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There are many causes for poor quality CCTV cameras due to its purpose and what is done to the footage. Learn why security cameras are of poor quality in this post!


Why are security cameras so low quality? There are many causes for poor video quality on CCTV cameras, including their purpose and what's done to the footage.

Our team at Forbel is using this post to explain the poor video quality on CCTV- keep reading to learn more.

It can be surprising and maybe even shocking that in the 21st century, we're surrounded by cameras everywhere, whether they be phone cameras, digital or CCTV cameras. However, these cameras often don't produce clear images or surveillance footage. Technology has advanced over two decades to bring us a wide range of cameras with digital zoom and night vision, but the quality of the image resolution is still so poor that often we can barely discern what's happening in the footage we're observing.

Security Cameras vs. Modern Cameras

Security Cameras vs. Modern Cameras

It's important to note that CCTV cameras and phone cameras (i.e., modern cameras) don't have the same purpose. They're designed in different ways to capture different scenarios.

For example, a phone camera or the like was designed to focus on image resolution and footage quality of a specific target. Like any photo camera, the purpose is to lock on the target and shoot a specific image.

CCTV cameras, however, are specialized cameras. They're more advanced in many ways because they need to capture movement or poorly lit areas within the camera's reach. A CCTV camera system is also not designed to photograph a still but rather capture everything indiscriminately in its range. This explains the grainy quality for its purpose is not to capture a perfectly styled image.

CCTV cameras record everyone equally while modern phone cameras only record what they're focused on.

When Are Security Cameras Used?

CCTV cameras aren't meant to focus on any person or event, meaning they're not there to stalk anyone. Surveillance cameras are placed to keep the property and the people in their view safe. These cameras are meant more for investigation after a criminal event rather than catching someone in the act. The simple fact of having a security system in place can deter and prevent crime. The placement of surveillance cameras also hints at their purpose, and the greater their range, the grainier the security camera video picture will be.

What Are the Limiting Factors of CCTV?

There are many limitations when it comes to CCTV cameras, but not having a surveillance system can prevent crimes. But the question remains: Why are most security cameras so bad? They're there as a preventive tool, but not all security cameras capture quality recordings.



CCTV cameras compress your files which means the codec will take “empty” frames that may be unnecessary. Many surveillance cameras do this automatically, but newer CCTV cameras allow you to set your level of compression according to your needs.


It's important to protect the surveillance camera from the weather, but at the same time, you'll need to make sure that it's visible. For better resolution, it's advised not to point the camera towards the light source. It's also recommended to install the camera at around 9 feet from the ground.


A camera system ranges in cost depending on its purpose and use. The average price for surveillance cameras is between $100-600 dollars, and the specific price depends on the purpose and every business or person's needs.

High-definition cameras, especially 4K security cameras, are still more expensive than traditional analog or low-resolution digital cameras. They also require more storage space to hold the massive video files they produce. For large businesses or public security systems with dozens or hundreds of cameras, the additional costs of high-resolution cameras and storage capacity can be significant.


The lenses used in most CCTV cameras are also low quality, which contributes to poorer image quality. Security camera lenses can vary between 2.8mm to 50mm depending on their usage. On average, a standard security camera lens will be 8mm.

Inexpensive security cameras typically have basic fixed-focus or varifocal lenses with limited optical capabilities. They tend to produce soft, distorted images, especially around the edges of the frame. The limited zoom capabilities of these lenses also reduce the flexibility of the camera positioning since they can’t zoom in on distant objects or wide shots.


High-definition footage requires the transmission and recording of much more data, which can tax available network and storage bandwidth. This is especially true for systems that stream live video over a network or the internet. Low-resolution footage has more modest bandwidth needs, so it's easier to manage.

The most popular open format for CCTV cameras is the AVI file kind. Many manufacturers use their version of the AVI file, a non-standard version, and their codecs. DVR is also an option but isn't frequently used because it's not as flexible as AVI files.


CCTV footage is cropped to shift the focus from unwanted videos and turn them into more relevant clips. Cropping is moving, removing, and adjusting certain clips to fit your desired dimensions or focus on certain areas you want to home in on. There are often undesired distractions on video footage that can be confusing and irrelevant.


For most basic security camera needs, low-resolution footage is considered "good enough" to capture activity and identify potential security events or issues. Higher resolution on a surveillance video doesn't necessarily provide dramatically better capabilities for typical security and surveillance purposes. In many cases, organizations don't feel compelled to pay for more advanced cameras.


As you can see, there are many causes for poor quality CCTV footage due to its purpose, and what is done to the video footage can affect its quality. The placement of the camera plays a great role in this. In addition, the quality of the lens and what the files go through will also yield a grainy image. With all of this in mind, when purchasing a surveillance camera, it's important to understand that the quality of the video is less important than the footage itself, and the range of the footage is useful. The ability to capture camera footage is primarily used as a deterrent.

Are you in need of the right camera for your property? Contact us at Forbel to learn more about security cameras for your property!


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Dzmitry Beliayeu
Dzmitry Beliayeu

Dzmitry Beliayeu is a commercial building security expert, technology consultant, and licensed alarm contractor

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