Learn About PTZ Cameras

As business owners and government officials look to ensure the safety and security of the general public with ever more tightly controlled public spaces, the machine vision industrial camera industry is racing to keep pace. Once little more than an afterthought, PTZ cameras now play an integral role in a variety of public and semi-public settings. Before choosing the perfect model for your needs, take a moment to review the past, present and future of PTZ camera technology.

What Are PTZ Cameras?

Formally known as pan-tilt-zoom cameras, PTZ machine vision cameras have the ability to pan, tilt and zoom their lenses. Historically, most PTZ cameras used electric or hydraulic motors to perform these functions. These days, hydraulic motors have fallen out of favor in all but the largest PTZ models. In fact, it's much more common to see PTZ cameras with digital pan-tilt-zoom apparatuses. These modern industrial cameras remain completely stationary in their housing units and rely on powerful digital "motors" to follow moving targets. Optical-zoom PTZ cameras are still preferred for traditional wide-area surveillance and recording applications.

How Do They Work?

Modern PTZ machine vision cameras generally use robotic or automated components to follow targets and compile images. These newer machines may or may not fit the technical definition of smart cameras, but they're undeniably useful in settings that don't demand constant human intervention. PTZ industrial cameras are usually mounted in elevated locations to leverage their already impressive wide-area scanning capabilities. By definition, PTZ cameras eschew line scans in favor of two-dimensional field scans. Within the past decade or so, a new class of PTZ devices known as the ePTZ camera has emerged.

Optical Zoom vs. Digital Zoom

The principal difference between PTZ and ePTZ devices is the latter's preference for digital zooming and image acquisition. Whereas PTZ industrial cameras sit within durable housing structures and rotate freely for panoramic image acquisition, ePTZ devices tend to focus on specific areas and use powerful digital zoom programs to acquire faraway objects. While some "hybrid" ePTZ devices may have a mechanical component that lets them see in all directions, they're more commonly used in fixed applications like point surveillance and webcams. Both types of cameras are capable of using automatic tracking systems to follow moving targets.

Common Specifications

PTZ industrial cameras come in a wide variety of sizes and strengths, but most have a few features in common:

  • Cameras like the Sony BRC-300P feature high-resolution area scanners that shoot in 1/3 or 1/4 formats and allow for remote video monitoring with minimal human input.
  • Devices like the Sony EVI-D90P use flexible analog interfaces that allow for plug-and-play adaptability.
  • Machine vision cameras like the Sony EVI-HD3V offer high-definition progressive CMOS scans with resolutions of 1080p x 2000p or greater.

Applications: When Is a PTZ Camera Appropriate?

Although ePTZ cameras have proven their worth in simple applications like person-to-person video communication and stationary surveillance, "traditional" PTZ industrial cameras continue to show their flexibility. PTZ cameras can be found in these common places:

  • Traffic cameras that are equipped to read license plates
  • Facial recognition apparatuses that can pick individuals out of a crowd
  • Remote surveillance posts that require long-distance fiber optic connections
  • Inspection stations for bulky finished products

With each passing year, innovative professionals find dozens of new uses for PTZ cameras. From next-generation smart cameras to tried-and-true analog devices, these machine vision industrial cameras have a place in virtually every industry.