diagram with relatively sized rectangles indicating CCTV resolution

What resolution should my CCTV cameras be?

UPDATED: 27/09/2023

As you research about cameras and start planning a home or business CCTV security system, you will come upon the specification of camera resolution. If you are wondering what cameras to choose, and understand why resolution even matters, you’ve come to the right place.

We will explain the differences of video resolutions and guide you on how to choose the right one for your needs.

Overview of video resolution and sizes

Video resolution is your window to detail when it comes to capturing camera footage. It’s a straightforward equation: higher resolution equals more details—and in the realm of surveillance, details can be the difference between recognizing a face or just a blur. 

In the good old days, we relied on television lines to gauge video detail. But times have changed. We now measure detail in the pixel-packed digital era. So, what exactly is video resolution? It’s like a grid of tiny dots forming your image, with two vital counts: horizontal and vertical.

    • Megapixels (MP) are the new buzzword. A single megapixel packs a million of these tiny soldiers, and all you need to calculate the megapixel value is to multiply the horizontal (H) and vertical (V) pixel counts.

    • For instance, if a camera flaunts an 8MP label, it means you’ve got a whopping 8 million pixels on duty to capture every nuance in your footage.

    • Think of each pixel as a vigilant sentinel—more pixels translate to a sharper eye for details.

Now, let’s take a peek at how Dahua cameras play the pixel game, offering four standards: 8MP, 5MP, 4MP, and 2MP. But what do these numbers signify? Here’s a handy table, revealing the precise image size (H x V) corresponding to each megapixel count offered by Dahua. Because when it comes to surveillance, knowing your camera’s resolution is your first step towards sharper, clearer, and more reliable footage.

Table: Dahua Camera Resolutions

CCTV Camera video resolution megapixel table

Now you’ve got the pixels, and you’ve got the clarity. Time to make those surveillance moments count.

Video Resolution vs Cost & Storage

Now, you might be tempted to think, “Why not go all-in with those high-quality cameras and plaster them everywhere?” While it’s true that higher quality cameras offer superior footage, there are two speed bumps along the way: camera cost and storage size. Let’s dive into these considerations.

Camera Cost

Let’s face it, quality comes at a price. Higher quality cameras boast advanced technology and superior components, which naturally translates into a heftier price tag. So, while you’ll get exceptional clarity and detail in your footage, your wallet might feel a bit lighter.

  • 2MP wireless cameras such as Arlo may cost as little as $150 NZD per camera
  • 5MP wired Dahua cameras go for around $310 NZD

Storage Size

graph comparing 2MP and 8MP storage requirements per hour

Storage, the unsung hero of your surveillance setup. While having a top-notch camera is crucial, more video detail doesn’t come for free. Here’s the catch: when you opt for a camera with a higher video resolution, you’re essentially signing up for a data storage marathon.

  • For instance, an 8MP camera packs four times more pixels than a humble 2MP camera.
  • What does this mean in terms of storage? 
  • It means you’ll need roughly four times more storage space to accommodate the same length of video. It’s like trying to fit a jigsaw puzzle into a smaller box—it just won’t work.

Now, whether you’re rolling with local storage or dancing in the cloud, storage space is a finite resource, and it doesn’t come free of charge. If you’ve got multiple 8MP cameras on the job, brace yourself, because your storage will be filling up faster than you can say “surveillance.” Even if you’ve invested in stacks of terabytes of storage, be prepared for your 8MP video to gobble it up voraciously, at a rate of 8GB per hour or more, depending on the video format.

But wait, there’s more – even if you take the leap into the boundless world of cloud storage, it’s not a free ride. Every gigabyte you utilize means more cash out of your pocket. So, as you tread the path of surveillance, keep a close eye on the trade-off between video quality and your budget.

How much detail your footage needs

When it comes to determining how much detail your surveillance footage needs, there’s a balance between achieving top-notch video quality and managing your project cost. So, where should you draw that line? Let’s unravel this puzzle.

Property Analysis

First and foremost, it’s all about getting to know your property like the back of your hand. Take a moment to perform a thorough analysis of your property. Ask yourself, where do you need those watchful eyes? If you’ve got sprawling spaces like:

An 8MP wide field of view camera might be your go-to ally. These cameras excel at capturing the big picture, ensuring you don’t miss a beat in expansive areas.

Narrowing Down

diagram showing wide and narrow camera angle views

However, when you venture into smaller domains like:

  • Hallways
  • Small rooms

It’s time to switch gears. Here, you may find that a 2MP camera does the job splendidly. It’s like zooming in on the finer details without overloading your budget.

Now, let’s talk about that all-important question: How much detail does your footage need? Are you on the hunt for a crystal-clear image that can identify someone pilfering items with precision? Perhaps you need the power to read vehicle license plates effortlessly. Or, is it enough to know if someone is present and where they’re headed? These are not just questions; they are your compass in the labyrinth of surveillance.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to engage in a dialogue with a seasoned security consultant. They’re your partners in planning the perfect CCTV security system, helping you strike the right balance between detail and budget. After all, it’s not just about capturing moments; it’s about capturing the right moments with the right level of detail.


You have a lot of options with modern cameras, with video resolution being a key factor. By considering project cost and storage capacity, and balancing it against areas of coverage and detail required, you can get an idea of the resolution your cameras need to be. If you aren’t installing your own system, this is a conversation you should have with your security consultant.

two security cameras; one black, one white

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