Shootout: 4K vs PTZ Cameras

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Feb 19, 2015

Resolutions continue upwards, with 4K cameras hitting the street. Meanwhile, PTZ usage continues its downward trend, with fewer and fewer integrators choosing them.

The question is: how does this increase in resolution compare to the optical zoom of HD or even SD PTZs?

Test Area

We tested these cameras day and night in an outdoor parking lot, to ~500' range. Light levels at night varied from about 0.3-0.5 lux, from building and ambient lights.

This image shows the overall scene from a wide FOV taken from a 4K camera. The angle of view in this image is ~70°.

Cameras were tested side by side, with the fixed cameras maintaining the same angle of view regardless of distance to target, while the PTZ cameras were optically zoomed in to a 15-16' field of view at each point (30', 100', 250', and 500'). At 500', both 1080p PTZ models' field of view was slightly wider, as we reached their maximum telephoto zoom range, while the SD PTZ was narrower and able to maintain the same field of view width.

Axis, Bosch, Canon and FLIR Cameras Tested

To find out, we tested three PTZs (from Axis, FLIR and Canon) against three multi-megapixel (Axis 4K, Bosch 4K and Bosch 5MP) cameras in our outdoor test scene at ranges up to 500', day and night.

*********** ******** *******, ****** ************** *** ******. *********, *** ************** *** ******** *****, **** ***** *** fewer *********** ******** ****.

*** ******** **: *** does **** ******** ** resolution ******* ** *** optical **** ** ** or **** ** ****?

Test ****

** ****** ***** ******* day *** ***** ** an ******* ******* ***, to ~***' *****. ***** levels ** ***** ****** from ***** *.*-*.* ***, from ******** *** ******* lights.

**** ***** ***** *** overall ***** **** * wide *** ***** **** a ** ******. *** angle ** **** ** this ***** ** ~**°.

******* **** ****** **** by ****, **** *** fixed ******* *********** *** same ***** ** **** regardless ** ******** ** target, ***** *** *** cameras **** ********* ****** in ** * **-**' field ** **** ** each ***** (**', ***', 250', *** ***'). ** 500', **** ***** *** models' ***** ** **** was ******** *****, ** we ******* ***** ******* telephoto **** *****, ***** the ** *** *** narrower *** **** ** maintain *** **** ***** of **** *****.

Axis, *****, ***** *** **** ******* ******

** **** ***, ** tested ***** **** (**** Axis, **** *** *****) against ***** *****-********* (**** 4K, ***** ** *** Bosch ***) ******* ** our ******* **** ***** at ****** ** ** 500', *** *** *****.

[***************]

Key ********

**** *** *** *** findings **** **** ****:

******* ***********

  • ** ***** *****, ***** 4K *** *** ******* using * ***** ***** of **** ******* ******* details ** ***** **** zoomed **** *** ******* in * ******** ***. The ** *** ******** fewer ******* ** **** range.
  • ** ****** ** **** range, *** *******, ********* the ** *****, ******* much ****** ******* ** our **** ******* *** chart ******** ** ***** 4K *******.
  • *** ** *** ****** telephoto ***, *** *** PTZ ******** ****** ******* of *** ******* ** 500' **** *** ***** non-IR ***, ****** ********** worse **** *** ** PTZ.

***** ***********

  • ** ***** ***** (~**'), the ** *** *** cameras ********** *** *** the ********** ** ***, with ****** ******* ** our **** ***** *** subject.
  • ****** **** (***'+), *** integrated ** *** ****** outperforms *** ***** ******* tested, **** ******* ** the ******* ** **** 250', *** ********* **** 500'.
  • *** ** *** ************ the ***** ***-** *** model ** ****** ****** (100-250'), ********* ********* ** the ******* ***** *** 1080p ***** ******** ** usable ******.

