MJPEG vs H.264 for Home Security Cameras

If you are shopping home security cameras, you are undoubtedly running across a bunch of options and a bunch of hype. One of the most confusing parts of picking the right camera can be sorting out which video compression method is really the best. Let's see, there is H.264, MJPEG, MPEG4 which can all start to sound a lot like LMNOP. Swimming through the acronyms and the marketing hype can be worse than election campaigns. Maybe.

What is Video Compression

Video compression is a way for us to push video across the internet. Videos are big files so instead of clogging up the internet, camera makers and even companies like YouTube use compression. It's kind of like using those vacuum storage bags vs piling up old sweaters in your closet. Compression condenses things and frees up more space for other things thus saving bandwidth. Right now the two primary forms of compression for home security cameras are MJPEG and H.264 though you may also run into MPEG-4. The truth about MJPEG and H.264 is that there really isn't one clear winner. There are pros and cons to both and the best one will change depending upon your situation.


MJPEG is a type of compression that takes the full picture for each and every frame and compresses each and every frame.


  • Simple to Use
  • Standard Across Manufacturers
  • Highest Quality video
  • Uses Little Processing Power to Decode and Display
  • Often Cheaper Than H.264 Cameras


  • Can Suck Up Bandwidth
  • Can Use a Ton of Storage


H.264 is the rising star. It approaches compression differently. Instead of looking at a picture frame-by-frame like MJPEG, it periodically takes a full picture and uses algorithms to decipher what happened between the full picture frames. H.264 is the compression of choice for Vimeo, YouTube, and iTunes.


  • High Quality Video
  • Consumes Less Bandwidth Than MJPEG
  • Uses Less Storage Than MJPEG
  • Lower Latency


  • More Expensive
  • Requires More Processing Power

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