How Far Can A Home Security System See?

by Tim Chesonis | Last Updated:  May 2, 2019

Home security cameras can serve as a tool to catch those who have burglarized your home. They work very well for short distances, but what about long distances? Just how far can a home security system see?

Most indoor and small outdoor home security cameras will provide a high quality image of a given subject ranging from about 10-30 feet. Larger bullet cameras perform best at 50-60 feet. PTS (pan, tilt, zoom), cameras have a range of approximately 500-700 feet.

We will cover a few terms and concepts that one needs to understand in order to determine what to look for in a home security camera that will best suit your needs. Then we are going to cover 3 common misconceptions about home security cameras, and then finally, we will talk about what type of camera will be suit your needs by using a camera calculator tool.

Home Security Cameras: An Education In 3 Minutes

The first concept we need to cover is Focal Length. It is the measurement of the distance between the camera lens and the image sensor. The focal length of a camera determines it’s “field of view”. The Field of View (FOV), is what the camera lens sees, as the image below may demonstrates. A camera’s angle of view can be measured horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

A home security camera that has a large image sensor and a small camera lens allows for a wider field of view. You can find home security cameras with lenses that range from 4mm, 8mm, and 12mm. The higher the number, the wider field of view.

However, if you are looking for your home security camera to see long distances, you will want a large camera lens. In short, a small camera lens allows for a wider field of view for short distances, whereas a large camera lens allows for a narrower view but you can see far away.

Security cameras have fixed focal lengths and variable focal lengths. A Fixed focal length security camera is just that, it’s fixed and can’t be adjusted, whereas a variable focal length camera, (also known as a verification lens), is adjustable.

Another thing to consider is the resolution of the camera itself. In other words, how clear is the picture that the camera is able to see? Sure it may “see” the image, but if the subject can’t be identified, then you really only know that someone broke into your house at a certain time of the day. Do you see why we need to consider the resolution of the camera?

The higher the resolution, the more you will be able to zoom in and clearly see the details of the subject. With home security surveillance cameras dropping in price, you can affordable use a 4MP, 5MP or even 4K security camera for video surveillance that will offer you the same image quality that you find on your big screen TV.

Let’s take a look at some of the 4 major camera resolutions and what they are capable of. The chart below will help provide clarity.

ResolutionImage Size in PixelsPixels Per ImageAspect Ratio
4K3,840 x 2,1608,294,40016:9
1440p2,560 x 1,4403,686,40016:9
1080p1,920 x 1,10802,073,60016:9
720p1,280 x 720921,60016:9

4K Ultra HD Security Cameras

This type of camera allows for ridiculous clarity as if offers a high resolution of 3840*2160 with over 8 million pixels. This is twice clear as the next camera resolution we will look at. A security camera with this type of quality is also referred to as 8MP/2160p security cameras. The security camera that allows for this type of resolution may not be quite affordable just now, but it offers for an exceptionally clear picture.

1440p Super HD Security Cameras

Security cameras that allow for this resolution offer great results. When referenced, they might be referred to as 4MP/2K security cameras. They have a resolution of 2560*1440 and are currently the most popular type of camera resolution when it comes to security cameras.

1080p Full HD Security Cameras

By today’s standards, this type of camera is OK, but nothing to write home about. The resolution offered on a 1080p security camera is 1920*1080. This would work well for general-purpose video surveillance, but you are definitely not going to get the image quality that you would find in a 4MP or 8MP security camera.

720p HD security cameras

I don’t want to say, “bottom of the barrel”, but by today’s standards, a security camera that utilizes 720p (or 128*720 pixels), is the lowest standard available in security cameras today. To put things into perspective, the camera built into your laptop does a better job. Most importantly, however, is that subject just may not be identified with a camera resolution of 720p, certainly not from any distance.

Insights Into 3 Security Camera Misconceptions

The purpose of a security camera is to catch the perpetrator after the crime has been committed. Many people place way too much confidence in security cameras. Just because the security camera *may* catch them doing the crime, does not mean that you have caught, convicted and sentenced the criminal. Security cameras serve as one of many tools in your arsenal of preventive security measures.

Below are three common security camera misunderstandings.

  1. Security Cameras with the Most “Megapixels” Does Not Make it the Best Camera
    Just because a security camera has a high megapixel count, does not make it the best camera for your needs. You also need to take into consideration the Field of View and the Focal Length.
  2. Security Cameras Rarely Prevent Crime
    This may be hard to believe, but there is no concrete evidence that security cameras actually deters crime. They do, however, make one think twice before committing the crime, (or at least do so out of view of the camera).
  3. Most Recorded Footage Won’t Hold Up in Court
    The primary reason for this is because the the recorded footage is not clear enough to identify the person in question. In other words, the home security camera did not have high enough resolution to identify the subject in question. People tend to believe that just because a camera records an assailant, that it will have the capabilities of NASA satellites. Remember, the higher the resolution a security camera offers, the better off you are, as you will be able to see vivid details of the subject.

Which Home Security Camera Should You Get?

There are literally hundreds of brands of security cameras available on the market today. How is one to determine exactly which one they should get?

Usually, people will buy a “Home Security System”, and just take whatever the package offers. That has advantages and disadvantages. The problem is that not every package will fit your exact needs.What you really want is to have a home security system that is customized to your needs. Everybody’s home is shaped differently, both on the inside and outside. Some people have big yards while others don’t have yards at all.

I want to encourage you to do your homework, however. But I’ve got a little something here for you that I think just might help you out. I came across a “Camera Calculator Tool“, on ipvm.com that I want to share with you, as I believe that it will help you see (literally), exactly what you will need for your home security needs.

Please note that at the time of this writing, I have no affiliation whatsoever with ipvm.com. I just think that you will find this tool helpful in determining exactly what you need in a home security camera.

With this tool, you will be able to select from any one of 9,844 security cameras, allowing you to choose the brand and resolution to choose from, and much more. You even get to pick what type of security camera you would like to “see”, and it will literally show you exactly what you would see if you were to use that specific security camera.

Below is a video tutorial on how to use this tool, which is available online for free to use on their website at https://calculator.ipvm.com/.

If you do not wish to watch the video on how to use this tool, you can read the Camera Calculator Tool Guide, if you like. Again, I just wanted to share this tool with you, as I believe that it will help you see exactly what you will need for your home security needs, and I hope you find it helpful.

Tim loves writing and helping people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective, enjoys tinkering with computers, and is a die-hard gadget guy, especially when it comes to cell phones :-) When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching Suites or Breaking Bad, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.