Security Articles

Pan-Tilt-Zoom Cameras


Damon Delcoro


June 7, 2010


Pan-tilt-zoom or PTZ cameras have the freedom of mobility to move about a horizontal and vertical axis thereby increasing the field of view for the camera. In fact in some situations one PTZ camera may be able to perform the work of two or more stationary cameras. In addition, the zoom function allows combination’s of lenses to create telephoto enlargements for better clarity of objects that may be too far away from a normal camera lens.

PTZ indoor cameras are excellent for use in retail stores where tracking and zooming in on a potential shoplifter may be needed. Depending on the size of the store, the location of the camera, and the type of camera, it may be able to follow the shoplifter the entire route that’s made in the store. Considering the high rate of retail theft that’s been reported in Southern Florida, especially the major metropolitan areas, a PTZ camera is ideal for this purpose.

According to an article in the May 28, 2008 Sun-Sentinel newspaper (which primarily serves the Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties), eighty three percent of South Florida’s most violent mall crimes are not are not captured on video or the video quality is too poor to be useful and most don’t have cameras monitoring their parking lots. PTZ cameras would be excellent for this purpose and could reduce the rate of mall related crime considerably.

Pan-tilt-zoom cameras are not limited to use in parking lots and retail stores; they have many other useful applications as well. Let’s take a closer look at a PTZ camera.

Pan-tilt-zoom cameras are usually, but not always dome-type cameras. These cameras are usually mounted on the ceiling with the orientation of the dome (and thus the camera lens) downward. They may also be mounted on brackets on a horizontal surface (such as a wall or pole) with the brackets extending away from the horizontal surface just enough to provide clearance for hanging the dome in a downward position.

PTZ cameras may be indoor or outdoor models. Outdoor models are basically the same as indoor models but are enclosed in a protective case or cover. The outdoor cameras are normally rated according to the International Electrical code standard for the protection they offer from weather and other environmental elements. This rating, called an Ingress Protection code or IP rating consists of two numbers that represent corresponding protection standards. For an outdoor PTZ camera, look for a rating of IP66 or IP67. Both ratings indicate the cameras are dust tight but the IP66 also indicates that the camera can withstand powerful jets of water from any direction while the IP67 also indicates that it could be submerged in up to 1 meter of water without damage.

Some PTZ cameras are set manually, but the majority of PTZ cameras marketed today are remotely controlled. This normally done by a keyboard or joystick control connected to the processing unit/digital video recorder or DVR. If the camera is connected to a personal computer, it may use the computer’s keyboard and/or mouse, or may provide software that has graphics that are used to control the cameras.

Pan-tilt-zoom cameras may also come with software that can be used to pre-program the movement of the camera. Programmable preset points will move the camera to that position and hold it there for a predetermined amount of time (often referred to as a “dwell time”). After moving to each preset point and holding, the camera returns to the first preset point and repeats the cycle over again. Different cameras have different total number or present points available. When looking for a PTZ camera with this option, check the specifications to make sure the camera can be programmed for the number of presets you will need.

Some PTZ cameras also have the ability to detect motion. This is not so much a function of the camera as it is the programming or software that is controlling it. However, once these cameras detect a moving object they have the ability to “lock on” to the object and follow it throughout the total range of view for the camera. If cameras include the zoom option, they can even zoom in on the object while following it. These cameras are usually referred to as “Auto-Tracking PTZ Cameras.”

PTZ cameras are incredibly versatile, easy to install, and reasonably priced making them an excellent choice for many Southern Florida applications, including business and residential. Contact one of our experts today for more information.

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