IP Cameras and their Housing options

IP cameras can be classified as fixed or PTZ. They can further be categorized as indoor, indoor/outdoor, or outdoor only. In this article we will cover in brief the various housing options available on IP cameras.

  • Fixed and PTZ cameras
  • Environment-proof IP-rated housings
  • Vandal-resistant housing

Types of IP cameras

A variety of IP cameras models are available in the market that allows users to install video surveillance solutions for any security application. Here are some of the more common IP camera types.

Fixed Camera

Fixed cameras are the ideal for those wanting to monitor a specific area and also intend to have the camera, and the direction it’s pointing, clearly visible. Once the camera is focused on a location, it’s set to view only that area. Most fixed cameras support interchangeable lenses and housings for various environments. A fixed IP camera comes with either fixed or varifocal lens; but once mounted has a fixed field of view (normal/telephoto/wide-angle).

Fixed Dome Camera

Fixed dome cameras are often small and discreet, with a fixed camera installed inside dome housing. The camera can be pointed in any direction and then set in place to target a specific area. Fixed domes provide unobtrusive surveillance, and the housing helps to conceal the direction at which the camera is aimed. These cameras are quite often tamper resistant. A fixed dome camera can rarely accommodate varying lens options, as the choice of lens is limited by the space inside the dome. Hence, a varifocal lens is often used in these cameras to enable the camera’s field of view to be adjusted.

PTZ Camera

Unlike fixed cameras, PTZ cameras allow the user to control pan, tilt, and zoom functions in order to monitor wider areas and zero on specific individuals, objects, or activity. In a retail setting, for instance, surveillance operators can control a PTZ camera to follow a suspect person. PTZ cameras do not have a full 360-degree continuous pan due to a mechanical stop. This means that these cameras cannot follow a person walking in a continuous circle around the camera.

PTZ Dome Camera

The PTZ dome cameras design enable the lens head of the camera to move in a 360-degree, continuous pan, allow a tilt of usually 180 degrees and support continuous “guard tour” operation. Guard tour functionality enables a single PTZ dome camera to automatically move between presets in order to cover large areas that would typically require multiple fixed cameras. PTZ Domes also utilize an auto-flip feature which allows the cameras to rotate automatically when something passes directly below it, ensuing that the object or person remains upright on the viewing screen.

PTZ dome cameras are ideal for use in discreet installations due to their design and mounting – it’s difficult to see the camera’s viewing angle as the housing most often has a smoked lens cover.

IP Rating

An outdoor camera typically has a protective housing to shelter it from the harsh environment (dust, heat, humidity, extreme cold, corrosion, etc.); and also from vandalism or tampering. When considering IP cameras for outdoor surveillance; users may often come across a number attached to each product such as ‘IP66′ or ‘IP54′ etc. This number refers to the product’s International Protection Rating (IP rating), or sometimes known as ‘Ingress Protection Rating’. IP rating is an international standard used to describe the environmental protection of electrical equipment or enclosures for electrical equipment.

The standard gives information about the level of protection other than merely stating the equipment is “water-proof” and is normally expressed as a two digit number where the first number indicates the level of protection against the ingression of solid objects and the second digit indicates the level of protection against the ingression of liquids.Ingress Protection (IP) ratings are developed by the European Committee for Electro Technical Standardization (CENELEC), NEMA IEC 60529, specifying the environmental protection the enclosure provides.

The IP rating normally has two (or three) numbers:

  • Protection from solid objects or materials
  • Protection from liquids (water)
  • Protection against mechanical impacts (optional and commonly omitted, the third number is not a part of IEC 60529)
IP Rating SOLIDS (1st Number) LIQUIDS (2nd Number) IMPACT (3rd number) – optional
0 No protection No protection No protection
1 Protected against objects > 50mm (hands Protection against dripping water or condensation Protected against 0.225J (joule) impact
2 Protected against objects > 12mm (fingers) Protection against water spray 15 degree from vertical Protected against 0.375J impact
3 Protected against objects > 2.5mm (tools/wires) Protection against water spray 60 degree from vertical Protected against 0.5J impact
4 Protected against objects > 1mm (small tools) Protection against water spray from all directions Protected against 2.0J impact
5 Protected against dust, limited ingress Protection against low pressure jets of water Protected against 6.0J impact
6 Totally protected against dust Protected against high pressure water jets and heavy seas Protected against 20.0J impact
7 NA Protection against the effects of immersion (6 inches to 3.3 feet) NA
8 NA Protected against immersion NA

Example: IP66: The first digit (6) indicates the camera is dust tight giving complete protection against any solid matter entering the equipment. The second digit (6) indicates the camera is protected against powerful jets of water meaning that a powerful jet can be aimed at the camera from any direction with no harmful effect.

Vandal and Tamper proofing

In some surveillance applications, cameras are at risk of hostile and violent attacks. While camera housing can never guarantee complete protection vandalism and tampering; it can be allayed to some extent by considering certain aspects, like, camera/housing design, mounting, placement and use of intelligent alerts.

Camera/Housing Design

Housings made of metal provide better vandal protection as against those made of plastic. The type of housing or camera is another factor to be considered. A regular fixed camera that protrudes from a wall or ceiling is more open to attack than a discretely designed fixed dome or PTZ dome camera. The smooth, rounded covering of the dome casing makes it difficult to block the camera’s view by dropping an opaque cover over the camera. Hence, the more a housing or camera blends into an environment; the better is the protection against vandalism.
The lens cover can also either be vandal-resistant or non-vandal resistant.


The way cameras and housings are mounted is also important. A fixed camera or a PTZ dome camera that is mounted on the surface of a ceiling are more vulnerable to attacks than such cameras that are mounted flush to a ceiling or wall, where only the transparent part of the camera or housing is visible as there are no cables sticking out; that can be tampered with. Also, if cabling is done on the outside; a metal paneling should be provided to protect cables from attacks.

Camera Placement

Camera placement is also a key factor in deterring vandalism. By placing a camera out of reach on high walls or in the ceiling, many spur-of-the-moment attacks can be prevented. The disadvantages with respect to field of view can to extent be compensated for, by selecting a different lens.

Intelligent Alerts

Tampering alerts also helps protect cameras against vandalism. The intelligent software in the camera can detect if a camera has been repositioned or obscured, and can send alerts to operators. This is especially useful in installations where hundreds of cameras are used for surveillance and keeping track of each individual camera is difficult.