What are PTZ Cameras?
Cameras with the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom (PTZ) allow you to monitor larger areas that would require multiple fixed cameras. By moving to monitor suspicious actions or high-action areas, PTZ cameras offer the security of video surveillance while minimizing installation.
How PTZ Cameras Work
PTZ cameras come with mechanical parts, which allow the camera and the lens to move. Some cameras or software can create preset Guard Tours, which are predetermined positions the camera will move to on a set schedule. Other PTZ cameras or software may allow the camera to automatically move when action is detected, allowing the camera to follow suspicious activity as it moves.
The range of movement will vary between cameras. In cameras with 360 pan, the camera can turn in a complete circle to prevent any blind spots around it. 180 tilt allows the camera to see straight ahead, below, and above its position. Together, panning and tilting allow the camera to see action happening behind or next to it.
Depending on the model, cameras can move anywhere between zero pan/tilt and the full 360 degree pan/180 degree tilt. While a smaller range of movement may work, it’s advisable to get the full movement so your camera can have more flexibility. Some cameras also include digital pan and tilt, allowing you to move the video after it’s recorded.
There are two types of zoom on surveillance cameras. Optical zoom means the camera lens physically moves to zoom in, enlarging an area of interest by moving closer. Optical zoom preserves the image quality, so the camera can continue to record clear video. Digital zoom, the alternative to optical zoom, allows you to zoom in on the desired area after the video has been recorded. Because digital zoom simply enlarges an existing image, video quality can be diminished by zooming in too far and pixilating the images.
PTZ cameras consume more power than fixed cameras because of their movements, but many models are now available with PoE or PoE+ for easier installation.
How PTZ Cameras Can Help You
Because PTZ cameras can automatically move in response to activity or pre-set schedules, a single camera can often be used to monitor an entire room or area that would require two or more fixed cameras. This flexibility makes them idea for locations where a lot of activity occurs including shopping areas and parking lots, because they can follow anything out of the ordinary that happens. Other uses for PTZ cameras can include:
- Wide open areas with many points of interest, so the camera can move to monitor them all
- In guard stations, where security personnel can pan, tilt, or zoom the cameras as they see suspicious activity
- As part of the overall surveillance system, in conjunction with fixed cameras—the PTZ camera can follow activities, while a fixed camera can take detailed shots
When installing PTZ cameras as part of a surveillance system, there are some important factors to consider. PTZ cameras should be a part of your overall system, so ask yourself:
- Is facial recognition important? You may want to consider using a PTZ camera to monitor the entire room from a high viewpoint, and a strategically placed HD camera to capture faces
- How much do you need the camera to pan and tilt? A 360 pan removes all blind spots, but a camera in a corner doesn’t need to record the blank wall directly behind it
- Do you want optical or digital zoom? Optical zoom provides clearer, more detailed images because the zoom isn’t taken after the image is taken