Category Archives: Home Security

Nelly’s Security Complete 8 Channel 1080P HD-TVI Dome Surveillance System Review

Nelly’s Security contacted me to write a review of their new 8 Channel HD-TVI system complete with video examples of a real-world installation in several different settings. In exchange for this review I was allowed to keep the unit as a gift.

The NVR is a NSDV-208QK, which is a rebranded Hikvision DS-7208HQHI-K1. OEM versions of Hikvision NVRs look pretty different from their retail counterparts, but inside the guts are the same. Nelly’s supplies the NVR with a 1TB Seagate Surveillance hard drive for recording the camera action. The NVR main board has space for 1 SATA drive, adding additional storage in the future will require removing the 1TB and replacing it with a new one. Unfortunately this case doesn’t have the ability to be mounted inside of a rack, but a simple shelf holds the NVR and provided power supply with ease.

Under the hood

Powering the cameras comes from an external power pack, similar to a laptop charger. A splitter then takes that power source and allows 8 cameras to be plugged into it. The NVR has its own power source separate from the cameras.

The cameras are NST-1080P-DM1, a model carried by Nelly’s. It has a 1/2.7″ OV 2.1MP CMOS sensor. It is IP66 rated which means it will work fine as a outdoor camera. The 3.6mm lens offers a wide field-of-view. Not many other details were available on Nelly’s site about this camera model.

The camera is comprised of several parts following a similar design to other turret style cameras.

and the pigtail is a typical 12v and HD-TVI connection.

In true Matt LaPaglia fashion I tore it apart (this will most likely void your warranty)

No clues on the inside as to who manufactures the lens. It did reveal the weatherproofing done to the pigtail to keep the elements out, the desiccant pack, and a nice rubber gasket where the two halves of the camera shells meet

There are several ways to install HD-TVI cameras. I opted for using ethernet and Balun adapters to connect the ethernet wiring to the cameras. The system I received included a 1000′ spool of ethernet to do this. For this installation I will be using ethernet already run to the camera mounting points for my existing system. The spool I received was good quality with solid copper conductors.

The Balun connector is used to transmit video (green and white/green), the rest of the wires are used for power (solid colors for positive, striped for negative)

Each camera is connected using the balun adapters. One of the four pairs of wires in each ethernet run is used for the video signal. The other 3 pairs are used to send power from where the NVR is to the camera. One reason I liked this approach over siamese cabling the the potential for upgrades down the road. If one decided to stick with HD-TVI they would be fine either way, but if someone wanted to upgrade to IP cameras later having the ethernet already run would be substantially easier. Just chop the ends of the wires off and terminate them with a network jack.

Since these are non-IP based cameras they don’t have a way to automatically control the gain or shutter speed used. This means these cameras won’t perform well for license plate capture at my mailbox because the camera will be pumping up the gain automatically at night which will overexpose the license plates and create white blurs. For general surveillance purposes this isn’t an issue however. The camera’s automatic exposure settings perform well during the day and night.

A quick day time indoor demo:

The on-board IR is decent for close quarters. When subjects are within 15-20 feet of the camera details come into focus for good facial recognition. Cameras placed next to doors or entryways got acceptable images of the occupants. I did not notice any bleeding of the IR into the lens due to the physical separation of the lens and IR LEDs. I noticed that if I manually turn the IR on by putting my finger over the sensor, and then slowly pull my finger away from the sensor, I could get the LEDs to “dim” slowly away until they finally turned off and the IR cut filter clicked back into place. I didn’t notice this affecting actual surveillance because this issue would only occur right before it would be bright enough to switch to day mode anyway. When transitioning from night to day mode the sensor seems much faster at getting correct exposure than some of my Hikvision cameras. On my IP cameras it takes the sensor 2-3 seconds to adjust the camera exposure to get an acceptable image.

Here’s a quick demo of the camera positioned inside a front door:

And outside facing the backyard:

The cameras are very easy to position once attached to a structure. Instead of having a set screw to hold the camera in place the base has a ring that turns to tighten the camera to the mount. The cameras are fairly discrete. I don’t have any size comparisons other than Hikvision models, but they are smaller than the 3mp EXIR turret with about half the footprint. The HD-TVI and power connector are much smaller than an ethernet pigtail, allowing me to drill smaller holes in my house to run the pigtail through into the attic.

Attaching the cameras to the NVR is trivial. After plugging a camera in the NVR was detecting and recording from it within 5 seconds. No worrying about passwords or individual camera settings that come with IP cameras.

Nelly’s currently sells this system for $399 through their website. This system is at an excellent price point considering it includes a NVR with 1TB of storage, 8 cameras, and a 1000′ spool of cat5 for wiring. The NVR comes with a 3 year warranty and the cameras a 1 year warranty. For the beginner looking to get into CCTV this would be a fool-proof system to start with.

DIY Security Mailbox

The old and busted mailbox at the front of my driveway was leaning forward, rotting, and had paint peeling off of the black, then painted gold, then black again metal. None of the wood was pressure treated. This just would not do! I also wanted to continue fortifying the house with security cameras by wiring up some Automatic License Plate Recognition cameras (ALPR).