***************

** ******** ********** *** can ***** ******* ****** range *** ****** **** even ** ***** ******* can *******, ******* *** jump ** ********** *** processing **** **** ********** cameras. *** **** ********* installations ***** ******* *** utmost ******, **** * standard ********** *** ******** better ******* ** *** but **** ***** ****** than ** *******. *** cameras' ********** *** ******* increased **** *** ************ of ********** ** ****, which ******* ********* *** some ******* ** **** range ** *** *****, a ******** ******** ** PTZs.

*******, ** *** ****** will *** ** ******** live, ***** ******* ****** be ****. ******* *** cameras ** **** ********** the *********** **** **** will ** ***** ** the ***** ********* ****** an ********, ******* *** events, *** ******* **** stationary ******* ***** ******* zoom ********.

Angle ** **** ***********

** **** * ***** of **** *** **** angle ** **** ******* between *** ***** ************** and *** ******* ****** here, *** *** ***** below. *** ***** ** the *** ****** ***** is *** ***** *******' field ** ****, ~**°. By ********, *** ****** represents *** ****' ***** of **** ** ***** longest ***** ******, ~*°.

******* ** **** **** difference ** ***, ** seen ** *** *********** below, **** ***** ***** field ** ****, *** fixed *** ******* ******* fewer *******, *** **** overview *********** ** *** scene **** * ****** PTZ ********. *** **** provide **** ****** ******* when ****** ** ****** ranges, *** ********** **** overview *********** **** ****** to ***** ********* ******.

Daytime ***********

********* ** ***** ***** (~30' **** *******), *** is **** ** **** the **, ***, *** HD *** ******, **** solid ******* ** *** subject *** *****. ** this ***** **** *** SD ***** *** ******** over ** *** *** some ******* ** *** subject.

**** **** *** **** P1428-E ** ********** ****** in **** *****, **** after ****** *** **** focusing, ***** *** ***** in *** ****** ***** of **** ******, ** well.

****** ** ***' **** the *******, ***** ** a ******* **** ** detail ** *** ***** cameras, ** *** ***** below ** ** *** 4K ******, *** ***** 20 ** *** ***. PPF ***** ******** ** the *** ******* ** field ** **** ***** remains ************* *** **** as *** ******* ********* zoom.

** ***', ** ******* are ********* ** *** of *** ***** *******, as *** ** ****** too ***. *****, ******* of *** **** *** similar. ***** ** **** slight **** ** ****** due ** *** **** lenses **** (** ** found ** *********** *****), *** *** ** still ********* ****.

*******, ** ~***' **** the *******, *** ** the ***** **** ***** as ** ***** ***** maximum ******* **** *****. The ***** *** ***, however, ********* ** ***, providing ******* ******* ** shorter ******.

Nighttime ***********

** *****, *********** ** the ***** ************** ****** drops *************. **** ******* and *** ***** *-* lines ** *** ***** are *********, *** *** scene ** ****** *** dark ** ******* ***********.

*** **** *** ******** the **** ****** ** this ***** *** ** its ***** ** **. The ***** *** ***** outperforms *** **** ***** PTZ *** ** *** better *** ***** ***********, despite *** **** **** 50% **** ** ***.

** ** *** *******, details **** ******* ** the ***** *******, *** the **** *** ******** the **** ******* ** this *****. *** ***** PTZ ***** ******** ********* of *** ******* *** chart, *** *** **** model ** ****** *****, providing ** ****** ******.

*******, ** ***', **** the **** *** ** able ** ******* ****** images ** ***, **** other ******* ****** *** dark, *** *** ***, or ****.

Comments (22)

So have we reached a conclusion on how many dozen analog cameras can be replaced by one 4K camera? :o)

Yeah, 1/12 dozen.

How many bakers dozen?

Actually, I was being (mostly) serious! Since I don't believe that any of the fixed cameras could automatically replace the vb-c60. Not to say that the VGA is better overall, only that the vb-c60 will reveal finer detail, at the expense of FOV of course.

