As 4K TVs and monitors have become more and more affordable over the years, it is starting to overtake 1080p as the most commonly known and requested high definition resolution for cameras as well. With its advantages and disadvantages, how do you make the right choice for your business? We have put together our best advice for businesses in the market for a new security camera system.
What is 4K?
4K does not mean 4 megapixels, a common misunderstanding! 4K actually corresponds with approximately 8 megapixels. That is around 4 times the resolution of a standard high definition 1080p image. We discussed the differences between 4K, 4MP, and 1080p in-depth on our 4K vs 4MP blog post if you are looking for a detailed explanation.
More Pixels = Better Image, Right?
While a higher resolution camera gives the potential for a better quality image, that is not always the case. There are many factors that affect the overall quality of the video, such as performance in low light and wide dynamic range (WDR), frame rate, sensor size, and the ability of the lens to zoom and focus optically. The resolution of the camera is often not the most important factor in camera selection.
4K Comes With a Cost
With the rise of 4K security cameras, and many options at rock bottom prices online, why would anyone opt for a system with less than 4K resolution? As with all technology, 4K comes with a cost, and that cost is a tradeoff between quality, performance, and price. A manufacturer who has designed a low price 4K camera has made significant sacrifices that result in less reliable or durable cameras, and poor performance in low or dynamic lighting conditions. There are great 4K security cameras out there, but they are not cheap!
Increased Storage Requirements
More pixels means larger image size, and video storage capacity is already a major limitation for security systems. With standard image compression, this can mean that a 4K video requires twice as much storage as a 4MP video, and 4 times as much as a 1080p video. Some systems come with advanced compression, like Uniview’s H.265 Ultra codec, which can minimize this issue. For example, a Uniview 4K camera uses only a third more bandwidth than their 5MP, even though the resolution is 60% higher!
Requires More Processing Power
Complete security camera systems with standalone network video recorders (NVR) are essentially computers designed specifically to run camera systems, and they have run on a processor just like any other computer. The processor is constantly working to decode the video sent by the cameras and record and display that video.
The higher the resolution, the harder the processor has to work. Not all NVRs are compatible with 4K cameras, and many systems that are compatible can be overloaded by too many 4K cameras. A system that is overloaded may be laggy and unresponsive, and may even result in cameras dropping offline unexpectedly.
Viewing in Full Resolution is Difficult
If you plan on watching your camera system on a 4K TV or monitor, it might seem to make sense to get a 4K camera, but do you know how many 4K cameras can be viewed at a time in full resolution on a 4K TV? Only one at a time! Most users like to view multiple cameras at a time, our most commonly used viewing mode is probably 8 cameras at a time, and our systems support viewing up to 64 simultaneously. If you’re going to view multiple 4K cameras at the same time on a 4K monitor, they must be viewed in a lower resolution, simply because there are not enough pixels on your 4K TV.
The Cabling is the Same
If you are concerned that having a lower resolution camera system installed may prevent you from ever upgrading to 4K, don’t worry. All IP-based systems are connected using network cables, and while we recommend installing CAT6 cabling for security systems, CAT5E is sufficient for a 4K camera system. This means that if you want to upgrade to 4K in the future, when the price has come down and quality has gone up, you will be able to remove your old camera and install the new 4K camera using the same cabling.
4K Does Have Its Benefits
There are benefits to 4K cameras, particularly when viewing playback video. While it is difficult to view multiple cameras in full 4K at the same time, playback typically focuses on one camera at a time. 4K gives the user a greater ability to digitally zoom in, which is important because it is impossible to adjust the optical zoom on playback footage. Digital zoom increases the size of pixels, potentially enabling the viewer to see greater detail on small objects in the frame.
There’s no denying that when comparing apples to apples, a 4K camera from the same manufacturer, with the same features and construction, and a proportionally larger sensor, is going to perform better than a lower resolution camera. So, if it is in your budget, go for it, you will truly be amazed by the image produced by a quality 4K system. However, it is in our experience that you will be significantly less amazed by a cheap 4K camera, and you may actually find that a lower resolution, higher quality camera outperforms in many conditions.
Don’t cut corners when selecting your business’s new security camera system. If you’re looking to partner with a professional security camera installer, look no further. Contact Camera Security Now for help designing and installing your processional security camera solution!
Security Camera Advice and Installation with Camera Security Now
Are you looking for security camera advice? Johnny can give you a free security consultation for your location. Even if you’re not sure what you need, our security technicians will walk you through what it takes to secure your business. No matter what kind of facility in which you’re requesting surveillance support, Johnny can assist you with all of your security needs! If you have any questions about how thermal cameras work, what you need for your facility or the purchasing and installation process, contact Johnny today at 800-440-1662 or fill out a fast, easy online quote form.
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