How Many Megapixels Do I Need For Security Camera System

How Many Megapixels Do I Need For Security Camera System

As an Amazon Associate, I can earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more.

Which is the best resolution for a home surveillance camera? 1080p HD? 4K UHD? Or how many megapixels do I need for security camera systems to be effective performance-wise?

While shopping for a CCTV system, you either want to just monitor, improve the level of security, or both. But whichever reason it’s, the idea’s to get the best equipment that will deliver and solve your problems. So, video quality is very crucial because if you can’t see what’s happening in the background, then the system is worthless.

According to a burglary statistics report here in the United States, about 34% and 22% of burglars enter homes through the front and back door respectively. So, a security camera for outdoor use will need to have the highest resolution possible.

But again, a high-resolution CCTV system comes with its limitations that you should be aware of before you install. Therefore, in this article, we’ll look at that and everything else you should know if you’re to make the best with your CCTV investment.

How Many Megapixels Are 720P Camera?

To begin with, the amount of horizontal and vertical pixels is what determines the image resolution of any camera. These (pixels) are the tiny squares that come together to create the image that you see on your CCTV monitor.

Since mega- is a prefix for a million, we can simply define a mega-pixel as a resolution with a minimum of 1,000,000 pixels. But then, the real vertical resolution has lesser numbers than the horizontal. Hence, the reason you’ll mostly get a 1.3MP camera lens instead of a flat 1MP.

Meanwhile, 720p HD has “720” pixels for horizontal resolution and about 1280 pixels for vertical. When we calculate, this gives a total of 921600 pixels, or simply 0.9MP. Hence, not a fully megapixel camera even though we categorize it as HD.

While comparing 5MP vs 4K vs 1080P Security Camera some time back, we concluded 1080p resolution has a total of 2,073,600 pixels. This means the camera is about two-and-a-quarter more superior than the 720p in clarity. Thus, the reason it’s now the standard resolution for video surveillance.

Is 2MP a Good Security Camera Resolution?

As we just mentioned, a 2MP camera has about 2.25 times more pixels than 720p HD. While the 1080p HD is the new standard and most popular resolution, some cameras still have 720p, albeit minimal. However, one can get a 1080p security camera system with a DVR under two-hundred dollars or a wireless standalone model for under $30. So, why would you even think of 720p?

If it’s the video quality, with 1080p resolution:

  • You can zoom a little bit without degrading the image significantly
  • It doesn’t require much internet bandwidth to stream
  • Use lesser storage space than 2K and 8K cameras
  • Doesn’t drain the battery as fast as higher resolutions
  • It’s cost-effective in the long run

That said, however, brands have once again started to replace 2MP cameras as users seek better image quality. In most retail stores, battery-powered security camera models form the largest percentage of 1080p Full HD. On the other hand, many expandable DVR and NVR systems have a 5-megapixel (or simply 2K) configuration. And the best part is that the prices of the 4MP or 5MP cameras are very close to 2MP resolution cameras.

How Many Megapixels Do I Need For A Home Security Camera

Technically, the three categories of megapixel cameras in the market right now are Full HD, Super-HD, and Ultra-HD resolution. With the full HD resolution, we have cameras ranging from 2MP – 3MP, Super-HD is 4MP-7MP, and Ultra-HD has 8MP-12MP.

The 12MP is the latest CCTV resolution but only a few brands are using it, with Reolink Security Camera the most-recent to have. It has a native resolution of 4096 x 3072= 12582912 pixels, approximately one-and-a-half more than that of 8MP cameras.

How Many Megapixels Do I Need For Security Camera System

At such resolution, it shouldn’t be hard to identify human faces or read license plates at night. It also allows one to zoom or magnify the shot without significant image degradation. Thus, can be a great addition to business premises or public places like malls and parks.

Despite the Super-HD video quality, however, 4K cameras (8MP and 12MP) will have more processing data than the lower resolutions. Therefore, you’ll have to:

  • Prepare enough storage

this will help ensure all your footage have a spot to hold to and for a long time. If the maximum built-in storage is still not enough, consider expanding with an external hard drive disk.

