Computers & Electronics

Security Camera Systems or roll your own?

  • Last Updated:
  • Jun 25th, 2020 10:10 am
Sr. Member
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Nov 1, 2017
905 posts

Security Camera Systems or roll your own?

Bought the Reolink IPCam system for 370 (no tax) off Amazon, but I'm wondering if I should just roll my own system.

It came with 4 5MP cameras that can be bought individually for 50$, a 8ch NVR, 4x 18M cat5e indoor cables and a 2TB drive.

So far I've only wired up one camera, but I'm having doubts proceeding with the system.
  • 4x 5MP cameras only need ~40Mbps - 90Mbps bandwidth depending on the level of compression you apply. My 2.4GHz band is practically empty so I don't see any problem using WiFi cameras.
  • I have a Freenas server already running, and several old laptop and external drives I could use for storing footage. So I'm not sure I even need a NVR.
  • The cabling is for indoor use. If I'm going to wire up my house, I don't think it's worth my time using indoor Cat5e, since UV light will eventually destroy the cables (correct me if I'm wrong here, I've never tried external wiring before)
  • Apparently Raspberry Pis make good IPcameras. I have a raspberry pi 3 and a bananapi that aren't doing anything. For 20-40$ I could add a 2MP-5MP camera module to build my own cameras that stream directly to the Nas.
  • The NVR has built in PoE. If I decide to roll my own, I'll need to get power adapters or buy own my PoE switch (50$)

Can anyone offer some advice?
2 replies
Sr. Member
Nov 23, 2004
591 posts
There's pros and cons to each, I'm going through a total security camera overhaul at home right now too so here's some of my own pointers and/or frustrations that might help some of your points:

1) Definitely don't go WiFi unless you absolutely have to, cameras just need way too much bandwidth for continual streaming. I use a Ubiquiti access point so I can monitor actual WiFi utilization and when I have more than about 3-4 HD cameras streaming on 2.4ghz, on top of other home devices using 2.4ghz that don't support 5ghz, my channel utilization peaks in the high 80% range and WiFi goes to crap. Run wire everywhere you can. It's a hassle in a finished house to do, but I've found ways to do it and am thankful for the time spent! If you're using local storage on the cameras if they have any, I also found that recalling video for playback was much faster over wired LAN too, I think because the camera needs to prioritize the live video stream to the NVR and any other actions are secondary and may peak the capabilities of the camera's [often poor] WiFi.

2) Roll your own NVR, sounds like you have the hardware and knowledge. You'll appreciate the flexibility - if not now, definitely in the future. My DIY NVR on my home server has allowed me to hook my cameras into my Home Assistant and do some really cool things that I couldn't do if using a standalone proprietary NVR. I use MotionEyeOs, but Blue Iris is also really popular too.

3) Depends where you need your cables run to outdoors. Most of my outdoor cameras have cables I've pulled through the eaves from the attic and only a couple inches of cable is exposed to the camera outside. I just use indoor cable for this and keep a bunch of slack in the attic - if those couple inches ever broke down really bad in the UV in 5-10 years, I'll just cut it off and pull a bit more out and install a new end. In a couple other places on my deck where I wanted some eyes, I've run PVC conduit (buried in some spots) and pulled indoor CAT cable into a junction box that the camera is mounted on. Cost pennies to buy and run the conduit compared to the $$$ premium of outdoor or direct burial rated cable. You can get 1000ft of quality cable from here for far less than Amazon, and it's much higher quality cable than most of the copper-clad junk on amazon too ... 00ft-blue/

4) MotionEyeOs is your easiest way to build a cam on a Pi! I have a spare Zero W that I've been meaning to order the camera module for and do this.

5) Amazon has some inexpensive POE switches, I bought one of those to piggyback on the non-POE switch that runs the rest of the home. It was way cheaper than buying all the adapters I'd have otherwise needed.

The Reolink stuff is great for the price, but it really comes down to your budget and needs for whether you stick with the kit or piece it out. I've had mostly Amcrest standalone cameras fed into my DIY NVR up until now, but I've been incredibly disappointed with their poor support, security flaws, and lack of updates (they'd rather discontinue products than update them) so I've been slowly ditching the Amcrest stuff as I just don't want to continue to support them for how poorly they treat and help their customers. I've gone mostly Ubiquiti G3 Flex so far, but may mix a Hikvision or Dahua in there for a few places where I need a little wider viewing angle or better night vision than the UB stuff can offer.