CCTV Video Broadcast Standards (NTSC/PAL/SECAM)

CCTV Video Resolutions

CIF, QCIF, 2CIF, 4CIF. Sounds like a bad nursery rhyme, right? If your eyes glaze over when you hear terms like these you are not alone. In this FAQ, we will attempt to demystify the terminology and put it into a framework that's easy to understand and use.

The table below lists some of the more commonly used resolution terms in CCTV applications. Any resolution over 1 million pixels is considered 'megapixel'. In the case of megapixel cameras, the labels are approximate. For example, a 2 megapixel camera actually captures 1,920,000 pixels per frame. A 3 megapixel camera captures 3,145,728 pixels per frame.

Table 1. CCTV Resolution Standards (from low to high resolution)

Term Pixels (W x H) Notes
QCIF 176 x 120 Quarter CIF (half the height and width as CIF)
CIF 352 x 240  
2CIF 704 x 240 2 times CIF width
4CIF 704 x 480 2 times CIF width and 2 times CIF height
D1 720 x 480 aka "Full D1"
720p HD 1280 x 720 720p High Definition
960p HD 1280 x 960 960p High Definition (Sony HD standard)
1.3 MP 1280 x 1024 aka "1 Megapixel" or "1MP"
2 MP 1600 x 1200 2 Megapixel
1080p HD 1920 x 1080 1080p High Definition
3 MP 2048 x 1536 3 Megapixel
5 MP 2592 x 1944 5 Megapixel

These terms may be used to describe the size of the image captured at the camera, transmitted over a wire, displayed on the screen, or recorded on the hard drive.

When comparing megapixel camera specifications you may notice pixel counts slightly different from the above. This is because some cameras will specify the total number of pixels captured by the sensor, and others will specify the 'effective' pixels. Some of the total pixels are used to contain technical housekeeping type of data, and are not contributing towards the 'effective' details of the image.

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Last Modified: June 27, 2015

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