Hello from Houston.


IPCT Contributor
Jan 17, 2017
Reaction score
Hi all,
I'm looking to learn in preparation for possibly cobbling together a camera system for my home. I have experience with industrial control systems and I know enough about networking and infrastructure to be dangerous.
Welcome @SBarge

Recommend checking if Andy still has his Memorial Sale going ..

Dec 28, 2019
Reaction score
New Jersey

Welcome to the enchanted land of video surveillance lunatics, good guys, nut jobs and miscreants (yes, I fit into at least three categories). There are a lot of knowledgeable people on here and knowledge and experience are shared constantly. That's how I got to be a lunatic (already a nut job and miscreant).

Start out by looking in the WiKi in the blue bar at the top of the page. There's a ton of very useful information in there and it needs to be viewed on a computer, not a phone or tablet. The Cliff Notes will be of particular interest although the camera models listed there are a generation old at this point. The best way to determine what kind of camera you need in each location and where each location should really be is to buy one varifocal camera first and set up a test stand for it that can be easily moved around. Test using that, viewing using the web interface of the camera, during the day and at night. Have someone walk around behaving like a miscreant and see if you can identify them. There is also information for choosing hardware and securing the system along with a whole bunch of other good stuff.

Don't chase megapixels unless you have a really BIG budget. Chase sensor size and bigger is better. To confuse you more sensor sizes are listed in fractions so do the basic math to be sure, 1/2.8 is bigger than 1/2.7 or 1/3. General rule of thumb is that a 4MP camera will easily outperform an 8MP camera when they both have the same sensor size. Reason being that there are twice as many pixels in the 8MP versus the 4MP. This results in only half the available light getting to each pixel in an 8MP that a pixel in the 4MP "sees".

A dedicated PC for Blue Iris doesn't need to be either expensive to purchase or to run. A used business class machine can be had from eBay and various other sources. The advances made in Blue Iris make it easily possible to run a fairly large system on relatively inexpensive hardware which also makes power consumption low, as in under 50 watts in many cases. The biggest expenses turn out to be hard drives for storing video and a PoE switch to power the cameras and, of course, the cameras themselves.

The three basic rules of video surveillance cameras-

Rule #1 - Cameras multiply like rabbits.
Rule #2 - Cameras are more addictive than drugs.
Rule #3 - You never have enough cameras.

Quick guide -

The smaller the lux number the better the low light performance. 0.002 is better than 0.02
The smaller the "F" of the lens the better the low light performance. F1.4 is better than F1.8
The larger the sensor the better the low light performance. 1/1.8" is better (bigger) than 1/2.7"
The higher the megapixels for the same size sensor the worse the low light performance. A 4MP camera with a 1/1.8" sensor will perform better than a 8MP camera with that same 1/1.8" sensor.

Don't believe all the marketing hype no matter who makes the camera. Don't believe those nice night time captures they all use. Look for videos, with motion, to determine low light performance. Any camera can be made to "see" color at night if the exposure time is long enough, as in half a second or longer. Rule of thumb, the shutter speed needs to be at 1/60 or higher to get night video without blurring.

Read the reviews here, most include both still shots and video.

Avoid Reolink, Foscam, SV3C, Nest, and all the other consumer grade cameras. They all struggle mightily at night and never get anything useful on video. Here's a link to a whole thread debunking Reolink in particular.

Compiled by mat200 -

Avoid WiFi cameras, even doorbell cameras. WiFi is not designed for the constant, 24/7, load of video that a surveillance camera produces. At best, with two cameras on WiFi, they will still experience dropouts multiple times daily. Murphy's Law says that will happen at the worst possible moment.

Lens size, focal length, is another critical factor. Many people like the wide, sweeping, views of a 2.8mm lens but be aware that identification is problematic with a lens that wide. Watch this video to learn how to analyze each location for appropriate lens size and keep in mind that it may take two cameras to provide the coverage you need or desire. Another factor that effects view angles is the sensor size. Typically larger sensors will have a larger field of view in any given lens size.

The 5442 series of cameras by Dahua is the current "king of the hill". They are 4MP and capable of color with some ambient light at night. The 2231 series is a less expensive alternative in 2MP and does not have audio capabilities, no built in microphone, but is easier on the budget. The 3241T-ZAS has similar specs as the 2231 and has audio. There are also cameras available from the IPCT Store right here on the forum and from Nelly's Security who has a thread in the vendors section.

5442 Reviews

Review - Loryata (Dahua OEM) IPC-T5442T-ZE varifocal Turret

Review - OEM IPC-B5442E-ZE 4MP AI Varifocal Bullet Camera With Starlight+

Review-OEM 4mp AI Cam IPC-T5442TM-AS Starlight+ Turret

Review IPC-T5442TM-AS-LED (Turret, Full Color, Starlight+)

Review: IPC-HDBW5442R-ASE-NI - Dahua Technology Pro AI Bullet Network Camera

2231 Review
Review-OEM IPC-T2231RP-ZS 2mp Varifocal Turret Starlight Camera

3241T-ZAS Review

Less expensive models -

VPN Information Thread


IPCT Contributor
Feb 15, 2018
Reaction score
Houston Tx
My standard welcome to the forum message.

Read Study Plan before spending money
Cameras are for surveillance to get information for after the fact.

Please read the IP Cam Talk Cliff Notes and other items in the IP Cam Talk Wiki. (read on a real computer, not a phone). The wiki is in the blue bar at the top of the page.

Read How to Secure Your Network (Don't Get Hacked!) in the wiki also.

