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Frequently Asked Questions

What are body cameras?

Body Cameras have a lot of different names, body worn cameras, body worn CCTV, body worn portable DVR and more. At its core, they are video recording devices that are attached to the body and will record video clips when activated. They have become a legal requirement for many jobs in the UK including police and baliffs and are widely used by security, healthcare, local councils and pretty much anyone who is at risk of an altercation.

What is the best body camera UK brand?

In the UK, there are a wide range of body camera brands available from both domestic and international suppliers. There is no “best body camera” brand but the more expensive models used by the police tend to have higher prestige attached to them. These are Axon from the US and Reveal from the UK. These will also tend to include entire platforms with servers, docking stations and control modules rather than individual cameras.

Body cameras for security officers are a lot less expensive and tend to be self-contained (not requiring huge amounts of extras and ongoing fees). There are a wide number of brands available for this purpose, the most commonly used by security companies are The Partner, Pinnacle and Edesix. These will be of similar spec to the Axons and Reveals but not be as deeply integrated with live platforms. Most of them will have an additional Digital Evidence Management Software (DEMS) available for them.

After this you have white label cameras and Transcend cameras. White label cameras are Chinese cameras that are given a western branding and supported by a company in the UK that offer technical advice and even repairs. They are sometimes bundled with a software that is designed by the British company to improve their user-interface and performance. Transcend cameras are low-cost models that are made by a well-known Taiwanese electronic manufacturer. They tend to be lower spec than many of the alternatives available but have Apps and software available to use with them.

At the lower end you have low-cost Chinese cameras that are sold directly to the UK market by factories in China. These can normally be bought on Amazon or Ebay. They offer no customer or technical support and tend to be of lower quality than the ones above. They are much less expensive (generally under £100) but if damaged, they need to be replaced.

What are the most important features to look at when choosing a body camera?

There are a few things you need to look at when choosing body cameras for security officers or for the public at large. The main areas will be:

• Storage (Memory)
• Battery Life
• Resolution
• Frame Rate (FPS)
• IP Rating
• Low-Light/ Infra-red capabilities
• Does it have encryption?
• Does it have a screen? Do I need a screen?
• How am I going to wear it? Clip, Dock, Harness?
• What software does it come with?

What resolution do I need?

When choosing body cameras, the most common mistake that most buyers make is obsessing over resolution. We get it, when choosing screens, monitors and phones, resolution is king. This is not the case in this situation. There is a direct trade-off between recording resolution, storage, frame rate, bit rate and battery life. If a camera can record in 1296p, 99.9% of the time you will not use that resolution. Depending on the battery and storage capacity, it might be operationally useless at that setting. The vast majority of cameras can record in 1080p but in practice, they will be used at 720p on a 12-hour shift. Your chosen resolution will depend on how much of a draw it has on the battery and its overall capacity. In short, don’t make decisions on cameras by how high the resolution is, chances are you will be running it at 720p/1080p anyway.

How much storage do I need?
This entirely depends on how often you record during a shift. Most body camera UK models are sold with 32GB storage as standard. For most purposes this will be sufficient. Hytera have multiple storage options per model and go as low as 16GB which is probably not enough for most users. They do go as high as 128GB which is probably only necessary if you plan to run a device on continuous record. To do this they also swap out batteries mid-shift. Unless you have a particularly high incident rate and need to record dozens of times on a shift for extended periods, 32GB will probably be sufficient but you may want to try it out for yourself. Your resolution and bitrate will also affect how quickly storage is used up. Decent cameras will allow you to set this yourselves to find a balance that suits you.
Do I need encryption?

The short answer is yes. Under GDPR there are very stringent requirements on encryption for video recordings. The biggest issue you will have is if someone steals a camera with footage and then views it. This violates GDPR as you are required to take all reasonable steps to secure the data. While this is a must for a security company, many individual users choose not to use encrypted body cameras for cost reasons. We do not recommend that you do this if you are working professionally.

Does it matter where the record button is?

This is a matter of debate in the body camera development community. There three most common activation methods for body camera UK brands are front, side and top. This refers to where the record button is on the camera. Axon have historically put theirs on the front while Revel Media prefer side activation. In recent years, front activation has been gaining ground with newer models of the Partner adopting this method. Top activation has largely fell out of favour but there are still decent arguments for its relevance.

Front activation tends to be easily accessed from most mounting locations on the body. This is the middle ground between the other two options.

