Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Pan, Tilt and Zoom worth the money?

In my experience, Pan / Tilts and zoomables as a rule are generally a waste of money unless you are actively monitoring them. After all that was what they were designed for originally. Panning cams were a way to reduce costs back when panning motors were a lot cheaper than cams. These days though with cameras so cheap, even if you are monitoring your cams you generally want as much coverage as you can get with software alerting you to motion or openings where there should be none.

Realistically at home you are not going to be monitoring your cams. Even though I have dedicated monitors so I can see what triggered an alert or what the dogs are going on about, I am still mostly looking at what happened, not what is happening. I have a few PTLs and 1 PTZ. Except for the Wyze Pan I bought to try the tracking, they are all older cams bought before I found I virtually never move them. At the moment I have 2 PTLs are in the main living area (open plan kitchen, dining and living rooms) and I'm thinking of replacing them with wider, higher rez cams and moving the PTLs to the shop where I might want to look about without having to go down there. Mainly to upgrade the shop cams though. I need better coverage in my main living area to track "things" the cat brings in to play with to their hiding places. The PTZ in in the garage I've mounted several places from using it to monitor the gate but decided and Escam QD900 with a 12 mm lens did better. To the north power so I could try and see what the dogs were barking at but it kept going offline. To the garage where I'm replacing it with a GW Security GW5747MIC which covers almost the same area the PTZ can be pointed at almost the same level of detail as the Foscam FI9828P zoomed all the way in. Next stop will probably be in or under the shop though the barn might be a good spot as well to be able to center and zoom on things.

Now I do have a few others that are remotely zoomable but mainly for the autofocus feature they need to support that. If you are looking at close and far targets in the same view, autofocus can make a big difference.

BTW my original pan was a fixed bullet mounted on an antenna rotor. No night vision but it was high tech for a home cam back in the late 1990s.

An example:

DS-2DE4A425IW-DE with sample videos. $489 to $900
Amazon link Newegg link

What you are really paying for is the 25x zoom (120mm lens) and the autotracking. These are designed for use in places like a parking lot after hours were someone monitoring the system can use them to get detail and hopefully track things the monitoring person might not notice. Some high end systems claim to direct PTZs like this based on detected movement form other cameras and sensors. (See below.) But many people seem to think they can use a camera like this instead of covering an area with multiple cameras. Despite what the ads imply I'm still waiting to see a video where a camera actually tracks an object well. Much less deals with multiple moving objects. The wider arc you try and monitor with one of these the worse the results. Note too even if tracking includes zoom, zooming in is optical which limits the field of view and requires time to refocus the image. 

For the equiv money, you could get 4 to 10 cameras in the 4 to 8 MP range setup to cover the the same area at various zoom levels and be pretty much guaranteed to see the object the whole time it would have been visible from the location. And at probably close to the same level of detail while the object is moving. This is closer to the modern WAMI approach to monitoring that assumes multiple objects may need tracked at a time. Granted the NVR required to handle the video will be need to be more powerful but you will get the shot you need and probably save money. Here is an example of tracking a guy looking for stuff to steal on my property after the fact.  While it looks like the kind of videos the tracking cams claim to do it is zoomed and panned in post with views from 5 cameras. For most of it the odds are pretty low a "tracking" cam would have followed him without predictive level AI smart enough to look for him on the other side of an obstruction.

Integrated systems

Now it would be awesome to have some cams like the DS-2DE4A425IW-DE mounted above the roof and tied in to my system to track and zoom in for detail using the other cams and sensors as a guide but that is some pretty high end linkage there to do right. My current system links PIR motion sensors and alarm contact sensors to highlight camera on consoles, mark the video from the linked cams and in some cases even switch the main video feed to the triggered console. This gets me most of the way there and is basically a freebie with my Blue Iris servers being linked to my Homeseer home automation setup. In theory I could integrate some of them to really be worth the cost the system would need tighter integration like the systems that direct PTZ cams to an area based on sensors and triggered cameras which is a costly and is probably best left to pros to get working right.

TODO: find web page again that showed a system with PTZs being triggered by static cams and PIR sensors.

A note about other sensor options

And then there are these

Dahua's 8 x 2MP Multi-sensor Panoramic + PTZ Network Camera which has a 4MP surrounded by 8 2MP cams so the camera has a constant 360 view with a linked PTZ to center and zoom up to 40x on a moving object using their Smart Track linking system. Note this is $7000 camera though there are people claiming on sites like eBay that they will sell you one for as little as $2000. Again this basically gives you a 2 MP panorama with hopefully good detail IF it is tracking the right object. 

Digital Watchdog MEGApix PANO 48MP Outdoor Dome Camera 4 linked 12 MP cams in a single case to give a 180 panorama view. Just $3120

And all these 20MP options.

Second opinions:

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