Should you use PTZ cameras?

Honovich on when you should go with PTZs versus when you should consider megapixel cameras


 

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:

  • An organization has operators dedicated to monitoring security systems. If you are a big box retailer or a sports stadium and have operators dedicated to monitoring, PTZs make sense. The PTZ cameras allow operators to monitor greater areas. However, if you rarely monitor the security system and primarily use it for investigations, megapixel cameras are a worthwhile alternative to consider.
  • An organization has a really large area that needs to be covered. Such large areas may still be impractical even with megapixel cameras. Only a PTZ provides you the range needed (so long as you have active monitors). However, if you have a moderate size area (like a parking lot with a few dozen spaces), one or two megapixel cameras are likely to be less expensive and more effective.