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Viewed in a wider context, the convergence to IP-based networks includes a number of factors to consider aside from a comparison of what the two types of cameras can provide the end user. Things such as performance, open systems interoperability, flexibility, future-proof, and network connectivity. However, in this article we seek to explore 5 of the most important functional differences between today’s network cameras and their outdated analog cousins, and why these factors are important to understand when making that next camera purchase

  1. End to interlace problems

    An analog camera at high resolution (4CIF) has a significant problem with interlacing. This is because with an analog video signal, even when connected to a DVR, all images are made up of lines, and each image is formed from two interlaced fields. When an image has a lot of movement, the image will become blurry. The blurriness results from the objects moving between the image capture of the two interlaced fields. A network camera employs “progressive scan” technology that better suits depicting moving objects clearly. This more advanced image capture technology means that the whole image is captured at one time, thus providing crystal clear images even with a high degree of motion.

  2. Megapixel resolution and HDTV capabilities

    Analog cameras are stuck at NTSC/PAL specifications, with a resolution corresponding to 0.4 megapixel at 4CIF. However, end users are now acquainted with the megapixel and higher resolutions offered by digital equipment such as digital cameras, high-resolution computer screens and flat-screen television sets. As a result, requirements for high-resolution capabilities have become very common within surveillance applications. Network cameras meet these requirements and can provide more detail and cover larger areas than traditional analog cameras. This ensures the security system investment will not be wasted because a perpetrator’s face or what he is carrying cannot be discerned.

    Today’s leading network cameras offer full HDTV capabilities according to SMPTE HDTV standards, including:

    • 1280×720 or 1920×1080 pixel resolution in 16:9 format
    • Full frame rate 25/30 and/or 50/60 fps
    • Wider color spectrum than standard TV


  3. Integrated PTZ and input/output control

    With an analog PTZ camera, the serial communication that controls PTZ movement requires cabling separate from the video signal. This is costly and cumbersome. Network camera technology enables PTZ control over the same network that transports the video. With a PTZ dome network camera, the PTZ commands are sent over the IP network, resulting in major cost savings and greater flexibility. What’s more, network cameras can integrate input and output signals such as alarms and controlling locks. This all adds up to less cable, less money, and increased functionality and integration potential.

  4. Secure communication

    With an analog camera, the video signal is transported over a coax cable without any encryption or authentication. In this way, anyone can tap into the video or worse, replace the signal from a camera with another video signal (some will remember this from the movie Ocean’s Eleven). In a network video scenario, the camera can encrypt the video being sent over the network to make sure it cannot be viewed or tampered with.

  5. Flexible, cost-effective infrastructure choices

    Analog video is typically transmitted by expensive coax, or over proprietary fiber, or by wireless means – all methods where distance will influence image quality. Adding power, inputs/outputs and audio further complicates this situation. Standard IP-based digital systems surmount these obstacles at much lower cost and with many more options. Like viewing website images from anywhere in the world, the network camera produces digital images, so there’s no quality reduction due to distance. IP-based networking is an established, standardized technology meaning the resulting costs are comparatively low. Unlike analog systems, IP-based video streams can be routed around the world, using a variety of interoperable, standardized infrastructure, including both fixed and wireless networks. Many streams of different types can be transmitted over the same line because it works through packet-based communications. New construction now has low-cost Category 5 data wiring, and a single wire can carry hundreds of simultaneous full frame rate video streams, when running at 1 Gigabit Ethernet speeds. The IP approach makes it easy to integrate network video applications with other IP-based systems and applications, such as building management systems, access control systems and industrial IP solutions.