PTZ Security Cameras What Are They and Do I Need One

PTZ’s are a great addition to any security camera system. The key question that you have to ask before you purchase one is… do I need it?

PTZ stands for Pan Tilt Zoom. PTZ cameras can be instructed to pan back and forth, tilt up or down, or zoom in or out. The cameras are controlled locally with a joystick, or remotely via the internet or smart phone application.

This is a truly a great feature in a camera. But a PTZ camera does not solve all your surveillance problems. We have seen many security camera systems that depend too heavily on their PTZs. One obvious issue is that the feature is only useful if a person is available to monitor and adjust the PTZ as needed. Some installations set up their PTZ camera to automatically pan back and forth. But that doesn’t help much if an event occurs outside of the camera’s field of view at any particular moment. Another option to address this issue is an ‘autotracking’ feature which uses analytics to instruct the camera to track and focus in on movement within its field of view. But the autotracking functionality is not fool-proof, and adds cost.

So we recommend that it’s best to think of a PTZ as a bonus camera in your system. Cover all of your area properly with fixed cameras, and then add a PTZ as the “cherry on top”. Now you have proper coverage of all your area and still have the ability to PTZ around your property, either locally or remotely.

Cost of PTZs

Many people think they can save money using a PTZ because it can cover more area. But, PTZs typically cost about 3 or 4 times that of fixed lens camera so they don’t save you money. Plus, since PTZ cameras have moving parts in them they require more upkeep and may not last as long as a fixed lens camera. Maintenance of PTZs might include dome cleaning, belt replacement, and replacement of motor controls, RS485 data board, or zoom module.

Megapixel and Digital PTZ

One last thing to consider is megapixel (mp) cameras. Megapixel cameras record at a much higher resolution than analog cameras and offer a feature called ‘digital PTZ’. When you record a 5mp camera at 2560×1920, you have a lot of pixels that you can digitally zoom in on and move around like a PTZ, both live and during playback. As megapixel cameras become more ubiquitous and affordable the ‘old’ style PTZs will be less desirable.

Conclusion

If all this sounds like we’re trying to talk you out of purchasing a PTZ, we’re not! You just need to be aware of the advantages as well as the drawbacks of using this type of security camera.

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