Is H.264 Lower Quality?

Author: Sarit Williams, Published on Nov 14, 2013

Is H.264 lower quality? Even Avigilon now says no, but many still argue yes.

One of These Images is H.264, the Other MJPEG

Take a look at these two images, one of them uses H.264, the other uses MJPEG:

So, which one is which?

How The Images Were Generated

Both images are from the same camera set to the same bitrate / bandwidth (1 Mb/s). Image A was captured with the CODEC set to MJPEG, while Image B was captured when set to H.264. They are both cropped from a 720p shot of a conference room wall.

Why Do They Look So Different?

The key issue is that we fixed the bandwidth. When bandwidth is locked, the compression level of any CODEC needs to adjust (this is the basis of CBR). When bandwidth is low like we did here, the compression levels must go higher (i.e., quality goes down).

Why is H.264 Better Quality Here?

Many assume that H.264 compression is higher and that MJPEG delivers either uncompressed or low compressed video. This is not the case. All CODECS compress video.

The key difference is how 'smart' the CODECs are in compressing. MJPEG only compresses individual frames (intra-frame compression) while H.264 compresses across frames (inter-frame compression) as well. Becuase H.264 can compress across multiple frames and find what stays the same over time, it can more intelligently reduce bitrate without impacting quality. This is why MJPEG's quality is so much worse in this example.

Background References

IPVM has a wealth of training and tests of video quality and CODECs, including:

Comments (34): PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on Bandwidth

Dahua Discontinuing H.264 Only Products on Dec 08, 2016
Dahua has taken a stand for H.265 and is discontinuing its H.264 only products. We examine the shakeup inside this...
IP Networking Course January 2017 on Dec 08, 2016
This is the only networking course designed specifically for video surveillance professionals plus it includes live training, personal help and...
CODEC Guide 2016 on Nov 30, 2016
CODECs are core to surveillance, with names like H.264, H.265, and MJPEG commonly cited. How do they work? Why should you use them? What issues may...
Longse vs Dahua and Hikvision Tested on Nov 16, 2016
For many, even $100 cameras are too expensive. That is where spam king Longse comes in with their relentless offer of ~$20 cameras. In our past...
Major Manufacturers Dropping MJPEG on Nov 04, 2016
MJPEG has hung on for years, still in use in some systems despite H.264's dominance for the better part of the past decade. However, now some...
Sony 35mm Super Low Light Camera Tested on Oct 31, 2016
Sony is making a big push for their SNCVB770 camera, touting its low light capabilities that they claim can deliver true color in pitch black...
60% Lower Bandwidth, 'Video Anywhere' - Digital Barriers TVI / EdgeVis on Oct 28, 2016
Streaming video over low bandwidth, wireless connections often results in stalled video, broken up video or significant video delays. But Digital...
Mobile VMS Top Integrator Problems on Oct 24, 2016
In an IPVM survey, integrators report 4 problems most consistently with using mobile VMS applications: Network setup / cybersecurity...
Sony and Samsung Breaking VBR on Oct 21, 2016
For years, users have known variable bitrate (VBR) as one thing only: bandwidth varies, compression stays the same. This is not an accident but an...
4 Biggest Low Light Problems on Oct 10, 2016
100 integrators told IPVM what their biggest problems were with low light images. The most commonly cited themes were: Limited IR Range Uneven...

Most Recent Industry Reports

The Russian SMP Security Robot on Dec 08, 2016
A Russian manufacturer, SMP, has a commercially available outdoor security robot, at a lower price and with much less marketing than their main...
How Hikvision Beats Its OEMs on Dec 08, 2016
Hikvision GM declared that they are not aggressive with their competitors. But some of their own OEM partners disagree. Inside, we reveal a key...
Dahua Discontinuing H.264 Only Products on Dec 08, 2016
Dahua has taken a stand for H.265 and is discontinuing its H.264 only products. We examine the shakeup inside this...
Last Day Save $50 IP Networking Course January 2017 on Dec 08, 2016
Today is the last day to save $50 on next month's IP networking course. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video...
Hikvision vs Dahua Mobile Apps Tested on Dec 07, 2016
With smartphone use and low-cost video recorders surging, many user's main interface to their surveillance system is their phone. With mobile video...
Paxton Drops US Reps, Plans Major Expansion on Dec 07, 2016
Paxton is gearing up to make a big run at  US access control success. The first step they have made is to cut all US Rep Firms, in anticipation of...
Axis Partner Elder Care Video Analytics (Smartervision) on Dec 07, 2016
Can video analytics be used to improve the care of the elderly? Axis and a video analytics startup, Smartervision, are working together to do so....
Sony IP Camera Backdoor Uncovered on Dec 06, 2016
A backdoor has been uncovered in ~80 Sony IP camera models, attackers can remotely enable telnet on the camera, and then potentially login as root,...
Power Drill Selection Guide on Dec 06, 2016
Boring holes is a basic part of running cables for most security system projects. To do so, you will need to choose the right drills for various...
Milestone Favorability Results on Dec 06, 2016
In our second installment of manufacturer favorability results (first was Pelco), we turn to Milestone. 100+ integrators rated and explained what...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact