Bullet vs. Dome Security Cameras: What are the Differences?

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Dome and Bullet cameras are some of the most popular form factors for security cameras. They are relatively easy to install, provide reliable video streams, and work with most security systems. What makes these two cameras so different, and which ones should you choose for your next security project?

The main difference between a bullet and dome security camera is the shape and also that dome security cameras tend to be more durable. They have a lot of the same components, but their differences make them suitable for different jobs. A mixture of both, however, is recommended.

When it comes to security systems, you certainly want to find the best devices. Assessing your security needs is a great starting point with any project. Look at the area you are trying to surveil; is it large? Is it indoors? Outdoors? Will the public have access to your cameras? These questions will help you decide which cameras are right for you, however, before we do that, we should probably explore the differences in more detail.

What are the Differences Between Bullet and Dome Cameras?

Intelligent security camera

If you were to pop the housing off of both camera types, you would notice similar parts. In fact, outside of the housing, each camera might be identical. Both types of cameras can accomplish similar tasks and often come packed with the same features. To help clarify, let’s explore what each type of camera is:

Features that both cameras have in common are their zoom capabilities, they can come with high resolution (which, as we explained in our guide, is a rarity among security cameras), they feature infrared and low-light settings, and they can also be used indoors or outdoors. So at this point, you may be wondering why the two types of cameras even exist.

If they are almost identical except their form factor, what makes them different? It’s all about how they’re used. But we will get into that later. First, let’s explore how the housing of the two cameras makes them slightly different.

Durability

When it comes to durability, both cameras can stand up to some rough wear and tear. Generally speaking, though, the dome camera’s form factor lends it to be less prone to vandalism. This is because there is not too much to grab onto if you want to destroy the camera. The rounded form factor is not tampered with easily.

Compare that to a bullet camera where a common problem is vandalism. This is due to how an adjustable arm holds up the camera head. Here are some common ways bullet cameras get destroyed:

  • People jump up and grab them.
  • Projectiles can be thrown to knock the camera off position.
  • Some vandals even use chains or ladders to access the camera.

Dome cameras are certainly not immune to vandalism, but often they are a better choice if vandalism is a worry. Additionally, they usually come equipped with a vandal-proof dome. This usually is made of a harder plastic that can’t easily be broken or scratched. 

Another aspect of the dome camera that lends it to be more durable is how you adjust it. For most dome cameras, you will need to access the housing inside to change the lens’s orientation. To get to this part of the camera, you may need a special star screwdriver to make any changes.

In contrast, you can adjust a bullet camera without the need for any special tools. This makes it vulnerable to other people moving your camera’s position. Obviously, this isn’t something you want if you’re serious about capturing quality footage.

Range

When it comes to range, the bullet camera usually takes the lead. With their longer body, bullet cameras often come with better zoom capabilities. That is not to say you can’t get the same quality from a dome camera. In fact, in recent years, the quality of both bullet and dome cameras have become somewhat equal. But generally speaking, dome cameras have a shorter range and can cover a wider area.

In contrast, bullet cameras have a longer range and are capable of enhanced zooming, and can cover areas farther away as well. This is one of the main differences when it comes to the camera application. Most security professionals will recommend dome cameras for indoor spaces as they can cover a wider area.

For outdoor spaces—or areas farther away—a bullet camera is perfect. With this in mind, you can imagine where some cameras would be better than others. Understanding this can help craft a more customized security system for the space you are working in. 

Light Levels

When it comes to light levels, both cameras are well matched. For the most part, both bullet and dome cameras offer infrared LED lighting as well as low-light modes. These features will allow for the cameras to operate in darker conditions.

While both cameras feature these low-light modes, bullet cameras are often better at this. Their form factor lends them to have more components packed inside, in this case, better infrared/low-light LEDs. Another thing that might give the point to bullet cameras is the dome camera’s transparent housing.

While most are made of clear plastic, some are not. This is due to manufacturers wanting to hide from the public the orientation of the lens. Often, manufacturers add a dark tint to the dome. Consequently, this can add a dark filter to all footage from the camera.

This can be an issue if constantly working in low light conditions. If a dome camera doesn’t feature the dark tint, it loses the element of secrecy as the public can see where it is pointing. 

Installation

When it comes to installation, there is a big difference between each camera. Most users will agree that it is easier to install a bullet camera. But this has less to with that camera itself and more about how you need to install them.

Since dome cameras usually are on the ceiling, it can be challenging to install them. What usually happens is that you will need to drill holes for the mounting bracket. While this is not a particularly hard task, it can be uncomfortable for some people. 

Additionally, debris can easily fall into the face of the installer. While we would recommend safety protection for any installation, it is especially important for a dome camera’s setup. In contrast, you can mount a bullet camera on a wall. This means you can drill the holes in a horizontal position, making for an easier experience. 

Which Camera Should You Use?

From a usability standpoint, you can get the same function from either camera. From a strategic perspective, you will need to be creative. Assess the space you are trying to cover and look for areas that would be better for either camera. This means thinking about:

  • The light conditions
  • Area that is covered
  • Indoors or outdoors
  • Will the public have access to the camera?
  • Is this a discreet camera?

These will help guide you towards the right camera. But, to help you find the best one, let’s examine the best placement of each type.

Where to Put a Dome Camera

Dome cameras are perfect for covering a smaller but wider area. They often blend into the surrounding with their minimal form factor and discreet design. They are perfect for indoor use but can still handle the extremes of the outdoors. 

Some of the best areas to place a dome camera include the isles of a store, areas in a hotel, lobby, gym, or a pool, in addition to parking garages. Often, you can use dome cameras in places where you wouldn’t want the camera noticed.

Since they are so discreet, they can easily be installed in a space and hidden in plain view. Additionally, it is harder to see where the camera’s lens is pointed. This adds to the discrete nature of the dome camera. Because of this, you often see them in spaces where a camera might cause some offense—like in a church. 

When to Use a Bullet Camera

Bullet cameras are undoubtedly the most popular type of security camera. They offer versatility, easy installation, and maintenance. But when would you want to use one over a dome camera? Often, you will see bullet cameras used outdoors, although this is not always the case. 

Some of the best locations to use a bullet camera are for outdoor spaces, when monitoring larger areas, or for protecting areas that criminals might break into. Since the bullet camera sticks out from the side of a wall, it is certainly not discrete. While you may think this is negative, in the right spaces, it can be beneficial.

For example, if you have a bullet camera pointed toward your front door, it gives off a signal to anyone who sees it. That signal is that you have taken security seriously, and anything they do will be on camera. This can be an excellent deterrent against thieves and vandals.

Common Issues with Dome and Bullet Cameras

Set of security cameras

Now that we have explored when to use each camera, we should learn about some common problems including clicks and sounds which we’ve talked about before in one of our troubleshooting guides. No camera is perfect. Understanding the downsides can help you make an informed decision on which type of camera to choose.

Dome Camera Issues

Dome cameras suffer from several key issues. Not only do they tend to have a shorter range than bullet cameras, but they also:

  • Need constant cleaning – the transparent dome that houses the components can get dusty and dirty reasonably easily. This means they need cleaning often.
  • Burdensome installation – As we have already explored, dome cameras installed on the ceiling are often harder to deal with.
  • Maintenance – If you want to change where the lens is pointing, you need to disassemble the whole unit. This can be challenging when attempting to do this on an installed camera.

Some other maintenance issues come with the transparent dome. To change the orientation of the camera, you need to get into the inside of the camera. You can easily damage the parts. Additionally, when replacing the dome, it is a common issue not to tighten it completely. This will lead to water damage.

Another problem with dome camera maintenance is the silica packet inside the housing. This helps maintain the humidity inside the camera, limiting the amount of condensation of the lens. The problem occurs when having to open the camera. It is relatively common for this packet to fall out, leading to lousy footage down the line. 

On the other hand, bullet cameras don’t need to be opened to change the lens’s orientation. This means you won’t be dealing with a lot of the issues the dome camera has. But, bullet cameras are not without their problems.

Common Issues with Bullet Cameras

Compared to dome cameras, bullet cameras are much easier to maintain. They usually don’t get as dirty, and moving them is no hassle. There are some other issues to consider, though:

  • Not as durable – Since these cameras are not discreet, vandals can break them easily.
  • Bird nesting – It may be funny to imagine, but it’s not uncommon for birds to nest on a bullet camera. From their perspective, it is the perfect spot to call home.
  • Bugs and spiders – the lip that helps keep the rain out of the lens is the perfect spot for a spider web. It is often the case that you will need to clean them off during the summer months.

Another factor that can be considered a downside is the look of the bullet camera. It can be seen as an eyesore. They stick out and are very obvious. Even if security is the primary concern, a series of bullet cameras can ruin an exterior’s look. 

Using Both Types: A Winning Strategy

As you may have already guessed, the best security camera system contains both bullet and dome cameras. Use dome cameras indoors and in areas that require a more comprehensive cover. Additionally, you should use bullet cameras outdoors and when you need better range.

Also, keep in mind if you want the public to see your cameras. In areas where a camera might be a welcome deterrent, use a bullet camera. In contrast, dome cameras should be used when you need to be discreet.

Always keep in mind the maintenance and upkeep. Placing a dome camera in a hard-to-access area might mean having more problems in the future. When you need to clean them or change where they are pointing, you need to have access to the inside of the unit. If you will be changing the camera’s orientation often, then a bullet camera might be a better fit.

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