A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO CCTV VIDEO RESOLUTIONS


The table below lists some of the more commonly used resolution terms in CCTV applications. Any resolution over 1 million pixels is considered ‘megapixel’. In the case of megapixel cameras, the labels are approximate.

For example, a 2 megapixel camera actually captures 1,920,000 pixels per frame. A 3 megapixel camera captures 3,145,728 pixels per frame.

Most Popular CCTV Resolutions

720P vs 1080P vs 4K CCTV Video Resolutions
TermPixels (W x H)Notes
QCIF176 x 120Quarter CIF (half the height and width as CIF)
CIF352 x 240
2CIF704 x 2402 times CIF width
4CIF704 x 480 2 times CIF width and 2 times CIF height
D1720 x 480aka "Full D1"
720p HD1280 x 720 720p High Definition aka "HD-SDI"
960p HD1280 x 960960p High Definition - a Sony specific HD standard
1.3 MP1280 x 1024aka "1 Megapixel" or "1MP"
2 MP1600 x 12002 Megapixel
1080p HD1920 x 10801080p High Definition
3 MP2048 x 15363 Megapixel
4 MP2688 x 15204 Megapixel
5 MP2592 x 19445 Megapixel
6 MP3072 x 20486 Megapixel
8 MP / 4K (Coax)3840 x 21608 Megapixel
12 MP / 4K (IP)4000 x 300012 Megapixel

HD Surveillance Cameras & Recorders

HD DVRs

Optiview’s HD Digital Video Recorders, or DVRs, are compatible with analog security cameras. An intelligent DVR can enhance analog cameras to gain access to advanced features.

HD NVRs

Optiview’s HD Network Video Recorders, or NVRs, are compatible with IP security cameras. Communicate easily and effectively with HD cameras and record advanced analytics easily and efficiently.

HD COAX CAMERAS

Utilizing existing infrastructure makes installing an upgraded coax-based high definition camera east. Upgrade any coax camera to advanced intelligent features with an Optiview DVR with built-in analytics.

HD IP CAMERAS

These high definition network-based cameras connect easily to an Optiview DVR or NVR, or even record on the edge! Power-Over-Ethernet enables the camera to be powered at the same time as transmitting data.

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CCTV RESOLUTION STANDARDS

And what they mean

These terms may be used to describe the size of the image captured at the camera, transmitted over a wire, displayed on the screen, or recorded on the hard drive.

When comparing megapixel camera specifications you may notice pixel counts slightly different from the above. This is because some cameras will specify the total number of pixels captured by the sensor, and others will specify the ‘effective’ pixels. Some of the total pixels are used to contain technical housekeeping type of data, and are not contributing towards the ‘effective’ details of the image.

Those of you familiar with CCTV know that the resolution of an analog camera is typically listed as “TV lines”. These “lines” refer to the horizontal resolution of the image; therefore a 700 line camera has better resolution than a 420 line camera. Digital video recorders, however, list their resolution according to the terms in the chart above. DVRs that are ‘Full D1’ can record all the detail captured by the highest resolution analog cameras.

What Camera Should I buy?

One of the most common questions we get is “What resolution camera should I buy?” Of course, it depends. Each camera in your application may require a different resolution. It comes down to how much detail you want, what platform (if any) you already have in place, and how much is your budget. Examples of applications where you can easily justify spending more for higher resolution are recording monetary transactions, desiring facial recognition, or reading license plates.

It is important to consider what platform your camera will be running on as that may limit your resolution options. To summarize CCTV platforms: Analog cameras transmit over coax and can capture up to 700 lines (approximately full D1). HD-SDI cameras capture higher resolution images then encode / decode the data to run over coax. IP or network cameras transmit over CAT5 (just like computers). You can run analog cameras on a CAT5 network, or IP megapixel cameras over coax, but it would require additional hardware and added complexity so it’s not recommended.

We do not often recommend HD-SDI cameras because there are shortcomings with the current technology (a topic for another discussion). High resolution megapixel cameras are fantastic and are becoming more affordable. But don’t expect results like you see in the “CSI” TV shows – that’s just fiction. And keep in mind that the higher the resolution of the cameras, the more bandwidth and hard drive space you will need to transfer and store it. In most cases, cameras over 2MP are usually not worth the extra cost (at today’s prices), especially considering the added costs in required bandwidth and hard drive storage.

HighResCollage

Surveillance Solutions

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CAMERAS

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RECORDERS

Every recorder that we keep in stock is built for performance. Our Network & Digital Video Recorders are designed to run 24/7 and all supporting multi-site video monitoring. Optiview’s recorders can be customized with the number of video channels, number of hard drives, analytics, and more.

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ACCESS CONTROL

Optiview specializes in keeping your buildings and sites safe and secure. Efficiently manage your security from almost any location and integrate with other technology all through a single platform. Integration with Optiview’s VMS enables even more advanced security features.

EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN

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Perceived differences in lower resolution cameras

It’s useful to know that the human eye is more sensitive to horizontal resolution than vertical resolution. So for example, to the human eye, there is not much perceived difference between 2CIF and 4CIF. The other issue to know about the human eye has to do with frame rate. The human eye can perceive about 15 separate visual images per second (frame rate). So any frame rate higher than 15 frames per second (fps) is perceived as smooth motion. In CCTV the maximum frame rate available per device is typically 30fps and that is considered ‘real time’. But anything over 15 fps is going to look pretty good. Some devices will list different resolutions at different frame rates. So for example, an IP camera might document its resolution as “3MP at 20fps” or “2MP at 30fps”. We would recommend using the “3MP at 20fps” setting in this case.

The Difference in HD vs SD

In a CCTV application you will have many cameras with different resolutions but usually only one recording device. So make sure that the recording equipment you choose has at least the resolution capability of your highest resolution camera. Also, make sure it has enough hard drive space to record all of your cameras for a reasonable period of time given your application. Image resolution is most crucial when something happens and you need to playback that video. If you need to zoom in on a piece of video, the quality of that zoomed in image depends on the recorded resolution. So configure each channel of the DVR separately to record at the highest resolution that matches the camera.

Are Smaller Resolution Standards Worth It?

One question you may ask yourself is whether the smaller resolution standards are even worth mentioning given today’s megapixel capabilities. But QCIF and CIF are still relevant when considering mobile devices. Images on a phone are usually displayed at QCIF for example. Just to be clear, the image may be captured and stored at megapixel resolution but transmitted by the recorder and displayed at QCIF on the mobile device.