Do Megapixel Cameras Provide Better Image Quality?

By: John Honovich, Published on May 19, 2009

Pixels get all the attention but image details are what is really important to video surveillance users. The more image details, the more cases that can be solved and the fewer cameras that need to be deployed to obtain that evidence.

More pixels do not guarantee more image details. And megapixel does not ensure mega details.

This is obvious when cameras have either no light (e.g., night-time darkness) or too much light (e.g., looking at the sun). In those situations, it's hard to get any image, much less an extremely detailed one.

As I conduct megapixel camera tests, it is becoming increaseingly clear that pixel count cannot be accepted as is. It's better to think of the pixel count as the pixel potential or the maximum image detail that a megapixel camera can provide. However, some cameras and many common scenarios will provide significantly lower image detail than expected by the stated pixel count.

In the 7 minute screencast below, I review my findings and demonstrate the process I used to make these comparisons. This should help you replicate the process with the actual sample images provided in the premium section.

Why This is Important

If megapixel cameras deliver less image detail than their stated resolution, this creates 2 types of risk:

  • Systems may have security flaws as they are designed to a theoretical pixel level that is not met in practice, making it likely that critical evidence is not captured.
  • Or systems will waste significant amounts of bandwidth. For example, if the effective image detail is the same at 800 x 600 as it is as 1600 x 1200, then users are needlessly doubling their bandwidth for no added value.

Sample Image Comparison

All the images in this test have been aggregated into a zip folder for download: Megapixel Resolution Comparison Sample Images. This folder contains images from 2 manufacturers in 3 different scenarios at 3 different resolution levels each.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Note: This report is to examine the general concept. As such, I did not disclose the specific manufacturers. As further feedback and testing is done, I will provide more details and results on specific manufacturers.

Lessons Learned

A few recommendations:

  • Be careful about accepting stated resolutions for megapixel even for use in 'normal' lighting conditions. The actual image detail provided may vary significantly.
  • For megapixel cameras you are already using, you may be able to lower the set resolution, save bandwidth/storage and not give up any image details/forensic capability.

As I go forward, a key focus for me becomes assessing and comparing the true image quality/details that megapixel cameras provide. Please share your thoughts and recommendations.

2 reports cite this report:

Vivotek's 5 MP Camera Line Reviewed on May 21, 2012
Vivotek is the latest 'big name' to jump into the 5MP product market. While...
How Do You Solve the Problem of Bad Surveillance Video? on Jun 30, 2009
One of the most frequent complaints by both industry outsiders and megapixel...

Related Reports

AI/Smart Camera Tutorial on Feb 20, 2020
Cameras with video analytics, sometimes called 'Smart' camera or 'AI'...
Video Analytics 101 on Mar 16, 2020
This guide teaches the fundamentals of video surveillance...
Integrated IR Camera Shootout 2020 - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Uniview, Vivotek on Jan 30, 2020
The best and worst cameras tested in this IPVM shootout showed major...
Cheap Camera Problems at Night on Feb 19, 2020
Cheap cameras generally have problems at night, despite the common perception...
Fever Camera Sales From Integrators Surveyed on Jun 01, 2020
Fever cameras are the hottest trend in video surveillance currently but how...
Vivotek LPR Camera Tested on Apr 15, 2020
Vivotek has historically sold license plate capture cameras but not LPR. Now,...
Masks Cause Major Facial Recognition Problems on Feb 24, 2020
Coronavirus is spurring an increase in the use of medical masks, which new...
Video Surveillance Cameras 101 on Feb 25, 2020
Cameras come in many shapes, sizes and specifications. This 101 examines the...
IR Surveillance Camera Guide on Feb 06, 2020
Integrated infrared (IR) cameras are everywhere in 2020, but not all IR is...
Facial Recognition: Weak Sales, Anti Regulation, No Favorite, Says Security Integrators on Jul 07, 2020
While facial recognition has gained greater prominence, a new IPVM study of...
Injes Tiny Temperature Terminal Tested on Jul 17, 2020
While temperature terminals have trended bigger, the Injes DFace801 is...
New Axis M30 Cameras Tested on Mar 26, 2020
Axis has released a new generation of, for them, relatively low cost M30...
Smartphone Thermal Camera Body Temperature Measurement Tested (FLIR / Seek) on Apr 10, 2020
Thermal cameras have exploded in popularity due to coronavirus, but can...
Dynamic vs Static IP Addresses Tutorial on Apr 16, 2020
While many cameras default to DHCP out of the box, that does not mean you...
The US Fight Over Facial Recognition Explained on Jul 08, 2020
The controversy around facial recognition has grown significantly in 2020,...

Recent Reports

VSaaS Will Hurt Integrators on Aug 06, 2020
VSaaS will hurt integrators, there is no question about that. How much...
Dogs For Coronavirus Screening Examined on Aug 06, 2020
While thermal temperature screening is the surveillance industry's most...
ADT Slides Back, Disappointing Results, Poor Commercial Performance on Aug 06, 2020
While ADT had an incredible start to the week, driven by the Google...
AHJ / Authority Having Jurisdiction Tutorial on Aug 06, 2020
One of the most powerful yet often underappreciated characters in all of the...
SIA Coaches Sellers on NDAA 889B Blacklist Workarounds on Aug 05, 2020
Last month SIA demanded that NDAA 899B "must be delayed". Now that they have...
ADI Returns To Growth, Back To 'Pre-COVID Levels' on Aug 05, 2020
While ADI was hit hard in April, with revenue declining 21%, the company's...
Exposing Fever Tablet Suppliers and 40+ Relabelers on Aug 05, 2020
IPVM has found 40+ USA and EU companies relabeling fever tablets designed,...
Indian Government Restricts PRC Manufacturers From Public Projects on Aug 04, 2020
In a move that mirrors the U.S. government’s ban on Dahua and Hikvision...
Directory of 201 "Fever" Camera Suppliers on Aug 04, 2020
This directory provides a list of "Fever" scanning thermal camera providers...
Face Masks Increase Face Recognition Errors Says NIST on Aug 04, 2020
COVID-19 has led to widespread facemask use, which as IPVM testing has shown...
Dahua Loses Australian Medical Device Approval on Aug 04, 2020
Dahua has cancelled its medical device registration after "discussions" with...
Google Invests in ADT, ADT Stock Soars on Aug 03, 2020
Google has announced a $450 million investment in the Florida-based security...
US Startup Fever Inspect Examined on Aug 03, 2020
Undoubtedly late to fever cameras, this US company, Fever Inspect, led by a...
Motorola Solutions Acquires Pelco on Aug 03, 2020
Motorola Solutions has acquired Pelco, pledging to bring blue back and make...
False: Verkada: "If You Want To Remote View Your Cameras You Need To Punch Holes In Your Firewall" on Jul 31, 2020
Verkada falsely declared to “3,000+ customers”, “300 school districts”, and...