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2K vs 4K Security Camera: Which One Is Right for You?

Alicia11/27/2023
2K vs 4K security camera

Gone are the days when an expensive, top-of-the-line security camera maxed out at a resolution of a mere 720 pixels. This grainy, unclear footage produced by older security cameras has been replaced by the HD security camera, which is capable of capturing images at 1080p or higher, depending on the model.

These HD cameras, typically IP cameras designed for capturing at a high resolution, are developing increasingly rapidly. However, many camera manufacturers have found that consumers are confused or overwhelmed by the numerous advertisements and products available. To help you better understand what camera you’re looking for, we’ve created this guide to 2K (2000+ pixel resolution), and 4k (4000+ pixels).

Keep reading to find out the best resolution for your security needs and how to determine which type of camera is right for your security system.

Defining Image Quality: Resolution and Megapixels

Before we get into the finer points of security camera image quality, let’s spend some time going over some important details about image quality. When discussing cameras, it’s helpful to know the distinctions between resolution and megapixels.

Resolution is a technical term typically used to describe the image quality for images or videos. It determines the level of detail that is observed in an image. Normally, the resolution range is shown by the number of pixels of the width and height of an image. Higher resolution indicates more details and clarity in the recorded image or video.

However, resolution can refer to "density of pixels in an area" or total pixels. When searching for IP camera resolution, we often see descriptions like 4MP, 5MP or 8MP. That’s because manufacturers often display the total number of pixels and image dimensions on all camera models. For example, 2K Super HD is 2560x1440 pixels, or 3,686,400 total pixels. 2K refers to the approximately 2000 pixels across the screen whereas 4MP refers to the total pixels in the frame. In essence, 2K and 4MP are often the same thing.

Similarly, 4K is 3840 x 2160 pixels, or 8,294,400 total pixels. An 8MP camera, having 8 million pixels, records in 4K because there are roughly 4000 pixels across the screen. So, pixels are the basic unit of resolution that can be used when describing any camera. The word megapixel, on the other hand, is specially used to describe high resolutions like 2K, 4K, or higher.

2K vs 4K Security Cameras

Now that we have covered the meanings of resolution and megapixel, you may wonder what the differences between 2K and 4K mean for your security system. Let’s look at the differences between them and some unique features of each.

2K security cameras have dominated the market for years. There have been several updates over time, and right now there are two types commonly available.

  • 2K Full HD Security Cameras: Full HD security cameras have a resolution of 1920*1080 pixels. The release of these cameras created a resolution standard for later products on the security camera market.
  • 2K Super HD Security Cameras: Super HD security cameras have a resolution of 1440*2560 pixels, which is double the resolution of the 1080p HD cameras. These cameras allow you to view much clearer and sharper images compared to other models.

If you have searched for 4K cameras online, you may have encountered two resolution standards: 3840 x 2160 and 4096 x 2160. Generally, when security professionals talk about 4K IP cameras or 8MP security cameras, they are referring to the ones with 3840 x 2160 resolution.

With this resolution of 3840×2160 or 8 megapixels, 4K security cameras are currently at the high end of surveillance video quality. Compared to 2K, they capture a much larger area and offer superior image quality. They provide four times the clarity of 1080p HD cameras, which means that you can zoom in on images without losing any detail, making it easier to identify faces, license plates, and other important details.

With the launch of a wide variety of 4K 8MP security cameras, businesses and homeowners that need a higher level of security have many options and can choose the one that best suits their needs.

Differences Between 2K and 4K Security Cameras

There are several ways that 4K differs from 2K resolution, and they have a large impact on the functionality of your security camera.

Image quality

The resolution and the image sensor inside cameras define the image quality of different security cameras. 2K cameras have a resolution of 1440*2560 pixels and 4MP image sensors. 4K security cameras have twice the resolution and are usually equipped with 8MP image sensors. As a result, 4K security cameras offer more clarity than 2K cameras and deliver sharper images, which allow you to see details from a distance.

Field of view

4K security cameras typically have a wider field of view than the 2K cameras because they often have wide-angle lenses. This allows them to cover more space and can reduce the number of cameras needed to cover a building or lot.

Night vision

Updated image sensors and processing technology in 4K security cameras enable them to capture clearer images during the night or in poorly lit areas compared to 2K cameras. For example, many 2K security cameras have built-in infrared lights, which allow cameras to capture black-and-white footage at night.

However, some 4K security cameras are equipped with both infrared lights and a spotlight, making full color night vision possible. This improvement is valuable for nighttime surveillance, ensuring that crucial details are not lost in the dark.

