Dispelling more megapixel myths

Three new myths bite the dust

Some companies’ second attempt to baffle you is to imply that HD (high definition) and megapixel are different — they are not. Megapixel means “million pixels” and a camera either has a million or it does not. It is pretty easy to determine. HD is a term used to describe anything that is higher than standard (D1) resolution (this fact verified by that unimpeachable source, Wikipedia) and is now typically associated with a widescreen format like 16 x 9, but does not have to be.

What are we driving at? An HD camera is not necessarily a megapixel camera, but a megapixel camera is always an HD camera. The easiest example to demonstrate this point is to look at an HD720P camera — is it megapixel? Let’s do the math. HD720P is 1280 x 720, or 921,600 pixels, which is not quite a million pixels, so technically this HD camera is not megapixel, although it is pretty close. On the other hand, the lowest megapixel resolution camera will always be higher than D1 and is therefore always HD. Megapixel was HD long before all the recent marketing trying to tell us HD is something new and wonderful.

Megapixel Myth #3: Interlaced is Not Very Progressive

The last Megapixel Myth to be beware of is the manufacturer that leaves off important details like what type of imager they are using. If someone talks about an HD1080 camera, they are only giving you half the story, is it HD1080p or HD1080i? The “p” stands for progressive scan, which delivers much higher quality video, especially when there is motion. HD1080i cameras, on the other hand, are “interlaced” cameras that stitch two low-resolution images together to make a high-resolution picture, which often results in poor image quality when there is scene motion. It is interesting to note that one network camera manufacturer that was previously quite outspoken on the limitations of HD/megapixel and the poor image quality of interlaced video, recently introduced an HD1080i camera that is megapixel and uses interlaced technology. I wonder what changed? What has not changed is that progressive scan is still superior to interlaced.

In the end, if you are in the market for an HD/megapixel camera, the best thing you can do is try before you buy. Take a look at the manufacturing quality and design elements. Are you looking for an inexpensive, plastic consumer-grade product designed with off-the-shelf housings/boxes so it is as cheap as possible, or do you want an industrial, rugged package that reflects the manufacturer’s investment in quality and durability?

When considering features, are you jumping on the bandwagon of the latest marketing hype or are the features those you really care about and will use? There are most definitely market-valuable features — like analog out — that save time and money on installations and enable you to integrate directly with public-view monitors and legacy CCTV systems. Or, there is On-camera storage that allows cameras to act as fail-over recording devices if there are problems with the network so you do not lose any video.

The important thing to keep in mind here is not to miss the forest through the marketing-hype trees. By trying before you buy you are evaluating and “feeling” the design, construction and features the camera offers against what you actually want for your application.

So, the truth about megapixel? It is here to stay, and if you choose a quality company, megapixel offers a lower total cost of ownership for most installations while providing end-users with image quality and performance that meet and very often exceed their expectations.

Paul Bodell, IQinVisionThis article is a follow-up to Paul Bodell’s popular three-article series, "The Truth about Megapixel," which appeared exclusively on SecurityInfoWatch.com and is available by searching the site archives. Mr. Bodell is Chief Marketing Officer for IQinVision.