For years, only IP cameras offered HD resolution and were able to receive power and transmit data over a single cable. Analog cameras, on the other hand, were limited to much lower video resolutions and required separate cables for power and telecommunications data.
But that was in the past.
Many of today’s analog cameras have video resolutions similar to IP cameras and some can even receive power and transmit data on the same cable.
Though power over coax and high-definition resolution footage were slow to arrive for analog cameras, many of the newest models on the market now have these features.
Though power over coax is not universally available with analog cameras, Hikvision offers PoC TVI analog cameras (see our test of Hikvision PoC TVI) and Dahua offers several models of PoC CVI analog cameras. There are some AHD analog cameras that use PoC, but none of them are manufactured by reliable brands.
8MP HD analog cameras are increasingly common. However, beware of analog cameras marketed as 4K are not truly 4K because they don’t support the 30 FPS standard.
Many new generation HD analog DVRs and encoders support AHD, CVI, and TVI analog cameras on the same ports, effectively creating "universal" recorders. This allows for greater flexibility in camera selection and reduces vendor lock-in.
There are three major HD analog variants:
All HD analog cameras support coaxial video transmission, typically requiring up to 500m of RG-59 cable and providing a minimum resolution of 1080p. Many of the newest analog cameras support up to 3MP, 4MP, 5MP, and “4K” resolution video.
Analog High Definition (AHD) technology was developed by Korean chip manufacturer NextChip. While AHD cameras originally had maximum resolutions of 720p, many now offer resolutions of 4MP, 5MP, and “4K.” The most well-known brands supporting AHD cameras include Hanwha and Digital Watchdog.
High-definition CVI (Composite Video Interface) analog camera technology was developed by Dahua and was originally exclusive to them. It has since been licensed to other manufacturers. Major sources for CVI products in North America now include Honeywell and IC Realtime.
Chip manufacturer Techpoint developed high-definition TVI (Transport Video Interface) camera technology. TVI cameras are now manufactured by well-known brands like Hikvision, CNB, and Speco.
The latest releases of TVI analog cameras have added recorder support for AHD and CVI analog cameras, as well as Power over Coax and footage resolutions of 5MP, 8MP, and “4K.”
All surveillance footage captured by analog and IP cameras is encoded and compressed. The key difference between HD analog and IP cameras is where the compression is done.
In IP cameras, compression is performed inside the camera. In HD analog cameras, compression is performed in an encoder or recorder or on a server.
The following benefits occur as a result of compression within IP cameras:
Historically, only IP cameras regularly delivered Full HD 1080p resolution footage. But HD analog cameras have significantly caught up to IPs.
Most Advanced Features: IP Cameras
IP cameras have a large advantage over analog cameras when it comes to advanced processing features like fisheye dewarping and onboard video analytics. This advantage is no surprise since IP cameras are basically computers with cameras attached.
AHD, CVI, and TVI analog cameras can all provide pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) and on-screen display (OSD) control through coax cables. And some CVI and TVI analog cameras even offer features normally associated with IP cameras, such as two-way audio and input/output ports for alarm integration.
IP cameras can be made compatible with any recorder or client by adding proprietary integration software or by using ONVIF-compliant/open-source IP camera systems to begin with.
The greatest challenge to ensuring recorder compatibility for IP and analog cameras on the same network is figuring out what needs to be done to make the format of the recorder and cameras match.
Increasingly, AHD, CVI, and TVI recorders are able to mix inputs from older NTSC / PAL analog systems with newer HD analog devices.
While it has historically been an issue, HD analog compatibility with digital receivers has increased significantly. Many manufacturers now offer DVRs and encoders that encode analog data from AHD, CVI, and TVI cameras into digital data for universal receiver compatibility.
Users should beware of limits on resolution and other advanced encoder features when using some analog encoders with recorders: a manufacturer’s encoder may only support advanced features, like transmission of higher-resolution footage, for their preferred camera models while excluding cameras from other brands.
IP cameras require Ethernet over Coax (EoC) to be run over legacy coax cables. These typically add $100 to $400 per camera.
Analog cameras, on the other hand, are designed to run over legacy-installed coaxial cable, though distance limitations vary. CVI and TVI both claim "over 1,500" feet of range using RG-59 coax cable (and our tests validated a range of 1,000 feet). Some early TVI releases had issues with long cable runs, but these have since been remedied with HD-TVI 2.0 chip releases.
IP cameras usually have massive vendor support while support for HD analog cameras is more limited.
HD analog camera development has been led by Chinese and Korean manufacturers, who manufacture for the low- to mid-tier market.
Most major manufacturers of security cameras don’t support HD analog systems. In fact, Avigilon, Canon, Bosch, Panasonic, Pelco, and Sony don’t manufacture HD analog cameras at all.
Many cutting-edge features, like advanced night vision and multi-exposure wide dynamic range (WDR) technology (for clarity in images with both dark and bright patches), are less common in HD analog cameras than in their IP camera counterparts.
HD analog cameras have a significant cost advantage over IP cameras. There’s a 30-50% lower cost for HD analog systems than their IP counterparts.
It requires more expertise to connect IP cameras to recorders and video management software than analog cameras.
With IP cameras, each device needs its own IP network address to be individually and directly set up. IP camera installations require a tech with the knowledge to directly set up IP network addresses for all devices and then follow best practices to connect them with video management software or recorders.
Fortunately, the experts at Mammoth Security know what they’re doing and have no difficulty installing and configuring IP camera systems for reliable video surveillance.
One of the big installation benefits of IP cameras has been compatibility with Power over Ethernet (PoE) cable. Instead of using one cable for data and another for power, a PoE system combines both resources in a single cable.
HD analog manufacturers have been slow to introduce single-cable systems for power and video, but some newer models now use Power over Coax (PoC) cables for both power and data transfer.
With Power over Coax (PoC), a siamese cable (a cable with two separate wires for power and video data) can be replaced with a single-wire RG59 cable. With an RG59 cable, no separate cable is needed for the power supply and some labor can be reduced.
Another advantage of PoC over PoE is the ability to send power over longer distances. PoC cables can support 200-300 meter runs on RG59 coax, while only 100-meter runs are possible with standard PoE/UTP cables without the addition of a PoE extender.
Although HD analog cameras are still relegated to the low end of the security camera market, increasing product availability, better industry support, and improved features (like higher resolutions and better compatibility) are helping to drive HD analog adoption in some international markets.
Nevertheless, IP cameras still have significant functional advantages over their analog counterparts. For example, features like edge storage (for saving video data on SD cards and other external hardware), onboard analytics (for powerful, AI-supported data searches and reports), and multi-imagers (for 180- and 360-degree fields of view on a single output) are unlikely to become available with analog cameras any time soon.