What is a PTZ Camera? Understanding the Pros and Cons

Most people ask what is a PTZ Camera? How is it different from all the cameras on the market? Let’s take a look at how PTZ cameras are designed for their specific applications.

The development of technology gave rise to the innovations of many gadgets. These gadgets allow us to experience the world in a more meaningful way. Cameras, for one thing, transformed how we perceive the world. There are various types of cameras one can choose from. This article will focus on one camera that became a buzz in the tech industry. But if you’re unfamiliar with innovations in technology, you might not have heard about the term before. I’m talking about the PTZ camera.

What is a PTZ Camera?

A PTZ camera stands for Pan-Tilt-Zoom. They are cameras with built-in mechanisms for swiveling from left to right, tilting up and down, and zooming in and out. These cameras are most often used for broad open areas that need monitoring from a 180 or 360-degree view.

One of the most popular PTZ camera brands is PTZOptics. PTZOptics is designed to make broadcast quality affordable. PTZOptics cameras can send three simultaneous video streams through HDMI, HD-SDI, USB 3.0, and IP streaming (NDI|HX®) depending on the model you choose. They are also very easy to install and operate.

What is a PTZ security camera?

A PTZ security camera is a camera that is used for security monitoring. Because of its ability to move in all directions, it can capture suspicious activity or high-action zones. PTZ security cameras provide picture and video surveillance with ease.

What is meant by a non-PTZ camera?

Non-PTZ cameras are also termed robotic camera systems that are non-traditional. When needing a camera that swivels, pans, and zooms, people automatically think of PTZ cameras. But there are other options to choose from. One example is the Spectrum multi-axis robotic camera from a brand called eMotimo.

What is an ePTZ Camera?

ePTZ cameras stand for electronic pan, tilt, and zoom. It is a new technology that allows users to digitally enhance their video conferences. ePTZ cameras do not physically move. It references a software feature that uses digital zoom to give the pan-tilt-zoom effect on a fixed camera. With some solutions offering 360° coverage, ePTZ cameras magnify areas they would like to focus on and prevents the gaps in coverage characteristic of traditional PTZ cameras.

Types of PTZ Camera

PTZ IP Camera

IP in PTZ IP cameras stands for Internet Protocol. These cameras are installed either via WiFi or Power over Ethernet. Without a physical connection, WiFi PTZ cameras connect wirelessly to a network. But they still entail a power source to work. In this case, a robust WiFi connection is also advised to avoid slowness and poor video quality.

PTZ PoE Camera

PTZ PoE cameras are called Power over Ethernet. To help you understand this more, let’s define what an Ethernet is first. An Ethernet is a conventional networking technique used to link devices in a wired local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN). Thus, the camera connects to a PoE switch via an Ethernet wire to get power and an internet connection. Such a protocol allows a significantly longer connection distance than WiFi.

PTZ analog camera

Analog cameras collect surveillance video using an analog video signal. They are connected to digital video recorders (DVRs) vial coaxial cables. It is noteworthy that analog PTZ cameras often cannot send video records. They need a DVR to convert, compress, and save recordings.

Outdoor PTZ camera

Many PTZ cameras are used outdoors. These cameras must be capable of withstanding higher temperatures and weather conditions. Because of this, they often have waterproof enclosures. These shells come with an IP rating indicating appropriate protection against natural factors.

Wireless PTZ camera

There are cases where camera installers are unable to run video cables. In such circumstances, a wireless PTZ camera transfers video material wirelessly. The standard tool is via WiFi, but transmitter sets are also used. Wireless PTZ cameras are used for long-distance outdoor surveillance where running cabling is a challenge and a costly expense.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a PTZ Camera

Features and advantages of a PTZ Camera

Field of View

PTZ cameras’ field of view is relatively huge. Thus they can cover a much larger area. They range from zero to 360-degree pan or 180-degree tilt. With this capacity, users can gain control over the field of view. Some PTZ cameras also have a digital pan and tilt. This mechanism adjusts the video after recording. Though helpful, it can result in a grainier video with low resolution. Also, it is still advisable to use PTZ cameras with another fixed camera to prevent gaps in coverage.

Motion-Based Auto Tracking

Auto tracking allows adjustment in the field of view. This feature automatically monitors moving targets like a person, vehicle, or item. The camera enables the target to be at the center of the frame. The camera then returns to its standard position when the moving target leaves the camera’s field of view. When another movement is detected, it repeats this mechanism. PTZ cameras are also helpful for real-time manual tracking of targets as you can control their functions.

Time-based Autoscan

Presets can be programmed to pan, tilt, and zoom in different fields of view over the space you want to monitor. You can automate this feature at a specific time and position. For example, you can configure your PTZ camera to pan, tilt, or zoom every 30 seconds at a particular space of interest.

Camera Control

You can operate a PTZ camera from remote locations over the internet or on your smartphone. This feature gives you the convenience of monitoring desired places. With the PTZ remote camera controls, you can activate and change fields of view without the need to go onsite.

Zoom Capabilities

PTZ cameras can zoom in and out to capture finer details. They have great optical zooms for sharp and clear images even over long distances. For even better photos, you can pair your PTZ camera with high-resolution recording. Imagine capturing small details like license plates and clear faces.

Sensor

PTZ cameras have low light features that produce clear images even when there is minimal to no light. Some PTZ cameras even have night vision. This feature is advantageous for coverage during more extended periods without light. They have infrared light, enabling them to deliver accurate black and white video and images in complete darkness.

