PTZ cameras can provide a ton of flexibility for camera operators. Not only can they capture stunning overhead shots, but they are also easy to transport, simple to control remotely and can allow you to operate multiple cameras at once.
In this guide, we will outline the special considerations you should examine before purchasing a PTZ. However, let’s first look at the best PTZs broken up by their use cases.
The Editors’ Choice award recognizes exceptional video production equipment, software and services. These products must help videographers be more effective storytellers while being affordable, easy to use and dependable. The products must also deliver a superior user experience.
Best HD PTZ
PTZOptics Move SE
- Affordable price
- AI-powered auto-tracking
- Multiple output options: SDI, HDMI, USB-C, IP2
- NDI|HX upgradeability
- No built-in microphone or audio input
The PTZOptics Move SE is a dynamic addition for anyone needing a high-resolution streaming and tracking camera, especially suited for classrooms, houses of worship or conference rooms geared toward remote meetings. It’s compatible with popular software platforms like Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom, making it a versatile choice for various virtual interaction needs. The Move SE camera stands out with its ability to capture up to 1080p60 resolutions over multiple outputs, including IP, HDMI, USB-C and 3G-SDI. Its auto-tracking feature is particularly beneficial in educational and corporate settings, allowing for smooth tracking of subjects moving around the room without needing a manual operator. This camera also boasts features like wide dynamic range, 3D noise reduction and excellent low-light performance, with an optional upgrade available for NDI|HX support.
Zoom capabilities are a strong suit of the Move SE, offering a 30x optical zoom and up to 16x digital zoom. This makes it adept at capturing fine details even from a distance. The camera comes with 255 programmable preset positions, which can be controlled via IP, RS-232 or RS-485 with separately available controllers or through IR control with the included remote, allowing for quick transitions between shots. The video output of the Move SE is highly efficient, utilizing H.265, H.264 or MJPEG compression formats. It supports the transmission of up to two simultaneous streams using various protocols like SRT, RTSP and RTMP, enhancing its streaming capabilities.
In terms of audio, the PTZOptics Move SE supports external audio input via a 3.5 mm stereo line-level jack. This enables high-quality audio embedding into streams. For power, users have the flexibility of using the included AC adapter or taking advantage of PoE (Power-over-Ethernet) on supported networks. This combination of high-resolution video capture, versatile zoom and robust streaming options make the PTZOptics Move SE a top choice for professionals seeking a reliable and feature-rich PTZ camera.
Best 4K PTZ
- 20x optical, 20x digital zoom
- NDI|HX, SRT, PoE+ support
- 3.5 mm audio input
- No SDI output
The Canon CR-N100 4K NDI PTZ Camera with 20x Zoom is a high-quality choice for video production setups thanks to its ability to output up to UHD 4K video. With its 1/2.3-inch dual-pixel CMOS sensor, the CR-N100 captures stunning UHD 4K video. Plus, the inclusion of the Canon DIGIC DV6 image processor, optical image stabilization, various scene modes, 20x optical and digital zoom, microphone input and up to UHD 4K video output capability makes it a versatile tool in any video producer’s arsenal. Importantly, this camera comes with built-in NDI|HX and SRT support, eliminating the need for a separate license and allowing for easy integration into existing NDI networks.
The camera’s oversampling HD processing takes full advantage of the 4K sensor to produce beautiful high-definition Full HD video, providing content creators with the ability to produce stunningly detailed footage. The Canon 4K UHD Lens with a 20x optical zoom and a wide horizontal viewing angle of 65.6 degrees allows for capturing extensive scenes even in tight spaces, and its aspheric lens elements maintain 4K image quality throughout the entire zoom range.
The CR-N100 is further enhanced with its Hybrid AF system, combining high-precision contrast AF technology with high-speed phase-difference AF technology, ensuring rapid and reliable autofocus. This feature is particularly beneficial in live event settings where quick focusing is crucial. The camera’s pan and tilt performance is smooth and responsive, with multi-step speed changes from high to low speeds, allowing for seamless integration with various remote controllers and applications for single-operator use. Additionally, the CR-N100’s built-in tally lamp provides clear visual indications during live shooting. The camera’s Scene Modes, including Portrait, Sports, Low-Light and Spotlight modes, facilitate quick setup and easy operation for capturing impressive footage without complex adjustments. If you’re looking for a 4K PTZ camera, you should check out this one.
