CCTV Resolution 101 – Analog vs. IP 12

Customers often ask what kind of resolution is best for their particular CCTV system. Picking the right resolution for your surveillance camera can make or break your system.

Understanding the differences between Analog and IP can go a long way in determining which equipment to purchase.

CCTV Resolution for Analog Cameras

For standard analog cameras, resolution is measured by TV Lines.  For most new analog cameras the TVL range is 420 to 700.  Although 420 TVL is considered the lowest, I’ve seen camera systems where the user was only covering a short distance and the video quality was actually pretty good.  Don’t automatically assume a low res cam is garbage.  For short distances, the low resolution camera could save you some money and put a good image up.  Now, the 600 TVL and above have excellent images.  The pictures are sharper and the contrast is great.

If you want great clarity the 600+ range of resolution is the way to go.  There are other factors for a good clear picture like lenses, lux, wide dynamic range, etc.  Make sure you speak to a pro about your needs – 877-926-2288 ext.6021

CCTV Resolution for DVRS (recording resolution)

Once the camera captures the images that you want, it will send them through coax cable (or Cat 5 with Baluns) to the DVR.  At the DVR, the images are converted from an analog signal into a digital format to be stored on a hard drive.  This is the most important part of the chain.  The greatest most powerful camera will not be effective if the image is compressed down to nothing by the DVR.  The two most popular DVR resolution types are CIF and D1.  CIF is defined as 320×240 pixels and D1 is 720×480.  As you can tell, D1 is 4 times larger than CIF.  That means that the raw analog signal of the camera will be compressed less, giving you better detail.

When looking for a DVR keep recording resolution in mind.  Most DVRs have both options but will usually lower the frame rate to allow for higher resolution.

CCTV Resolution for IP Cameras

Next, we’ll cover CCTV resolution for IP cameras.  IP cameras (megapixel specifically) are able to deliver a much higher resolution.  Firstly, a MP camera is already digital so there is neither conversion nor compression.  Secondly, MP cameras run their signal through Cat 5 or 6 which allows for a much higher transfer of data.

1.3M is generally the smallest resolution of IP megapixel camera, but is still quite a bit larger resolution than any analog cam.  Even though this is a huge jump from analog, if this is not enough you can jump to 3.0 megapixel and get a 2048×1536 resolution.  Still want bigger?  Go with the 5 megapixel for a 2592×1944 for a HUGH image.

If analog resolutions are not cutting it for you, IP surveillance cameras can definitely accommodate any large resolutions.


With a DVR and analog cameras you are limited to CIF, 2CIF, 4CIF, and D1 resolution.  This may or may not fit your specific needs for your CCTV setup.  If you need higher resolution you should consider IP megapixel cameras and a network video recorder.


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  6. I enjoy both technologies However, from an installer and user standpoint network ip although easier to physically install can be confusing with all the different protocols of cameras. The plug and play scenario does not fit since you have to commission each camera. The HD-SDI is a more plug and play system. Once again its difficult to hide the wiring. Both have there positives and negatives. I find myself doing more of the SDI systems mainly due to cost.

  7. What do you think about the system Costco is selling? Q-See 16 Channel 960H Security System with 2TB HDD and 16 900TVL Cameras 960 x 480. $800.00
    Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

  8. Great article on camera resolutions!

  9. Analog system is old technology, what do you think of replacing analog with HD-SDI, everyone?

  10. dear,

    I want to ask you if I want to convert the solution from analog to IP , how can I convert from TVL resolution to MPx resolution ??

  11. I am exploring the CCTV business and enjoy reading your articles. It gives me a perspective of the business from a person actually running it.
    Questions: How is the margin like for CCTV, 4CH with DVR? Yr respond is greatly appreciated.

  12. Thanks for the article, makes sense, however there are still a large number of 350tvl CCTV cameras in the market which is very sad!

    Quick Response CCTV

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