Are PTZ Video Surveillance Cameras Appropriate for Home Security?

12/10/2015 0 Comment(s) Surveillance Equipment,

PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) cameras have found their way into home security systems that include video surveillance cameras for 24/7 monitoring. The PTZ have features that make them ideal for surveillance of large areas, and many homeowners have installed a unit or two in their home security system. However, some security experts believe that the capabilities of the PTZ can be fully utilized only when there is an operator who regularly monitors the cameras.

That being said, there are certain pros and cons in the use of PTZ cameras for home video surveillance systems. Though many agree that it is advantageous to have a PTZ in a security network, its use, maintenance, and administration leave many issues that have to be fully resolved before its full potential can be realized.


How a PTZ Works

The PTZ camera is best employed for monitoring large areas and to follow suspicious activity that the security system detects. It is equipped with mechanical parts that allow the camera and the lens to move and focus on target spots. Through software installation, the PTZ camera can be programmed to focus on predetermined spots at set schedules or to follow suspicious movements automatically around the area it monitors.

For example, if the camera has a 360 degree pan, it can turn around completely from its position so there will be no blind spots in the surveillance videos. The tilt function allows the camera to look up, down, or straight ahead when it has a 180 degree tilt capability. Thus, the pan and tilt functions ensure that the camera sees everything around it, including areas above and below. Some PTZ models do not feature the whole 360o/180o pan and tilt capabilities, but if you can afford it, the full circular and up and down movements gives the camera maximum flexibility and the power to see all positions around it.

The zoom function of the PTZ means the camera lens physically moves closer to a target spot, which enlarges the image of the area of interest through the zooming in movement. The zoom function can be either an optical zoom or a digital zoom. In the optical zoom, the image quality is maintained while the camera continues to record clear video. On the other hand, the digital zoom allows the zooming in action after the video has been recorded, and thus, simply magnifies a captured image.

The mechanical  movements of the PTZ result to higher power consumption when compared with other security cameras. Security experts usually recommend a dedicated power supply source for each PTZ camera, though with technology advances, PoE (Power over Ethernet) can power the PTZ, which simplifies its installation.


Pros and Cons of Using PTZ for Security Systems

Video surveillance cameras are an integral part of a comprehensive security network. The PTZ is a powerful camera with functionalities that make it ideal for video surveillance systems, particularly when large expanses are to be monitored. Thus, PTZ cameras are largely recommended in areas like rooftops, warehouses, parking lots, garages, construction sites, and manufacturing floors where plenty of activities are monitored. When used in home security camera systems, the PTZ can be installed in front and back yards that a single fixed or varifocal camera cannot completely cover.


  • PTZ cameras offer greater flexibility in installation since it is not limited by a specific angle of view. Because of its large field of view, a single PTZ camera can monitor a large expanse that may require several units if fixed cameras are used. Thus, it minimizes installation cost while at the same time provides video surveillance for the whole area.


  • PTZ cameras can be equipped with built-in tracking that can be programmed to detect motion and then track the object or person as it moves around. The motion tracking capability can provide evidence of theft or vandalism to the property.


  • Zoom feature gives the ability to capture clear, enlarged images of areas of interest, particularly when people or cars are involved in illegal activity. A clear image helps in identifying people, objects, and the license plates of cars, even when these are a few hundred feet away from the camera.


  • PTZ cameras have alarm inputs that allow the connection of other devices such as motion detectors and sensors, which expand the capabilities of the security system.




  • PTZ cameras are much more expensive than other security cameras. Whereas a varifocal camera with night vision can cost you less than $200, the cost of a similarly equipped PTZ amounts to $2000 or higher. This means you can purchase ten varifocal cameras against a single PTZ camera, which gives an average homeowner much to think of in terms of a cost efficient security system.


  • The installation requirements for PTZ cameras are much more stringent, since these are much larger and require more power compared with other security cameras. Though some models are available with their own power supply, there are instances where you may have to purchase a dedicated power source for the camera. This means that the operating cost for the unit is much higher, adds substantially to the monthly cost of the maintaining the security system.


PTZ cameras are controlled through an RS485 standard, which connects the camera to a DVR (digital video recorder) for transmitting and receiving data. However, an extra set of wires will be necessary for the pan, tilt, and zoom functionalities of the camera. The setup is simple for an IP PTZ camera since PoE (Power over Ethernet) provides power supply and video control through an Ethernet Cat5 or Cat6 cable, but a separate PoE power injector may be required.

  • A PTZ camera has a shorter life span compared with fixed cameras because it has mechanical parts that require frequent servicing and are subject to malfunctions.
  • A PTZ camera utilizes a big amount of data storage, as much as four times higher than what is required for fixed cameras.



The disadvantages of using PTZ cameras in video surveillance systems are its cost and the cost of operation, while its advantages relate to its expanded functionalities. It is best for homeowners to assess their security requirements to determine if a PTZ has a place among the video surveillance cameras for their home security.

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