I am frequently asked by our customers, staff and reseller partners: “Which technology is driving advanced video surveillance solutions?” If you had asked me this question a year ago, I would have most likely replied, “It’s IP networked systems, of course,” but that answer needs to be footnoted these days, as it is not the network itself that’s changing the landscape of video surveillance — it is the IP devices that we are hanging on these networks. Among the most notable and influential of these are megapixel cameras.
A few years ago, megapixel cameras were widely considered niche products for specialized applications — as they were bandwidth-hungry devices that typically required dedicated networks and lots of server space for storage. The adoption of H.264 compression truly changed users’ perceptions of megapixel cameras; in fact, H.264 compression is up to ten times more efficient than motion JPEG when calculating bandwidth and storage requirements, which makes megapixel cameras a highly efficient means of capturing high resolution images.
Further exploiting the bandwidth efficiency of H.264 compression, Samsung’s engineering team has developed a new algorithm that keeps bandwidth at 2.5MB on a 2 megapixel camera, where many 2 megapixel cameras typically demand as much as 8MB of bandwidth. But even with such quantum leaps in bandwidth efficiency and overall imaging performance, the education process to convince resellers and end-users on the benefits of megapixel imaging has taken some time to change old perceptions.
Fortunately, the industry has turned that corner as megapixel cameras continue to deliver proof of performance for numerous applications around the globe.
More Features, Shapes and Sizes
In addition to megapixel cameras becoming much more network friendly, they have also benefitted from numerous feature enhancements in recent years. Megapixel cameras are now available in many different form factors for various uses within a video surveillance system, making them more practical for mainstream applications vs. conventional IP cameras.
From a feature standpoint, megapixel cameras are now available with a host of features that not only enhance their performance, but also deliver more functionality. Notable features now available in megapixel cameras include:
- Super Dynamic Range (SDR) to capture usable images even in scenes with highly contrasted lighting;
- Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) to ensure high quality image reproduction even in low light and/or difficult conditions;
- Dual H.264 and MJPEG compression to simultaneously view live and recorded images; and
- Digital pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) operation, which provides the ability to view specific details within a scene without the use of any moving parts in the cameras.
And then there are a whole complement of features like day/night operation, tamper detection, privacy masking, on-board recording with SD cards and alarm triggers for motion detection or network disconnect. Just like traditional analog and IP cameras, megapixel cameras are now available with different feature sets that make them better suited for specific uses within a system.
Additionally, the number of form factors for megapixel cameras have literally exploded over the past few years. They are available in every shape and size imaginable, including box style cameras, bullet cameras, dome cameras, vandal-resistant cameras and panoramic cameras — with new single sensor panoramic cameras being the current rage. These compact and cost-efficient devices provide the unique ability to replace multiple conventional cameras, which can add up to significant savings.
Unlike conventional fish-eye lens cameras that can distort images to the point they are not usable, the wide area coverage provided by new single sensor panoramic cameras can display highly usable images in a variety of viewing modes including single panorama (one 360° image), double panorama (two 180° images), quad (four 90° images), or a single rectangle (one 180° image). Users can also select specific regions within each of these configurations for close-up viewing. More impressive is that these single sensor megapixel cameras deliver HD quality while streaming video at 20fs.