By my calculation, even the FLIR is only twice as good, in terms of max PPF, as the vb-c60, and the Bosch and Axis less than that.

The Flir ptz looks great day and night - I am really surprised the axis 4k didnt have a better picture, it looks aweful.

This is a great test. Just goes to show how far fixed has to go.

Given that most cameras are not monitored, this kind of testing just goes to show what you can expect at (say) 100', even from 4K.

Damn that FLIR DNZ30TL2R looks good.

Thanks you, John, for the excellent report.

are these 4K images from H.264 or from MJPEG ?

what is the FPS?

-Ling

All images are from H.264 streams. We recorded at 10 FPS as it's a fair average frame rate.

Thanks Ethan for your timely response.

I agree, the Flir looks very impressive in this shootout as well as this one.

Thanks Ethan!

I would think that even the lowly Canon VGA could provide finer details than any of the 4K cameras, at all distances.* Do you agree?

I would even expect that the reigning MP King, the 29MP Avigilon, equipped with a equivalent lens to the 4K models (> 30 degrees?), would come up short against the VGA PTZ.

Just doing the simple math of (Fixed AOV/PTZ AOV) - (Fixed HorPixels/PTZ Hor Pixels). When the result > 0 the PTZ should have a greater PPF. **

Is that a good rough way to estimate whether a PTZ or fixed can resolve better?

*assuming daylight and > minimum focus distance, of course the PTZ FOV is extremely small.

**Of course there may be 'some slight loss of detail' due to the long lens.

Wow, great report, Ethan. The pictures really tell the story.

At 4-6 ppf, stills from the fixed cameras seem pretty unusable, but what about the video? At 4-6 ppf, can you usually distinguish when something is moving "out there?" Otherwise, might you need something like SpotterRF to cue and point the PTZ before you can benefit from the PTZ's higher quality image?

"At 4-6 ppf, can you usually distinguish when something is moving "out there?"

This relates to the problem of long varifocal lenses in PTZs, see: Major Flaw in Long Lenses and PTZs.

Theoretically, and with a short lens (e.g., 70° AoV), like on typical boxes and domes, yes, you should be able to distinguish something with 4-6ppf. However, with a PTZ at its maximum telephoto (typically ~2° AoV), the image quality is significantly degraded compared to the 'theoretical' PPF.

Are the PPF numbers shown the theoretical ones?

PPF numbers are actual. The point about theoretical is theoretically what one might expect performance to be.

In the calculator for the FLIR at 500 feet and max zoom it says PPF should be 105. The report says 95 PPF. Not a large difference by any means, but is the reason that they are different that the 105 is the theoretical PPF, or I am I doing something wrong?

Ethan, can you share any shots showing the entire FOV of the of the 4K images versus the entire FOV of the PTZs? That go along with what you show diagrammaticaliy with the FOV triangles up top.

I think it would be instructive to see how much overview you are really sacrificing to get similar detail, when using a PTZ.

Great report and contains one item that is wholly unexpected:

There is a remarkable difference in these 4K cameras. I am quite disappointed in the optics on the Axis 4K vs. the Bosch 4K and even Bosch 5MP camera at the 30' mark.

Also surprising is that the Bosch 5 MP appears better than either the overly noisy Bosch 4K and slightly more blurry Axis 4K at night. None of them are particularly impressive, but there is a noticeable difference.

Were any changes made to compression to level the playing field or are they all at default?

Good article.

Just read the article, and was a good read. Though there was this typo that had me reading over and over the same section. Is there a missing word or two after 'narrower' ?

Daytime Performance

  • At short range, fixed 4K and 5MP cameras using a wider FOV provide similar details to 1080p PTZs zoomed into the subject in a narrower. The SD PTZ provides fewer details at this range.

Yes, there absolutely is a missing word. I've updated it to read "in a narrower FOV." Thanks for calling it out!

Anytime. I just mentally couldn't process that line. ☺

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