The other approach many people are opting for is to use megapixel cameras with digital pan/tilt/zoom. Megapixel cameras, which are commonly offered as IP cameras, are ideal for applications where you don't have the resources to have 24/7 live monitoring of the cameras and therefore, have to rely on the forensic value of recorded video. When combined with the right lens, megapixel network cameras ensure that you will always have enough detail to go back after the fact and have forensic evidence like license plate numbers and facial detail to determine what happened.
If you opt for the megapixel network camera approach, the only thing you have to do is make sure you have selected the proper resolution camera and lens to provide with you the desired detail (pixels/foot). Once configured, you can digitally pan/tilt/pan/tilt/zoom around live images without affecting what is recorded, or you can come back in an investigation process and digitally pan/tilt/zoom on recorded video. In fact, thanks to advances in hardware and increasing use of IP communications, multiple people can connect to the same camera at the same time and independently pan/tilt/zoom around (to see a demonstration go to http://democam4.iqeye.com) . Regardless of where someone may be digitally pan/tilt/zooming, you can always go back to recorded video and look at other areas with no loss of detail. Additionally, since most megapixel cameras do not have moving parts, maintenance requirements are minimized.
In conclusion, if you aren't looking for both detail and situational awareness at the same time, then traditional mechanical PTZ cameras are a good fit. If you may need both the scene view and the detailed view at the same time, and if you can't allot the funds to staff guards to control your cameras, the megapixel approach is a worthwhile solution. Weigh your needs to decide which video solution is more applicable to your security needs.
About the author: Paul Bodell is vice president of sales and marketing at IQinVision, a U.S.-based vendor of high resolution/megapixel surveillance cameras. Bodell has been with the company since 2002, and has worked in the electronic security industry since 1994.