Storage and bandwidth consumption

If they used the same H.264 video standard, there is no doubt that 4K ultra HD security cameras would require more bandwidth usage and storage consumption compared with 2K 1440p IP cameras.

Fortunately, the newer H.265 high efficiency standard adopted by 4K IP security cameras allows the bandwidth utilization and storage consumption to be reduced by about 50% without sacrificing the image quality.

Compatibility

Compared to 2K security cameras, 4K security cameras have limited compatibility with other components of security systems. Because 4K technology is still relatively new, some existing surveillance systems may not work with 4K IP cameras. This limitation may require additional investments in compatible hardware, such as recorders or monitors, to fully enjoy the clarity of 4K security cameras.

If you already have a 4MP monitor or TV, the 2K 1440p IP security cameras will have no problem displaying images. With a 4K security camera, you would need to buy a 4K monitor or TV to retain the advantages of high-resolution footage. If you don’t want to buy a new monitor, you could lower the image resolution when you play it back; however, the latter choice would defeat the purpose of a 4K camera.

Cost

Up until now, 4K security cameras have been much more expensive than 2K options. Advanced technology comes at a price. If you want to review clearer and sharper footage, you may need to pay more. This phenomenon makes 4K security cameras prohibitive for users with tight budgets.

Yet, as the 4K technology advances, it’s only a matter of time before the 4K IP cameras become budget-friendly. To offset some of the cost, bear in mind that one 4K camera has a wider field of view, which may reduce the number of cameras needed for your environment.

A Quick Comparison Between 2K and 4K Security Cameras

To present the differences between camera types in a way that may be easier to parse, here is a small table with each of the important factors.

Items 2K security cameras 4K security cameras
Image quality 1920*1080 or 1440*2560 pixels 3840*2160 pixels
Field of view About 30°-110° About 30°-110°
Storage consumption 5-40MB per minute 10-80MB per minute
Bandwidth consumption 5-20Mbps At least 25Mbps
Compatibility Excellent Limited
Cost Around $50 Around $150

Are 4K Cameras Worth Purchasing?

One of the most common questions of security camera users is whether it is worth getting a 4K camera rather than purchasing a cheaper, lower resolution option. One thing to consider is that you don’t necessarily have to go all the way up to 4K or 8MP security cameras. There are options like the 2K 4MP and 2K+ 5MP security cameras, which can also provide high-quality images and meet your surveillance needs for less expense.

When to Choose 2K Security Cameras

If you have a modest budget and want to watch high quality images with vivid details, 2K security cameras should be enough for you. You should be able to get a general idea of the activity near your home or business with 2K security camera footage.

Some typical usage scenarios of 2K security cameras include:

  • Entrances to your home, like front doors, back doors, etc.
  • Garage
  • Driveways
  • Small businesses

If you want to see the quality of 2K video and determine whether it meets your needs, check out the video captured by the Reolink 2K 4MP security camera.

When you have a larger budget and require the highest resolution video surveillance footage available, future-proofing 4K security cameras can be the best option. They can help you monitor larger areas with a single device and provide you with ultra-HD images and videos.

Some recommended scenarios include:

  • Your small businesses, like shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, etc.
  • Warehouses
  • Parking lots
  • Driveways
  • Multi-tenant apartment buildings

To see the clarity of 4K footage, check out this high-resolution video by a 4K security camera, Reolink RLC-823A.

Best Picks for 2K and 4K WiFi 6 Security Cameras

Both 2K and 4K security cameras are easily purchased right now. You can choose the right one depending on your budget and personal needs. Here are some of our recommendations for the best cameras in each category.

Reolink Argus 3 Pro is one of the best 2K 4MP security cameras. With color night vision, this 2K resolution camera enables you to get clear and vivid footage during both day and night. It's a breeze to install and set up due to its Wi-Fi enabled, wire-free design. You don’t have to worry about its battery life, and you can add a Reolink solar panel to provide non-stop power.

Reolink Argus 3 Pro

2K 100% Wire-Free Spotlight Camera

2K 4MP Super HD, Battery/Solar Powered, Person/Vehicle Detection, 5/2.4 GHz Dual-Band WiFi, Color Night Vision, Two-Way Audio.

Also, this 2K 4MP security camera comes with an SD card slot. It has smart detecting technology informed by AI that can detect human movement and vehicles, requiring no extra base stations or hub centers, providing you with an extra layer of protection.

If you are looking for a 4K WiFi security camera, the Reolink RLC-810WA is a great choice. The RLC-810WA WiFi 6 security camera features 4K 8MP UHD video and color night vision to help you see clearly during both the day and the night.

With WiFi 6 technology, can transmit data at faster speeds and handle more devices simultaneously, thanks to its improved efficiency and capacity. In terms of security, WiFi 6 introduces WPA3, a more robust encryption protocol, making it harder for unauthorized parties to access your camera feed.

