There are numerous suppliers of video surveillance cameras. While competition is generally a good thing, driving the pace of technology development up and prices down, having too many suppliers also poses problems related to commoditizing products. In this case, it helps to propagate the mindset that all video surveillance cameras are essentially the same. The fact is this perception couldn’t be further from the truth.
Case in point is the availability of network pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) cameras that are available in many form factors and at extreme price points. Yet network p/t/z cameras are more frequently being categorized as commodities. Aside from making purchase decisions based on brand preference and reputation, there are a few basic-yet-critical criteria to consider when comparing network p/t/z cameras (beyond the other typical considerations such as performance and feature specs). Here are three to consider adding to your checklist:
1. How is the PTZ mechanism engineered? It’s important to understand what drives the p/t/z cameras you’re evaluating. Are there motors with belts that can snap or stretch, and are there a lot of plastic components that can compromise durability? As a point of reference, camera robotics systems used in broadcast applications are predominantly engineered with direct-drive motors and die-cast parts. As a result, they are inherently accurate and reliable, with precise positioning capabilities. The same holds true for p/t/z surveillance cameras engineered with direct-drive mechanisms. In fact, there are high performance p/t/z surveillance cam-eras that deliver positioning tolerances of .03° to precisely maintain preset positions even after years of operation.
Direct-drive pan/tilt mechanisms are also much faster with speeds of up to 400° per second that are extremely accurate and smooth, enabling them to track fast action at high zoom magnification. High-quality, direct-drive p/t/z mechanisms are also much quieter. One of JVC’s direct-drive p/t/z cameras, for example, operates at just 37dB, making it suitable for hospitals, museums, libraries and offices. Direct-drive p/t/z cameras also employ fewer parts than belt-driven mechanisms, which greatly reduces malfunctions and increases reliability.
2. Does the p/t/z feature optical or electronic zoom, or both? There’s no question that optical zoom lenses deliver better image quality than electronic zoom features, but they’re more expensive and add bulk and weight. A highly cost-effective solution is employing a hybrid optical/electronic zoom configuration. For example, a leading p/t/z camera on the market features a high-quality 18x optical zoom with 10x digital zoom, yielding a combined 180x zoom range without compromising HD image quality.
3. Is the p/t/z easy to install and maintain? Time is money for every installation. What if you could dramatically reduce the amount of time technicians spend installing each camera? The savings can be significant when dealing with dozens or hundreds of cameras. And a reduction in installation time translates to increased profits. New p/t/z-mounting systems employ features like “one-touch lock” mechanisms that allow technicians to easily “snap” the camera into its bracket. This new mounting system also reduces maintenance costs as technicians can replace just the camera head without removing the base which maintains all of the p/t/z’s presets.
Although there are literally dozens of features and functions to evaluate when comparing today’s best-in-breed network p/t/z cameras, these three criteria — p/t/z drive mechanisms, optical and/or electronic zoom configuration, and ease of installation — are often overlooked for the sexier “speeds and feeds” found on most comparison tables.
The truth is these three factors can dramatically affect performance and the overall profitability of your next installation. Keep this in mind when sorting through the hundreds of p/t/z cameras on the market. And remember that at the end of the day, that adage “you get what you pay for” still applies even in today’s technology-driven networked world.
John Grabowski is National Sales and Marketing Manager for JVC’s Security Division.