Choosing the Best Inspection Camera for Your Business

Choosing the Best Inspection Camera for Your Business
Direct recording interface

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Inspection cameras are one of the most valuable tools for any drain cleaner. Whether you’re checking a line to diagnose a problem before beginning a job or you need to locate a blockage to determine how to clear the line, the inspection camera is a must-have.  

“The typical use for your everyday plumber for an inspection camera is to locate a blockage or a break in the line,” says Justin King, vice president at Amazing Machinery Inc. “They want to see the condition of the pipe, understanding if any service or repairs are needed to that line.” 

Features and size 

Cameras today offer a wide range of features and benefits to meet the demands of all types and sizes of pipelines. While some units may fit the needs of a large municipality with a regular inspection schedule and hundreds or thousands of miles of pipeline to maintain, it may not be suitable for a small drain cleaning company. 

“If you're a very large outfit looking for a municipal-type camera to do very large lines, you’re going to need a very thick cable, possibly a crawler system,” King says. “If you’re a residential plumbing company, you’re going to want to look for something a little simpler.” 

One such option is the easy-to-use Pan n’ Tilt push camera from Ratech Electronics. It is designed for pipes and drains as small as 3 inches in diameter and offers black-and-white, color, self-leveling, micro and pan n’ tilt camera options. 

More advanced inspection camera systems include network communications options such as Wi-Fi to transmit to a nearby computer. 

King notes the Wi-Fi feature is a great option for municipal applications, but a private contractor may not need it. “They’ll want the basic system, a get-your-job-done kind of camera, that’s where you’re going to find more of your affordable types of cameras that private companies can afford to invest in.” 

Many inspection cameras now on the market have the ability to record to SD cards or USB flash drives, which is important because many customers now require a video copy of the inspection both before and after the work is done, King says. 

The MiniLite from RapidView IBAK North America can record inspections with a built-in MPEG digital video recorder on SD and SDHC memory cards and allows users to inspect, record and measure the internal dimensions of small pipelines.

Compact and colorful 

“A few years ago everyone went from black and white to color,” King says. “Everyone was recording to VHS, that’s the way it was done for 20 years and it was hard for them to switch over. Eventually inspection cameras drifted into DVD burners, but even that has gone away now.” 

One color video inspection system is the ready-to-use CUES Mini-Push 20/20, a portable system with a built-in battery power supply and battery charger. The EasyCAM camera inspection systems also offer a color camera, 512 Hz transmitter and 8-inch daylight-readable monitor. The systems will operate using a standard 110-volt house outlet or can be charged in a vehicle. 

Smaller, more compact cameras and higher quality video are a few of the advances the pipeline inspection industry has seen thanks to new technology. 

An ultra-compact camera option is the SeeSnake Max rM200 from RIDGID, which has improved reel mechanics for easy passage through tight turns. The camera provides optimal lighting and an upgraded cable. 

Technological advances 

“Almost everyone has a computer, a smartphone, a tablet,” King says. “Once these files are captured on the SD card, they’re in digital format and people can do a lot of things with them. You can email them or post them to the Internet for many people to view.” 

The vCam inspection system from Vivax-Metrotech is one system that offers digital recording to the internal hard drive or SD card and a waterproof keyboard. It also includes new ABS molded housing and 8-inch color LCD. 

King says he’s also seeing more companies putting their marketing information right on the flash drive and giving that to the customer along with the video. “It’s an advertising tool.” 

Choose wisely

There will be more advances in inspection camera technology in the coming years, some of which are already in progress. “We have to evolve with the electronics community,” King says. “I think in the future we’ll see HD video, at a more affordable price. There are already companies working on those systems.” 

The VIZTRAC camera system from Amazing Machinery is equipped with the highest commercial grade color camera and was designed for the everyday plumber. The camera system has a durable stainless steel camera body and sapphire lens. It is has 512 Hz sonde, a 130-foot cable and SD DVR. 

“You really need to look at all the brands and talk to somebody that may know the various units on the market,” King says. “You need to find the style that fits your company.” 

(All equipment listings from Cleaner Product Focus, November 2012)


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