Video surveillance plays a fundamental role in protecting your valuables and safeguarding your properties. As the public’s safety awareness increases, along with the rise in crime rates, more and more security cameras are installed in various places, such as schools, office buildings, hospitals, parking lots and data centers. Protecting main entrances is a crucial step toward securing your home, and for small-to-medium-sized businesses, security cameras are effective tools to deter burglaries but they serve more purposes than just preventing crimes. They help deter negative behaviors (employee theft, shoplifting perhaps), keep the employees productive, resolve the disputes quicker, protect yourself from legal actions when trying to document crimes and injury claims by customers or employees, etc. But since not all security cameras are not made the same and they come in different appearances, features and sizes, it’s always a tough task to pick a suitable camera for your video surveillance system.
There are different types of security cameras available in the market, such as the traditional analog cameras, dome cameras, bullet-shaped cameras and fish-eye cameras, but among all these bewildering choices, Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras are undoubtedly still the backbone of the IP security camera system and the whole security industries. Today’s blog is a beginner guide to PTZ cameras. Please keep reading to figure out “what is a PTZ camera and how to use it”.
What is a PTZ Camera?
As its name implies, the PTZ camera is an IP security camera built with mechanical parts that allow it to pan left and right, tilt up and down and zoom in and out of a scene. Panning means the horizontal movement of the camera lens while tilting describes the vertical movement. Zooming is referred to the adjustment of the focal length of the lens to bring the subject close-up to the monitor. The PTZ camera is typically used to provide surveillance for wider areas that require a 180°-360° view and 24/7 continuous monitoring. It can be operated in remote locations via the internet from the control room. Compared with the traditional IP cameras that have a stationary lens, the PTZ camera has a highly movable lens (while the camera stays completely stationary within its housing) and can capture footage at multiple angles and can zoom in and out to catch more details and cover a larger area.
Features and Advantages of PTZ Cameras
PTZ cameras bring a great number of advantages to video monitoring. They can be manually and remotely adjusted to track suspicious activities and discourage potential crimes, which helps you to create a safer workplace or community in a more budget-friendly way. And most importantly, they have much more advantages over the other types of security cameras that make them stand out in the video surveillance system.
Larger Field of View: PTZ cameras are often used to monitor a larger area, and are normally used in combination with some stationary cameras, i.e. the bullet cameras, to provide a more comprehensive video monitoring in mission-critical applications. Considering that the PTZ camera is equipped with advanced hydraulic motors to allow the lens to pan side to side and tilt up and down, if mounted properly, it can deliver a wider field of view over 180 degrees. Theoretically, a single PTZ camera can provide the coverage of 2 or 3 fixed cameras, which highly eliminates blind spots and provides a higher level of security.
Optical Zoom: One of the biggest advantages of the PTZ cameras is their zooming capacities, which can be of great help to capture faraway or small objects like license plates. There are two basic ways of zooming: optical zooming and digital zoom. Optical zoom physically adjusts the focal length of the lens, while digital zoom uses magnification technology to make a subject appear close-up by enlarging pixels in the center of the image. In digital zooming, resolution and image quality will be greatly compromised, while optical zooming will keep image resolution the same no matter how far you zoom in.
Motion Tracking & Auto-focus: Although a great number of IP security cameras support motion tracking functions, the PTZ cameras offer a more powerful and reliable motion-based auto-tracking to target the moving subjects (even a high-speed moving vehicle) automatically and more freely with the Pan-Tilt-Zoom capacities to cover a larger area. Additionally, nearly all PTZ cameras can auto-focus: they can automatically adjust the focus while tilting, panning or zooming until you get a clear image and can make out all necessary details of the scene. On the contrary, the fixed cameras generally need to be focused manually, and if you need to move the camera to another location, it needs to be refocused again.
Tour & Automatic Cruise: Another distinct feature of the PTZ camera is its tour and cruise capabilities. The PTZ camera can be configured or preset to patrol or scout pre-determined areas automatically and repeatedly at a certain speed and interval. For instance, the PTZ camera can be configured to pan, tilt, or zoom every one minute to capture different areas of interest within the camera’s overall surveillance area. But since it is programmed to change its facial view and camera angle now and then, scientifically speaking, a PTZ camera cannot guarantee a 360-degree perspective in actual applications——there’s and always will be a dead zone or blind spot, and it’s also the reason why you need to set up multiple security cameras at a time. What’s more, you can also manually control the camera to turn and rotate to provide a constant view of an area if you spot any suspicious activities at the scene.
Flexibility in placement: PTZ cameras may cost more than fixed cameras, but they give you more flexibility in setting up a surveillance system. Once the PTZ camera is pointed towards the areas you want to monitor, you will have a lot of viewing-angle options without ever needing to manually reposition the camera. Backed up with a highly reliable design, it offers a care-free installation in outdoor harsh environments. Moreover, using PTZ cameras helps you to cover all directions without a blind spot and can decrease the need for installing multiple fixed cameras to cover the areas.
