testing unit.

Identifying an NVR

A network video recorder (NVR) is the easiest type of recording device to identify.  These are the only types of recording units that will have no BNC video inputs on the back of them.  In most cases, they wont have any video inputs at all.  If you do have video inputs, they will appear as network ports instead of BNC connectors and you'll have as many ports as you do channels on your NVR.

nvr back panel view cctvcameraworld

**Do not confuse the actual network port intended to be connected to your router/switch/modem as a place to connect a camera.  There is only one of these and it will be segregated from everything else.

Identifying a DVR

Being able to easily identify an NVR will make it just as easy to identify that it is not an NVR.  If it's not an NVR, then you have a digital video recorder (DVR).  The DVR is a much more common type of video recorder and chances are, this is probably what you have.  The difficulty here is not in identifying that it's a DVR, but what type of DVR it is.  Distinguishing types of DVR from one to another can be very difficult and often inconclusive.  This makes identifying your cameras the better route to pursue as the type of recording device will correspond with them.

A standard analog DVR presents itself with absolutely no unique feature whatsoever other than the fact that it cannot record in high definition.  If you see that the recording resoltion tops out at D1 or 960H, then you have your answer.

One of the only ways to identify most HD recorders is to check the resolutions at which they are capable of recording at.  If you see anything indicative of high definition ( 720p or 1080p), then you can safely assume that you have an HD-CVI or HD-SDI recorder.  The problem at this point is that you'll probably never know which one it is unless you can stumble into something somewhere else in the DVR that specifies one or the other.

You can identify a Hybrid DVR through a couple methods.  One is to search the user interface on the DVR for the "IP Search" or "Remote Device" feature.  If you find this and you also have BNC video inputs on the back of the DVR, then you have a hybrid.  The quantity of BNC video inputs on the back will also help you to identify a hybrid.  If you have the option anywhere in the DVR to change features on camera channels that exceeds the number of video inputs you have on the back, you also have a hybrid.

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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