Why is it that banks buy such poor cameras? In this age of being able to take a picture of a gnat from a satellite, why is the quality so bad?

Why is it that banks buy such poor cameras? In this age of being able to take a picture of a gnat from a satellite, why is the quality so bad?

Ever time there is a picture in the paper or a bank robber, it is of such poor quality that it could be almost anyone.

— Tom A., Ashland

You won't get much an argument from these quarters, Tom. It seems the majority of robbery suspect photos — whether they are printed in news pages or appear on television screens — are murky at best.

Bad pictures are frequently the result of poor placement, says Brian Cook of Cook Security, which works with Northwest banks. Cameras shooting down instead of nearly at head height or facing windows don't produce clear photos.

"You're just going to get the top of heads if you're at the wrong height," Cook says. "If you don't compensate for backlight and you're pointing at a window, all you are going to get is a silhouette."

Banks have employed photo technology, Cook says, since at least the 1960s. Lots of cameras aren't always the answer, but more expensive equipment can help.

"We're into the third generation," Cook says. "There are newer digital cameras that have better quality, but they are very expensive — typically double the price of an analogue camera.

"It takes funding to put in the proper amount of cameras for right coverage," Cook says. "I've gone to institutions with one and they really need 12 in the right positions for the right coverage."

He says about 85 percent of the financial institutions use digital video recorders.

"The days of 35mm are pretty much gone," he says.

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