Q: I was recently reading an article discussing “The Best DIY Surveillance Cameras of 2016” and noticed all these home security cameras had extremely wide angles of view. Given the cameras are relatively small anyway, is this an attempt to reduce costs by manufacturers?

A: Consumers still have not twigged to the fact DIY surveillance camera performance is appalling, though hopefully security installers do realise this. Most DIY cameras we’ve played with have been poor in multiple ways and that certainly comes down to cost cutting. A lot of these units seem to be grey market franken-cameras pieced together from parts gathered on shopping missions outside CPSE. 

Sensors are last gen, they are small format, lenses are plastic, the H.264 compression interpretations are very basic. Some have low resolution and some are not even producing a live video stream. WDR performance is generally poor and often wretched, and flare and blooming can make some scenes impossible to view effectively. Wide lenses obviously give the greatest angle of view, even if at the softest resolution a sensor can deliver. 

If you have no idea, then a big view may look better than a narrow one. Wide angle lenses have tiny focal lengths, which means their shorter lenses require less material to make. And yes, they are much more compact so they fit into very compact housings. Of course, real lens manufacturers build wide angle lenses that offer much superior performance, so it’s not impossible to achieve good wide optical work. 

Most DIY solutions are about the human interface – the app – their actual sensing and viewing technology is less than ordinary. It’s a truism that when prices fall, manufacturers almost never give up their margin. Instead customers give up quality and R&D. ♦