NEWS: Just posted a review of the new Reolink Go. If interested, you can find details here: Reolink Go Security Camera Review
Does an extra million pixels really make a difference in your security camera’s image quality? That is the question I hope to answer as I compare one of the soon-to-be released Reolink five (5) megapixel security cameras against its four (4) megapixel counterpart.
My early analysis says yes, there really is a difference and it is not just about having more pixels. However, getting the benefits of adding more pixels to an image depends on your specific use case. So, I would not go out and replace all your existing four megapixel cameras with newer five megapixel models unless you have disposable income or a specific reason too. But, if you are looking at purchasing a new IP security camera system, and you have decided to go with Reolink equipment, I would say there is no better time to jump on the five-megapixel standard than with these newer cameras containing enhanced image sensors.
Reolink started as a company in 2009 with a focus of bringing the best and highest quality security devices to both consumers and businesses; at a reasonable price. They have solutions that range from a single security camera all the way up to large multi-camera and alarm deployments. The company continues to bring its customers innovative solutions without breaking the bank or locking them into a single ecosystem.
I have close to twenty Reolink cameras across six different product lines that not only bringing peace of mind to my household, but they are a good way of preventing potential theft while additionally providing me with a discount on my homeowner’s insurance. The company delivers great support along with quite active web forums where people can assist one another with questions, issues, or just to share their images and videos.
Unboxing the unit
The pre-released camera I was provided to review was a newer model of the RLC-411. The RLC-411 is the bigger brother of the RLC-410 which was the flagship product the company released when entering the IP security camera market. The RLC-411 adds the ability of having a 4x optical zoom capability while the RLC-410 does not. Other than the newer image sensor, the camera appears to be a modified RLC-411 with no additional features added; meaning there is no audio option with this unit.
The camera arrived well packaged as all of my other products from Reolink have landed. The cardboard box is sturdy compared to what other manufactures use. The outside of the box is not flashy nor covered in colorful artwork like what is found with the Reolink Argus box; which is more geared toward retail distribution then direct to consumer like other Reolink products. However, their attention to detail is welcomed as all the little things they do help protect my investment in security.
Figure 1 Reolink RLC-411 5-Megapixel Box
One of the things I really enjoy about Reolink products is they include everything one needs to get started; quickly. If you have purchased any of their other wired IP security cameras, the contents found in this box are similar.
You receive a mounting template, security warning sticker, quick start guide, mounting screws, and the waterproof lid or cap advised for long-term outdoor instillations. You may also notice the two ends of the package have a rather stiff foam structure which protect the package’s contents from being damaged while in shipment.
Figure 2 Opening the box with inside contents
Removing the items found on the top of the package reveals the new and improved five-megapixel RLC-411 IP security camera underneath. You can see the camera is well safeguarded from damage as it is wrapped in a soft and protective material preventing scratching. As with its four-megapixel predecessor, this version also has the three-cable pigtail that comes with nearly all of Reolink’s wired IP security cameras. There is a cable for Ethernet/PoE (Power-over-Ethernet), one for an optional external power adapter if you are not using the PoE function, and the last is a device reset button; which provides a means of hard-resetting the camera.
Figure 3 Contents and camera underneath
The below image shows the newer Reolink RLC-411 five-megapixel camera with the protective cover removed along with all of its packaged accessories.
Figure 4 Box, Camera, and Accessories
The next image shows the updated camera without the other components. You can clearly see the three cables coming from the pigtail. The camera is weighty and solidly machined mostly out of metal.
Figure 5 Camera and cable pigtail
The next image provides a view of the camera’s lens and multiple night vision infrared LEDs. Again, no extra or additional changes to the outside or main parts of this camera were observed compared to the older 4-megapixel version.
Figure 6 Lens and IR LEDs
Opening any technical product is always fun and Reolink does a decent job of packaging their devices in a way that it both functional while also being esthetically pleasing. I have to give them high marks for their attention to detail.
Reolink RLC-411 (5MP Sensor)
The image below shows the key features of the Reolink RLC-411 camera.
Figure 7 Key Features of 5-megapixel Camera
So, when I opened this review I posed a question asking. Does an additional million pixels really make a difference? The answer is yes, and you can easily see this difference portrayed in the image below. Simply going from a 4-megapixel camera to a 5-megapixel one gives you an additional 30% more total image area. The blue shading in the image below represents the area covered by a 4-megapixel camera sensor (2560×1440) verses the red shaded areas representing a 5-megapixel sensor (3072×1728)
Figure 8 4-megapixel vs 5-megapixel image size
What is a bit more difficult to see is how does this apply to real world security camera images? The image below shows a sample taken from the 5-megapixel camera with the orange dotted line representing the image size one would expect from a 4-megapixel camera covering the same area.
One can clearly see the difference in the amount of area covered by deploying a 5-megapixel camera over lower megapixel versions. For me it is quite obvious that the newer image sensor has its advantages over the older one. However, as stated earlier, it depends on your specific use case for the camera. If you are deploying this in a place that is already rather tight or cramped, you may do better using four megapixels over five. But, if you are looking to capture or secure a more open area, I would recommend you go with the 5-megapixel sensor.
Figure 9 Difference in image size example
The two images below were taken using different Reolink cameras. The first was taken from the newer increased image sensor and the second was an older camera having a four-megapixel sensor. As with the previous diagram representing the image size differences, the images below put this into practice.
You can clearly see in the 5-megapixel image that there is quite a bit more area on both the right and left sides compared to the one 4-megapixel one. There is also a fair amount of additional horizontal area compared to the older sensor.
Figure 10 5-megapixel camera capture
Figure 11 4-megapixel camera capture
Case and Mount
Although there were no additional changes to the camera apart from the image sensor, I did want to briefly say that Reolink has always impressed me with their attention to quality and product longevity.
The RLC-411 (5-megapixel edition) is constructed using mostly metal for both the case and the mount. Unlike many of the other competing security camera products on the market which still use plastic. The unit feels weighty and sturdy in the hand, and I would recommend using all three screws when mounting this camera, and ensure you mount it to a solid surface. Even though the camera is not designed to be a piece of art, it does blend well into most environments without being noticeable. The units are built to withstand the harsh outdoors, and I can say that the ones I have deployed around my property have endured unforgiving Northeastern winters.
Figure 12 Side view of 5mp camera
Figure 13 Mounting and pivot knuckle design
In summary, should you pick up the newer Reolink RLC-411 5-megapixel camera? My response is, it depends. You cannot go wrong with any of the Reolink solutions, and the newer cameras with improved image sensors add to a line of already great products.
I would recommend these be used for anyone deploying or thinking about deploying a new wired security camera system or for those who need to provide coverage of a larger area. You also get images that are sharper and can be magnified more without distortion. But, all of this comes with one potential downfall. The increased sensor size has the potential to increase network traffic and required recording space by 30% over 4-megapixel versions.
So, will I be replacing some of my existing RLC-410 4-megapixel bullet cameras with the newer RCL-411 5-megapixel ones? I think so, but only in limited places where the additional image capture size and zoom capabilities will come in handy.
- Bigger, sharper images
- Easier to Zoom and magnify images
- More data on network and NVR for storage
- No addition of audio capabilities with the update