If You Thought Megapixel Cameras Were More Expensive, Think Again

Take an updated look at the price of networking in the 21st century

There is a misconception in the security industry that megapixel cameras are more expensive than conventional cameras. Don’t believe it.

Megapixel cameras provide superior performance and imaging capabilities versus analog and standard-definition IP cameras. Megapixel cameras also are field-proven to deliver the most cost-effective video surveillance solutions. To understand real value, it’s important to focus not on the price of a single camera but on the overall system cost.

Analog and standard-definition IP cameras may be lowerpriced than megapixel cameras— on a per-camera basis—but these cameras are far more expensive if you evaluate system-wide costs. The truth is that analog and standard IP cameras provide a weak value proposition and a poor return on investment (ROI).

Purchasing Results, Not Cameras

When customers buy cameras, what they are really purchasing is the ability to view video that effectively achieves the goals of the application. They need video that provides facial identification, recognizes license plates and captures numbers off of shipping crates and/or images of activity in retail stores, bank branches, company or government facilities, border checkpoints, airports or ports. They are purchasing the capabilities, or the functionality, the cameras can provide. When you consider the price of analog or VGA cameras compared to their functionality, the picture changes dramatically. Megapixel cameras provide much more value for the price— bang for the buck, that is—than lowerresolution cameras.

Megapixel cameras do a better job of capturing more information than standard-resolution cameras, and that superior performance translates into ROI in multiple ways. If you consider the concept of pixels-per-meter (that a certain number of pixels are required to depict one meter of a scene for a specific application), it’s clear that more pixels equate to an ability to view larger areas. For example, where 10 standard-resolution cameras might have previously been required to cover a parking lot, the same application can now be served using three or four strategically positioned 3-megapixel cameras or even a single megapixel panoramic camera, depending on the application requirements.

Resolution per Dollar

A real value of megapixel cameras is the ability to provide more resolution per dollar than analog or VGA cameras. Using estimated pricing and numbers of pixels as a quantitative measure of resolution, it’s easy to demonstrate that megapixel cameras provide more resolution for the money.

The grid on page S18 illustrates the real cost-effectiveness of various camera resolutions. VGA or standard-definition cameras provide about 300,000 pixels per camera. Megapixel cameras provide 1.3 million to 10 million pixels per camera, or more.

The grid clearly shows that the most cost-effective solutions are multi-megapixel cameras. The VGA camera provides only 1,536 pixels per dollar. Compare that to 1080p cameras at 15,714 pixels/dollar and 10MP cameras at 15,385 pixels/dollar.

Understanding resolution-per-dollar makes it simple to evaluate which camera is—or what number of cameras are—appropriate for a given application. Based on pixels per meter, you know how many pixels you need to view a certain area. Resolution-per-dollar makes it clear which camera (or group of cameras) can provide that needed number of pixels most cost-effectively.

System Cost vs. Camera Cost

When crunching the numbers on a new system installation, it is helpful to have a broad view of overall system costs. The complete cost of the system is obviously a better measure than the price of a single component. The price of a single component is not a good reason to dismiss a new technology as too expensive without considering how the extra expense will be offset by added functionality and other system cost savings. In the case of megapixel cameras, beyond the lower resolution-per-dollar cost analysis, other factors include a decrease in installation costs by using fewer cameras, the elimination of mechanical pan-tiltzoom devices and a reduction in operations staff. Using fewer cameras to cover large areas also translates into cost savings related to infrastructure, such as cables, mounts and housings, which makes it easy to realize an ROI.

So, now you know. Analog and standard-definition VGA IP cameras provide the worst value and therefore are the most expensive cameras you can buy. Next time, go for the best image quality and best price by choosing megapixel cameras. They deliver the best ROI.

This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Security Today.

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