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Security Cameras vs. Surveillance Cameras: What’s the Difference?

Nov 24, 2022|

Security and surveillance camera systems can add a sense of safety and security to private and public spaces. But what’s the difference between the two?

Security cameras are typically placed around homes, offices, and other buildings to monitor the activity in the surrounding area in real time and detect lurkers with built-in motion sensors.

On the other hand, surveillance cameras are often placed in public spaces or larger businesses to observe the area and provide evidence of criminal activity. Surveillance cameras are often monitored by law enforcement or a security team.

If you’re just making your way into the security world, keep reading to learn more about how security and surveillance cameras work and discover which type is right for you.

Vivint Outdoor Camera.

How security cameras work

Security camera systems (or CCTV systems) work by recording real-time footage of a specified area, which you can view on your mobile device, computer, or central hub using an internet connection.

Most security cameras work with motion detection, meaning they start recording as soon as they detect suspicious activity in the surrounding area. Some security cameras, like Vivint’s smart home security cameras, also come with smart detect features that can deter criminal activity before they even happen — giving homeowners better peace of mind.

And in the unfortunate case of criminal actions, security cameras can help provide evidence to law enforcement.

Here are some pros and cons of security cameras.


  • Evidence: Security cameras are equipped with motion and human detection and start recording when they detect suspicious activity. This means they can provide evidence in the event of theft or burglary.
  • Deterrence: Sophisticated cameras, like Vivint security cameras, come with a built-in deterrence system that automatically detects lurkers and sends them away with light and sound.
  • Automation: Apart from security and safety, security cameras can also support home automation and other integrations that can make your life easier (like Amazon Alexa). For instance, you can control your security cameras through the Vivint Smart Hub.
  • Versatility: Security cameras come in different sizes, shapes, and construction materials, so they’re versatile enough to use in different placements and locations. They’re also cost-effective, making them ideal for homeowners.


  • Privacy: Most security cameras connect to the internet. This is good, but it can also give hackers a window to steal your data and access your device.
  • Vulnerability: Depending on the placement location, criminals may attempt to compromise or tamper with your device by disabling or cutting off the camera’s power source.
  • Dependability: If you choose a wireless home security camera, you need a stable internet connection so you don’t run the risk of losing connection with your device.

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About surveillance cameras and how they work

Surveillance cameras transfer video and audio signals from a remote area to an IP network monitored by security personnel or law enforcement officers.

The surveillance system collects video feeds from a specified area so authorities can identify and trace individuals if a criminal act occurs.

That said, video surveillance cameras are typically installed in areas where criminal activity is likely to occur, such as malls, subways, and parks. This type of camera may also be used in large businesses or retail stores.

Here are some pros and cons of surveillance cameras.


  • Public safety: Surveillance cameras are typically used in public places like malls and parking lots to reduce crime. Why? Burglars and vandals will likely avoid engaging in criminal acts if they know the area is being monitored.
  • Evidence: If a criminal act occurs, surveillance camera footage can act as evidence.
  • Convenience: Most surveillance cameras offer remote monitoring from a mobile device, tablet, or computer.


  • Complex installation: Surveillance camera installation can involve drilling through walls and connecting coaxial cables. This means you’ll likely need to hire a professional installer.
  • Abuse: Surveillance systems placed in public areas might be compromised or abused, meaning a higher bill for repair and maintenance costs.
  • Affordability: Many of today’s surveillance cameras have high-level security features, so some of them may come with a higher price tag.
Vivint Indoor Camera.

What type of camera is a good choice for home security?

To understand what type of camera is great for home security, it’s important to understand the different types of cameras and their key functions.

You can choose from different types of security cameras depending on the installation location: outdoor cameras, indoor cameras, and video doorbells, just to name a few.

Although all types of cameras basically serve the same purpose — record footage of the camera’s peripheral — it’s important to keep some key differences in mind.

  • Outdoor cameras: Outdoor security cameras are designed to live outside, usually on or near the front door. They’re made from weatherproof materials and are durable against the elements, including hail, wind, heat, and snow. Thanks to technological advancements, modern outdoor cameras come with a wide range of features, such as motion activation, high-resolution video quality, human detection, two-way audio, and infrared night vision. The Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro features a Smart Deter system that detects potential intruders and scares them off with a built-in siren and LED illumination. Clever, right?
  • Indoor cameras: On the other hand, indoor cameras are typically used to monitor home interiors. Indoor cameras capture a wide field of view when placed at a central location like the kitchen or the living room, so you can make sure your home and family are safe when you’re not around. Apart from deterring criminal activity, a modern indoor security camera like the Vivint Indoor Camera may also be used to communicate with young children, elderly family members, or even pets at home.
  • Video doorbells: As its name suggests, a video doorbell is a security camera integrated into your doorbell to monitor activity outside the front door. Similarly to outdoor cameras, video doorbells are equipped with human detection technology to detect lurkers and let them know they’ve been spotted. The Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro can also detect package deliveries and send alerts and notifications when something important is happening outside your home.

Consider each camera’s connectivity and power source before deciding which security system is right for you. There are two types of cameras that you need to know: wired cameras and wireless cameras.

Let’s see how they work.

  • Wireless cameras: Wireless security cameras work by transmitting the camera’s video through a radio (RF) transmitter, which is stored in a hard drive or cloud-based storage. Thanks to wireless technology, you can view real-time footage of your area through your mobile device, computer, or tablet. You may even adjust the camera’s field of view, change the settings, and schedule recordings for a later time. Vivint’s wireless home camera systems can also be integrated with other smart devices to provide a total home automation experience.
  • Wired cameras: In contrast to wireless cameras, wired security cameras are connected to an electrical power source through external cables. You can use them both indoors and outdoors to record footage of your area. Although the absence of a Wi-Fi connection creates complexity if real-time footage is needed, it’s a good option for areas with an unstable or intermittent internet connection.

Can security cameras deter home theft?

Home security systems are specifically designed to provide peace of mind, whether you want to check up on the kids after school or monitor activity while you’re out of town.

Vivint home security cameras are equipped with an array of features and integrations to provide total home protection, such as scheduled recording, remote viewing, and two-way audio.

For added security, Vivint cameras feature a Smart Deter system that detects lurkers around the area and scares them with a loud sound and LED illumination.

This deters potential burglars from entering the house in the first place.

Vivint doorbell camera.

Explore leading home security camera options from Vivint

Both security and surveillance video cameras can be valuable for improving the security of private and public spaces.

If you’re looking for added home security protection, a Vivint home security camera could be everything you need to enjoy peace of mind, whether you’re near or far away.

Check out our home security cameras or contact our Smart Home Pros at 855.822.1220 for a free consultation today.

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