Quality Vs Quantity: How Megapixels Can Affect Your Surveillance System

When it comes to selecting a security surveillance system that is right for you, there can be an overwhelming amount of variables and terminology that you may be familiar with. From megapixels to resolution, with illumination and field of view thrown into the mix, it can seem like a complicated decision. With the common mistake of “more is better” in mind, let’s take a look at how to break down the components of a surveillance system in order to determine which system meets your needs.

Pixels VS Megapixels

The terms pixel and megapixel go hand in hand when it comes to the composition of video image. To begin with, a pixel is a minute area of illumination on a display screen, which when put together side by side with other pixels acts as a mosaic of pixels to complete the image’s full composition. A pixel can then be broken down into megapixels, which is a unit of graphic resolution equal to 1-million pixels. Naturally, the more pixels an image has, the better the resolution will be.


The term resolution actually refers to the total number of the smallest picture elements or pixels that make up the image on your video footage. As we mentioned earlier, the more picture elements, the larger the detail in the picture will be, thus, the higher the resolution. While resolution can be measured differently depending on whether you’re using analog or digital cameras, when measuring pixels, it can be calculated in one of two ways. First being by multiplying the number of pixels horizontally by the number of pixels vertically, for example 600 x 400. Secondly, it can be measured by the pixels in the total image, such as 1.2 megapixels.

When it comes to security camera systems, your resolution is really more of a balancing act. Depending on what your specific use of your security system is, you may want to opt for a larger resolution to recognize things such as faces and license plates. However, if your security system is more geared towards a wider field of view, you can use a lower resolution, as a high level of detail is not necessarily needed. We suggest that you aim to balance the highest resolution with the lowest storage and bandwidth requirements.

Pixels Per Foot (PPF)

To pinpoint your surveillance needs, it’s best to use the measurement of “pixels per foot”, or PPF. This measurement is very similar to a camera’s resolution, but actually refers to the final resolution level of the video produced, in accordance to the size of the area being recorded. For example, if the minimum suggested resolution is 40 PPF and you’re using a camera to monitor an area of 15 feet wide, and you require a clear enough resolution for facial recognition, you should aim for a camera with a resolution of at least 66 pixels per foot in the width.

More Cameras Vs More Pixels

When it comes to deciding on how many megapixels versus how many cameras you’ll need to achieve the resolution and coverage you’d like, it’s all about balance. As we mentioned earlier, calculating the amount of area monitored by the amount of pixels should be no less than 40 PPF. However, if your total does in fact reach below that, we suggest adding more cameras to cover more area at a better resolution, especially if features such a facial recognition are required. Dividing the viewing area can leave you with far more area covered and a better quality of image.

Why Is That Important?

It goes without saying that the clearer the resolution is, the more secure your property can be in the long run. When a security system is designed to monitor and track any intruders or unwanted activity, it is important to obtain a clear and crisp image of what is being secured. Let’s say for example something was to occur that required you to review your security footage in search of a culprit of trespassing. Having a vivid image of who and what took place will give you not only a better understanding, but a better chance of lawful resolution of the crime. 

Each case of security surveillance is unique in its needs and solutions, and you’ll come to find that each has their own specific products that are best suited to the job. If you have any questions about security surveillance equipment or you would like assistance finding a system that fits your budget and your needs, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (705) 725-9080. Our experienced team of security experts are always here to help answer your questions and to help secure your most prized possessions and investments.

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