Best budget PTZ
Marshall Electronics CV605
The Marshall Electronics CV605-U3 Compact PTZ USB/HDMI camera features a 1/2.8-inch CMOS sensor, which allows it to capture video up to 1080p 60 fps. The camera can output via its low-latency 3G-SDI port or through IP streaming using its LAN port, offering a versatile range of connectivity options. Additionally, you can set it up with just one Ethernet cable, which handles video, audio and control using PoE.
However, it’s important to note that this camera has a limited optical zoom range, offering up to a 5x optical zoom. However, it still features a wide 85-degree angle of view and a 10x digital zoom. The camera also comes with a variety of other handy features, such as multiple control protocols, support for multiple network protocol support
So, if you’re looking for a quality PTZ while still staying within your budget, you should consider the Marshall Electronics CV605.
Best long zoom PTZ
- 30x 4K and 40x HD zoom
- Integrated tally lamp
- No audio input or output
The Sony SRG-A40 4K PTZ Camera is the best long-zoom PTZ currently on the market. Equipped with a 1/2.5-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor and up to 40x Clear Image Zoom, it can capture lots of detail at a distance. Its standout feature is the integration of AI-driven analytics, which automatically frames and tracks the subject within the frame. This technology is especially useful in settings where natural camera movements are required but an operator is not available, such as in lectures, conferences or solo content creation. The SRG-A40 offers Full Body, Waist, and Close-Up modes, each with center, left and right angles. Additionally, the camera’s tally lamp, changing from red to green, provides an easy visual indication of the camera’s status, enhancing operational efficiency.
The SRG-A40 is not just about capturing high-quality images; it’s also about smart and efficient operation. Its AI analytics powerfully detect and track a presenter’s position, adjusting the pan, tilt and zoom mechanisms to frame them naturally. This feature eliminates the need for a manual camera operator, ensuring the focus remains on the subject even in dynamic scenarios. The camera’s three shooting modes – Full Body, Waist and Close Up – provide flexibility depending on the specific requirements of the event. Moreover, the built-in tally lamp is a thoughtful addition, providing on-air and auto-framing visual cues to talent and crew. The SRG-A40’s 30x Clear Image Zoom in UHD 4K, 40x CIZ in HD and maximum 80x CIZ in HD Tele Convert Mode are significant assets, allowing for close-ups without sacrificing resolution.
In terms of technical capabilities, the SRG-A40’s 4K Exmor R sensor captures crisp, low-noise video images even in low-light conditions, making it a reliable choice for various lighting environments. The camera’s high-speed pan and tilt movements are designed to accurately keep track of the presenter’s movements. Up to 256 camera presets can be stored and recalled instantly, facilitating seamless transitions and precise framing for PTZ presentations. The camera’s autofocus, auto exposure and auto white balance features guarantee professional-looking results, reducing the need for manual adjustments and allowing operators to focus on the creative aspects of production. With these features, the SRG-A40 is a versatile PTZ camera for professionals seeking top-quality long-zoom capabilities in their video production toolkit.
Best NDI PTZ
NewTek NDI HX PTZ3
The NewTek NDI HX PTZ3 puts NDI at the forefront. It can send video over the network with practically no latency. At the same time, it uses less bandwidth than previous NDI protocols. Better yet, it also features SDI and HDMI outputs for local monitoring.
It features a 20x optical zoom lens with a horizontal field of view of 3.2 to 60 degrees and a one-chip 1/2.86-inch CMOS sensor. It can operate on a single Ethernet cable for HD video up to HD video at 60 fps. The NewTek NDI HX PTZ3 gets our picks as the Best NDI PTZ.
Best USB PTZ
OBSBOT Tiny 2
The OBSBOT Tiny 2 AI-Powered PTZ 4K Webcam is a 4K device equipped with software for remote operation of functions like pan, tilt and zoom. You can control the OBSBOT Tiny 2 with hand gestures or your voice as well. However, unfortunately, the gesture controls weren’t great when we tested them. But we did love the PTZ’s AI tracking system, which is capable of auto zooming.
Regarding its image quality, the OBSBOT Tiny 2 features a 1/1.5-inch CMOS 50-MP sensor. This allows the PTZ to capture up to 4K video in 30 FPS. Alternatively, you can opt to shoot in 1080p 60 FPS if you so choose.
According to OBSBOT, the Tiny 2 has a four-times faster-focusing system than the previous model. Additionally, the Tiny 2 comes with Dual Native ISO and can capture two images with the two native ISOs separately and simultaneously. OBSBOT Tiny 2 is a USB PTZ camera worth taking a look at.
