PTZ Long Range Cameras

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Pan–tilt–zoom camera

A pan–tilt–zoom camera (PTZ camera) is a camera that is capable of remote directional and zoom control.

PTZ is an abbreviation for pan, tilt and zoom and reflects the movement options of the camera. Other types of cameras are ePTZ or virtual pan-tilt-zoom (VPTZ) where a high-resolution camera digitally zooms and pans into portions of the image, with no physical camera movement. Ultra-low bandwidth surveillance streaming technologies use VPTZ to stream user-defined areas in higher quality without increasing overall bandwidth usage. Surveillance cameras of this type are often connected to a digital video recorder which records the full field of view in full quality.

PTZ Cameras are commonly used in applications such as surveillance, video conferencing, live production, lecture capture and distance learning.

Though popular, PTZ cameras often create a false sense of security. They make for great demonstrations but are often underutilized or misused.

The use of PTZ cameras varies significantly. Offices and fast food restaurants rarely use PTZ cameras. However, the majority of cameras at shopping malls and public surveillance are PTZs. In general, PTZs are the standard choice for monitoring large public areas.

Here's a short video demonstration on YouTube of using a PTZ camera in action.

Advantages of PTZs

Disadvantages of PTZs

Alternatives to PTZs

Megapixel IP cameras are emerging as an alternative to PTZs but issues remain.

The primary potential of Megapixel cameras is to eliminate the problem that PTZs can only view/record where they are currently looking. By contrast, since megapixel cameras use a digital zoom, viewing does not impact the area recorded. Also, since megapixel cameras eliminate the mechanical complexity of PTZs, their cost is lower (even for multi-megapixel) and the service issues should be less.

However, megapixel cameras cannot come close to matching the potential coverage area of a PTZ camera. Even with the far higher pixel count of a megapixel camera, it's unlikely to provide anything more than the equivalent of a 2x or 3x optical zoom. Furthermore, while megapixel vendors contend that megapixel cameras provide the resolution of 20 to 60 standard definition cameras, the effective image detail is nowhere close to this (especially at lower light conditions).

While megapixel certainly offers enhanced resolution and coverage area over fixed cameras, there's little reason to believe that megapixel cameras can fully eliminate the use of PTZs.

Best Fits for PTZs

With these considerations in mind, PTZs work best when: