Before reading

I am writing this article not to have everyone believe Shinobi is the best. I will attempt to breifly explain my conclusion based on my experiences with these programs. If a program isn't in the list then I haven't had much time to study it, therefore it is unacceptable to give my opinion of it. Alright enough of that!

Which programs will be mentioned?

  • Shinobi
  • ZoneMinder
  • Blue Iris

This article will be updated as more programs are tested.

Which OS would be best for you?

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux

If you chose Windows you can install Blue Iris or Shinobi. The downside to using windows is that there is a Graphical User Interface (GUI) and a few desktop-specific services putting extra overhead on the machine.

If you chose macOS you can go for ZoneMinder or Shinobi. Like Windows you have a GUI and extra services putting overhead. Luckily though Mac OS Yosemite is pretty fast even on a Core 2 Duo with 2GB RAM.

If you chose Linux you can go for ZoneMinder or Shinobi and forget the GUI altogether, save that RAM! You can install a minimal version of a well supported Linux distribution like Ubuntu or CentOS. Linux is almost everywhere.

In short : I would suggest using Linux, specifically Ubuntu Server 17.04, for the best performance over a long period of time.

What kind of cameras?

There are generally three types of outputs that we can get from cameras.

  • MJPEG (Motion JPEG) - Receiving JPEG data in succession. The old way.
  • H.264/H.265 RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol) - Receiving MPEG data in a stream. The new way.
  • JPEG (Snapshot) - Still frame capture

Many video management software, including Shinobi, have trouble with MJPEG consumption. If you are stuck with these cameras then you should probably look into using Blue Iris or ZoneMinder. They have done a good job in refining old methods. Though, even then MJPEG causes a lot of issues with ZoneMinder.

If you have cameras with RTSP capabilities then you are in luck. Shinobi and Blue Iris can consume these streams with very little overhead. Check out this article for information about optimizing RTSP cameras.

In short : Old cameras are better on ZoneMinder, New cameras are better on Blue Iris or Shinobi.

Got lots of cameras?

It may be in your best interest to try Blue Iris or Shinobi. Remember though Blue Iris has a maximum of 64 cameras for their Full version. The LE version only allows one camera. Shinobi has no limitation by default. In Shinobi you can set such limitations out of your own choosing in the Superuser panel.

Due to how ZoneMinder is made and maintained there isn't much hope to use lots of cameras unless they are low resolution or using JPEG or MJPEG with low framerate.

Here is a small comparison of H.264 (RTSP) cameras using a mix of copy and libvpx as the Video Encoders. ZoneMinder's MP4 video branch was used for the comparison.

Shinobi ZoneMinder
X2 QUAD XEON 2.4 GHZ (8 CORES), 16GB RAM, BAREMETAL 18 2048x1536 CAMERAS
3FPS, ~60% LOAD
CRASHED AT 15 CAMERAS
PENTIUM E5500 2.8GHZ (2 CORES), 3GB RAM, BAREMETAL 16 2048x1536 CAMERAS
15FPS, 10% LOAD
CRASHED AT 6 CAMERAS
CLOUD X64/X86 SERVER (8 CORES), 16GB RAM, BAREMETAL 18 2048x1536 CAMERAS
3FPS, ~60% LOAD
NOT TESTED

In short : Blue Iris and Shinobi are good for lots of cameras with high resolution and high framerate.

What is your purpose?

Personal or Non-commercial use : Shinobi, Blue Iris, and ZoneMinder all fit well in a personal use scenario.

Enterprise or Commercial use : Shinobi, with little restriction and immense power comes great opportunity. Blue Iris is good if you don't need more than 64 cameras or have no issue buying multiple licenses and setting up multiple installations. ZoneMinder is not reliable enough for such scenarios.

Advanced user or not?

If you are a beginner when it comes to using or installing things like this then it may be best to go for Blue Iris because it is easily installed on Windows.

If you are an advanced user you should look into ZoneMinder if you have time on your hands or Shinobi if you don't really want to mess around too long with the software to get your settings right.

Currently the install processes for Shinobi are not as simple as Blue Iris. ZoneMinder is designed in a way that it requires a decent amount of thought to figure out. Even then the countless bugs left behind almost force you to seek help or self-diagnose.

Do you need support?

Blue Iris has amazing support. I sent them an email and got a reply within 3 hours. Most companies will take up to 2 or 3 days to respond to an email. Not only that they were kind and straight to the point. I am sure they knew who I was when I emailed them (my account picture is the Shinobi logo) yet they didn't ignore me or giving me rude responses.

If you have been in the ZoneMinder IRC or Froum then you would know not much help comes with ZoneMinder. When it does you aren't really sure if they know what is going on. Here is one article that was written partly because of this problem.

As for Shinobi, All I can say is I'll do my best to reply. If I don't know the answer I won't beat around the bush, I will tell you like it is. When Shinobi becomes a large entity, expect that representatives will hold the same level of honesty.

Do you need Open Source?

If you don't then go with Blue Iris, If you do then go with Shinobi.

Generally, people who care about this are developers. This is why ZoneMinder is not suggested even though it is open source. Essentially, ZoneMinder is just a mess of outdated code. Read more about it here.

Conclusion

Blue Iris is the best choice (in general), for now. 64 cameras is a plenty and support is good. The installation is easy. Camera setup is very human. Self-diagnosis is also easy with all the information about it online. All for $80 CAD is not a bad deal.

Shinobi comes in second. Shinobi only falls short, in my opinion, because of the tedious install process. Essentially, command line is not for everyone. There is a completely free version, Community Edition (CE), and there is a paid version, Pro. Learn more about the difference here.

ZoneMinder comes in last. it falls short mainly because of how old it is. Using the application takes too much effort, even from advanced users. This program gets most of its popularity from being free and, before, for being the only one of its kind.