We compare two paradigms for image analysis in visual sensor networks (VSN). In the compress-then-analyze (CTA) paradigm, images acquired from camera nodes are compressed and sent to a central controller for further analysis. Conversely, in the analyze-then-compress (ATC) approach, camera nodes perform visual feature extraction and transmit a compressed version of these features to a central controller. We focus on state-of-the-art binary features which are particularly suitable for resource-constrained VSNs, and we show that the “winning” paradigm depends primarily on the network conditions. Indeed, while the ATC approach might be the only possible way to perform analysis at low available bitrates, the CTA approach reaches the best results when the available bandwidth enables the transmission of high-quality images.