Security Camera Resolutions Explained

Different Security Camera Resolutions and Which is Right for You

Welcome to the 2020s—it’s finally time to pull the trigger and get a home security camera.

Now what?

There are a baffling number of cameras and resolutions available on the consumer market, but the math behind figuring out what you want in a security camera is surprisingly easy.

There are two basic categories of security cameras—IP and analog. The term IP is short for internet protocol. And IP security cameras measure resolution by the number of pixels in an image. The higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution.

IP Security Cameras

IP security cameras typically come in one of four standard resolutions: 2MP, 4MP, 5MP, and 4K (sometimes called 8MP). To calculate the number of pixels, simply multiply the width of the image by the height of the image.

A 2MP camera produces images that are 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall, equaling 2,073,600 pixels per image.

The move up from one standard size to the next roughly doubles the resolution compared to the previous size:

  • 4MP: 2560x1440 = 3,686,400 pixels

  • 5MP: 2560x1920 = 5,017,600 pixels

  • 4K: 3840x2160 = 8,294,400 pixels

Analog Security Cameras

Analog cameras measure a little bit differently, using the number of horizontal and vertical television lines (TVL) displayed in an image as compared to pixels. Analog video technology derived from the television industry, where the standard resolution for a traditional security camera is known as D1 and equates to an image of 704 x 480 pixels.
Technology eventually advanced to the point where analog high definition (AHD) applied to these cameras, allowing them to produce 720- and 1080-pixel high-resolution videos.
Like their IP brothers, analog security cameras also typically come in four standard sizes. In addition to D1, the other analog sizes include:

  • 960: 960x480

  • 720p AHD: 1280x720

  • 1080p AHD: 1920x1080

Which is the complicated way to say: The highest resolution analog camera is equal to the lower end of the IP spectrum.

Determining Which Camera Resolution is Right For You

Eventually, the question each consumer needs to ask is how much video picture detail is necessary? The more you want to see, the higher the resolution you want your camera to be.
For example, if the camera is used by a parent simply trying to keep an eye on the kids playing in the back yard, a D1, 960, or 720p AHD analog camera will probably do the trick.
If the user wants to read the name tag on the delivery guy standing on their front porch, a 1080p AHD analog or 2MP IP camera ought to handle the job nicely.

If the owner hopes the camera will catch the license plate of the sketchy looking van down the street that just dropped off four guys in ski masks, he’ll want something in the 5MP or 4K range.

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