Why Do CCTV Cameras Have a Fuzzy Look? – Overview
In this time and age of world digitization, rapid technological advancements have been achieved in all aspects of technology. This includes the advancement of cameras and video capture. Today, almost all of us, anywhere in the world, can shoot or record high-definition footage with our smartphones.
This begs us to ask questions such as the one highlighted in the title of this article: “Why do CCTV cameras have fuzzy video resolution quality?” Even in first-world and rich countries, why is the CCTV footage taken from either installed surveillance cameras in places of business or from government-installed cameras in public places always really poor quality?
There are many causes for poor-quality CCTV camera footage. Let’s have a deeper look at the possible reasons for this.
The Purpose of CCTV Cameras
One of the main reasons why CCTV camera footage was of poor quality or fuzzy was the purpose for which it was made in the first place. Users primarily use CCTV cameras as crime-deterrent equipment. It was meant to scare off thieves and burglars. These cameras were not made to be premium products. It was designed to be used continuously, not just once, and then replaced.
Therefore, lower-quality materials are used to make the equipment. We can also see that once installed, the cameras are rarely maintained, with little to no effort made to keep them in pristine condition—after all, CCTV cameras are not revenue-generating equipment.CCTV cameras are designed from the start to be commercialized, with an emphasis on quantity and profit over quality.
The Kind of Camera Used in CCTVs
When we compare the technology of the installed camera to that of other video-capturing devices such as mobile phones or handheld digital cameras, we can see why CCTVs produce lower-quality footage.
Mobile phones and handheld digital cameras were designed to focus on a specific target’s image resolution and footage quality. Like any photo camera, the purpose is to lock on the target and shoot a specific image. These are designed in different ways to capture different scenarios.
CCTV cameras, however, are not designed to photograph or record a still or specific subject, as these cameras record everything that is happening equally. As long as it is within their range, these cameras will capture anything. This mostly explains the grainy or fuzzy footage, as its purpose is not to capture a perfectly styled image or video.
External Factor: Typical Wear and Tear
Like any other device or equipment, CCTV cameras are also prone to typical wear and tear. The placement of CCTV cameras didn’t help either. Almost all of these cameras are installed in an outdoor environment prone to different weather conditions. Some of the things that could happen to these installed cameras one at a time or all at once are as follows:
- The camera’s lens may be out of focus. This might happen due to human intervention or natural causes.
- The camera’s lens could be dirty. Because CCTV cameras are installed in higher locations, regular cleaning may be a concern.
- Water droplets on the glass dome Water droplets will be present on those installed outside, and when they dry, they will leave a mark on the glass, affecting video quality.
- Defective image sensor. Due to use over time, the sensors might malfunction and stop working.
- A loose video connector will cause a double or rolling image. Data transmitted to receivers is hindered. Thus, the video quality will be affected as expected.
The Harsh Reality of CCTV Cameras in the Present and Their Future
We won’t be able to expect that footage from CCTV cameras will catch up with the latest available technology in terms of the video quality available today. And this rings true for its future as well.
The most notable reason why the video quality is poor is that it all comes down to storage. HD (high-definition) footage requires a ton of space to store. Upgrading storage space is not cost-effective and won’t be considered by almost all users.
CCTV cameras are on 24/7, night and day, for days on end. There is just a ton of data they need to store, so having the video in low resolution is the most logical compromise.
To fully understand the notion above, let’s take a look at the following example:
As a rough estimate, a 15 fps h264 1440p video will take up roughly 100 GB per week. If your retention policy for video storage is 60 or 90 days, you’re talking about having 1.2 TB of storage for video per camera. That can get very expensive very quickly and will be way more expensive than any loss you’re going to possibly accrue for a theft or a burglary.
Also, there are many hurdles when considering high-resolution camera systems. The typical wire used to transmit video data must be able to sustain the data load required to carry that signal to a recording device. Standard COAX cable won’t do for resolutions past 1080p (2K).
You’ll need to install an Ethernet cable for this use. Of course, this cable has a different interference profile than COAX cables. So, most likely, the cameras already installed will behave entirely differently in the way they store, compress, and transmit their signal back to your recording device. These small changes might be impractical for most smaller businesses and residences.
Frankly speaking, it’s pretty expensive. If you’re a large company with an existing system looking to upgrade, chances are you have COAX if you’ve had it since 2010 or so. When you go into the trouble of upgrading your CCTV system, you will have to run all new cables as well as deal with a slew of other complications and considerations.
Therefore, it’s usually most cost-effective to keep using the 160p system that was already installed, even though the technology is from 20 years ago, and work with what you have. The compromise is to rely on crummy video plus eyewitness descriptions in case something happens.
Surveillance cameras aren’t inferior; the technology is there and available for an overall upgrade, but manufacturers choose not to do so. Still, even though the video quality produced is lower compared to other video-capturing devices, surveillance cameras can still do their job just fine, and even better in different ways than a mobile phone camera or a digital camera can.