PTZ Cameras

When you are choosing a security camera for your home or business it helps to understand the different lens options that are available to you. Most common are the fixed lens, varifocal lens and the PTZ’s, otherwise known as the Pan, Tilt, Zoom cameras.

A fixed lens is just that, a non-adjustable lens. Typically they are a 3.6mm lens that gives a wide overview similar to what the human eye can see.

Then you have the Varifocal lens. Put simply this is a lens that can be manually zoomed and focused on a specific area. It’s important to realize that a varifocal camera is zoomed and focused at the time the camera is being setup. Once you have positioned and zoomed your fixed lens or varifocal camera, that is the view that you will see from that point on when viewing the cameras or watching recorded video. If you wanted to see a different view you would need to get up on your ladder and re-adjust the view, zoom or focus manually.

PTZ cameras, or pan tilt zoom cameras, are capable of remote directional and zoom control.

Many PTZs can zoom in with optical zoom and can also digitally zoom after that. They also have the ability to be set on a tour or a pattern. That means you can set the camera on a predefined repeating cycle. You might want to have it look in one direction for 5 seconds then turn 60 degrees, zoom in and look in another direction for 10 seconds. The pattern options are fully customizable.

Before you go out and buy all PTZ cameras here are a few things to think about.

Cost

PTZ’s are typically a lot more expensive than fixed or varifocal cameras. If you want to add IR (Night Vision) the cost jumps up even more.

Installation

When you install a PTZ a couple of things need to be taken into consideration. First, most PTZs are larger than a typical security camera and require more power. It is usually recommended that PTZs have their own dedicated power source. Many come with a power supply but in some cases you may have to buy a separate one.

Most PTZs today are controlled via RS485. RS485 is a standard on most new DVRs but an extra set of wires may need to be run to control the Pan, Tilt and Zoom of the camera.

If you are installing an IP PTZ the power, video and control can all be done over a single CAT5 cable but a separate POE Power injector is recommended.

Control

In order to control your PTZ you will have to use the on-screen buttons or UI of your DVR, PSS Software, Web Interface or mobile App assuming they have that ability. If you want to use a Joystick you will probably have to purchase one separately.

Functionality

It is possible for a PTZ camera set to tour mode to be pointed in the wrong direction at a crucial moment. You might decide after this happens a few times to take the PTZ out of tour mode, but then you just have a very expensive fixed lens camera. Of course you do still have the ability to Pan, Tilt and Zoom via your DRV or a Joystick.

If you do decide to set your PTZ to a fixed view and the power goes out or the camera reboots there is no guarantee the lens will automatically go back the desired position. You may have to go back and point it there again.

Auto Tracking

Some PTZ security cameras even have special features like Motion Tracking. This is where the camera will automatically detect movement, lock on to an object and track it. Not all PTZ cameras have Auto Tracking. In fact motion tracking comes with it’s own set of pros and cons:

  1. Typically the camera will track the largest object in its view. If a car pulls up and 3 guys get out and run in different directions the camera will most likely follow the biggest guy.
  2. If you want to use Auto Tracking then your PTZ can’t be in Tour Mode. The PTZ will not be able to detect motion and track an object if it is constantly moving because it’s in tour mode.

Conclusion

Although PTZ’s might seem like a great idea there are several things to consider before going out and spending a lot of time and money on something that is not necessarily going to be the best solution for you particular situation.

They definitely have their place and are always a great addition to your security system but may not be the best choice as you only line of defense.

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