Megapixel Camera Comparison 2010

Author: John Honovich, Published on Feb 22, 2010

Megapixel cameras are clearly 'hot' - the fastest growing segment in the industry for multiple years now. Which should you use? What makes one megapixel camera better than another? In this groundbreaking comparison report, we provide novel insights into these issues. We leverage over 500 hours or original testing of over 10 leading megapixel cameras (see our directory of megapixel camera tests for details).

Key Questions To Consider

As we completed and compared our test results, a number of key questions arose:

  • Do More Pixels Always Provide More Value?
  • Are Tricks Confusing Low Light Performance?
  • How Much Savings Does H.264 Really Offer?
  • What Impact Does Lighting Variances Have?
  • How Important is Camera Focusing Features?
  • What Can I Really do with On-Board Storage?

While cost, VMS support and frame rate impact all IP cameras, we found these questions above to be the key differentiators among the megapixel cameras tested.

Areas Reviewed

Inside our comparison and across our almost 1 hour of video screencast, we examined the following key area to demonstrate key issues and differentiators amongst cameras:

  • Pixel Count / Resolution
  • Low Lite Video quality
  • Daytime Video quality
  • WDR Video quality
  • Bandwidth Consumption
  • Camera Tuning / Focusing
  • 3rd Party VMS Support
  • SD Card Support
  • Pricing
More on Megapixel
This report is for advanced users who are familiar with IP and megapixel cameras. It presumes an understanding of the basics and rationale for using these cameras. For those looking for background, review our 2009 Megapixel Camera Report and How to Win Deals with Megapixel Cameras report.
More Comparison Reports
Comparison reports are one of the most popular premium features. We recently released a Video Surveillance as a Service Comparison covering the 'hot' emerging field of managed/hosted video. Additionally, in April, we shall release a comparison report for Video Management Software.

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  • Beware ** ********* ****** ***********: We see clear visual advantages moving from SD to 720p or 1.3MP resolution. However, moving from 1.3MP to 2MP or higher has questionable benefits. Two key reasons: (1) optics shipped 'standard' with megapixel cameras are often insufficient for higher resolution megapixel cameras; (2) low light scenes will eliminate the benefits of megapixel cameras as visible resolution degrades substantially
  • Carefully ********* ******** ******** *** *** *****: The biggest differences we found in megapixel low light performance came from variances in the default exposure setting, rather than intrinsic superiority of cameras. Once exposure settings were normalized, performance was quite similar. The one feature that did provide enhanced low light performance was the use of a mechanical cut filter - common in most megapixel cameras.
  • Check *** *** *****: Performance in wide dynamic range scenes (where bright light and shadows exist in the same image) showed the broadest range of performance amongst the cameras tested. If you are using megapixel cameras in these scenes (common in surveillance of indoors with windows or outdoor areas), be careful about your choice of megapixel cameras. Cameras with WDR modes did perform better but exhibited poorer performance in low light scenes (when the WDR mode was enabled).
  • H.264 ** ******* *** *** **** **** *******: Many megapixel cameras provide H.264 encoding which is clearly more bit-rate efficient than MJPEG. However, the efficiency is not as great as marketing material claims. Furthermore, depending on the streaming mode (constant or variable bit rate), the overall bandwidth consumption and quality can vary substantially.
  • Determine ***** *** ********/****** ********: There are 4 major options provided by megapixel camera providers for focusing/tuning cameras. These options can impact the time to setup cameras and the risk that cameras go out of focus over time. However, more sophisticated tuning/focusing features result in significantly higher cost. This tradeoff needs to be considered.
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