What is a PTZ Camera (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) | Pros, Cons, Overview (2024)

What are PTZ and ePTZ Cameras?

Pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras are built with mechanical parts that allow them to swivel left to right, tilt up and down, and zoom in and out of a scene. They’re typically used to monitor wide open areas requiring a 180- or 360-degree view, and deployed in guard stations where active personnel can operate them through a remote camera controller. Depending on the camera or software, they can also be set to automatically follow motion-triggered activity or adhere to a pre-set schedule. PTZ cameras are generally implemented in tandem with a larger surveillance system, in which the PTZ tracks movement while a fixed camera takes detailed shots.

While “PTZ” indicates a particular type of camera hardware, “ePTZ” references a software feature. Electronic pan-tilt-zoom (ePTZ) security cameras do not physically move, but use digital zoom to give the pan-tilt-zoom effect on a fixed camera. This allows camera operators to magnify areas they would like to focus on, and prevents the gaps in coverage characteristic of traditional PTZ cameras. With some solutions offering 360° coverage, an ePTZ camera can be a powerful way to provide a PTZ-like experience while still recording the entire field of view.

Jump to each section to learn more:

• What are the Pros and Cons of PTZ Security Cameras?

• What are the Features and Advantages of PTZ Cameras?

• Where are PTZ Cameras Commonly Used?

• What are the Types of PTZ Cameras?

• What are Considerations When Buying a PTZ Camera?

Pros and Cons of PTZ Security Cameras

PTZ cameras give operators maximum control over the camera’s field of view, providing enhanced monitoring of larger areas. The controls allow operators to investigate moving subjects and capture comprehensive footage as events unfold across large spaces.

To make an informed investment decision, here are some points to consider when it comes to functionality, use case, cost, and more.

Considerations for Traditional PTZ Cameras:

  • Field of View: PTZ cameras can pan, tilt, and zoom to cover huge areas, but not simultaneously. Because they are unable to record areas that the camera isn’t specifically looking at they can sometimes lead to gaps in coverage. It is possible for incidents to occur and intruders to slip undetected from under the camera’s field of view (FOV). To combat this, look for PTZ cameras that have automatic motion detection and panning capabilities. Rather than requiring an operator to constantly monitor the feed, these features can automatically detect people or vehicles when they enter its field of view. The camera then automatically pans, tilts, and adjusts the zoom to capture high-resolution images of the movement.
  • Camera Lifespan: Because PTZ cameras contain many moving parts (including motors to pan, tilt, zoom), they are often less durable than fixed solutions. When considering PTZ cameras, make sure to take this into consideration when calculating the total cost of ownership. Look for cameras built with durability in mind, such as being IP66 weather rated and providing IK10 protection against direct impacts from vandals, hail and flying debris, making it suitable for highly-exposed outdoor installations. Additionally, cameras that come with a warranty can help reduce your total cost of ownership.
  • Higher Cost: In some cases, multiple fixed cameras (such as fisheye cameras) can give the same coverage at a lower cost compared to one PTZ camera. A 4K fisheye camera, for example, may be configured to cover the same area as a PTZ camera and permit digital zoom on high-resolution footage, without running the risk of being repositioned incorrectly.
  • Latency Considerations: A common issue that many PTZ cameras face is high command latency. The command latency is the lag time between which an operator issues a command to adjust the camera FOV, to when the FOV changes on the monitor. It’s important to be aware that high latency can sometimes cause PTZ controls to malfunction and shift out of gear. Look for cameras that ensure smooth and precise controls with an immediate response time that enables operators to dynamically adjust to scenes as they unfold in real-time.