Best HDMI PTZ
Hollyland Arocam C2
- Supports both portrait and horizontal orientation
- 12x optical zoom
- RS-232 and RJ45 ports for remote control
- No tally light
- No audio output
The Hollyland Arocam C2 HD Vertical Livestream Camera boasts a 1/2.8-inch CMOS sensor with 2.07 MP effective pixels, enabling it to deliver up to 1080p video at 60 fps. It supports both portrait and horizontal orientations, adapting seamlessly to the varying requirements of different social media platforms. The Arocam C2 also features a 72.5 degrees wide-angle lens with 12x optical zoom and a minimum illumination of 0.5, ensuring clear and detailed images. Included with the camera are essential accessories such as a power adapter, a remote controller and a USB cable, providing everything needed to get started with high-quality livestreaming.
The Arocam C2’s default portrait orientation makes it particularly well-suited for livestreaming on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, where vertical video is the norm. However, users can easily switch to traditional horizontal framing by adjusting the internal settings. The camera’s Time-of-Flight autofocus system, equipped with an advanced focusing algorithm and ToF module, allows for quick and accurate focusing. This system uses infrared light to measure the depth and distance of objects in front of the lens to automatically adjust settings to ensure the subject remains in sharp focus.
In terms of image quality, the Arocam C2 excels with its adoption of a 4:2:2 10-bit color mode, utilizing a 1/2.8-inch CMOS sensor with 2.07 MPs for crisp, full HD images. It also offers excellent performance in low-light conditions, thanks to its ultra-high 55 dB SNR, effectively reducing image noise. Both 2D and 3D noise reduction capabilities ensure a clean, clear picture even in challenging lighting. The camera’s wide rotation range, 340 degrees horizontally and 120 degrees vertically, can be controlled via RS-232 port with the included remote, allowing for flexible framing. Connectivity options are robust, with USB-C output for plug-and-play convenience, compatibility with various operating systems, HDMI output for display monitors, an RS-232 port for remote control and a network-adaptive Ethernet port for seamless livestreaming. Additionally, a 3.5 mm audio input allows for microphone or line-level integration, and the camera can be powered through the DC input or USB-C port, adding to its practicality for professional video production environments.
Best SDI PTZ
PTZOptics Move 4K 20X
PTZOptics Move 4K 20X is a 4K PTZ camera that features a wide field of view and a fast frame rate — 60 frames per second. You can also use this PTZ to auto-track subjects and focus on any person in the frame. So, as long as your subject says within the frame, they will stay in focus.
Additionally, the camera’s 20X lens allows you to get up close to your subject and still frame the shot properly. It also allows you to capture details that you might not have been able to capture otherwise.
So, if you need an SDI PTZ, consider the PTZOptics Move 4K 20X.
Best large sensor PTZ
Sony’s FR7 Cinema Line PTZ Camera delivers cinematic, full-frame footage perfect for broadcasts and live events. The camera’s highlight feature is its large image sensor. Its sensor provides 15+ stops of dynamic range, captures up to UHD 4K 120 FPS video and supports livestreaming. It also has a fast Hybrid and Real-time Eye AF system and can record either in-camera or output video via 12G-SDI or HDMI.
The Sony FR7 includes a built-in electronic ND filter, offering variable ND filtration from 1/4 (two stops) to 1/128 (seven stops). This allows you to compensate for exposure changes without affecting your depth of field. Also, the PTZ utilizes S-Cineton color science, allowing you to capture cinematic-looking colors. The FR7’s versatility and power make it an unbeatable option for video professionals with the budget, standing out as the best large-sensor PTZ camera entry.
Best PTZ controller
The PTZOptics SuperJoy is a top-notch choice for controlling PTZs. With the ability to control up to 28 PTZ using NDI, IP or serial, the PTZOptics SuperJoy is ahead of its market competitors. You can control all 27 PTZ cameras using its joystick and buttons, grouping them into groups of four. Additionally, the PTZOptics SuperJoy supports NDI, VISCA, VISCA-over-IP, Pelco-P, and Pelco-D protocols over IP and serial RS-232, RS-422, and RS-485 communication.
So, if you want an easy way to control a ton of PTZs, we can’t recommend the PTZOptics SuperJoy enough.
Best NDI converter
BirdDog Flex 4K
For connecting your NDI PRZ to the network, the BirdDog Flex 4K is a great pick. It’s a compact NDI interface for HDMI sources and supports up to UHD 4K 30 fps video or 1080 60 fps video. It supports a variety of power options, such as PoE or 12V power.
The BirdDog Flex 4K weighs just under five ounces and features a single Ethernet port. We can’t recommend the BirdDog Flex 4K enough.