I found a few pictures of mailboxes I liked online but couldn’t find any plans for building something other than the de facto ones seen everywhere. I started with a 4″x6″ piece of treated lumber and wrapped it with cedar, known for it’s ability to withstand the elements Indiana could throw at it.

You might ask yourself “Matt, why is the backside of the mailbox so long?” Good question! I am planning on hanging a lot of flowers off of the back to keep it visually appealing during the spring and summer months!

We received a mailbox as a wedding present, an odd gift we actually asked for. It’s large enough to fit medium-sized Amazon packages, keeping my USPS mailman from having to run the packages to the door, and boy do I like ordering things from Amazon.

After I got the cedar affixed to the frame of the mailbox using triple coated deck screws I sealed up the nooks and crannies with silicone caulk. Silicone will last longer with the wood expanding and contracting under rain, sun, and snow. As I was sealing up the sides of the frame I wired up the light at the top of the mailbox. It would eventually be powered by the dawn to dusk light sensor in the light post near the center of the yard. I placed a 2 gang waterproof outlet directly under where the mailbox sits on the frame, to be used for Christmas lights or powering electrical tools when I am in that part of the yard.

After two primer coats and two top coats the mailbox was ready to go outside. Unfortunately it was still January, way too cold for pouring concrete. As pictured, you can see the conduit I would use to run the 110v line and the network cables for the security cameras. I left the middle portion of the frame uncovered by cedar, to allow the cameras to be mounted directly to it. I hoped it would create a more professional final look.

In February there was a weekend where the weather cooperated with me. I dug out the old busted mailbox (which cracked in half when I was removing it), dug down another foot, and planted the new hotness in the hole. I wanted to go 3 feet into the ground, but the gas line actually went directly under the mailbox. Remember to call before you dig, especially in an easement where utilities are run. I used two bags of concrete to fix the mailbox in place. I accidentally used too much water mixing it in the hole and had to wait a while for it to cure.

On the backside of the mailbox I installed a simple weatherproof box to house the wire termination coming from the house, as well as a network patch panel to connect the cameras to. In it is also another 1 gang outlet (it came with the box, so why not use it?) that would be powered by the dawn-to-dusk sensor. The Hikvision Hikvision DS-2CD2T42WD-I5 camera was just laying on the box. It was too large to fit on the front and get the angle needed to see plates.

On the front side the cameras were mounted directly to the frame of the mailbox. I was still experimenting with different camera styles, IR illuminators, and focal lengths for gathering license plate numbers. Until I was finished I wasn’t worried about painting this section. The wires for everything ran through the center of the mailbox to the backside of the weatherproof box. Keeping all of the terminations and connectors in the box away from the weather would make them last longer. I ran two different holes 4″ apart, one for network wires, the other for high and low voltage. The cameras are powered via PoE, a most wonderful invention that meant each camera didn’t need a separate power supply at the mailbox.

In this picture I am trying out the Hikvision 6mm 4mp camera with an external illuminator that could output enough IR to illuminate license plates. After installation and looking at it for a few days I decided it stuck out too much and didn’t look very good inside the box. I thought that a turret style camera might work better, like Hikvision’s new low-light cameras that had just come out. I am still awaiting it’s arrival to try out.

I put a 60 watt LED bulb in the light, which matched the light post in the yard. This image was purposely overexposed, the light isn’t actually bright enough to keep anyone awake at night 😛

I grabbed a mailbox sign off of Etsy. I wasn’t too pleased with the finish quality, it scratched off when I accidentally scraped it with a screw. A quick touchup with a permanent marker made it look good from the street though. I still need to cover the screws to help them blend in also.

The beacon is lit, Gondor calls for aid!

Here is a quick video of a car passing by during the middle of the night. I have some focusing to do with the camera (the IR cut filter throws off the focus during the night). I think I will leave the camera constantly in night mode because it’s not a varifocal and I’d need to adjust

So I am currently waiting for a camera to arrive from AliExpress, I’ll update the post when I have more content to provide!

9/26/2017 Update:

Several months have passed since the completion of the project. I’ve switched to a different camera, the 12mm Hikvision DS-2CD2325FWD-I, a “low-light” model. It sports a larger sensor and smaller pixel count, so it performs better at night than the average IP camera. It also has EXIR built into it similar to the other Hikvision turret cameras, meaning I no longer needed the external IR illuminator. I’ve found the turrets to provide ample light on their own. I am currently running a 1/1000 second exposure with the gain set around 10-12. I pushed the cameras further away from the base of the mailbox with some treated deck boards to give the cameras a more parallel view of the road and to reduce the glare of the IR on the mailbox itself.

I am capturing plates very well.

This is 10 FPS:

15 FPS with a driver who went into the yard which made his license plate HUGE on screen:

6/24/2022 Update:

I upgraded to Dahua IPC-HFW5241E-Z12E cameras for better IR output, and also tied it in with my OpenALPR Processor Tool to overlay plate data on the camera’s feed: