What Is Video Resolution, and What Type Is Right for You?


Full HD. Ultra HD. Mega HD. When it comes to security cameras, what do all these different video resolutions mean?

Video Resolution Explained

1080p, 4K, and newer terms like 12MP are on every product from security cameras to TVs to personal digital cameras and phones, and it can be overwhelming to differentiate. Like Swann’s security camera products, video cameras of all kinds, as well as viewing devices such as monitors, have a video resolution.

Video resolution is defined by the number of pixels that can be displayed on a monitor in relation to different aspect ratios. A couple of the more common aspect ratios are 16:9 and 4:3.

There are a lot of factors that go into the visual clarity that the eye perceives. Both the monitor’s and camera’s maximum resolutions have a role. A camera may be able to capture 4K video, but if the screen displaying the video is only capable of showing 1080p, the video will appear in the lower resolution.

Overall, the greater the resolution value, the clearer and sharper the video will be, with greater detail in the imagery.

1080p Full HD

Swann wireless battery cameras and powered Wi-Fi cameras typically record at 1080p Full HD, or high-definition. This means that the cameras capture imagery that contains 1920 pixels (horizontally) by 1080 pixels (vertically).

Both 1080p and 720p are named for their vertical resolution. Vertical resolution is now the older standard of measurement. Newer technology uses either horizontal resolution (4K) or total resolution (12MP) in its naming convention.

1080p resolution is often sufficient to capture the details that matter, such as people, animals, and vehicles, including colors and other key identifiers. If you never intend to view the cameras on a screen that has greater output resolution than 1080p, then this degree of resolution will probably be sufficient.

It is important to note that while the cameras can capture a certain resolution, your viewing experience is governed by the display medium. For example: when viewing on a mobile phone you will be able to view as much as the phone screen resolution allows. The higher resolutions will be most beneficial when you zoom in, as more pixels gives you more detailed images.

2K Resolution

Another resolution that is becoming more popular due to it’s high value for money is 2K. 2K resolution has 50% more pixels than 1080p. This offers greater detail while staying a good option for the budget conscious, as it’s often less expensive than 4K.

Swann offers some innovative options if you’re looking for 2K resolution.

4K Ultra HD Resolution

Many Swann CCTV security cameras record with 4K Ultra HD. Cameras with 4K resolution output an image with 2160 pixels vertically by 3980 pixels horizontally. These 3980 pixels are rounded up to 4000 which is how we derive the name “4K”.

4K video resolution has roughly four times more pixels than 1080p Full HD. This captures finer details such as:

  • license plates
  • tattoos
  • labels on boxes

and much more that can be useful if your video is needed as evidence.

If you view Swann 4K cameras on a 1080p monitor you will see the output as 1080p, though you can see greater detail when zooming in. When 4K video is displayed on a true 4K monitor, the imagery is very impressive and detailed.

Upscaled 4K

Swann also offers Master Series NVR systems. These cameras let you see everything that is happening with upscaling technology that digitally creates a 4K resolution. These systems feature much higher resolution than 1080p by capturing a native 5MP image, then upscaling it to a crisp, clear 4K resolution.

It does this by filling out extra pixels with content from neighboring pixels. This results in higher image quality than 1080p, but at a more modest price point than some of the other true 4K systems.

12MP Mega High Definition

Swann’s highest resolutions available (yet) is world-leading 12MP Mega HD for security cameras. With 12.6 million pixels, 12MP resolution has around 50% more pixels than 4K.

12MP is formatted in a 4:3 aspect ratio. This sets it apart from 4K and 1080p, which are both in the 16:9 aspect ratio.

Note that while there are more pixels, the 12MP camera view will often be displayed on a lower resolution 4K monitor. You still get the advantage of the increase in pixels when you use the Swann cameras’ powerful digital zoom.

12MP video resolution, like those in our line of Professional Enforcer NVR Systems, allows you to enjoy richer details and better see essential evidence you may need at a later time.

Seeing Clearly

It’s important to understand what resolution means, and what you are getting for your money. At Swann we believe our multiple resolution types all have great practical application. We’re confident we can meet your security needs with our wide range of options.

We are dedicated to continuing to bring you the latest resolution technology as we move towards the next video image frontier!

*Images are estimate sizes used for comparison and not exact resolution examples.