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:

1 report cite this report:

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

Related Reports on Bandwidth

Last Chance February 2018 Camera Course on Feb 15, 2018
This is the last chance to get into the Winter camera course, starts next Tuesday. Register now. IPVM provides the best education, live online...
Hanwha Wave VMS Tested on Jan 22, 2018
Hanwha has released their first open platform VMS, Wisenet Wave, an Network Optix OEM (see test results) enhanced with integrations and...
VSaaS Usage Statistics 2018 on Jan 18, 2018
VSaaS has been a 'next big thing' for more than a decade. The prospect of managing, storing and streaming video from the cloud rather than...
Multicasting Surveillance Tutorial on Jan 04, 2018
Network bandwidth can be a concern for some surveillance systems. While improvements in video codecs, such as smart codecs for H.264 and H.265,...
2018 IP Networking Book Released on Jan 03, 2018
The new IP Networking Book 2018 is a 228-page in-depth guide that teaches you how IT and telecom technologies impact modern security...
QoS for Video Surveillance on Dec 29, 2017
Along with VLANs, QoS is one of the most misunderstood topics in IP surveillance networks. Many purported "experts" claim it is required in any...
Hikvision NVR Load Testing on Dec 14, 2017
IPVM members recently debated Hikvision NVR's performance under load in Hikvision 30+ Cameras On NVR - Apps And Client Really Slow Down And CPU...
D-Link ONVIF Switch Tested on Dec 04, 2017
D-Link's surveillance switches claim to "enhance ease of use and streamline management" for network administrators, with simplified UIs and...
IP Camera Manufacturer Compression Comparison on Nov 27, 2017
Despite the use of standards-based video compression (H.264/H.265), our tests show that default image quality settings for different manufacturers...
Camera Multi-Streaming Usage on Nov 22, 2017
IP cameras typically support multiple streams, allowing a single camera to transmit multiple streams at different resolutions, frame rates and even...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Visio For Video Surveillance Design on Feb 20, 2018
Many integrators have standardized on AutoCAD for camera layouts but new users may be overwhelmed by its learning curve. Microsoft's Visio...
Health Care Insurance Integrator Benefits Statistics on Feb 20, 2018
How common and how much healthcare coverage is typically provided by security companies? 150+ integrators explained how their companies provide the...
Hikvision Deletes Genetec Support on Feb 20, 2018
There will be no peace between Hikvision and Genetec. A year after Genetec expelled Hikvision (and Huawei, citing Chinese government control...
Change Orders - Sometimes Necessary, Sometimes Unethical on Feb 19, 2018
Change orders are a common element in project sales. Sometimes they are a necessity and appropriate ways to deal with arising issues, but sometimes...
Bosch Merges Video, Intrusion and Access Businesses on Feb 19, 2018
Bosch is merging their "video systems, intrusion detection, as well as its access control and management software business units to form a single...
Why 3VR Failed on Feb 16, 2018
3VR destroyed transformed ~$65 million in VC funding into a $6.9 million exit. The reason they failed is simple. They bet on analytics. They...
"Fear Mongering": Hikvision USA Cybersecurity Director Dismisses Chinese Government Ownership Concerns on Feb 16, 2018
The facts are: The Chinese government created Hikvision and is Hikvision's controlling shareholder. Hikvision's Chairman, a Communist Party...
16:9 vs 4:3 Video Aspect Ratio Statistics on Feb 16, 2018
What aspect ratio do security integrators prefer? The 'standard' 4:3 or the 'wide' 16:9 one? 100+ integrators told us what they preferred, with...
Mercury Releases New Series 3 Redboard Access Panels on Feb 15, 2018
Mercury Security has their first major product release post-HID buyout, and things literally look different. The Series 3 SIO boards now are red...
Last Chance February 2018 Camera Course on Feb 15, 2018
This is the last chance to get into the Winter camera course, starts next Tuesday. Register now. IPVM provides the best education, live online...

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