After you’ve picked out your video recorder and security cameras, it’s time to choose the type of CCTV cable to transmit video, audio, and power in your system. It’s important to understand the differences between the different security camera cables so you pick out the one that’s right for your system. There are two primary types of CCTV cables, coaxial and Ethernet. Technically, there’s three if you count fiber optic, but it’s not priced at a level that’s accessible for everyone.
Quick disclaimer: this article covers the difference of these cable types as they relate to the CCTV industry.
Coaxial cable is used in analog, HD CVI, and HD TVI camera systems
RG59 has been the standard coaxial cable for analog CCTV systems for years. It’s comprised of a small conductor wire surrounded in insulation, wrapped in a wire braiding to filter out low frequency interference, and wrapped in a heavy-duty plastic coating. This cable has a power cable attached to it which is why it’s also called siamese cable.
RG6 cable is similar to RG59 in that it also comes with an insulated and shielded wire for transmitting video as well as additional wires for running power. However, the main difference is that RG6 cables have a heavier gauge wire for video and thicker insulation and shielding layers to minimize video degradation over the cable run.
Is RG59 or RG6 better?
It depends on your system. If you're using legacy analog cameras, RG59 is just fine. However, if you’re using higher resolution HD CVI or HD TVI cameras, you may want to look into using RG6 and compare those prices against what upgrading to a full IP camera system would cost you.
Ethernet cable is capable of high bandwidth data transmission which is vital for the proper operation of IP camera systems. Ethernet cabling is typically used in IP systems, but they can also be used in analog systems when you include a video balun in the cable run.
There are two types of Ethernet cable used today, Cat5 and Cat6. Both cables are structurally similar. They both use four pairs of copper wires that are fed into an RJ45 connector in a specific order (cat5 diagram) and crimped to terminate the cable line. They’re both used to transmit data, video, and audio at high speeds. And they can both be used to transmit power over an Ethernet cable run.
However, the main difference between Cat5 and Cat6 cables is that Cat6 is capable of much greater bandwidth and transmission speeds, but over much shorter distances.
When you’re planning a CCTV install, double check that you have enough cable since the last thing you want is to not have enough. You'll be stuck either ordering more and waiting for it to be delivered or buy some locally at a premium. You can buy CCTV cables in pre-cut plug and play kits or by the spool.
Nearly every cable for security cameras can be bought by the spool and spools are typically sold in 500 ft and 1,000 ft lengths. Cable spools are ideal for large installs that need long or irregular cable runs since you can run exactly the length you need. You can also just set up your cable spool next to your video recorder or ethernet switch and run the cable to where the cameras will be installed to cut down on installation time.
CCTV cable spools come in shielded and unshielded versions and some types of cable are even burial rated so they can be buried for outdoor cable runs. However, bear in mind that these additional ratings increase the cost of the cable. So, shielded cable spools will typically be more expensive than unshielded, and burial will be more expensive than regular cable.
Plug and Play Cable Kits
Pre-cut cable kits come in 25 foot, 50 foot, 75 foot, 100 foot, and 150 foot lengths. This gives you a good amount of flexibility when installing cameras in your home or small business since you can use a kit appropriate for the cable run without having to terminate the lines with connectors.
Two downsides to these cable kits is that you really shouldn’t use them for runs beyond 150 ft since it will cause the video quality to degrade, and you shouldn’t daisy chain kits together, and they typically don’t have very good shielding since the covering is typically made out of a lesser grade of plastic. This is the main reason why we typically only recommend PnP cable kits for indoor installs in your home or small business.