Calculating the Cost of Megapixel Cameras
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But how much is it going to cost?
The fastest growing IP camera technologies are high definition and megapixel. One of these new babies can replace two, three or 95 of the old guys, depending on the marketing hype. But, the bottom line is a bottom line. You’ve got to pay for the new stuff.
So does it make business sense to invest in HD and megapixel cameras as compared to standard definition (SD) IP cameras?
As a first step, it is valuable to understand the differences among the choices.
Analog camera resolution, for example, is measured in horizontal lines, referred to as TV Lines or TVL. The typical high-resolution analog camera is 540 to 600 TVL. Many SD IP cameras are derived from these analog cameras and have the same resolution. However, IP camera performance is not measured by resolution, but rather, by pixel count.
Pixel count is important to determine the correct camera for an application. The typical SD camera has about 400,000 pixels, whereas a megapixel camera has a minimum of 1,000,000 pixels. Between megapixel and HD, there are many similarities but also some differences. For instance, all HD cameras are megapixel, but not all megapixel cameras are HD. Another difference: HD has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is a wide screen type view, whereas megapixel typically has a 4:3 aspect ratio. This is squarer, like an older TV screen. Also, HD has quality compliance standards whereas megapixel simply specifies the number of pixels.
As HD and megapixel camera sales continue to increase, the cost of these cameras will continue to decrease. That and the ability to replace a number of SD cameras with fewer megapixel cameras can make this a very affordable technology.
Here is one example based on a 16-camera installation using analog cameras with six cameras in a parking lot, four in the warehouse and six in the office area. Included are the cameras, storage for 14 days (with camera licenses) and power.
The material cost of the analog system comes to $12,500. The SD IP camera solution, with a one-for-one camera comparison, is $14,800. The megapixel system requires two 3MP cameras to cover the parking lot, two 2MP cameras in the warehouse and the six office SD cameras, as megapixel was not required there. As a result, the megapixel camera system price is $14,100. The $1,600 difference between the analog system and the megapixel system could be offset easily by the savings on cable and labor.
The obvious advantage to HD and megapixel video is better detail, of course, often with fewer cameras. Chris Dale knows that. He is the general manager of St. Andrew’s Village in Glendowie, Auckland, New Zealand, which provides multiple lifestyle options for the elderly, ranging from independent living accommodations to hospital and dementia care. So lifestyle and security need to strike a delicate balance.
Dale strikes that balance thanks in part to the strategic placement of 15 megapixel IP network video cameras from Arecont Vision. By employing megapixel technology, fewer cameras were required to cover the expansive facility’s grounds. This enables security personnel to keep a close watch on activities. Dale says, “Residents and staff are reassured by their presence, and [the cameras] are accepted as part of the environment in which we live and work.”
Investment in megapixel cameras also makes bottom line sense when upgrading. The administrators of the Rhode Island Judiciary reached that decision when it decided to upgrade an existing analog system at the J. Joseph Garrahy Judicial Courthouse and the Noel Judicial Complex. This project presented some unique challenges, both technical and logistical, due to the nature of the facility, according to Greg Sparrow, director of system integration at Signet Electronic Systems.
The integrator deployed a 180 megapixel camera, IP-based video surveillance system across the two facilities. The cameras range from 1.3 to 3 megapixel resolution in both fixed and PTZ form factors.
Megapixel cameras are also part of a unique community in which integrator Hugh Brewer, Jr. of Cyber Technology Security expects the security system to grow in big and little ways. “It is a matter of getting the details from the images,” he says. In the future, he says, a wireless mesh network will allow homeowners to tap into the video, too.
Plantation Lakes Homeowners’ Association (HOA), in Olive Branch, Miss. relies on a mix of IQeye HD megapixel cameras from IQinVision to enhance security at the development. “We have 450 homes, located on three lakes, and we’re practically a suburb of nearby Memphis. We were experiencing a lot of folks riding through our neighborhoods looking for items placed at the curb or to do some fishing,” says Keith Dial, president of Plantation Lakes Homeowners’ Association. “We’ve had some no trespassing signs, but we’re not a gated community, so we needed a more effective deterrent.”
Dial and the HOA board of directors contacted Brewer, who recommended megapixel cameras be installed at each of the community’s entrances. Plantation Lakes stores images for up to 30 days, so anytime an incident is reported, they have the footage on file to properly investigate and identify what people and/or vehicles entered and left the property during the period when the incident occurred. Future plans call for installing additional cameras at each entrance to extend the field of vision down each street and to capture vehicles from multiple angles. Also, the homeowners’ association will expand live monitoring of camera views.
The cost of megapixel cameras also depends on the number of megapixels. But more is not necessarily better.
Says Brendan Daly of integrator firm Eye P Video Systems, “Before choosing any camera, look at what you are trying to accomplish with it.” That can include both security and business needs. “Sensors continue to evolve and improve.” But there is the total system to consider. “More bandwidth. More storage. More horsepower on the viewing system. There will be more stress on the total video system,” Daly adds.
It all comes down to three essential factors when considering investing in a megapixel camera: frame rate, resolution and color clarity.
HD and megapixel cameras can provide security advantage as well as be cost effective. Because of the pixel density, it is possible to view large areas while maintaining the detail that would require multiple SD cameras. This pixel density can allow the ability to zoom into the scene live or for forensic review, giving greater flexibility and performance.
And the issue of bandwidth with HD and megapixel cameras is not what it once was. For instance, H.264 compression has reduced the amount of bandwidth megapixel cameras use. Also, the ability to crop images and control frame transmission has contributed to the decrease in bandwidth these cameras require. And although they use more storage, storage is becoming less costly with more options, including the cloud.