Panasonic's HD PTZ with 36x Optical Zoom Examined

By Ethan Ace, Published Sep 28, 2011, 08:00pm EDT

At ASIS 2011, Panasonic announced adding two HD PTZ models. Two important factors make this noteworthy and interesting. First, our analysis indicates that these cameras will be priced substantially below competitive cameras. Secondly, these PTZs have the highest optical zoom range of any HD PTZ in the market and a substantial jump over competitors. Inside, we compare to Axis, Bosch and Sony HD PTZs.

Model Overview

This release consists of two models:

  • WV-SW396 Outdoor HD PTZ (Tentative $4,250 MSRP, Q4 2011 release)
  • WV-SC386 Indoor HD PTZ (Tentative $3,500 MSRP, Q1 2012 release)

These cameras are essentially upgrades to their existing SW395 and SC385 PTZ models. Both have a maximum resolution of 1.3 megapixel, are ONVIF compliant, and capable of H.264 high profile, MPEG-4, and MJPEG encoding. 

Longest Specified HD Optical Zoom

The focal length of the lens is 3.3-119mm (36x optical zoom). This is longest focal length of any of the HD PTZs we have seen so far, as most other HD PTZ cameras have a maximum focal length of no more than 80-90mm. It is also much wider than most competitors when zoomed out, providing over a 60° field of view. In practical terms, this provides a viewing angle when fully zoomed (telephoto) of 1.47°. Competitors are typically in the 2.5°-3° range, making this a substantially tighter field of view.

To achieve this 36x optical zoom at HD resolution, Panasonic reports they designed a new camera module using a new specialized zoom lens as well as a new 1/4" MOS sensor. This smaller sensor allows the camera module to be more compact to physically accomodate a larger zoom lens.

Other Features (Endless Panning and Advanced Auto Tracking)

These two new cameras also feature 360° endless panning, not found on their predecessors, which instead used e-flip. Lastly, Panasonic has built "Advanced Auto Tracking" into these models, which is designed to automatically track objects through the scene, and using Panasonic NVR's, even between cameras. Until we haved tested this feature, however, we make no claims as to its performance, and we have doubts about nearly all auto tracking functions.

Competitive Analysis

The outdoor SW396 compares favorably against competitors with an approximate online price of $2,600. Compared to the Sony RH164, Axis Q6034-E, and Bosch AutoDome 800 HD PTZs, all well over $3,000 online, Panasonic is a clear winner on price. Coupled with the extended zoom range of the Panasonic's lens, we expect that this may be very attractive to users seeking HD PTZs.

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