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In 2022, for the first time in decades, the property crime rate in the US rose year-over-year, with an increase of 7.1% from the previous year. That statistic includes property crimes against businesses and other commercial enterprises, making business security more important than ever. 

That’s why an increasing number of businesses are investing in and installing commercial-grade security cameras, especially high-quality PTZ security camera models, to provide the level of protection that businesses need against theft, vandalism and other criminal activity. To help you determine if PTZ cameras are a good choice to secure your business, this guide will provide an overview of their technologies.

What is a PTZ security camera?

PTZ cameras are constructed with mechanically moving parts and tiny motors that allow them to pan left to right/​right to left, tilt up and down, and zoom in and out of a scene. These pan, tilt and zoom capabilities give them their meaning and name, making them great for monitoring large areas.

There’s also a common subset type called ePTZ cameras, which are electronic pan-tilt-zoom security cameras. These cameras don’t physically move but rather use digital zoom to achieve the pan-tilt-zoom effect. They don’t have the gaps in coverage that standard PTZ cameras may encounter, and some offer 360-degree coverage.

How PTZ cameras are different from fixed security cameras

  • Movement ‑The most obvious difference is that PTZ cameras move while fixed cameras do not.

  • Coverage ‑ That movement capability leads to the next biggest difference: a PTZ camera can help cover a much larger area.

  • Installation ‑ A PTZ camera may require more precision during installation, due to its ability to move.

  • Cost-effectiveness ‑ PTZ cameras can be more expensive, but usually fewer are required to achieve the same coverage of an area when compared to fixed-position cameras.

PTZ cameras for any application

  • Gain more detail with pan, tilt and zoom capabilities

  • Capture fast movements & detect incidents with video analytics

  • Leverage IR technology to see up to 300 meters in the dark

  • Secure any environment with weatherproof PTZ cameras

How do PTZ cameras work?

As mentioned above, these cameras can move side to side and up/​down for wide coverage. They can also zoom in to focus on single and/​or distant objects and zoom out for a wider view of a large area.

Typically, once installed, an operator manually controls the cameras by using a remote control or computer. The operator adjusts a camera’s focus and movement to track movement, monitor different areas and distances, and detect suspicious activity.

Many models can be programmed to move automatically at specified times/​intervals to monitor certain areas in a pre-set pattern. Some PTZ cameras also come equipped with intelligent tracking features that allow them to automatically detect and follow any movement within their field of view.

PTZ cameras are often implemented in tandem with a larger commercial surveillance system, including storage devices that allow footage to be recorded and accessed for future reference, and other security measures like motion detectors and alarms.

Real-life applications of PTZ cameras

PTZ technologies have a huge range of applications, from home security to industrial monitoring to large sporting events, for example: 

  • Commercial and retail ‑ These cameras are commonly deployed in such settings as shopping centers, retail stores and businesses for security purposes to monitor customer and employee activity and to guard against theft and vandalism.

  • Industrial settings ‑ PTZ cameras are frequently used in various industrial settings to monitor such things as worker conduct and safety and the manufacturing process.

  • Traffic ‑ Owing to their pan-tilt-zoom capabilities, PTZ cameras are eminently suited to monitoring traffic systems and traffic conditions such as flow, congestion and pedestrian activity.

  • Educational institutions ‑ Many schools, colleges and universities use PTZ technology to enhance security in classrooms and common areas and help ensure the safety of students and staff.

  • Sports and other large live events ‑ These cameras and related PTZ CCTV technology are commonly used at large events to track movement and zoom in when greater detail is needed.

  • Hotels and resorts  Many venues in the hospitality arena also use PTZ cameras to help ensure the level of security that is vital to the industry and individual businesses.

  • Properties ‑ Homeowners, landlords and commercial landlords are increasingly taking advantage of PTZ cameras to enhance the security of their homes or apartment buildings for peace of mind.

Different types of PTZ Cameras

There are five main types of PTZ cameras that property owners can choose from, including:

  • Analog ‑ These models record footage in an analog format to be sent to a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) for processing, analog PTZ cameras cannot process data internally so must be connected to a DVR via coaxial cables for footage to be saved.

  • Wireless ‑ Wireless PTZ cameras can be connected to a private WiFi router to send live footage to monitoring positions wirelessly, this can be helpful in situations where installing cables isn’t possible, but wireless feeds can be susceptible to interference.

  • Internet Protocol (IP) ‑ IP PTZ cameras send and receive data via a secure internet connection meaning live feeds can be broadcast to multiple remote viewing positions at once. These IP camera types can also process and format footage internally without a DVR.

  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) ‑ PoE cameras send data and receive power through a single Ethernet cable, they’re easier to install than analog cameras, suffer fewer interference issues than WiFi models and can operate online or in a closed system.

