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What are PTZ Security Cameras? PTZ Facts, Function, and Future.

So, you're giving serious consideration to having security cameras integrated at your home, business, venue, facility, etc., and you've made the smart choice by NOT going D.I.Y. and all the issues that could go wrong if you do. After all, choosing, planning, installing and integrating your security cameras and system is not your subject matter expertise and will certainly take you away from that which is. But, you don't want to call a professional dealer/integrator until you sound like you know what you're talking about, right?

Amid the prolific lingo of the industry, somewhere along the way you've heard of PTZ cameras. In fact, they are pretty popular. Perhaps you already know that PTZ means Pan-Tilt-Zoom. Sounds like something you might need, right? But, then there are cameras that aren't PTZ but are still popular, like fixed megapixel cameras. Do you or don't you need a PTZ camera(s) and is this technology going to be applicable for the long term? What's the big deal? What's the future look like? And, are they right for YOU? Let's find out. couldn't have put it better in their article PTZs: Valuable Tool or Obsolete Technology with the statement: "In reality, comparing PTZs and megapixel cameras — whether single- or multi-sensor — is like comparing racehorses and workhorses."

Well, how do you know if you need a racehorse or a workhorse of a camera? Lets start by taking a peek at two demos showing visually how PTZ and fixed megapixel cameras actually work and capture differently to get an idea before getting into the more technical information...

Demonstration 1: A PTZ Security Camera

Demonstration 2: A Fixed Megapixel Camera

Those views are significantly different, and as a disclaimer you should know that different brands are going to give different results, clarity, add-on apps, and features as well but these two videos show the general idea and the major differences.

Now, let's get into the more technical aspects and briefly take a look at the highlights on mechanical factors, zoom, and uses of PTZ cameras.


One of the drawbacks of PTZs is their moving parts, which can be prone to failure. Once their sensors have been correctly focused, panoramic cameras, on the other hand, don’t have this potential limitation.

Image source:

“In comparison to the motors, belts, and gears in PTZs that can fail or need frequent adjustment due to constant movement and usage, multi-sensor cameras are very low maintenance. This makes a multi-sensor very cost-effective and offering excellent ROI, while it also provides non-stop situational awareness of the scene,” says Jeff Whitney of Arecont Vision Costar.


The main benefit PTZ cameras offer over fixed megapixel models is zoom. Because PTZ employ optical zoom, they are capable of zooming in on a specific object, person or other area of interest much closer without distorting the image. The digital zoom that fixed megapixel cameras offer is much more limited.

“With digital zoom, you’re not going to get any additional information by zooming,” says Ryan Zatolokin of Axis Communications. “If you take a 5 megapixel camera displayed on a typical 1080p monitor — which is two megapixels — you can zoom in two and a half times without noticing any loss of detail or texture.”

PTZ cameras, on the other hand, can zoom 30-plus times without losing detail.

“That’s a huge difference, and you can really read a number plate or something because it’s laser sharp, even if it’s 1,000 feet away. You’re not going to get that with a 4K camera,” says Robert Wegner of Hanwha Techwin America.

While PTZ are best deployed in specialized situations, the zooming capabilities cannot be ignored when deciding which camera to employ.

“All things being equal, I definitely prefer an optical zoom to a digital zoom,” Zatolokin says.


As is true for any security technology, the choice of camera depends on the application, the installation environment, and the needs of the end user.

“In situations where video is mainly being used forensically and is not being monitored live, integrators often choose to install fixed cameras, as there is typically not an operator present to control the PTZ camera,” says Chris Johnston, regional marketing manager, Bosch Security and Safety Systems, Fairport, N.Y. “This is common in small stores or office buildings and similar applications. In markets where active surveillance is common — such as gaming, large retail stores, corrections, critical infrastructure, and transportation — PTZ cameras are still prevalent as operators need to be able to follow the movements of people or objects and zoom in over large areas. In these applications, integrators are typically installing a mix of fixed and PTZ cameras.”

Video: Combining fixed master cameras with PTZ cameras to zoom on object of interest

Using PTZ and fixed megapixel cameras in concert with each other provides the best of both worlds and can contribute to even greater security. The megapixel camera can record the entire scene and if something potentially malicious is detected, whether by an operator or analytics, the PTZ can zoom in optically and get a more detailed picture of that specific area without losing the overall view.

“In certain scenarios, we shouldn’t be thinking of this as an either/or proposition; instead it may make sense to use both types of cameras,” says Bret McGowan of Vicon. “An installation that combines the best of both can sometimes provide a superior solution, so it’s important that as our industry focuses more and more on megapixel options, that we don’t categorically dismiss the strengths of PTZs and what they can still deliver.”


Cost also factors into any shift — real or perceived — away from PTZ cameras.

“Always keep in mind PTZ cameras are normally more expensive because they have mechanical design so customers are a little hesitant to spend a lot of money for a device that has to be operated by a man or some automation,” says Robert Wegner, vice president, system application engineering and technical support, Hanwha Techwin America, Ridgefield Park, N.J.

Meanwhile, the opposite is true for megapixel camera prices.

“Higher megapixel models are becoming more affordable. The cameras themselves are costing less and, with the introduction of H.265 compression, so is the bandwidth and storage they require,” McGowan says. “By contrast, PTZ cameras are always going to have the built-in expense of motorized components, which drive up their purchase price and also cause them to require more maintenance.”


Still not sure about the perfect security camera type, manufacturer or model for your unique situation? GenX Security is here to help you achieve your security goals. Please contact us for a free quote and we will be happy to help you decide further if PTZ, fixed megapixel, or a combination of both is right for you.


Experience the next generation of interactive security services and solutions with GenX Security.

With custom security integration solutions come custom quotes designed for your needs. Please contact us by clicking here or calling 866-598-4369.



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