Disadvantages of a PTZ Camera

Although PTZ cameras are popular and provide many benefits, they also come with specific cons. One of the disadvantages of using a PTZ camera is its gaps in coverage and blind spots. Although the camera can pan, tilt, and zoom, it cannot do so simultaneously to cover a complete surveillance area.

PTZ cameras are infamous for their high command latency. Command latency is the lag time between the adjustments in the field of view before the camera changes in the monitor. PTZ cameras are also known for being less durable. Some people find that malfunctions are common. These issues can be costly in the long run.

What is a PTZ camera Used For?

Video conferencing and live events

PTZ cameras are helpful for live events, festivals, gatherings, and video conferences. Online events, in particular, have become popular because of the current health crisis. PTZ cameras can display live coverage of events on venue screens allowing remote participants to tune in in real-time. PTZ cameras can be used in the main auditorium and other training rooms for seminars and conferences. This convenient setup provides full event coverage.

Video surveillance

PTZ cameras are a vital component of up-to-date surveillance systems. These cameras directly focus on suspicious actions with their ability to move to monitor a given area. Video surveillance using PTZ cameras is advantageous in guard stations, courtrooms, supermarkets, airports, museums, shops, restaurants, and other places that need monitoring.

Education and entertainment

Online teaching and distance learning has increased in the past two years as schools closed because of the threat of COVID-19. PTZ cameras can be installed in the teaching spaces of instructors and professors to live stream or record a learning session. By using a PTZ camera, students can enjoy interactive learning despite the limitations of online Theaters and broadcasting industries also use PTZ cameras.

Auto tracking

With its auto-tracking abilities, combined with zoom capacity, PTZ cameras are favorable for industries like sports and broadcasting. Covering sports events and tournaments is much more convenient. PTZ cameras can track movements from different angles. It can also capture playfield as well as crowd action.

How to Mount PTZ Cameras?

The manner and location of setting up a PTZ camera are significant. There are different ways you can set up or mount your PTZ camera. Wall-mounted PTZ cameras offer distinct eye-level vantage points. This PTZ camera setup can be atop a veranda to overview wide places. Some PTZ cameras are ceiling mounted. They provide recordings from above. Such a view is beneficial for capturing documents or angular pictures of spaces. Lastly, you can mount your PTZ cameras on a pole. This setup is useful for positioning your PTZ camera beyond the reach of people but not too high beyond its vantage point. Imagine a church with vaulted ceilings. A pole-mounted PTZ camera can be used instead of a ceiling-mounted one.

Things to Consider When Looking for a PTZ Camera

Functionality

The PTZ camera that is best for you is the one that will satisfy the purpose for which you will use it. In looking for the perfect PTZ camera to use, you might want to ask yourself a few questions. Answering these questions will give you a sense of what features you are looking for.

  • What will you use it for?
  • Where will you use it?
  • At what times will you use it?
  • What type of surroundings and what environmental hazards will affect it?
  • What installation requirements do you need?
  • How much pan, tilt, and zoom range will you need?

Network requirements

If you use your PTZ camera for streaming, it’s good to consider network requirements. High-quality coverage starts with a dependable network that can handle the bandwidth for high-resolution images and videos. High-resolution videos with crisp audio entail an extensive range of frequencies for transmission.

Streaming

Connectivity for streaming is an essential factor to consider in looking for the right PTZ camera for you. There are streaming protocols to deliver data on online platforms like Twitch, YouTube, or Facebook. The standard streaming protocol, for example, is Adobe’s Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP). It means that if you want to use your PTZ camera to live stream on these platforms, you will need a cable that is RTMP compatible. Such streaming protocols update from time to time. Thus you have to make sure that your PTZ camera is also updated.

Resolution and zoom

PTZ cameras that offer high resolution are essential for capturing clear and sharp images and videos. If you use a PTZ camera for security surveillance, the resolution and zoom capacities are vital factors to consider. Ensure that your PTZ camera can recognize faces, vehicle details, and other small details.

Controls

In looking for the right PTZ camera, it is good to know whether there will be an onsite user to operate the camera or not. The most common control tool is an IR remote for manual controls. Other PTZ cameras allow individuals to control and manage them via software, web browsers, or mobile apps. Imagine being able to pan, tilt, and zoom your camera remotely in just a few clicks. For precise PTZ camera controls, joystick controllers are most recommended. Combining this tool with web technology, an IP joystick controller can be used. This tool allows users to search for and handle PTZ cameras in the system, increasing precision, range, and flexibility.

Audio

Standard PTZ cameras have a built-in 3.5mm jack. This feature enables you to connect it to a microphone. Some people also use a Bluetooth mic with a transmitter and receiver. Such a setup provides ease of use and flexibility to the user.

Post-production editing

Since PTZ cameras are used for various purposes like documentation and broadcasting, post-production editing is a factor to consider. For one thing, images and video captured by your PTZ camera must be clear and vivid to lessen the need for enhancement and editing.

Transferring videos and images from your PTZ camera to your computer should also be hassle-free. PTZ cameras with “plug and play” options are convenient for this purpose. You can import videos and images to add effects, music, and graphics.

In Summary

PTZ cameras are capable of panning, tilting, and zooming for more extensive and more detailed coverage. PTZ cameras provide versatility and ease of use with their remote control mechanisms. Individuals can benefit from them for different purposes like video conferences, auto-tracking, and broadcasting. Industries like sports, education, and businesses use them as well. But one of the most popular functions of PTZ cameras is video surveillance for security needs. For whatever purpose and preference, you’ll find PTZ cameras as a solution to address a variety of your image and video capturing problems. 

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Alex Shute
EDITOR
Alex Shute, MBA
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow.