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CCTV Glossary

In order to choose the best CCTV Security System and CCTV Cameras you need to understand some of the basic terminology. Below is a glossary of CCTV terms to help you choose your Surveillance system and CCTV Cameras
and CCTV Lenses.


Aperture is the area of the camera lens that gathers light. The Iris
of the cctv lens controls the size of aperture.

Auto Iris

Auto Iris Lenses adjust for changing light conditions in a camera view.
If the sun shines on a camera with an auto iris lens, the lens will adjust
the amount of light so the picture remains clear.


Charge Coupled Device - a light sensitive imaging device for almost all
cameras. Typical sizes for CCTV cameras - 1/2", 1/3", 1/4".

C Mount

Type of screw-on mounting for CCTV Camera Lenses. C Mount lenses need
an adapter ring when used with CS Mount camera (see CS Mount).


Compression Techniques are used in Digital CCTV to reduce the file sizes
of recorded video images. Typical compression formats used for video are:
MJPEG, MPEG-4 & H.264.

CS Mount

More recent type of mounting for CCTV Camera Lenses. Designed for 1/2",
1/3" 1/4" CCD cameras, CS-Mount is the more common lens mount
used today in CCTV cameras.

Day/Night Camera

A camera that is 'Day/Night' means it can capture video in both day and

In low light conditions, the Sony Day/Night chipset switches from colour
to black & white at night to enhance the picture quality


Digital Signal Processing - a technique by which video quality can be
improved by adjusting parameters of the video signal.


Digital Video Recorder - CCTV Footage is converted to a digital signal
and stored on a PC Hard Disk. This is now the standard CCTV recording


Sony Chipset type that offers very good images in both day and night
time. Typically, cameras with Ex-View chipset have good Low Light (LUX)


The Ratio of Focal Length to the diameter of the lens. The smaller the
F-Stop number, the more light is passed.

Field Of View

The view of the camera - in relation to the angle of view and distance
of the object from the lens.


A frame consists of 2 interlaces fields. 25 Frames are created every

Frame Rate

The quality of a Digital Surveillance Systems is often determined by
the Total Frame Rate it can record at. The higher the Frame Rate, the
higher the quality of recording and the more Real Time your CCTV recording
will be - Real Time recording for 1 camera is 25 Frames Per Second (PAL).

IP Camera

A CCTV Camera that can transmit video and audio over TCP/IP network. An IP Camera can connect to a local network and streams it's video over the network to a Network Video Recorder.

IP Cameras can come with additional features including Power over Ethernet, wireless lan connection and Mega Pixel Resolution.

IP Rating

Ingress Protection Scale - 2 numbers indicating the protection level
of an outside enclsure - e.g. IP68

IR Cut Filter

An IR Cut Filter is an extra filter inside the camera that moves behind
the camera lens when it gets dark. A camera with an IR Cut Filter will
produce very high quality images in low light conditions.


Device inside a lens which opens and closes as light conditions change
which adjusts the amount of light passed


Joint Photographic Experts Group - an image compression technique used
for still images

Lens Mount

See CMount or CS Mount


The brightness of a video signal


Used to specify how sensitive cameras are to light (measured in lumens/sq

e.g a camera with a LUX Level of 0 can see in pitch black. The lower the
LUX Level the better the camera will see in the dark.

Mega Pixel Resolution

Mega Pixel resolution refers to video resolutions now achievable using IP Cameras. Unlike Analogue cameras, whose resolution is usually limited to around 752 x 582 (0.4 Mega Pixels), a Mega Pixel IP Camera can achieve far greater resolutions such as 1280 x 1024 (1.3 Mega Pixels) or 1600 x 1280 (2 Mega Pixels).
This increase in resolution produces far better image quality than a traditional analogue camera could ever achieve.

Motion Detection

Recording method for digital surveillance systems. When someone walks
in front of a camera, the pixels change and the DVR defines this as motion.
The surveillance system will then record these images to the hard disk.
This is a popular recording setup as every event recorded is actually
motion driven as opposed to a static image if the system was set to record


Motion Picture Experts Group - a video compression technique for video

MPEG-4 has fast become the Digital CCTV standard recording compression

MPEG-2 is used for DVD Recording quality.


A Multi Screen CCTV device that allows input of 4, 9, 16 etc cameras
and provides a 'Mutli-Plexed' (or split screen) display of those cameras


Video Signal interference that usually appears as graininess or snow
on the picture.


Phase Alternate Line - Video encoding standard for Europe.

Power Over Ethernet (PoE)

Power Over Ethernet is a method by which power is tramitted over a CAT-5/6 cable. This is often used with the installation of IP Cameras saving time/money by reducing cabling. An IP Device would need to be fitted with a PoE RJ45 port to use this functionality.

Peak to peak

Video Signal measurement from the base of the Sync pulse to the top of
the white level. A full video signal should be one volt.


Pan Tilt Zoom - a camera which can be controlled via Joystick or DVR
and moved up/down, left/right and zoomed in/out.

Quad Splitter

A CCTV device used to display 4 cameras on one monitor.


The number of horizontal lines a system can display.

Digital Resolution (e.g. 720 x 576)

720 = number of points in each row that make up the picture

576 = number of rows


A type of CCTV Coaxial cable used to transmit cctv camera video signals
to a CCTV System.


The sensitivity of a camera is often configured on your digital surveillance

Motion Detection based recording uses relies on the sensitivity of the
cameras to trigger recording


Control of PTZ cameras is provided using Telemetry Control. This signal
is sent down 'twisted pair' cable or along the same coaxial cable the
video signal is being sent down. Typical Telemetry signals are RS-485
or RS-422.

Varifocal Lens

A cctv camera lens whose focal length / viewing angle can be manually
adjusted to suit the camera view required.

Typical Vari Focal lens lengths are: 2.5mm-10mm, 3.5mm-8mm, 5mm-50mm

Video Splitter

CCTV device that splits the video signal from a camera (or cameras) so
it can be used more than once.

Zoom Lens

A lens which has variable focal lengths. The image can be 'zoomed' in
or out whilst the view of the camera remains in focus.

This glossary contains a list of general terms and definitions related to surveillance systems, security cameras, and CCTV equipment. If you find any terms on our web site that you do not understand and can not find in this glossary, please email or call us so that we can add it.

Auto Iris
Security cameras with auto iris, have the ability to compensate for large variations in light levels. This is useful for security cameras that need to adjust for changes from bright sunlight to darkness or night. Auto iris circuitry is normally linked to a motorized drive that opens and shuts the iris on the camera lens. Closing a physical iris is a much better way to protect a camera from being damaged by bright sunlight then simply using electronics to reduce the signal strength.

Alarm Input
Some DVRs and security cameras have alarm inputs, which can accept input from a sensor device such as a door contact or a passive infra-red motion detection which trigger the camera or DVR to take some action such as to begin recording.

Aperature - The opening of the CCTV lens. The size of which is controlled by the iris and is measured in F numbers. Generally, the lower the F number, the larger the aperture is and consequently more light can pass through the lens.

Back Light Compensation
This is a feature of security cameras that automatically adjusts the image to compensate for bright light to give more detail on the darker areas of the image. For example, use is to focus on the detail of a face of a person that has the sunlight shining from behind.

A Video Balun enables the transmission of video using unshielded twisted pair wire instead of coaxial cable. The word "balun" comes from combining the terms balanced and unbalanced. The function of a balun is to transform an unbalanced signal into a balanced signal. When video signal is transmitted through coaxial cable, the distance traveled by the signal is limited because the signal is in the form of an unbalanced signal that is susceptible to Radio Frequency Interference or noise. Coax cable incorporates special shielding to minimize noise. Video Baluns transform the video signal into a balanced form in which each wire in the twisted pair transmits an identical signal with opposite polarized magnetic fields. Noise affects each signal equally. When the signals are combined, the noise is cancelled out. By using a designed balun, an unshielded twisted pair wire can transmit video for much longer distances than coax cable and with a lower cable cost.

BNC Connector
BNC is a connector for coaxial cable that is most commonly used for CCTV installations.

CCD Charge Coupled Device
Charge Coupled Device, CCD, is one of the two main types of image sensors used in security cameras. When a video is recorded, the CCD is struck by light coming through the camera's lens. Each of the thousands or millions of tiny pixels that make up the CCD converts this light into electrons. The number of electrons, usually described as the pixel's accumulated charge, is measured, and then converted to a digital value. This last step occurs outside the CCD, in a camera component called an analog-to-digital converter.

C Mount Lens & CS Mount Lens
There are two main types of lenses used in security cameras. The C mount lens has a flange back distance of 17.5mm. The CS mount lens has a flange back distance of 12.5mm. C mount lenses therefore have a longer focal distance. CS mount became widely used, because it its more practical for many of today's more compact cameras. Lenses are often supplied with a 5mm spacer ring (sometimes called a C ring) that allows a C mount lens to be used on a CS camera. Most modern security cameras are CS.

Co-Axial Cable
A type of cable typically used in cctv installations that has a central conductor, surrounded by a shield sharing the same axis. The shield can be made from a variety of materials including, braided copper, or lapped foil. There are various standards for specific types of co-axial cable. The cable used for normal CCTV installations is called RG59.

Composite Video
The encoded output of a surveillance camera whereby the red, green, and blue video signals are combined with the synchronizing, blanking, and color burst signals and are transmitted simultaneously down one cable.

Digital video pictures can be compressed with a number of techniques. These include: JPEG and JPEG-2000 (for still images), M-JPEG and MPEG (for moving pictures).

DVR (Digital Video Recorder)
A Digital Video Recorder is a generic term for a device that is similar to a VCR but records television data in digital on a hard drive as opposed to a VCR tape. A DVR looks like a VCR and has all of the same functionality of VCR (recording, playback, fast forwarding, rewinding, and pausing) plus the ability to skip to any part of the program without having to rewind or fast forward the data stream.

Dwell Time Programming
The length of time a switcher or CCTV multiplexer displays one camera before sequencing to the next. Multiplexers with dwell time programming capability allow you control this length of time.

Focal Length
The distance between the center of a lens, or its secondary principal point and the imaging sensor. Lower lengths give a greater field of view and less magnification. Longer lengths give a narrower field of view and greater magnification. The table below gives an approximate value for the angle of the field of view for lenses of various focal lengths and also considering the size of the imaging device (CCD). Most CCTV cameras have one of the 3 sizes of imaging devices listed below, 1/4", 1/3" or 1/2". Almost all of CCTV Camera Pros cameras have 1/3" Sony CCD imaging devices.

Focal Length

Imaging Device Size




2.8 mm




4.0 mm




6.0 mm




8.0 mm




12.0 mm




16.0 mm




50.0 mm

Gamma Correction
Gamma correction controls and adjusts the overall brightness of an image for consistency.

A quality brand of DVR Cards made for Windows based computers. A complete line of Geovision DVR Cards can be seen here: Geovision DVR Cards.

The total opposition offered by a device to the flow of an alternating current. Measured in Ohms.

Internal Sync
Devices with internal sync have an internal crystal to provide sync pulses without needing reference from any external device.

Infrared (IR)
Low frequency light below the visible spectrum. Infrared is used in surveillance cameras to provide a light source to record images in dark and zero light conditions.

IP Waterproof Rating
IP waterproof ratings are a BSi standard measurement for how waterproof something is. Many security cameras or camera housings are designed for outdoor use need to be waterproof. The IP rating number has two digits, and optional letters after them. E.G IP66 and IP68. The first number defines the protection against ingress of foreign objects. 0 is the lowest rating and means non-protected. 6 is the highest rating and means dust tight and protects against access with a wire. The second number defines the level of protection against ingress of water. 0 is the lowest rating means non-protected. 8 is the higest rating and means protects against continuous immersion in water.

For further information, see the BSi website at www.bsi-global.com or www.bsi.org.uk

The mechanical device that adjusts to vary the amount of light passing through the lens of a camera.

JPEG is a standard for the encoding and compression of images. JPEG is used in the video surveillance systems to compress and store individual frames of video. JPEG was developed by the Joint Photographic Experts Group.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
Technology used for flat screen displays.

Connecting an additional device in parallel with an existing video cable. For example, when driving a video recorder as well as a monitor from the same video signal.

Unit of light illuminance used as a measure of low-light recording capacity in security cameras. Cameras with a Lux rating of 0.2 Lux or less would be considered low-light cameras. It is not possible to get good color definition in low light levels, so in general low light cameras are always black and white. Day/night cameras use electronics to switch from color during the daytime, to black/white during night or low light conditions. Many low light cameras also use infrared, which is useful in zero light conditions. The lower the LUX rating of a camera, the better it will see in low light.

This refers to the part of a video signal that carries the monochrome information. i.e. brightness information.

The Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) released MPEG-4 encoding in 1998. The basic idea behind MPEG is that compressed images are compared before being transmitted over the network. The first compressed image is used as a reference and compared to the images that follow it in the video sequence. The first image is transmitted over the network along with the parts of the following images that differ from the initial reference image. The viewing application on the receiving end of the transmission then reconstructs all images based on this information and displays the result. This is a simplified description of how MPEG-4 works.

This is a device that takes inputs from 2 or more video channels and combines them into one signal. This is often done by using time division multiplexing, which interleaves frames from each channel in such a way that they can be split out again. Frequency division multiplexing uses different frequencies to achieve the separation of the signals.

Network Camera
This refers to a camera that is designed to record pictures and transmit them directly over a computer network or internet connection. Network cameras normally do not have any analogue video outputs. The images are encoded directly in one of the standard compression techniques, such as JPEG or MPEG.

NTSC is an abbreviation for the National Television Standards Committee. The term "NTSC video" refers to the video standard defined by the committee, which has a specifically limited color gamut, is interlaced, and is approximately 720 x 480 pixels, and 30 frames per second (fps). This standard is used in North America.

OSD (On Screen Display)
A method of displaying set-up information and/or instructions on a display monitor.

PAL is an abbreviation for Phase Alternating Line. This is the television display standard that is used mainly in Europe, China, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, parts of Africa, and other parts of the world. PAL uses 625 lines per frame and a frame rate of 25 frames per second.

Pinhole Lens
This is a type of lens with a very small aperture. Normally used for covert applications, where it can easily hide behind or within another object.

A device that forwards data packets along networks. Typically when referred to in CCTV installations, a router is used to connect a surveillance DVR and a computer to a single internet connection. A router can also be used to connect multiple IP based security cameras to a single internet connection.

A pixel refers to an individual area on the surface of the imaging device, normally a CCD. It is made from photosensitive material which converts light into electrical energy. In the context of a display monitor, a pixel is also referred to as an individual area on the surface of the screen which converts electrical energy to visible light.

RS-232 is a communications standard for serial communications between devices. In CCTV, this can be communication between a contoller and a surveillance camera. The RS-232 standard allows for the connection of two devices through a serial link, and is the protocal used for serial connections in computers. RS-485 allows for serial connections between more than 2 devices on a networked system and is defined below.

RS485, also referred to as EIA-485 is a communications standard for serial communication between devices. When talking about surveillance systems, RS-485 is typically used as the protocal to allow computers and remote controllers to control the activity of cameras such as pan, tilt, rotate, and zoom operations. RS485 is an updated version of the original serial protocol, RS-232.

Signal to Noise Ratio (S/N Ratio)
This is the ratio between the signal strength and the noise levels on an audio or video signal.

Television Lines (TVL)
This is a measure of the resolution of a video device. The higher the number, the higher the resolution is. 380 TVL is considered medium resolution. 480 TVL or greater is considered high resolution.

Varifocal (Zoom)
This refers to a type of lens that has the capability to change the focal length. This allows adjustment of the magnification and field of view of the security camera.

WDR Security Cameras
A WDR security camera (Wide Dynamic Range) is used for capturing clear images of objects surrounded by a strong back light, while still keeping the background visible

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