What is a PTZ camera?
A Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) camera operates with either a hardware and/or software remote control for panning, tilting and zooming. Oddly enough, some cameras can lack one of these features, like having a zoom, yet they are still called PTZ cameras. PTZs are often referred to by other names such as robotic cameras, conference cameras and robo cams.
What are some advantages of a PTZ camera?
- PTZ cameras allow one operator to control multiple cameras at the same time.
- PTZs can provide reliable control and smooth moves while broadcasting/streaming.
- PTZs can easily obtain great overhead shots.
- PTZ setup is quicker, and the camera may only require running one lightweight cable.
- PTZ cameras allow for a much smaller footprint since you can operate them remotely.
Who can benefit from a PTZ camera?
PTZ cameras provide great live shots due to their movement abilities and placement advantages. Because of this, it might be an optimal choice for applications like stage productions, corporate events, houses of worship and even outdoor productions. When using only PTZ presets with an IR remote, streaming can be ideal for use in classrooms, corporate or government boardrooms. Once a PTZ camera is installed and presets are programmed, that PTZ can be operated by someone with no technical skills. IR control is also great for cooking, crafting, or building overhead shots.
What to look for when buying a PTZ camera?
At first glance, it may seem like an easy task to choose the right PTZ camera for your productions. However, there are many variables to consider. Issues that are too difficult or time-consuming to change later should be a major consideration. This includes:
- Lack of direct streaming
- Lack of telephoto capability
- Noisy image
- The highlight/shadow/color of the PTZ doesn’t match the other cameras in use
You can address all of this by finding a camera that is well suited to your needs.
Is matching cameras important?
If you want to mix your PTZ with other cameras, you’ll want the color, highlight and shadow to match fairly well, or it will make for a jarring transition when you cut between cameras. Sometimes, focusing all of the cameras on the same white object and white balancing the cameras can be a simple solution. For greater accuracy, use a large chip chart — camera chart — to auto white balance. Then fine-tune the color, highlight and shadow with manual controls. Keep in mind that many lower-end PTZ cameras have no manual controls. This can make it impossible to match the PTZ camera with other cameras or even with other PTZ cameras. Additionally, using cameras with similarly sized image sensors will make things easier. For example, to match a 2/3-inch HD ENG camera to a PTZ, use ½-inch or 1-inch UHD PTZ cameras. UHD cameras tend to be easier to balance than HD cameras.
Why does sensor size matter?
Typically, the larger the image sensor on the camera, the less noticeable noise you’ll get in your video. Larger sensors also tend to have better color reproduction. This can allow you to gain up — amplify — the video from the camera in low light with less impact on image quality. The drawback to this is that larger sensors have a broader field of view. This can lead to the need for larger focal lengths. For example, a 1-inch sensor needs a 200 mm focal length lens to get roughly the same field of view as a ½ sensor with a 100 mm focal length.
What is the difference between optical and digital zoom?
Optical zooms use the camera lens to increase magnification, which has little effect on image quality. Digital zooms push in on the image and effectively reduce resolution causing the picture to look grainy. For example, if you have a 1920 x 1080 — HD — camera and use a 2x digital zoom, you’re now looking at a 960 x 540 image.
Why do some cameras list zoom speed?
Zoom speed is important if you want or need to change focal lengths rapidly. It seems that only the cameras with faster pan and zoom will list these speeds.
How do I determine how much zoom I really need?
To ensure that the zoom range — wide to telephoto — of your PTZ is adequate for your shooting location, you’ll need to have some idea of the types of shots you want.
“I want to explore all of my possibilities.”
Stand where you would like to install the PTZ, and using a camera that you already own, frame up the widest and tightest shots you think you’ll need, taking note of the focal length for each and changing lenses if necessary. Now, find the crop factor of the camera you just used. The crop factor is the sensor’s difference in size in relation to 35 mm still film — full-frame 35 mm. For example, Micro Four Thirds sensors have a 2X crop factor; so, if your shots were at 10 mm and 200 mm, this means the 35 mm equivalent to the zoom range you want is around 20 mm x 400 mm. It’s important to note that crop factors are often approximated to the actual image sensor size. To be safe, add a 20 percent cushion to your calculation which would bring the example above to be 16 mm x 480 mm. Now that you know the 35 mm equivalent zoom range, you’ll want to look for cameras that meet or exceed that requirement.
“I only care about headshots.”
