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This is one area of security camera recorders that a lot of suppliers mislead their customers. If you read on you will hopefully understand how and why, but most importantly what to look out for to avoid making a costly mistake!
The resolution refers to the number of pixels that make up a recorded image. Whether it’s a photograph from your cell phone or a movie from a Blu-Ray, every image has a resolution and security systems are no different. As explained in the Orange Security Golden Rule, the more pixels that hit your target, the greater the chances of a conviction.
Pixels are measured by 2 numbers. These 2 numbers represent the number of pixels in the horizontal direction x the number of pixels in the vertical direction.
In the old days of security cameras the standard resolution was called CIF. This was 352 x 240 pixels (84,480 in total).
A very unloved resolution was then released called 2CIF. This was 704 x 240 pixels (168,960 in total). This actually resulted in most images looking stretched into really wide images.
Things then moved on to D1 which was 720 x 480 pixels (345,600 in total). There was a very similar resolution called 4CIF which was 704 x 480 pixels (337,920 in total). D1/4CIF are often used interchangeably. This was the most popular resolution for security camera systems for quite a while and is still in use today in many systems around the world.
Things progressed ever so slightly and 960H was released at 960 x 480 pixels (460,800 in total). You’ll notice the number of vertical pixels is the same at 480, there are just more pixels in the horizontal direction. 960H is the same resolution as D1 but just in ‘widescreen’ aspect ratio and again, wasn’t really adopted by too many people as high definition resolutions were quickly approaching.
After that, some high definition resolutions were introduced to the security camera industry.
The first was called 720p which is 1280 x 720 pixels (921,600 in total)
Shortly followed by 1080p which is 1920 x 1080 pixels (2,073,600 in total). The resolution of this is also referred to as 2 Megapixels or 2MP.
There are many resolutions higher than 1080p and our article Beyond 1080p explains the benefits and disadvantages of higher resolutions.
Check out our Resolution Comparison Images page to see this effect in action.
So, looking at the above information you would be forgiven for thinking the choice was now easy – just go out and buy a 1080p recorder. What could possibly go wrong?
If only it was that simple! Most people won’t tell you this, but each recorder actually has 2 different resolutions. One is important and the other is a total waste of your time. The important resolution is called the recording resolution. This is the resolution the footage is actually recorded in and stored on the hard drive. If you need to get a conviction from your footage after something bad has happened, this is what you will see on playback and this is the resolution that you need to worry about.
The other resolution is the live resolution. This is the resolution that comes out of the recorder to your television or security system monitor. This can be misleading as the picture shown on your monitor can look lovely, however this can be a much higher resolution than that being recorded on the hard drive. If this is the case, when reviewing footage, the recorded footage will be disappointing in quality.
Obviously if a business is selling a cheap product for an unreasonably high price, it’s very tempting for them to gloss-over this difference and advertise the live resolution figure as the only resolution figure. Be careful.
And if that wasn’t hard enough, some products muddy these waters even further – you need to make sure that the recorder can not only record at your chosen resolution (1080p is our recommendation) but that the recorder can record that resolution on all camera input channels all of the time. Very often a recorder will actually only record at the high resolution on some of the camera input channels. For example, if the recorder can take up to 4 camera inputs then you may find only 1 can be recorded at the higher resolution. If it can take up to 8 camera inputs then you may find only 2 can be recorded at the higher resolution. If it can take up to 16 camera inputs then you may find only 3 can be recorded at the higher resolution. Not a good situation to find yourself in!
Not at Orange Security – all of our security camera recorders will record at full 1080p resolution, across all camera channels, all of the time.