Selecting a Camera Reel and Monitor

Keep these guidelines in mind when considering what pipe inspection system best suits your work

Selecting a Camera Reel and Monitor

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Snaking a camera down a pipe to better understand what’s happening inside is essential to quality work.

As a result, investing in camera reels and monitors that enable you to see clearly in-pipe and communicate your findings to clients can mean the difference between a loyal or one-time customer. 

When investing in a camera reel, keep in mind the different options:

  • Specialty reels: These have very small camera diameters, highly flexible cables and typically less than 100 feet of cable. They are ideal for tight spaces with a lot of bends.
  • Small reels: Featuring smaller camera heads ranging from 18mm to 27mm, these have medium flex cables and 100 feet or less of cable. They are ideal for lines that are 1.5 to 4 inches wide and may have P-traps or toilet traps. Think residences that do not offer easy access to drains.
  • Medium reels: These utilize medium flex cables in 100- to 200-foot options and typically start to incorporate camera heads in larger sizes with self-leveling capabilities. They are ideal for lines that are 2 to 6 inches wide and have access points that might not be the easiest to get to, like a basement. 
  • Large reels: Cables in large reels are 200 feet and have medium stiffness. This category is characterized by a good balance between flex and stiffness. You’ll want to look for a model that can go long distances but can still handle 90-degree bends. They are ideal for lines that are 2 to 8 inches wide, might have a few bends and have easier access points.
  • XL reels: These reels have stiff cables and 200 to 300 feet of cable. They are ideal for doing long straights with minimal turns.

Generally, you’ll be able to use all types of reels in multiple settings, but some are better suited for certain jobs than others. For instance, if you are on a commercial job with a long straight line that is 100 feet or longer, you are going to want to use a reel with a stiffer cable to make it easier to push. On the flip side, if you are going into residential pipes with various traps and bends, you will benefit largely from a reel with a smaller camera head and a little more flexibility. 

With monitors there are also several options:

  • Wireless: This option allows true mobility. Professionals only need to bring their reel and phone or tablet and can leave the monitor behind.
  • Small: This model is typically characterized by smaller screen sizes and dedicated spaces for them on reels. They provide the ability to have a dedicated setup in a compact body.
  • Medium: This category offers larger screens for easier viewing and will start to incorporate fixed keyboards.
  • Large: With the biggest screens these make job site viewing the easiest.

The most important features to look for in a monitor are the screen size and the ability to record and take notes for a particular job. Some nice-to-haves are the ability to tell the degree of angle of your camera head in the pipe, pan and zoom on problematic areas that you might not be able to identify using the standard view, and the option to control and review the inspection on your mobile device. 

With technology changing so quickly it’s also important to keep in mind, for both reels and monitors, that having the ability to upgrade the software is essential. Software changes have had the biggest impact on the industry in the past several years and innovative new features are what really allow a professional to step up their game and become the most knowledgeable person about the pipes they are in. Your software should allow you to make updates on the go that improve user experience and interface and let you fix bugs.

About the Author

Kyle Schutz is a product specialist for RIDGID, a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, trusted by professional trades in over 100 countries. Learn more at


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