  • Set up a stable network connection:

simply, a higher resolution camera will need more bandwidth to process and transmit high-quality footage. As such, you must have a stable and fast network if you’re using IP cameras. Otherwise, you’ll experience degraded monitoring experience, including lagged streaming and delayed motion alerts.

  • Enable advanced compression format:

H.264 is the standard video compression technology at the moment. It allows streaming and recording at lower bitrates than the MPEG-2 and H.263 that we used to have.

However, the advanced H.265/ H.265+ is the best compression standard for higher resolutions like 2K and 4K UHD. It helps reduce the bandwidth and storage consumption rate by at least 50% without affecting picture quality in any way.

  • Adjust the resolution accordingly:

That’s right. All security camera systems support multiple resolution capabilities: the minimum and maximum. If it’s the 2MP, you’ll find the option to record in either 1080p or 720p HD. Then, for the 8MP cameras, you can record in 4K, 2K, 4MP/ 3MP, and 1080p. So, you can still work with the available storage or internet without issues.

4 Things to Consider When Deciding what Security Camera Resolution to Get

Here are some practical tips to help you choose the best megapixel camera for your situation

Why Do You Need a Security Camera System?

In general, the reasons that make you want to have a security camera can outline the best megapixels to choose. This also includes if you need the technology for use at home or business place as either has different minimum requirements.

For instance, it will make no sense to mount a 1080p camera at a mall or school. Places with high traffic need a high-resolution camera that will give you outstanding video quality throughout- day and night. This includes reading license plates of vehicles at a distance.

But if the security cameras are only for home use, 1080p HD has proven to be enough in many cases. So, you could get a budget 5MP DVR and NVR, then connect with 5MP cameras for the key areas and 2MP of the less demanding spots.

How Much Would You Want to Spend?

Higher-resolution security camera System with a DVR usually needs a significant budget to acquire. So, if you don’t want to spend all your life savings at once, you can get a 5MP or 2MP CCTV system at a big bargain.

However, if your budget allows, you could get a higher resolution recorder that you can slowly build your security system. If it’s a 4K NVR, you get one 8MP camera (for the main entrance) and three 4MP or 2MP cameras for the positions. That way, you can serve your existing security needs, as well as those for the future.

How Big is Your Property?

If you live in an apartment, a simple 2MP or 3MP wireless security camera is enough since you only need eyes inside the house. But if you have a single-family house in Maryland, at least 5MP or added with 2MP cameras should be enough. The great thing about having multiple cameras is that you can cover different angles of your property.

But if you have a larger area to watch, a higher resolution security camera may be a great option. In many cases, these cameras have a wider field of view that can cover a significant space without affecting the image quality. If possible, you can even get a security camera with optical zoom or a varifocal lens that you can vary the focal distance without hurting image clarity.

Do You Want to view Your CCTV Remotely?

Lastly, you have to decide whether you’d want to access your CCTV remotely and if you have enough internet for the task. As we said earlier, high-resolution security cameras have a high bandwidth consumption than their lower counterparts. If your network is not stable and fast, the cameras might have a glitchy performance, or else deliver the videos in lower resolution. So, it might even be better to have a lower resolution camera that you can stream with 4Mbps or 8Mbps seamlessly.


Having the best resolution of a security camera is the sure way to identify an intruder’s face and read license plates. The highest standard, let’s say 5MP, 8MP, or 12MP also makes it possible to zoom in the shot without the images becoming blurry.

While choosing your megapixel security camera, however, you have to remember resolution isn’t the only factor for the video quality. The focal length, which determines the viewing angle, also can affect the clarity.

When a viewing angle becomes wider than the standard resolution ratio, you may end up with lesser details. This is evident in the standalone security cameras that we see having up to 160° lens compared to the Analog or PoE cameras with 70° to 90°.

Still, it’s worth noting that a security camera may fail to display if the monitor doesn’t support its resolution. If it’s a 5MP camera, you need to have at least a 2K screen so that you can watch your camera. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a “no signal” or flickering display if your TV or monitor supports only 1080p HD.