Reolink RLC-810WA

4K WiFi 6 Surveillance Camera

4K 8MP Ultra HD, Dual-Band WiFi 6, Color Night Vision, IP67 Waterproof, Smart Detection, Two-Way Audio, Built-in Siren.

E1 Outdoor Pro is a 4K 8MP smart PTZ WiFi6 camera. With its impressive 4K 8MP resolution, it provides an unparalleled visual experience, delivering images and videos that are four times sharper than standard 1080p cameras. This means you can capture crucial details that might be easily missed with lower resolution cameras.

What sets the E1 Outdoor Pro apart is its integration of WiFi 6 technology. This ensures a faster, more stable, and highly secure network connection. The benefits include higher bandwidth, faster connection speeds, and reduced latency, all of which contribute to a smoother overall experience. Plus, with the WPA3 security protocol, your data is safeguarded against potential threats, providing peace of mind.

Reolink E1 Outdoor Pro

4K WiFi PTZ Camera with Auto-Tracking

4K 8MP Super HD, Smart Person/Vehicle Alerts, 355° Pan & 50° Tilt & 3X Optical Zoom, Auto Tracking, Color Night Vision.

RLK12-800WB4 is a top-notch WiFi 6 camera system that lets you create your own security hub hassle-free. The NVR manages the cameras, securing every corner of your property, all at your fingertips.

Thanks to dual-band WiFi 6, this system ensures swift, long-range streaming with a robust signal. BSS Coloring minimizes interference, while OFDMA and MU-MIMO technologies boost network efficiency, slashing latency and jitter.

Reolink RLK12-800WB4

4K Security Kit with Next-Gen WiFi 6

4 pcs 4K Ultra HD Security Cameras; Dual-Band WiFi 6; 2TB HDD 12-Channel NVR for 24/7 Recording; Peron/Vehicle/Animal Detection; IP67 Weatherproof.

FAQs

Is 4K really much better than 2K?

Basically, yes. Although 2K resolution delivers clear and sharp images too, 4K has a significantly better picture quality. With a high resolution of 3840×2160 and at 8 megapixels, 4K is currently at the very high end of video quality. 4K resolution offers almost 2X clearer images than the 2K resolution, which allows users to see more details and enjoy more clarity.

What is the best resolution for a security camera?

It depends on your needs and your budget. If you don’t have many requirements for image quality or you don’t need cameras to capture objects from a distance, a budget 1080p camera may be enough. If you want to see clearer images and you have a healthy budget, you can consider a 2K security camera. If you have a large budget and require the highest resolution video surveillance camera for larger coverage, 4K cameras are likely the best option.

Are there any downsides to 4K security cameras?

4K resolution has some limitations. The largest disadvantage of 4K security cameras is its price. It costs almost twice as much as cameras of lower resolution. Also, it requires more bandwidth to stream or download 4K content, and this data takes up more storage space. Compared to other resolution ranges, compatibility of 4K security cameras with other security system components is relatively limited.

Will I notice a difference between 2K and 4K?

Not everyone will notice the difference. Both 2K and 4K resolution offer clear and crisp images. 4K resolution offers more detail and sharper images, which can enhance your viewing experience, especially when viewing high-quality source material on the correct monitor. However, not everyone will notice a significant difference, particularly on smaller screens or at greater viewing distances.

How many megapixels can the human eye see?

Since the human eye doesn’t see in pixels at all, it’s pretty hard to compare them to a digital display. But some curious minds used some complex math and found that the human eye can see at most 576 megapixels. 576 megapixels is roughly 576,000,000 individual pixels, so at first glance, it seems we see way more than a 4K security camera has to offer.

But it’s not that simple. For instance, we see in 576 megapixel definition when our eyes are moving, but a single glance would only be about 5-15 megapixels.

Conclusion

Both 2K and 4K security cameras can offer sharp and clear pictures. The biggest difference between them lies in the number of pixels within the images, and a 4K security camera with more pixels can deliver more details or cover a larger area. However, compared to 2K cameras, the 4K footage will require more storage and bandwidth consumption. Additionally, 4K cameras often come with higher prices. Before making any purchases, think about what you really need and then choose the right one.

Have you ever noticed the difference between 2K and 4K security cameras? After reading this article, are you still undecided between the two? Do you want to experience the clarity that 4K security cameras offer? Are you interested in more video examples that show the difference? Leave a comment below and share your ideas with us!

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Editor from Reolink. Interested in new technology trends and willing to share tips about home security. Her goal is to make security cameras and smart home systems easy to understand for everyone.