  • Outdoor ‑ Outdoor PTZ cameras come with weather-proof casings to protect each unit from adverse conditions, they’re usually water-resistant and feature anti-vandal features like impact-resistant domes, reinforced mounts and metal outer housings.

Benefits of PTZ cameras

PTZ cameras have several advantages over other types of security cameras. Here’s why they stand out:

  • Wider field of view ‑ One of the main attractions of PTZ cameras is their wide field of view, from 180 up to 360 degrees. Some models also digitally pan and tilt to allow for adjusting video after recording. Their field of view can be further enhanced by using them in conjunction with fixed-view cameras to avoid any gaps in coverage.

  • Optical zoom capability ‑ Almost all of these cameras support optical zoom to view/​capture distant objects, license plates and faces, for example. There is usually a range of optical zoom options, say, 20x, 30x or 40x.

  • Automatic motion-based tracking ‑ PTZ cameras with an auto-tracking function are able to adjust the field of view to automatically track moving objects for greater ease of use.

  • Remote control utility ‑ In most cases, PTZ cameras can be controlled and adjusted either manually or remotely, enabling the operator to change a camera’s field of view without having to go onsite.

Disadvantages of PTZ cameras

Although PTZ cameras have many benefits, they do have some disadvantages as well. Here are the drawbacks to consider:

  • Recording limitations ‑ These cameras can indeed pan, tilt, and zoom, but can only record what they are looking at, which leaves the potential for gaps in coverage.

  • Shorter lifespan ‑ Owing chiefly to the many moving parts, PTZ cameras may be less durable and have a shorter lifespan than fixed cameras.

  • Higher cost ‑ Usually, PTZ cameras cost more than fixed video cameras; however, their ability to cover wide areas may make them the most cost-efficient choice.

  • High command latency ‑ A common problem with PTZ cameras is high command latency. This is the lag time (the lowered response time) between the operator issuing an adjustment command to the camera and the camera making the adjustment in the field of view.

Considerations for choosing the right PTZ camera

When choosing the right PTZ camera for your specific needs, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Range of pan-tilt-zoom ‑ The range of movement for the pan, tilt and zoom functionalities will determine the amount of viewing area coverage (and, possibly, the degree of security).

  • Performance in low light ‑ Many areas to be monitored have low light, and a camera with low-light performance and/​or infrared capabilities should be considered.

  • Resolution ‑ A camera’s resolution determines its image quality, and, of course, higher resolution means more detailed images. This is especially important for sites that plan to frequently use the zoom function.

  • Remote-control capabilities ‑ Different cameras have different methods of remote control, so it’s important to know whether you prefer to control the PTZ camera from a computer, a dedicated remote control or a smartphone app.

  • Motion tracking ‑ Some PTZ camera models have a remote-tracking function that allows them to detect and follow movement automatically, which can help free the operator’s time for other responsibilities.

  • Existing-system integration ‑ Where an existing commercial security system is already in place, it is important the PTZ technology be compatible and easily integrated with that system.

  • Installation/​maintenance ‑ Ease of installation and level of maintenance required must also be taken into account when choosing PTZ cameras.

  • Outdoor/​indoor ‑ The placement location will determine whether you need cameras that are suitable for outdoor use or indoor use.

How PTZ cameras are set up

Setting up a PTZ camera in order to maximize its capabilities requires strategic placement, proper installation and connection to a power source. 

The camera should be positioned at a height and angle to maximize coverage, neither too high nor too low. In addition, placement should be such that there is nothing blocking the field of view – trees, walls, etc. – that could obstruct coverage or impede functionality. Similarly, lighting conditions have to be taken into account, with placement planned to utilize the available light source most effectively.

When it comes to mounting a camera, protection from the weather should be a prime concern, especially when the camera will be outside and even if it is designed for outdoor use. Finally, a camera must be securely mounted because it will be moving when it pans and tilts.

Typically, PTZ cameras have two options for power: a local power source or Power over Ethernet (PoE). Experts typically recommend PoE as the ideal way to power a camera because it works best for implementing the camera’s IP connection options

To ensure your PTZ camera system is properly installed, selecting the right installer is crucial. Learn how to choose a reliable commercial security camera installer by checking out our detailed guide.

The verdict on PTZ cameras

It is no surprise, then, that PTZ cameras are hugely popular and widely used. Owing in large part to their pan, tilt and zoom capabilities, they are widely and effectively deployed for security and monitoring in large areas like shopping malls and public spaces.

Remember, too, that PTZ cameras have several solid benefits:

  • A variety of types to choose from to meet specific security needs

  • Wide field of view, up to 360 degrees with some models

  • Zoom capability for viewing and capturing distant objects

  • Automatic motion-based tracking 

  • Remote-control capability (yet with manual control still available)

The verdict? PTZ security camera systems are a wise choice for any business or commercial enterprise desiring to bolster protection and help ensure a safe building and grounds.

Have questions? We can help

Our video security experts can help you implement the right security system for your business.