Eye on Video: Megapixel technology and adoption

Seeing the difference: When and how to use megapixel surveillance


Megapixel technology has realized significant improvements over the years so much so that it is now one of the dominant forces behind buying decisions of many digital devices. Think about it. Snapshot digital cameras purchasing decisions - both by professional and amateur photographers - are driven largely by how many megapixels a camera offers. Buying a better camera for many consumers means buying one with more megapixels.

The same is true for cell phones. Megapixel technology has influenced the development of cell phones, which has profoundly changed social behavior. Thanks to advances in megapixel technology, cell phones are increasingly being used as viewing devices, taking on more important roles in crime prevention, journalism, business applications and for personal use. The crisp images shared today are a far cry from the fuzzy, unreadable images which cell phones captured just a few, short years ago.

Network cameras are also seeing and experiencing the megapixel revolution, a major benefit that cannot be achieved by their analog counterparts. Network cameras are today estimated to be around 10 percent of the video surveillance market and are growing very quickly at a pace of +40 percent a year. Megapixel is one of the technologies further accelerating this growth.

See What You Have Been Missing

Megapixel technology provides higher resolution, which enables organizations with security installations to see more detail. In fact, megapixel cameras offer several times better resolution than analog cameras. Why does this matter? Organizations will have a much easier time identifying people and objects, making their security system more effective (see Image 1, at right).

Megapixel network cameras can also cover larger scenes than non-megapixel network cameras at a given number of pixels per area. For example, one 2.0 megapixel network camera will cover an even larger area than four non-megapixel network cameras combined without loss of image resolution. The result equals better coverage, less cameras and cost savings.

Another benefit to megapixel technology is that it helps define objects when viewed in different aspect ratios. In a conventional TV monitor, for instance, an aspect ratio of 4:3 is provided. Network video can offer the same ratio, in addition to others, such as 16:9. The advantage of a 16:9 aspect ratio is that unimportant details usually located in the upper and lower part of a conventional-sized image are not present and do not take up bandwidth and storage space (see Image 2, at right).

When to Use Megapixel Cameras

Megapixel cameras are a great compliment to non-megapixel cameras optimized for other needs such as powerful optical zoom, extreme light sensitivity or low cost. Together, these cameras provide a lot of punch behind a complete, reliable and cost-effective security system.

When designing a system, an IT or security manager must decide where he/she needs cameras and what cameras work best in a particular setting. After all, some cameras are more suitable for certain environments than others. One consideration that should be made is about what needs to be seen. Does a security manager require a general overview of an area or does he/she need to be able to identify a person or an object within a scene? The answers to these types of questions will help determine what kind of camera is most appropriate for the installation.

If a general overview is the goal, cameras should be installed to watch people and their movements, not necessarily the identification of individuals. Cameras may also be used to assess whether a parking lot is full or has empty spaces, not necessarily to identify cars and/or license plates. In this scenario, sufficient resolution and coverage may be adequately achieved by using a single megapixel network camera or multiple non-megapixel network cameras.

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