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Difference Between Optical and Digital Zoom in Digital CCTV Cameras

A closed-circuit television (CCTV) security system can be a big investment, but one that can significantly increase your home or business security. With the cost of equipment, installation, and management, it’s important to get all the details correct before installing a new camera system. If you’re new to security cameras, you may think all cameras and lenses are the same. However, this is certainly not the case. We often have people ask for cameras that have a very wide angle shot so that they can see as much as possible from one camera to save on cost. However, in the same breath they’ll also want to read number plates, have a clear image, identify a person from 30 metres away and record in the dark! While this isn’t impossible, it’s important to know what exactly you’re wanting the CCTV system to do and what results you wish to achieve.

Digital CCTV Camera Lens Types

If you are in the process of shopping for a new CCTV system, you've probably come across the terms digital and optical zoom when you're looking at camera specifications. You might be wondering, "What's the difference between digital zoom and optical zoom and why does it matter?" But before we dive too deeply into the different types of zooms, it’s important to understand how the cameras can zoom in the first place.

There two different lens types in our cameras that are standard across the industry: fixed lens and varifocal lens. Fixed lens cameras are the traditional point-and-shoot style that gives a fixed field of view. On the other hand, cameras with a varifocal lens will allow users to adjust the camera’s focal length, and consequently its field of view and level of zoom. This means that the lens can zoom in to capture a close view from a long distance, and consequently, reducing the field of view, but providing a clearer image of details. With this understanding, we can now look at the different types of zoom and how each applies to specific applications

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Optical Zoom vs. Digital Zoom - CCTV TV

Security cameras have two types of zoom, digital and optical. If you're wondering which zoom will be best for you, we need to know the following:

  • What do you need your security cameras to see?
  • What are your problem areas?
  • What are you needing your cameras to do?

After answering those questions, it will be easier to understand which type of zoom is right for you.

Optical Zoom

Optical zoom works by using the camera lens to change the focal length to magnify the image and zoom in on objects in the distance. The main benefit of optical zoom cameras is that the image will remain clear as you optically zoom in. A high-optical zoom security camera gives you effective surveillance from long distance. You can also see smaller details from farther away, such as faces and number plates. The main downfall of these cameras is that optical zoom can’t be added after the video is recorded.

Digital Zoom

Digital zoom works by narrowing the apparent angle of view of images, and then cropping the areas outside the margins. The main benefit of digital zoom cameras is that you can zoom in after the video has been recorded. However, since digital zoom security cameras simply enlarge the pixels of the image, it often results in blurry images and videos, compared with optical zoom security cameras. In saying that, when digital zoom is used properly in video surveillance, it can be just as effective as optical lenses, however, the resolution is often compromised.

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Which is better? Optical or Digital?

For image quality purposes, optical zoom will always produce the best quality images for close-ups, however, the field of view decreases as you zoom in. This means optical zoom leaves certain areas “uncovered” during the zoom process, assuming you don’t have other cameras covering the broader area. Overall, both cameras have great zooming features that work best in different situations. Therefore, someone purchasing a security camera needs to know exactly where the security camera will be placed, what the lighting situation is like and know what specifications the camera needs to have to achieve the desired results. When this is done, the zoom and camera placement can be optimized to meet any requirements. So, as long as the camera is used for what it is designed for, both pieces of technology are amazing security cameras that any home or business would benefit from.

 Digital vs Optical Zoom Lenses

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Why Choose Voltec Services for your Digital CCTV Installation?

At Voltec Services, we supply a wide range of digital CCTV cameras and can meet any requirement. During the CCTV quote and consultation process, we will ask what your ultimate goal is for the CCTV cameras. Our professional sales team will explain the technical details in simple terms, to ensure you understand how the products will suit your needs. Therefore, you can be assured that all products used are carefully selected to achieve your unique requirements and budget. Our team have over 15 years of experience in servicing local business owners with their electrical needs. Want to learn more about CCTV for your home? Read our CCTV FAQS or contact us today for a free CCTV quote and advice.