What Is a DSP Camera?

By Harvey Spector

An overview of the form of security surveillance and TV broadcasting that DSP cameras provide for superior video quality.

Digital signal processing cameras use a DSP chip to digitize analog video streams. Analog video streams are generated by charge-coupled device -- or CCD -- chips, which DSP chips then convert into a digital video signal. DSP cameras provide a number of notable advantages over analog cameras, including increased brightness, added stability, greater sharpness and resolution, greater power efficiency, reduced sensitivity to noise and more.

DSP Explained

Because the "D" in "DSP" stands for "digital," DSP is the opposite of analog signal processing, or ASP. Most camera systems that produce "continuous real-world signals" do so by creating analog video signals. For instance, many CCTV (closed-circuit television) camera networks or other security surveillance systems record video and audio in the form of analog signals. DSP systems convert these analog signals into more usable and reliable digital signals.

Smartphones, digital cameras and other devices, meanwhile, use digital signal processing to provide high quality images or video in a portable and energy efficient fashion.

Product Categories

According to the CCTV Advisory Service, DSP cameras generally fall into one of two categories: standard DSP or premium DSP.

Standard DSP Cameras

Standard DSP cameras offer a balance of price and affordability, giving buyers improved picture quality at a relatively modest price point. Standard DSP cameras perform well under a variety of different lighting conditions, and are superior to analog cameras across the board.

Premium DSP Cameras

Premium DSP cameras offer next-level quality and functionality at a premium price point. Per the CCTV Advisory Service, premium DSP cameras include special features such as programmable backlight compensation, video motion detection, remote control capability, on-screen menus and more. As a result, premium DSP cameras are generally a staple in more complicated, advanced, or state-of-the-art surveillance systems.

DSP Camera Applications in the Real World

Given their improved image quality and greater reliability, DSP cameras have largely replaced analog camera systems as the standard for video recording and production. In addition to CCTV security surveillance systems, the benefits of DSP cameras have also made them popular for live television broadcasting, in-field news reporting and even for medical applications.

According to a report from audio and video experts Hrvoje Balasko and Alen Lustica, television broadcasters have been particularly drawn to DSP cameras due to their improved gamma correction. Cameras with superior gamma correction offer more vivid contrast and more accurate color reproduction on the average home television set. As a result, television broadcasters who are using DSP cameras are by definition offering home viewers a superior product.