Side activation is trickier as it is easier to activate if it is on the far side of the arm that you use most often. For example, if it is a side activation on a camera that is mounted on the left shoulder, it is easier to use if the button is on the left side of the camera. If it is on the right side of a left mounted camera for a right-handed person, this can be uncomfortable due to the length of the arm and the angle that you must reach.

Top activation tends to be better if the body camera is positioned anywhere on the body lower than the height of the elbow. This can apply to low hanging chest harnesses and belt docks.

What is lens angle and how will it affect recording?

Lens angle, sometimes called field of view, is extremely important when choosing body cameras for security officers, police or anyone who may need to move around while filming. Simply put, it is how far the lens stretches from one end to the other. The wider the lens angle, the greater the area that is recorded by the camera on either side of it.

A user is facing three people, one in the front and two on either side. If the lens angle is too narrow, they might not be able to capture footage of the two people on either side of them depending on how far away they are from centre. A wider-angle lens will mean that they have more ground to cover before they move out of shot.

This is particularly important if you choose to mount the body camera on one side of the body. In this situation, you will need a wide enough angle to be able to just cover the opposite side. This applies to holster style harnesses or docks that are sewn into a chest/shoulder position.

What are streaming cameras and do I need one?

Streaming cameras are body cameras that are continuously uploading in real-time. They will normally be connected to the internet via a sim card but in rare cases they can use WIFI if the site has an amazing connection.

Streaming cameras are rarely used by security companies due to the costs involved. You would need high-spec streaming cameras, sim data, cloud storage, software licenses and anything else the company that runs the system may charge for. Police and government bodies tend to use these far more than private security. Companies that do streaming cameras include Axon, Reveal Media, WCCTV and Edesix.

Nine times out of ten, you will not need a streaming camera. Please note that not all body cameras that use cloud storage are streaming, many use UCMs (Upload Control Modules) and other methods to simply store footage on the cloud rather than store them on a physical computer such as Pinnacle cameras.

Do I need a docking station?

Most decent cameras will come with an individual docks for your camera. When you hear people talk about docking stations, they will be referring to multi-docks. There is a wide variety in functionality between models but at its root, a docking station allows you to download and charge multiple cameras at the same time. Some docks will have built in storage to hold footage while others will be a computer in their own right, allowing you to manage recordings using a DEMS software.

If you are only buying one or two devices, you probably do not need a multi-dock. If you are running cameras on a site with multiple units active at any time then it might be worth considering. If you are using 3 or more cameras without a multi-dock, you will end up with a lot of wires which can quickly clutter up an office.

What mounting options are available?

Every camera that is available with come with some kind of clip, stud or mounting system. The most common are crocodile clips which while easy to use and fit to a wide range of uniforms, they are far less secure than other methods and tend to move around more which shows up in the footage.

The body camera UK standard for mounting is KlickFast. KlickFast is a locking system developed by Peter Jones that was originally used for radios but is widely used for body cameras these days. It allows you to securely lock equipment to your uniform, harness or a surface and deploy it quickly.

There are a lot of options within the KlickFast range including harnesses, docks, belt clips, loops and even some magnetic models. The important thing to remember is to ensure that the camera you intend to use them with comes with a KlickFast stud (male connector) or they will be incompatible.

Some cameras such as the Pinnacles and Partner Body Worn come with KlickFast studs as standard. Hytera and Audax have accessories that make it compatible. These are normally sold separately.

What considerations do I need to take in to account when wearing body cameras?

Placement on the body will be the primary consideration. If you wear it in the centre of the chest, you limit the motion of your arms across the body. If you wear it on a shoulder, you greatly reduce visibility on the opposite side of your body. If you are left-handed, most shoulder harnesses are made for the left shoulder which means a lot of movement when doing manual activities. Belt placements reduce visibility upwards while head mounts reduce visibility downwards. Head mounts also cause a lot of movement as your head moves more than any other part of your body.

What are IP ratings and why are they important?

IP ratings refer to “Ingress Protection”, how resistant a device is against foreign bodies entering it such as tools, dust and moisture. With most electronic devices, the important areas tested are dust and moisture. If they get into the device they cause wreak havoc quite quickly. We would advise against using lower than IP65 body cameras for security officers given the nature of their work. Higher IP ratings are available such as IP67 from higher-end body camera UK brands.