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Have you ever thought about improving your home’s security? With so many dangers out there and so many horror stories in the media (TV, internet, etc) these days, my guess is that you’ve had one of those moments when you thought, “Is my home safe?”.
Yes, things are a bit crazy out there, no doubt about it. Maybe it’s time to finally invest in a full or at least partial home security system, since there have been some radical changes in the home (and business) security sphere in the last 20, and even in the last 5 years!
This has made home security more available to everyone, what with the advent of smart technology and the overall lowering of prices on some products that were once only available to the rich.
The most important part of today’s security systems is customized surveillance. You can use security cameras for that, but depending on your situation you may need or want a special type of camera.
Today I want to discuss with you what are called varifocal cameras, because although they aren’t the most widely known cameras, they are among the most useful. They are superior in many ways to your average security camera, and definitely can be a true lifesaver in certain situations.
To make this post easier to navigate as I answer questions on varifocal cameras, I’ve included this table of contents with hyperlinks. Please use it to navigate around the article.
Table of contents
- What is a varifocal camera?
- Manufacturers who make varifocal cameras
- How do you use varifocal cameras?
- Varifocal cameras price
- Best Varifocal Cameras – Reviews
- R-Tech 4-in-1
- The Judge
- R-Tech Ca-IR140-HD
- The Viking
Ok, onward to the matter at hand!
What is a Varifocal Camera?
Although some have heard of this type of camera, there are still some people who may be on the market for a home security camera that have no idea what a “varifocal” camera actually is.
If you look at the design of a normal security camera and compare it to a varifocal camera, externally, you will observe very few differences.
On the inside, varifocal cameras are very different. The difference mainly has to do with the lens. Because of their particular lens, varifocal cameras have focal changes that change along with the focal length, as compared with “parfocal” lenses, where the focus does not change as the camera zooms in and out.
This allows these cameras to essentially customize the different viewing angles and permits you to play with the focus as you adjust the zoom and the angle of the camera.
This flexibility with the nature of the lens and what it sees is what differentiates them from a normal surveillance camera.
One might think, “Why don’t they apply this technology to things like reading glasses and bifocals in general?” Well, indeed they have, which is why varifocal lenses are also known as “progressive lenses”.
These are some huge advantages that varifocal cameras give to most home security situations. I know what you are likely thinking right now: it will probably cost a fortune. Is it true? I will answer this question as to their cost in a little bit.
You have to remember that this type of camera, although it sounds like it would simply outdo other normal security cameras, might not be desirable in certain scenarios.
If you have a very small yard, for instance, you may not want to buy this type of camera, because you simply don’t need to. The view is too limited, and versatility in what you are trying to capture is simply not all that necessary.
They are very useful when trying to survey a larger property, however, and good for recording and scrutinizing things at a greater distance, and at angles that a normal camera might not do a great job of capturing.
For instance, many people buy home security cameras for many reasons – they love smart cameras, for instance, because they can get notifications on their phone when there is movement, or they like a two way audio transmission feature.
But, if you would rather have a camera that can “see” more in terms of scope and with higher effectiveness, a varifocal camera might be what you’re after.
Perhaps you want to identify the type of shoe that some car thief wore in your parking garage. Or you want to see if the racoon at the back corner of your yard has a stripe on his or her back.
Varifocal cameras are good for identifying such details.
If you are planning to increase the focal length on a normal security camera, which will give you a more detailed image, you will lose the wideness of it. Make sure you test all the focal lengths and see which one suits your yard the best. You should also play with the level of zoom and the angle of view, as it will help a lot.
Why not take advantage of all the functionalities offered to you, right? The varifocal cameras really shines when used in trying to identify persons from a far distance, as mentioned.
If you take a normal camera and compare those 2 at different distances, you will see a much better result from the varifocal camera.
Here’s a short list of manufacturers who specialize in varifocal cameras:
We have experience with each of these brands, but we still recommend doing your research before making any purchases, of course.
How Do You Use A Varifocal Camera? (Be Strategic)
Basically, you use it just like any other normal home security camera, but with a few small but important differences. As usual, you install it, connect it to a screen on which to view things, and that’s it.
Like I told you earlier, the camera naturally has a different type of lens, with different abilities, so where you put this camera might change slightly based on these factors.
If you’re a business owner, the situation changes again, because the size of the area you will want to survey will be different from a home owner. The point is, every situation is different.
Strategies of various kinds definitely come in to play here, in terms of where potential threats are coming from and the areas you want to keep an eye on the most.
You now know some of the particular abilities of a varifocal camera, which will no doubt be elaborated on on the packaging, instructions, etc. You may need to search online as well to get a sense of what your particular camera will be able to do, before buying.
If you have used security cameras before, you obviously have some ideas for where to put them already, and where they can be best hooked up to minimize the inconveniences that often come with security cameras based on wiring and such.
Some people basically only have one or two options for where to put their cameras, due to certain limitations.
In any case, varifocal cameras do have that special lens, and so putting them where ever you put them will need to be considered and calculated before setting them up.
Varifocal Camera Prices – Cheap to Very Not Cheap
Every time I recommend a varifocal camera to a friend or a member of the family, the answers usually have a certain hesitation, due to the perceived price. This is because, extra features such as a dynamic camera lens is bound to cost more, they think
And, they’re right. They do cost more. You get what you pay for, that’s the general rule of thumb, isn’t it?
That said, depending on who you buy your varifocal camera from, the fact that it is “varifocal” is going to mean different things in terms of the price.
It is simply one more feature, basically, that goes along with all of the others you typically see: plug ‘n play, pan and tilt, smart camera, two way audio, varifocal lens.
The thing about the lens is, that having a different lens is going to cost something extra. It’s a different lens after all, or it had better be.
If a manufacturer says that it is a varifocal camera, you better be getting a camera with that special lens that can do the special things that it does.
Yes, it may cost you hundreds more because a lens is a big deal on a camera. What is a camera without the lens? Hmmm…too meta for me right now.
Anyway, we can’t quote a direct price because it depends on brand and who’s selling it, but you should be expected to pay more, yes.
The Best Varifocal Cameras – Reviews
First of all, there are 2 types, or should I say “styles”, of varifocal cameras: dome style and bullet style.
You can differentiate them really easy, and you’ve probably seen both before.
Moreover, the dome style are usually used on the inside, while the bullet style is commonly used to survey the outside of the buildings and properties.
This is because dome style cameras can be installed very easy on the ceiling (that’s kind of the point of them), while the bullet style cameras can be installed on the wall and can basically be installed in more places.
The other thing to consider is that domes are not as often weatherproof, so look out for that as well.
Now let’s get to the actual cameras. The best varifocal cameras on the market today are, in my opinion: R-tech 4-in-1, The Judge 8.0, R-tech Ca-IR140-HD, and The Viking 4.0.
The first option in this list will be for everyone that is on a budget. This is for all the people that want a simple, but still effective, varifocal camera. The video quality isn’t insanely high, but for this kind of price, you will be amazed.
It supports 4 HD video outputs: 1080p HD CVI, AHD, HD-TVI and 1000TVL Analog/CVBS and it can capture images from up to 30 meters.
As for night vision, it has that too. It doesn’t have traditional IR, it is equipped with 18 LED lights, having the SMR IR technology, which is even better. You will be able to spot everything even in complete darkness.
The next characteristic I should probably mention is the weatherproof rating, IP66. That’s fairly standard, but if you see an IP67, it can take more abuse in terms of weather.
Still, IP66 will resist any harsh weather condition. Just don’t soak it in water like a lunatic to make sure this camera can handle it. It’s a $30 camera, and although it will not be affected by rain or snow, dunking it will most likely kill it instantly.
Another 2 important specs are the auto gain control and back light compensation. This will give you a great quality image, no matter the lighting.
In the past, thieves often used a powerful flashlight on the old cameras and this would make them lose the focus of the image. Today, even the cheap cameras are protected from this technique. It has a great design and comes in grey or white.
All of those for only 30 dollars at your major shopping outlets. The 3.7 out of 5 stars rating from over 490 customer reviews over on Amazon (at this time) make the product even more attractive.
I do have to warn you about a little detail that might be huge for many of you. It usually doesn’t come with the power supply adapter or video cable.
You have to purchase these separately, so this does mean you can’t use it right away if you don’t have that.
The second option which I’m going to present is a professional dome style varifocal camera that will give you great image quality plus a lot of characteristics that are going to blow your mind, as it did mine when I first used it.
First off, it records in 4k UHD quality. That means you can detect someone from up to 61 meters.
It has the best weatherproof rating, IP67. This means it resists to literally any condition. You can even submerge it for a short time and it will be as good as new. However, you shouldn’t do that if not necessary, just to be safe.
It can handle temperatures between -40º C and 60º C, which is impressive if you ask me, since those are lethal temperatures for people.
The motorized varifocal lens can capture everything from 35 and 80 degrees angles. It has both optical and digital zoom. The night vision can capture images from up to 30 meters.
Even with all of those characteristics at play, I think the most important characteristic of this camera is the motion detection.
The product will know when there are people or animals moving around and can even alert you through e-mail. That means it will be a lot of spam, right? No, no. You can deactivate it or even set the period of the day when this will work. How do you access all of its settings? It has a special app that allows you full control.
I can’t list all specs, because that would take me the whole day. I told you about the most important ones, but you can check out the rest of them here: https://www.security-camera-warehouse.com/the-judge-26dv8-4k-dome-camera.php
It is an amazing camera, but with a scary price. About 800 dollars, last time I looked. It’s up to you to decide if it is worth it or not.
As you can see, the difference between a $30 camera and an $800 camera is pretty huge. Most people try for something in between the two.
As for bullet style varifocal cameras, you have some nice options on the market as well! Starting off, we have a camera from R-Tech.
Although it isn’t such a popular brand, the product itself will surprise you. It has many characteristics of the first dome style varifocal camera recommendation, so if you need a cheap good quality bullet style camera, this is the option for you.
It can capture images when there are temperatures between -10º C and 50º C, which is once again an impressive claim since 50% is practically unbarable. In any case, check the temperatures from you country before buying it, just to make sure you can use it properly.
It comes with IP66, the same HD video outputs from earlier and the SMR LEDs for night vision. However, it is a little bit more expensive than the dome style camera.
You can buy it for around 50 dollars USD, last I checked. It has 3.9 out of 5 stars rating on sites like Amazon, and most of the customers seem to be happy with it so that’s a plus.
The Viking 4.0
Just like earlier, I will also list another varifocal camera for those who have a bigger budget on their hands and want to get serious.
It is called The Viking 4.0. It can record in 1080p, and has 4 MP. The small disadvantage of it is that it can only record with 25FPS.
It is protected against the bad weather, with the IP67 rating, and can support temperatures between -35° C and 60° C. So, if you want to guard your boiler room or igloo against thieves, you should be happy with this one.
Even though the camera itself can be submerged under water, you need to watch out for the cables, as there are cables to deal with. I highly advise you to install the whole setup when the weather is good, or at least not raining.
It can cover a surface between 27° and 91° depending on your preferences. That means you can install it in a corner and you will be able to see absolutely everything from that direction.
The night vision is also very good and you will be able to see clear even in total darkness. The motion detection is also present, along with an anti reflexive glass.
This makes the difference between a very good and bad quality image at night. For example, the headlights of the cars can blind a normal camera.
It has a micro-SD card slot, which means it can store images without connecting it to a computer. This camera comes with the video content analysis spec, which is very interesting.
Using the specific app, you can draw different lines and areas. Once the camera detects movement inside those, you will immediately get an alert through your e-mail.
Although it has most of the features of the 800 dollar camera previously mentioned, but this one costs only 400. It is still a big number for a single camera, so don’t waste your money if you need a modest setup.
In conclusion, varifocal cameras are the best option when you want a camera that can adjust to your personal preferences and when you want to survey a bigger property or a wider scene.