SD is the New VHS Tape

Author: John Honovich, Published on Mar 03, 2011

The rise of megapixel cameras is literally making Standard Definition cameras look bad. We see this having a significant psychological, marketing and business impact.

In the middle of the last decade when digital 4CIF recording (SD) became common, people started to bemoan the poor quality of tapes or VHS. It was a visual and glaringly obvious defiency - one that was not as noticeable or impactful until digitial 4CIF recording became commplace. This made it a lot easier to sell or motivate people to choose the newer, higher resolution.

We see this same pattern now emerging between SD and megapixel cameras. A few years ago, when megapixel cameras were rare, this was not as significant issue. You might see a megapixel camera at a trade show booth but you would not offen have easy access to the cameras. Now, megapixel cameras are available literally everywhere.

We are finding this phenomeon in our own tests. Our sensitivity and expecations have shifted as we have used and seen so many megapixel cameras. Indeed, now, when an SD camera is turned on, an immediate sense of dissapointment is common, regardless of how good the overall 'quality' of the camera is. This was most evident in our recent WDR comparison where the high quality SD cameras visually were strikingly outclassed by the megapixel ones.

Because the reference point has improved, it is a lot easier to think of SD cameras as antiquated and inferior.

Of course, while resolution is a critical consideration for selecting cameras, it is not the only one. Many will still prefer SD for less bandwidth/storage consumption, greater light sensitivity, higher frame rates (maybe), etc. However, the overarching feeling will become that SD is for those who want something cheaper but fundamentally inferior.

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