Sony PTZ Camera Guide

Author: Antony Look, Published on Nov 21, 2010

PTZs can be especially challenging to select as the price range amongst product options can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. In our Camera Finder, we are tracking 90 IP PTZs from as low as $350 to as high as $3,300 (online) pricing.

Of these, Sony offers a dozen PTZs, having recently doubled their PTZ offerings. With so many product options, it can be challenging to determine the key differences and tradeoffs.

In this guide, we break down these differences and provide guidance on strengths and weaknesses.

Specific to Sony, we examine a number of key questions:

  • What are the tradeoffs between the new 5th generation and previous PTZs?
  • What are the tradeoffs between Sony's HD and SD PTZs?
  • What options exist amongst pan and tilt ranges? How does this impact application best fit?

This is a companion guide to our Sony Fixed IP Camera review and part of our ongoing effort to breakdown camera offerings.

PTZ Product Overview

Here is an overview of Sony PTZ options with on-line pricing:

There is not a clear naming convention across the PTZs. However, some patterns can be discerned:

  • All of the cameras under $2000 are indoor cameras
  • All of the cameras over $200 are outdoor cameras (except for the indoor HD PTZ which has an online price of roughly $2100).

Outdoor Applications

The latest Sony PTZ offerings include three (3) outdoor models that are IP66 and IK10 rated - the SNC-RS84N, the SNC-RS86N and the SNC-RH164. Each of these three outdoor models have an indoor counterpart with practically identical features. The premium for the outdoor version is roughly $1000 (on-line pricing). This $1000 is fairly consistent with the price for a high-end Sony brand housing purchased separately. If the application does not require a IP66/IK10 rated enclosure, the indoor version can be used with a lesser grade/lower cost housing unit.

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(As an example of the indoor vs. outdoor price difference: the HD 720p indoor model, SNC-RH124, has an online price $2100 vs. the HD 720p outdoor model SNC-RH164 with online price $3200).

Earlier Sony PTZ models are offered in indoor only models. If a deployment requires outdoor rated enclosures, earlier Sony PTZ models can still be considered as outdoor housings can be purchased separately. Also, the newer PTZ camera's additional features, e.g., full motion H.264, advanced DEPA and ONVIF, may not be necessary for a particular deployment, and the additional cost would be unjustified.

Generally outdoor applications will benefit from higher optical zoom ratios. Sony's PTZ line includes 3x, 10x, 18x, 26x, and 36x optical zoom models. Going from 18x to 36x in the earlier Rapid Dome models (RX530 online $1550 to RX570 online $1800) increases cost roughly $300. This is approximately the same 18x to 36x premium within the newer Rapid Dome models (e.g., RS44N $1700 to RS46N $2000).

Pan/Tilt Ranges

Pan/Tilt ranges impact PTZ usability. For example, tracking a human subject moving through a scene.

All Rapid Dome models (RX and RS/RH) provide 360 degrees of continuous pan rotation. (The non-Rapid Models (RZ) provide -170 to +170 panning, thus there is a 10 degree 'blind' spot). These are less expensive but can present problems when tracking subjects across a large area.

The newer (RS/RH) Rapid Domes provide a superior tilt range of 210 degrees versus the 90 degree limitation imposed on the earlier (RX) Rapid Domes. Generally, a 90 degree (or quarter-tilt) tilt limitation requires an operator tracking a subject passing underneath the PTZ to pan 180 degrees to continue tracking (The RX series provides an auto-flip that pans 180 when the tilt reaches its 'nadir'). In order to eliminate the 'head-ache' of 're-panning' in these situations a 180 degree or greater tilt range is required (or an auto-flip feature as in the RX series). The newer (RS/RH) Rapid-Domes offer 210 degrees of tilt - providing a bit of up-tilt capability as well.

The non-Rapid Dome models (RZ) feature greater than 90 degree, but less than 180 degree tilt ranges. They defer the need to 're-pan' after the subject passes below the PTZ. However, eventually, as the subject progresses towards the opposite horizon, a 're-panning' of the PTZ will be required. The SNC-RZ50 offers pan/tilt operations that are significantly quieter than all other Sony PTZs. This feature makes thier use more attractive in certain non-security related applications, e.g., behavioral health settings, or retail marketing studies.

Keep in mind that the three Rapid Dome models, SNC-RX530/550/570, all offer 360 degree endless pan capability. However, they provide only 0 to -90 degree tilt ranges (no up-tilt when ceiling mounted; no down-tilt when desktop mounted). The later models, SNC-RS44/46/84/86 and SNC-RH124/164, provide increased tilt ranges of -105 to +105 (210 total degrees of tilt), which results in 15 degrees of either up-tilt or down-tilt (ceiling or desktop mount).

Indoor Applications

Indoor environments generally will not require extreme zoom ratios, e.g. 36x, unless an unusually large indoor area is being monitored. Also, the lesser pan/tilt ranges of non-Rapid Domes, SNC-P5/RZ25/RZ50 and earlier Rapid Domes (SNC-RX530/550/570) may present less of a concern in indoor applications.

The non-Rapid Dome SNC-RZ25 (18x, SD, Day/Night) is priced online at $750. The non-Rapid Dome SNC-RZ50 (26x, SD, day/night) is priced online at $1000. Thus the non-Rapid Domes are roughly $700 less than the equivalent optical zoom Rapid Dome models (RX530, 18x online $1550 and 26x, RX550 at online $1700).

One drawback of the earlier models is that they don't provide a PoE+ powering option. Conversely, however, indoor environments generally present less of a challenge in provisioning local AC power as opposed to remote outdoor deployments.

High Definition Applications

Sony only offers two (2) HD models supporting HD (720p only, no 1080p). Except for the outdoor enclosure, the two models are essentially identical. One other notable difference is that the indoor model supports a PoE+ powering option.

The HD PTZ models provide a maximum 10x optical zoom versus the 36x optical zooms on the SD varieties. Measured by focal lengths, the HD PTZs offer a range of 4.6 to 46mm while the 36x SD PTZs offer 3.4 to 122.4mm. As such, the maximum SD PTZs can zoom out significantly farther than the HD PTZs. However, the HD offsets this deficiency somewhat with superior digital zoom.

The 720p HD PTZ is best compared against the 18x optical zoom PTZ models. For example, using a reference of 60pixels/ft, we find that this mark or better is maintained beyond 200+ feet for both the 10x HD and 18x SD PTZs when fully zoomed. The 36x optical zoom PTZ camera maintains 60pix/ft. out to over 400+ feet.

Distances at which 60pix/ft is maintained (assumes lens is fully zoomed in):

  • SNC-RH124, HD 720p, 10x ($2100) - 60pix/ft at 226ft (21ft HFoV)
  • SNC-RX530, SD, 18x ($1550) - 60pix/ft at 246ft (12ft HFoV)
  • SNC-RS44, SD, 18x ($1700) - 60pix/ft at 246ft (12ft HFoV)
  • SNC-RX570, SD, 36x ($1800) - 60pix/ft at 404ft (12ft HFoV)
  • SNC-RS46, SD, 36x ($2100) - 60pix/ft at 404ft (12ft HFoV)

Thus, both SD 18x versions perform similarly to the HD model at a lower price point - $300 less for the SNC-RS44 and $550 less for the SNC-RX530. Note that the SD 18x, SNC-RS44, in terms of other feature sets is on par with the HD 10x, SNC-RH124 model as they are both members of a later release - e.g., they both feature the PoE+ option, whereas the SNC-RX530 does not.

The SD 36x, SNC-RX570, is actually $300 less than the HD 10x, SNC-RH124, and maintains the 60pix/ft mark out to nearly twice the distance (404ft). The SD 36x, SNC-RS46, is priced online at roughly the same price as the HD 10x, SNC-RH124. Both are later models offering additional features such as full-motion H.264, VE, XDNR, OnVIF, advanced DEPA, and PoE+, that are not available in the SNC-RX570 model. (Note that the SNC-RX570 supports only 15fps when H.264 compression is used).

Day/Night or Low-Light Applications

Eleven out of twelve of the Sony PTZs offer a mechanical IR cut-filter. The exception is the SNC-P5 (online $490), a 3x optical zoom indoor PTZ which doesn't provide a mechanical IR cut-filter. Sony PTZs do not offer the same View-DR (WDR) technology seen in the latest premium fixed cameras.

Comparing SD 18x optical zoom PTZs, the SNC-RS44N (online $1700) is $150 more than the SNC-RX530 (online $1550). The newer SNC-RS44 offers some low-light enhancements over the SNC-RX530 such as DynaView, VE, and XDNR. The result is a slightly better (i.e. lower) low-light lux specification on the SNC-RS44.

PoE+ (802.3at) Applications

If a particular deployment requires or can benefit from PTZs with the ability to be powered over Ethernet, then the latest indoor models should be considered. The latest indoor PTZ models provide support for PoE+ (802.3at).

For example, the SNC-RX530 (online $1550) is an SD (704x480) 18x optical zoom PTZ, which can be compared to the later model SNC-RS44 (online $1700) - also an 18x optical zoom PTZ but with SD (720x480) resolution. The $250 premium for the later model provides a PoE+ powering option, a slightly better resolution, 120 added degrees of tilt, improved low-light and WDR features, 30fps versus 15fps in H.264 mode, ONVIF, and advanced DEPA. (Note that the SNC-RX530 supports only 15fps when H.264 compression is used).

Alternatively, if an earlier non-PoE+ model is desired but local power is unavailable, a splitter that 'breaks out' 12VDC or 24VDC can provide a solution. This allows the use of the PoE switch or midspan to provide the power over Ethernet, but break out the Ethernet and traditional power at the distant camera location. LAN-Power makes a device (online $50) that accomplishes this, but not for higher power PTZ applications. However, a device providing higher power from PoE+ switches and midspans is likely to hit the market in the near future.

Notable Gaps in Portfolio

Be aware of the following gaps in Sony's PTZ portfolio:

  • Only a 10x optical zoom available in HD PTZ models while Axis and Pelco both offer an 18x optical zoom.

Strong Competitive Advantages

These are likely key competitive advantages:

  • Superior tilt ranges (>180 degrees) in RS/RH Rapid Domes. Most suppliers offer 135 degrees or less.

1 report cite this report:

Sony Fixed IP Camera Guide on Nov 20, 2010
Like many camera manufacturers, in the last 2 years, Sony has rapidly expanded its IP camera lineup. For instance, in our Camera Finder, we are now...
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