For this, you can utilize a focal length equation to determine your lens needs. To do this, you will need to know the sensor size (horizontal), the distance to the subject and the Horizontal Field of View (HFOV) for your headshots. While the sensor size and distance to the subject are easy to determine, figuring out the HFOV takes a bit more work.
To get your HFOV:
- Stand in front of a mirror.
- Use a tape measure or yardstick and measure where you’d want to see your head framed. Think vertically, top to bottom of your eyes, above the head to mid-chest level or somewhere in between. Write down the metric measurement — convert if needed. Now, take that vertical measurement and multiply it by 1.78 (because 1.78:1 is the aspect ratio for HD/UHD, often called 16 x 9). This sum is your desired HFOV.
Now, use this formula to determine your required focal length:
- FL = focal length
- SS = sensor size — 36 mm for 35 mm equivalent or the actual camera sensor horizontal length
- D = distance to the subject
- HFOV = Horizontal field of view
What are my controllers’ options and considerations?
There are three basic types of controllers: hardware controllers, software controls and IR remotes. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages:
For the fastest, most accurate control while live, you’ll want one hardware controller and monitor per camera. The monitors should be placed directly behind the controllers for quick, easy reference. The monitor should be the same resolution as the camera to aid in manual focus and see what you are sending to the program — IMAG, record, stream, etc. A multi-view monitor makes it harder to see what camera you’re controlling. Additionally, if the camera windows drop below the camera’s resolution, it can make focus and other fine camera adjustments harder, if not impossible, to see.
Large hardware controllers can be used for multiple cameras and give you physical control over many camera settings making cameras easier to balance and set preset PTZ positions. They aren’t always as quick to control as having one controller per camera because you often have to select the camera before you can operate it.
Software controls are not ideal for moving pan/tilt/zoom while the camera is live. Software controls can give you complete manual control or no control to balance the camera(s). Additionally, Wi-Fi setups share the same chance of interference as most other wireless devices.
IR remotes are good if you’re in a small room and just switching between presets. When in a large room, it is also helpful to power up and check camera movement before your control cables are installed. The IR remote really isn’t a viable option for manual camera moves.
What about protocols?
If you’re working with existing hardware, software and networks, protocols can be critical. There are many different protocols utilized by PTZ cameras, such as NDI. The camera function isn’t affected by the protocol used. It’s only by what hardware and software you can use to alter the camera and streaming settings. Some cameras support multiple protocols; some protocols are used across different manufacturers, while some are unique to one specific brand.
What are important considerations for camera ports?
HDMI, SDI or high-quality streaming from the camera is necessary for better image quality for programs or recordings. While some PTZ cameras have SD slots, the compression used to record to the cards is often very high. The card function is better used as a backup if the record feed should falter. With this in mind, consider your production needs as we take a closer look at these common ports — and cables.
- SDI will often give you a video signal with less loss of color information and no image compression making the camera easier to balance. The cables are easy to run but don’t carry control or power.
- HDMI often carries less color information and no image compression. HDMI is limited to a 40-foot cable without amplification. It also doesn’t carry power or control.
- Wired Network (Cat 5, Cat 6, etc.) often compresses the image and decreases the color information to save on bandwidth. This makes camera balancing harder; however, higher and lower quality presets are often available. With PoE (Power over Ethernet) and IP streaming, one inexpensive cable can carry video, power and control at a distance of 300 feet. These cameras can often stream to a network with no other hardware. Check the camera specs because some network ports are for controls only when using a matching controller.
- USB often allows the camera to be recognized as a webcam by a computer; however, some only work with proprietary hardware or software. USB is limited in cable length without adapters but often carries power, video and control.
- RS-234, RS-485, etc. — these multi-pin ports are for control only. The cables can be fragile and expensive, making Cat 5 or higher network cable a better option unless no other control options are available. Cameras with these ports can sometimes be daisy-chained, but this is also not ideal because if the first camera in your chain goes down, you can lose control of all the cameras.
For the fastest setup and teardown of PTZs, you’ll want cameras with PoE and video over network cables paired with controller(s) that have video outputs if needed.
What is image flip, and do I really need it?
Inversion, ceiling mode and image flip allow upside-down video to appear right side up if the camera is mounted inverted. Even if your camera isn’t ceiling-mounted, mounting it upside down can make it easier to level, as most PTZ cameras don’t self-level.
Consider your options
There are a lot of options when shopping for a PTZ. Like cinema cameras, you should consider your entire production and post-production workflows, even your deliverables. You’re bound to make a great choice with all of this in mind.
Contributors to this article include Odin Lindblom, W. H. Bourne and the Videomaker Editorial staff.