Quick start
1) If you do not have a wired monitored alarm system, get that first
2) Use Dahua starlight cameras or Hikvision darkfighter cameras if you need good low light cameras.
3) Start with a good variable focus camera, so you test for the correct lens,lighting, camera placement.
4) use a VPN to access home network (openVPN)
5) Do not use wifi cameras.
6) Do not use cloud storage
7) Do Not use uPNP, P2P, QR, do not open ports,
8) More megapixel is not necessarily better.
9) Avoid chinese hacked cameras (most ebay, amazon, aliexpress cameras(not all, but most))
10) Do not use reolink, ring, nest, Arlo, Vivint cameras (they are junk), no cloud cameras
11) If possible use a turret camera , bullet collect spiders, dome collect dirt and reflect light (IR)
12) Use only solid copper, AWG 23 or 24 ethernet wire. , no CCA (Copper Clad Aluminum)
13) use a test mount to verify the camera mount location. My test rig: rev.2
14) (Looney2ns)If you want to be able to ID faces, don't mount cams higher than 7ft. You want to know who did it, not just what happened.
15) Use a router that has openVPN built in (Most ASUS, Some NetGear....)
16) camera placement use the calculator... IPVM Camera Calculator
17) POE list PoE Switch Suggestion List
18) Camera Sensor size, bigger is general better Sensor Size Chart
19) Camera lens size, a bigger number give more range but less field of view. Which Security Camera Lens Size Should I Buy?
20) verify your camera placement, have a friend wearing a hoodie, ball cap and sunglasses looking down approach the house, can you identify them at night ?

21) DO NOT UPGRADE your NVR or camera unless you absolutely have a problem that needs to be fixed and known what you are doing, if you do you will turn it into a brick !!

Cameras to look at
IPC-T5442TM-AS-LED . Review IPC-T5442TM-AS-LED (Full Color, Starlight+) - 4MP starlight
.................... Dahua IPC-T5442TM-AS-LED review
IPC-T5442TM-AS ..... Review-OEM 4mp AI Cam IPC-T5442TM-AS Starlight+ - 4MP starlight+
IPC-HDW5442t-ZE .... Dahua IPC-HDW5442T-ZE 4MP Varifocal Turret - Night Perfomance testing -- variable focus 2.7 mm-12mm 4 MP Starlight
IPC-B5442E-ZE ...... Review - OEM IPC-B5442E-ZE 4MP AI Varifocal Bullet Camera With Starlight+ -- variable 2.7mm-12mm bullet
IPC-B5442E-Z4E .... bullet 8mm-32mm variable focus zoom 4MP
IPC-HFW7442H-Z ..... Review - Dahua IPC-HFW7442H-Z 4MP Ultra AI Varifocal Bullet Camera -- 4 MP variable focus AI
IPC-T2347G-LU ...... Review of the Hikvision OEM model IPC-T2347G-LU 'ColorVu' IP CCTV camera. (DS-2CD2347G1-LU)
IPC-HDW2231R-ZS .... Review-Dahua IPC-HDW2231RP-ZS Starlight Camera-Varifocal
IPC-HDW2231T-ZS-S2 Review-OEM IPC-T2231T-ZS Ver 2, 2mp Varifocal Starlight Camera
IPC-HDW5231R-ZE .... Review-Dahua Starlight IPC-HDW5231R-ZE 800 meter capable ePOE
IPCT-HDW5431RE-I ... Review - IP Cam Talk 4 MP IR Fixed Turret Network Camera
IPC-T5241H-AS-PV ... Review-OEM IPC-T5241H-AS-PV 2mp AI active deterrence cam
IPC-T3241-ZAS ...... Review-OEM IPC-T3241-ZAS 2mp AI Lite series Varifocal -- 2mp AI Lite series Varifocal
IPC-HFW2831T-ZS ... Review-Dahua IPC-HFW2831T-ZS 8MP WDR IR Bullet Network Camera -- 8MP Bullet 1/1.8” sensor variable focus.
N22AL12 ............ New Dahua N22AL12 Budget Cam w/Starlight -- low cost entry
IPC-T2347G-LU....... Review-Loryta OEM 4MP IPC-T2347G-LU ColorVu Fixed Turret Network 4mm lens & Junction Box -- 4MP ColorVu
.................... Review of the Hikvision OEM model IPC-T2347G-LU 'ColorVu' IP CCTV camera.

Other dahua 4MP starlight Dahua 4MP Starlight Lineup

My preferred indoor cameras
IPC-K35A Review-Dahua IPC-K35A 3mp Cube Camera

If interested in Blue Iris and other setup items see the following post

Read,study,plan before spending money ..... plan plan plan
Test do not guess
Last edited:


Getting the hang of it
Oct 27, 2018
Reaction score
Hello, born and raised in Houston, TX! And still here after 30+ years! Welcome!


Getting the hang of it
May 3, 2021
Reaction score
Denver Colorado
I started off with a NVR for about 6 years and have been on Blue Iris now for maybe 3 months. I can only say that Blue Iris is superior in all ways and am happy I made the change. I thought it would be difficult or complicated, but I learned it is no more difficult than setting up my NVR (in my opinion). But the flexibility Blue Iris provides is so much better. I came on board after the DeepStack integration with BI and believe that upgrade is a real game changer for the better.

For example with my NVR we would get alerts for bunnies, wind, rain, shadows, etc. With BI I get ‘actionable’ alerts in the neighborhood of 97% (I still get false alerts during heavy storms and other edge cases). The difference being that with my NVR I stopped using it as a proactive tool to let me know when someone entered our property. It just became a passive proposition wherein I turned off all alerts. Now with BI if I get an alert, I know that someone is on my property.

Another excellent benefit Is that with BI I can tie in my smart home. With the NVR that was not possible. So I have it setup that when the back gate (z-wave) is opened, HomeSeer triggers BI and activates all the back yard cameras. Same for the front door, when it is unlocked (the lock is z-wave) it starts recording with the inside camera looking at the front door and the three front yard cameras.