PTZ Cameras are commonly used in:
• Commercial settings like grocery stores, pharmacies, markets, etc. to deter shoplifting
• Public areas such as schools, hospitals, local parks and parking lots
• Conferences, concerts, etc. to record a presentation and provide complete event coverage
• Business-related settings like offices, factories and labs to boost morale
• Intelligent transportation systems, railway stations and intersection traffic monitoring
How to Choose the PTZ Camera for Your System?
1) High Resolution
A robust, high-quality PTZ camera is required for proper video surveillance. High-resolution cameras are highly recommended when covering larger areas with great levels of detail. In most cases, a resolution of 1280×720 pixels is sufficient, but a full HD PTZ camera can provide a clearer image with minimal frame drops. And with the development of technology, And for PTZ cameras built with digital zoom, it’s always recommended to go for a higher resolution, for resolution will be sacrificed when zooming in.
2) Night vision
Night vision is one of the most demanding features of a video surveillance system to provide a substantially clear image in conditions of near-darkness or in low-light environments. Most night-vision cameras are equipped with built-in infrared LEDs, which are imperceptible to naked eyes, to keep the premises under discreet surveillance and discourage any malicious attempts. But when choosing a night-vision PTZ camera, try to avoid cameras that come with a highly reflective glass housing, for they are more susceptible to IR reflection, in which the light is bounced back to the lens causing blurry or foggy images.
3) Remote control
A higher percentage of burglaries and break-ins take place when you’re away from home, so it is not possible to overstate the importance of remote access in the security system. Most of the surveillance cameras can be operated through mobile applications, web browsers and PC software, giving you varying degrees of remote control. As such, you’ll have access to remote monitoring directly on your phones and customize the system by parameter settings.
4) Weatherproof and vandal-proof
Considering most security cameras are installed outdoors, you should choose a camera that can withstand severe weather conditions with a longer lifespan. The cameras should be able to operate over a wider temperature range (-35°C to 55°C) with a strong resistance to water, dust or other corrosive elements in the ambient atmosphere (a weatherproof rating of at least IP66). Necessary precautions should be taken to prevent vandalism when physical access to the cameras is possible. The cameras should have a vandal-proof casing that is unable to open with regular tools and they should be made from materials highly resistant to impact, covered with a thick protective layer in a domed shape.
5) Audio recording
Integrating audio recording into the camera is an important action to upgrade the whole video surveillance system, but most cameras don’t support audio because of the regulations around audio surveillance. It’s legally documented that two and all-party consent is needed before recording a private conversation. Although there are restrictions around audio recording, it is totally legal where there is a consensus or in public areas with warning signs. The adoption of audio surveillance not only indicates a more comprehensive security system but also means an increased responsibility to carry out audio surveillance while not violating others’ privacy.
Fastcabling has launched various types of PTZ cameras for you to choose from.
This 2MP IR PoE+ PTZ speed dome IP camera provides both wide-range coverage and great details within a single camera. Featuring a high resolution of up to 2MP at 25fps, it supports 360° panning, 1° above horizon tilting angle and 30x optical zoom capacities to offer an all-around surveillance coverage. Protected in an IP66 waterproof, vandal-proof housing, this PTZ camera can operate safely in any imaginable environment under a wider temperature range of -35°C to 55°C. It’s equipped with a removable IR cut filter: in the daytime, the filter covers the sensor to provide color footage, while at night the filter opens to generate B&W clear 1080p images in the dead of night, offering a maximum night vision range of 200 meters. This PTZ camera also supports a time-based auto-span to monitor pre-defined areas. And since the camera is onvif-complaint, it can work with different branded NVRs with no problem. And we also develop a 2MP IR PoE+ Auto Tracking PTZ Speed Dome IP Camera that comes with intelligent auto-tracking features to automatically identify and follow a moving subject (like a car) once it enters the detection zone.
For high-performance and high-density video surveillance systems, you will need a security camera that supports a higher resolution. This PTZ camera features 5MP UHD at 25fps and 20x optical zooming to verify detected security events. The camera can move between pre-set positions and zoom in automatically in response to detected events. If any suspicious events arise, the security guard can also manually zoom in on a certain spot via the software to get a closer look. The 5MP IR PoE+ speed dome IP camera is equipped with two sets of adaptive illuminators as well as a removable IR cut filter to adjust the lighting day and night. In the nighttime mode, the infrared illuminators will automatically switch on, light up the monitored area to 300 meters away, and generate B&W images at 2592*1944 pixels. Like the other PTZ cameras, this model is also compliant with the standard PoE to work with a PoE switch or PoE NVR to simplify the installation in remote areas.
How to Install the PTZ Camera?
A complete surveillance system is composed of IP security cameras, network video recorders and other supporting devices like the PoE switch and router. First, you need to prepare a PoE switch with 2 uplink ports, one for network connection and another for video storage. Use a short patch cord to connect the PoE switch to the router, take another Ethernet cable to link the switch to the NVR and then hook up the NVR to a monitor. Use a long Ethernet cable to connect the PTZ camera and the PoE switch, and then power up the switch to complete the power and data connection. For more information, please see the video below: