Shootout: Megapixel vs Analog Cameras

Author: Ethan Ace, Published on Mar 12, 2014 |  Email This

How much does resolution really make a difference? For those purchasing budget or entry level systems, what, if any gain, does one get for higher resolution?

In this test report, we did head to head testing of:

  • 450TVL

  • 600TVL

  • 700TVL

  • 960H

  • 720p

  • 1080p

We bought Q-See equipment off Amazon to simulate the experience / products many entry level systems use.

Preview

Questions Answered

The test report answers:

  • What is the image quality difference between 450TVL and 700TVL cameras? Day and night?

  • What is the image quality difference between 700TVL and 960H cameras? Day and night?

  • What difference is there between the 'best' analog offering and HD cameras? Day and night?

  • If you put an HD camera at double the FOV width of the 'best' analog camera, who will win?

  • What benefits does the wider FoV of 960H cameras offer?

  • What impact does recorder / encoder have on 960H camera quality?

Analog Camera Comparisons

For reference, this image shows the approximate 18' FOV of all cameras.

We began by comparing analog cameras at three TVL counts/resolutions to see what differences, if any, were present.

450 TVL vs. 700 TVL Analog Cameras

Starting with 450 TVL vs. 700 TVL, we can see that performance is close, with no real gains in the higher TVL camera. Some letters on the eye chart are more legible in the 700 TVL camera, though it begins to wash out earlier than the 450 TVL camera, negating this benefit.

At night, with IR on, the 700 TVL camera produces marginally better details of our subject, with better contrast on the test chart.

700 TVL vs. 960H Analog Camera

Moving up, we tested the 700 TVL camera against a 960H model, both captured at D1 resolution. The gains in the 960H camera are noticeable, with letters more legible, as far as line 5 vs. only line 3-4 in the 700 TVL model. Our subject's face is moderately clearer, as well, with slightly more detail of his features.

In low light with IR on, the 960H camera again provides better details with more visibility of both the test subject and chart.

600 TVL Test

We compared a 600 TVL analog camera (the Q-See QM6006B) to the 700 TVL and 960H analog cameras, seen in the comparison below. The 600 TVL analog camera is able to produce more detail in both our subjects face and test chart than the 700 TVL camera, looking sharper overall. Performance relative to the 960H camera is close, though line 5 of the test chart is partly legible in the 960H model, while some characters in line 4 in the 600 TVL cameras are difficult to discern.

Analog vs. HD

Next, we shot out the 960H camera, the top analog performer, against 720p and 1080p HD IP cameras in order to show the differences between these two technologies. The IP cameras easily deliver more details than 960H, with more lines legible on the test chart, and much better details of our subject's face.

The same is true in low light with IR on, with both HD cameras providing more detail:

960H vs. Wide Angle 1080p

In order to see if 960H could compete with HD at any field of view, we widened the 1080p camera's field of view to double that of the 960H camera. This comparison shows the relative field of view of each, as well as a zoom view of our subject. Even at a FOV this wide, 1080p still beats out the analog camera, with better details of subject and chart.

960H Field of View

Manufacturers regularly claim 960H cameras have wider fields of view than D1. However, we found that 960H simply stretched 4:3 video to widescreen (using a 2:1 aspect ratio, not 16:9 as some claim). This resulted in substantial distortion, as with objects appearing squat and wide, as seen in this image:

Zooming in however, we can see that this "additional" resolution offers no increase in detail, with no more lines visible in the 960H image than in D1. Some characters actually become more difficult to read due to distortion:

960H vs. D1 Encoding

Though the increase in pixel count with 960H offers no benefit, we found a visible increase in detail when connecting the QM9702B to a 960H-rated DVR, instead of D1 DVRs/encoders. This comparison shows the same camera, the 960H QM9702B, first connected to the 960H DVR, the QC524, then the D1 QT534. Notably, lines 5/6 are legible in the 960H DVR vs. 4/5 using the D1 model.

Overall Resolution Comparisons

For those who wish to see all five cameras side by side, we've included the following comparisons, in full light:

And low light:

Methodology

All cameras were tested using default settings.

These are the camera models used in this test:

  • Q-See QD4501B 450 TVL analog bullet

  • Q-See QM6006B 600 TVL analog bullet

  • Q-See QM7008B 700 TVL analog bullet

  • Q-See QM9702B 960H analog bullet

  • Q-See QCN7001B 720p IP bullet

  • Avigilon 2.0W-H3-B01 1080p IP bullet camera

DVRs used:

  • QC524 4-channel 960H DVR

  • QT534 4-channel D1 DVR