Surveillance Cameras For Estate Sales – An Expert’s Perspective

Estate Sales News has been traveling the country visiting estate sales. Theft prevention at estate sales has become paramount and many of the estate sales we have visited are now using surveillance cameras.

This in article is an in depth look at video surveillance systems for estate sales was written by an expert in the field, P.D. Kaltenbach, Senior Television Broadcast Engineer.

These are several things that need to be considered when reviewing the purchase of a camera monitoring system, especially as they relate to estate sales:

  • Camera count vs. system cost.
  • Pre-configured systems vs. the DIY approach.
  • Wired or wireless cameras, it’s all about ease of set-up.
  • Camera and Display resolution – If you can’t see the details what is the point?

Let’s take a look at he issues in order of importance.

Item A.) The first thing to consider is how many cameras you will need.  If you haven’t worked with these systems before take a little time to look around the next time you are at home or at an estate sale. Ask yourself how many places would you have to stand while looking straight ahead in order to see the things you consider important. That’s a good first cut at establishing camera counts, and while it sounds simplistic you will be surprised at how quickly the numbers rise. As a rough estimate of system cost you can expect to pay $160 to $250 times the number of cameras in a system depending upon technical features that are provided.

There is an alternate approach that allows you to ease into the project in a less costly yet well informed manner; start with a few cameras but make sure the overall system allows room for expansion simply by adding more cameras. Not all systems will have this capability, so look closely before purchase.

Item B.) Looking around the web you will find a number of cameras and software applications that fall into the Do-It-Yourself category. While they make for a great way to watch the front door or the dog sleeping they really are not a good choice when you need more that a few cameras. Prominent among the downsides is that they are not cost competitive as the number of cameras rise while at the same time the system you end up with lacks the features of a real surveillance system. Even more important is that you yourself have to work out system configuration and integration. Do you really want to sit down working out IP addresses in order to get the cameras working or do you want to concentrate on your real business?

Item C.) For purposes of discussion let us assume that we are not going to go the DIY approach but instead choose a pre-configured system from one of the well known suppliers. An important part of purchase selection process comes up next, because two system parameters need to be traded off against each other. These releate to video resolution, and whether the cameras are going to be  connected by wire or wirelessly.

Let us look at the issue of camera resolution first. The term “resolution” is essentially a measure of how fine the detail is in a picture. In monitoring systems we need to consider the resolution of both the cameras as well as display. Feeding low resolution images to a hi-resolution display is only going to give you low resolution video. The opposite is true as well where you can have the best hi-resolution cameras available that will still look pretty dreadful on a low resolution monitor.

Well, how much resolution do we need? Consider a practical example; a commercial system utilized for watching a truck loading dock at night will typically be good enough at 640×480 pixels. You really aren’t looking for fine detail here, all you want to know is that the truck is there, not what the license plate says. Conversely, when a home shopping channel is displaying merchandise it’s all about picture quality in which case they will be running High Definition video at either 720×1280 pixels (720p) or 1920×1080 pixels (1080i).

It becomes obvious that for estate sale application it’s all about having good to excellent resolution so as to be able to see the finer details of what folks are doing.

The issue we face in multi-camera monitoring systems is that the highest resolution cameras typically are typically not wireless, thus requiring a cable to be run from the camera to a central router. That can be a real show stopper, so you need to look closely at what the vendors are offering, Is it wired, or wireless?  Clearly this is a major decision point. Were this a fixed installation not subject to constant change it makes sense to go with the wired approach and enjoy the highest possible resolutions. However…

Item D.) In an estate sale we are going to need to go wireless so that the cameras can be quickly placed in an optimum manner without cable clutter. Here is where you need to pay close attention to what the vendors are offering; what resolution are the cameras? Bottom line: the common 640×480 cameras won’t cut it – not enough resolution, the 1920×1080 cameras look great but aren’t readily available as a wireless camera, scratch that. Fear not however, there is a good compromise – 1280×800 (“720P”).

Item E.) With the important purchase decisions having been discussed we can now look at actual systems available. One of the larger and well respected vendors with a broad product line of pre-configured systems is Lorex which can be found on the web at

Lorex sells a pre-pack of three 720P wireless IP cameras that come with monitoring software compatible with iOS, Android, PC and Mac devices. The package is available on their site in several versions depending upon what the final count of cameras anticipated to be in the future. The LNC204-3PK will support up to four cameras, with three provided for $349.99, while the LNC216-3PK will support up to 16 cameras, with three provided for $429.99. Additional cameras are available at $199.00 each. As a practical matter it makes sense to buy the version supporting 16 cameras so there is room for expansion down the road.

It should be noted that this system does not have the recording/playback features that are included in more expensive wired systems which Lorex and other manufacturers sell. Those heavyweight systems will have hard drives for extended recording of all cameras concurrently, viewing features that allow the user to continue to record while at the same time looking back at previously recorded material, as well as a host of other features more aligned with fixed systems in brick and mortar establishments.

Item F.) A final note- in order to complete the system the user is going to need a simple wireless router to act as a base station as well as wireless capable PC, tablet or personal device with which to watch the cameras. The router set-up is simple and need not be connected to the internet unless you want remote monitoring from across the web.

Thus far we have undertaken the effort to make sure we are getting the best possible video quality from the cameras, now we need to do the same for the display. VGA/SVGA displays will severely compromise the quality of the video presented and should not be used. What we really need are displays that support “HD” graphics or better, a format supported by most current laptop vendors. The author’s gold standard – Apple’s Retina displays (Macbook Pro, iPads) most notably on the iPad Air tablet. As a reliable and stable control device in a surveillance system it is in a class by itself.