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Dome vs. Bullet Security Camera Guide

Selecting the right type of security camera for your home or business is critical, as security cameras are not all the same: different resolutions, different capabilities, and different features.

Currently, there are two common types of security cameras: dome and bullet.

As you might guess, both camera types are named for their shapes. But there are also differences in how these types of cameras function. Read on to get the information you need to decide which is right for you. 

Dome Cameras are discreet with wide-angle lenses. 

A dome camera is a circular, dome-shaped camera that can sit flush with ceilings and walls. It has a plastic dome that goes over the camera lens, which is typically wide angle. 

Camera Placement

When installed, dome cameras are discreet. Installers can recess dome cameras into ceilings or walls or install them on camera poles. The wires get tucked into the back of the camera housing, leaving nothing exposed. One significant advantage of dome cameras is their durability. Many dome cameras are difficult to tamper with or damage, meaning they are essentially “vandal-proof.”

MEGApix® Flex™, a vandal proof dome camera with 16mp resolution. 

An installer can place dome cameras indoors or outdoors. However, the plastic dome cover is prone to collecting dust and debris—especially when installed outdoors. Dust and debris can block the camera view, so keep this in mind when making your decision. 

Camera Size

Camera size will depend on your security needs. Dome cameras come in multiple sizes, with the entire product size depending on the size of the actual camera within the housing. In general, a smaller dome camera will house a smaller camera with a lower resolution. And a larger dome camera will house a larger camera with greater resolution. 

With these types of cameras, larger is not necessarily better—even if the resolution is higher. A fisheye camera, which provides a 360° view, typically comes in a smaller package. A 16MP optical zoom camera is much larger, to accommodate the larger camera lens. But these are vastly different cameras, with entirely different functions. It’s best to work with a professional to determine which will meet your needs. 

Camera Function

As for function, dome cameras offer a good deal of versatility. Dome cameras have a fixed position, meaning the direction the camera faces is the only direction that the camera can see. However, most dome cameras have a wide-angle lens. Wide-angle lenses capture larger viewing areas than regular lenses. Measured in millimeters (mm), a dome camera’s lens can be anywhere from 1.8mm (wide angle) to 170mm (narrow angle).

Dome cameras offer both digital and optical zoom. In terms of video quality, optical zoom is far superior. Optical zoom dome cameras magnify an image by zooming the actual camera lens in and out—a process that does not alter the image’s original resolution. (An optical zoom lens is also known as a varifocal lens). In contrast, digital zoom cameras do not have an adjustable lens. A digital zoom dome camera stretches video like you would zoom in on a picture on your phone by stretching it with your fingers. Digital zooming enlarges the pixels, which reduces image quality.

Bullet cameras are more visible and capture at longer distances. 

A bullet camera is a narrow, cylindrically shaped camera great for both indoor and outdoor use. Because of its features, it’s ideal for capturing people and objects at longer distances. 

Camera Placement

When installed outdoors, bullet cameras have some advantages over dome cameras. For instance, they are not as prone to dust and debris blocking the lens. 

But bullet cameras  do have a few downsides. They slightly protrude from ceilings and walls, making them less discreet when compared to dome cameras.

A bullet camera with 8MP resolution. 

Installing a bullet camera is straightforward. Bullet cameras come with separate mounting brackets, which make for easy installation. The wires get tucked behind the camera, most often through a small tube connecting to the ceiling or wall. Of course, a professional can also install them. 

Camera Size

Bullet cameras come in various sizes. As with dome cameras, camera size depends on resolution. Size can also depend on whether you intend to use the camera outdoors. Some outdoor cameras will come in metal housing to protect them from the weather. More rugged outdoor cameras can also be larger. 

Camera Function

Bullet cameras have a fixed position. But once set up , you or a professional agent can easily reposition the camera to change the viewing angle. All it requires is loosening or removing a few screws, repositioning, then retightening the screws. A dome camera does not have this type of flexibility. 

If camera range is important, then a bullet camera is likely the solution. Most bullet cameras have a standard angle of view (the opposite of a dome camera). The shape of the bullet camera allows for a larger lens than a dome camera, which results in clearer images at further distances. For a real-world example, look at the cameras on light poles next time you are at an intersection. Some municipalities use license plate recognition bullet cameras at intersections, to capture quality images at a distance. A bullet camera’s lens can be anywhere from 2.88mm to 50mm. 

As with dome cameras, a bullet camera can come with either optical or digital zoom. 

Is one camera type better than the other?

Let’s face it—there are hundreds of security camera options out there. If you buy one without weighing your needs against the cameras’ features and functions, you could end up with a model that doesn’t adequately protect your home or business. 

The best security camera is the one that best suits your needs. How do you decide which one hits that mark? Below are just a few key facts to consider to help make your decision easier. (We also have a guide discussing what to look for in a security camera system. Check it out!)

Dome Camera vs Bullet Camera

Feature/BenefitDome CamerasBullet Cameras
LensWide-angle lens permits a wider field of view.Standard angle lens permits a longer field of view. 
Main benefitMore discreet than other types of security cameras.Installation and repositioning are easy.
ZoomBoth optical and digital zoom available. Both optical and digital zoom available. 
PlacementCan be used indoor & outdoor, but the plastic dome cover can become dirty outdoors.Indoor & outdoor use, without the worry of the lens becoming blocked. 
Weather ResistanceWeatherproofed for use outdoors. Weatherproofed for use outdoors. 
Night Vision Some models are equipped with infrared night vision. Some models are equipped with infrared night vision. 
DurabilitySome models are vandalism resistant. 

Bullet and dome security cameras are two of the most common security cameras on the market. They bring great versatility with their many configurations and models. But with so many different cameras to choose from, it can be hard to decide what is best for your home or business. If you still have questions, contact the security experts at Bay Alarm. Our team is ready to help get you the security that fits your needs. Get in touch today!