Arecont 20MP Camera Examined

By John Honovich, Published Apr 05, 2011, 08:00pm EDT

Arecont Vision has announced a 20MP camera. This would be the highest resolution production surveillance camera in the world. While there are some interesting capabilities, a number of important limitations should be kept in mind.

UPDATE: We know have full test results of the Arecont 20MP camera.

This 20MP camera will be a combination of 4 imagers in a single housing. Each imager will be 5MP providing a total of 20MP (4 x 5MP). This is the same architecture and format for their existing 8MP camera lineup, called the SurroundVideo series (contrast to our overview of the 8MP D/N series announced at ASIS 2010 [link no longer available]). Instead of using 2MP imagers, Arecont Vision will use 5MP ones.

Arecont is marketing this as replacing 65 conventional cameras. On the one hand, this uses basic pixel math common by manufacturers (e.g., a single 4CIF camera provides ~300,000 pixels, about 65 of them would be needed to match the 20MP of the Arecont). On the other hand, it is dangerously misleading, especially since lighting variances (like bright light and low light) often dramatically decrease the usefulness of the extra pixels. We've tested and examined this extensively - most recently in our recommendations for specifying surveillance image quality [link no longer available].

At night, the 20MP camera will essentially become a 5MP camera. Arecont will provide a binning mode of 1.25 MP per imager (1.25MP x 4 imagers = 5MP). Binning 'bins' multiple pixels together and treats a group of pixels like a single pixel. The upside is that the binned pixels capture more light. The downside is that there are effectively less pixels. This will help reduce some of the common problems of megapixel cameras being very dark at night (see our Analog vs MP camera test results [link no longer available] as an example). Users should make sure this works appropriately as Arecont claims this for their 10MP camera but it did not work in our 10MP test [link no longer available].

Finally, we anticipate that the effective image improvement of the new 20MP over the existing 8MP cameras will be modest. We base this on our comparative testing of many 2MP and 5MP cameras. While there is some visible improvements over wider FoVs, it is marginal and tends to dissapear under challenging lighting conditions. Despite this, the higher resolution will certainly consume significant more bandwidth and storage.

While the resolution is up 250%, we do not think this camera is anywhere near that much better than the existing 8MP camera. That said, we do find this line to be attractive in general as it provides 360 degree viewing without needing a special SDK to integrate with VMS systems. With Arecont's SurroundVideo cameras, VMS systems simply display them as 4 separate video feeds making integration simple. Only Avigilon has a similar product and Avigilon's version is JPEG200 only and can only be used with Avigilon's VMS. For more on panoramic / 360 options, see our Criteria for Selecting 360 / Panoramic Cameras.

UPDATE: In a customer update webinar on September 14th, Arecont released pricing for this series. The MSRP of the AV20XX5DN is $2,898, $500 more than the AV8XX5DN 8MP version. In this webinar, they once again repeated their claims of these cameras being "PTZ killers", and replacing up to 64 analog or VGA cameras and 16 1.3MP cameras. We find these claims to be ridiculous, as reviewed in our update debunking their claims.

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