Features and Advantages of PTZ Cameras:

  • Large Field of View: PTZ cameras are used to monitor a large area, and often recommended to use in conjunction with a fixed camera to avoid gaps in coverage. Depending on the model, cameras can move anywhere between zero pan/tilt and the full 360 degree pan/180 degree tilt. Some solutions also have digital pan and tilt, which allows for video to be adjusted after recording - though the resulting video would be grainer and lower res.
  • Motion-Based Auto Tracking: Auto tracking is a function that enables PTZ cameras to adjust their field of view to follow moving objects automatically. The use case for this function is typically best applied in quiet areas with minimal movement (for example, a museum after closing).
  • Remote Camera Control: Conventional PTZ cameras can be manually and remotely adjusted to track suspicious activity. This allows users to change the camera’s field of view without having to go onsite. A few common control mechanisms include: Mobile apps, joystick controls, and computer apps which all allow operators to adjust cameras with the control they prefer.
  • Zoom Capabilities: Most PTZ cameras support optical zoom, which is used to view and capture faraway objects like license plates or faces. Optical zoom (ie: 20x, 30x, 40x) refers to the maximum focal length divided by the minimum focal length - the larger the number, the further the zoom.

Where PTZ cameras are commonly used:

PTZ cameras can be used in an ever wider range of areas like stadiums, large industrial yards, and other expansive outdoor areas. A few of the most suitable use cases are listed below:

  • Stadiums: Help ensure crowd safety during concerts, events, or sports games. Capture the action and oversee seating areas, entrances and critical points.
  • Parking lots: Scan wide areas with extensive coverage at key locations, including entrances, exits and high-traffic areas.
  • Transportation hubs: Increase public safety by monitoring platforms, ticketing areas and waiting zones. Use facial recognition and investigate suspicious activities.
  • Parks: Provide a safer environment for park-goers, deter vandalism and illegal behavior and monitor wildlife.
  • Train yards: Monitor train yard operations, tracks and storage areas to safeguard assets, detect unauthorized access and respond to security breaches promptly.
  • Storage lots: Gain a bird’s eye view of sweeping areas from poles or towers. Monitor equipment, infrastructure and detect suspicious activities.
  • Warehouses: Secure entry points, loading docks, storage areas and inventory in warehouses and distribution centers.
  • Loading docks: Observe loading dock operations, prevent unauthorized access and deter theft or tampering of goods in transit.

Types of PTZ Cameras:

  • PTZ IP Camera: PTZ internet protocol (IP) cameras can be deployed via WiFi or Power over Ethernet (PoE). Compared to traditional analog PTZ camerasWiFi PTZ Camera: WiFi PTZ cameras connect wirelessly to a router without a hardwired connection. (However, they still require a power source.) A strong WiFi connection is also recommended to prevent issues with lag and video quality.
    • PTZ PoE Camera: A PoE camera uses an Ethernet cable that plugs into a PoE switch to receive power and an internet connection. It generally has a connection distance much more powerful than WiFi.
    • PTZ Analog Camera: Analog (CCTV) PTZ cameras use an analog video signal to capture surveillance footage, and are wired to digital video recorders (DVRs) via coaxial cables. Analog PTZ security cameras typically cannot transmit video data on their own and require a DVR to support converting, compressing, and saving footage.
  • Outdoor PTZ Camera: PTZ cameras that are deployed outdoors must be able to withstand more extreme temperatures and weather conditions. They’re typically encased in a weatherproof exterior with an IP rating that indicates adequate protection against natural elements.
  • Wireless PTZ Camera: In cases where the installer is unable to run video cables, wireless PTZ cameras are able to transmit video wirelessly. Typically this is done through WiFi, although transmitter sets can be used to convert analog signals. Wireless PTZ cameras are typically deployed for long-distance outdoor monitoring where it’s difficult or expensive to run cabling.

What to Consider When Buying a PTZ Camera:

  • Will you have someone manning the camera at all times?
  • Do you have sufficient storage? (Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, DVR, or NVR?)
  • What visibility do you need? (3MP vs. 4K resolution? Field of view? Low-light IR illuminators?)
  • What type of environmental hazards do you face? (Operating temperatures? Waterproof?)
  • What does the installation require? (Supporting equipment? Professional system integrators?)
  • What kind of cabling is needed to support the system in terms of network connectivity? (PoE, WiFi, wireless?)
  • How much pan and tilt functionality do you require? (Though a 360 pan may remove all blind spots, the corner camera wouldn’t need to record the wall behind it.)
  • What environment will the camera be deployed? (Indoor, outdoor?)
  • What type of camera best fits your needs? (Dome or Bullet?)

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What is a PTZ Camera (Pan-Tilt-Zoom) | Pros, Cons, Overview (2024)
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