What is a PTZ camera?

The latest trend in cameras is PTZ. PTZ stands for “pan, tilt, zoom” and describes a camera that can move and zoom in. A generation ago this sounded like the stuff of spy films but it’s quite common today.

Who needs a PTZ camera?

PTZ cameras are good in large spaces where placing a lot of cameras just doesn’t cut it. There are only going to be so many cameras you can put in a typical location and they’re still going to miss things. With a PTZ camera you can find exactly what you’re looking for.

How do you control a PTZ camera?

Most systems are controllable with an app, but serious security installations use a controller like this one. Not only do you get a joystick but you also get the ability to select cameras and save preset positions. This can make the job of looking at a large area much easier.

Why are PTZ cameras so much more expensive than regular bullet cameras?

PTZ cameras are full of servomotors that precisely control where the camera is pointing. These motors are designed to be very durable because if they fail, the camera doesn’t really work anymore. Yes, you’d get a picture but it would not be good enough. Often times, the optics are better as well. In order to fit a true optical zoom lens in a small package, you need precision, compound optics. After all, the whole point is that you can actually tell what you’re looking at.

Should I upgrade to PTZ cameras?

Your average home security installation generally doesn’t need PTZ cameras and they tend to be too expensive for most consumers. But if you are dealing with a large area or even one with multiple blind spots, a PTZ camera might be a good choice. PTZ cameras make sense, for example, in parking lots if you can’t put cameras everywhere. A single camera placed on a building can patrol a large area of a parking lot if someone is watching it live.

Is there a downside to PTZ cameras (besides price?)

The one thing that’s a little annoying about PTZ cameras is that they really only work in real time. In other words, you can’t do the CSI thing where they look at security footage from two weeks ago and they can still zoom and “enhance.” PTZ is really a technology for someone who is sitting there watching the camera. If you’re looking at a recording you won’t be able to move the camera. That may seem like common sense but it’s the leading question I get about this sort of camera.

Really other than that, and the price, there’s no real downside to PTZ cameras. They generally have the best optics and are a real asset if you’re trying to keep your eyes on a large area. Best of all, they are available at your favorite site for professional electronics. Shop now at Solid Signal for PTZ cameras and all the equipment you’ll need to mount them properly.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.