Varifocal vs. Fixed Lens Integrator Preference 2011

By: Ethan Ace, Published on Dec 26, 2011

UPDATE: See newer results from 2017 here.

When selecting lenses for surveillance cameras, there are two fundamental options: varifocal and fixed focal length. Varifocal lenses allow the field of view to be adjusted within a range (e.g. 3-8mm, 9-20mm, etc.) after the camera is installed, without changing lenses. Fixed focal length lenses are just that, offering only one focal length. As part of our Fall 2011 integrator survey, we aimed to find out which of these two options integrators were most often installing.

We asked the following question of 84 integrators:

vari vs fixed focal

The Responses

The vast majority of integrators (88%) preferred varifocal lenses to fixed focal length. Most commonly, flexibility and simplicity were cited as the reasons for this preference.

Flexibility of FOV

This was overwhelmingly cited as the number one reason for choosing varifocal lenses. Unlike fixed focal length lenses, varifocal lenses allow the field of view to be changed after the camera is installed, without changing the lens. This is often critical. If conditions on site differ even slightly from how they were when a pre-installation site survey was performed, it may affect lens selection drastically. Varifocal lenses allow fine-tuning to account for these differences, as well as customers simply changing their mind.

Here are some comments from integrators on the topic:

  • "We prefer the varifocal lens b/c it allows our customers to 'change their minds' of what they want to look at vs. have them pre-determine their shot before we complete the install. This gives everybody more lee-way."
  • "Allows flexibility to change view based on changes made at locations after the initial installation."
  • "This type of lenses minimizes the time of site survey and also in the future we are able to change the camera view according to any modifications to the site or the request from the client."
  • "Varifocal is easier to use as well as it doesn't lock you into a specific field of view. Customers change their mind and sales people don't always calculate the angles correctly."
  • "Flexibility. If you can move a camera to another position when needed, that makes the equipment selection process less final. They know they can change their mind later, or respond to an unexpected situation."

Ordering Simplicity

Integrators also cited simplicity in ordering and stocking as a reason for choosing varifocal. Instead of stocking simply a 3-8mm varifocal lens, an integrator may instead need to stock 3mm, 4mm, 6mm, and 8mm fixed lenses. This is obviously more work in ordering and maintaining inventory. In the same amount of space, an integrator may stock one or two varifocal lenses which cover nearly all applications.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Integrators had the following to say:

  • "Easier to use to get the field-of-view that the customer is expecting. It also reduces the complications associated with ordering cameras."
  • "Gives our customers the option to zoom in or out after later without replacing lenses. Standardized purchase orders from manufacturers translates into less for work sales staff and less equipment on our shelves and vehicles."

Proponents of Fixed Lenses

Of the integrators who preferred fixed focal length lenses (12%), most commonly they cited better performance as their reason for selecting fixed lenses. 

Integrators preferring fixed focal length lenses had the following to say:

  • "It depends on the application. I prefer fixed lenses because they are less costly and usually optically better than vari focal. They also theoretically should take less time to adjust since there is no zoom adjustment to contecnd with. However, the vari focal option is very handy when a customer is indecisive about the scene they want to see or is prone to relocating cameras. WYSIWYG does not always sit well with customers when they are paying a premium for an IP system."
  • "These are much easier to focus while using manual-focus cameras. Varifocal are only used when no one can make up their mind ahead of time as to where the cameras should be located or what they should see."
  • "Fixed focal lenses offer a much clearer view and with HD cameras the limitations of vari-focal can show up"

Recommendations

In most cases, varifocal lenses are likely a better option. The flexibility and simplicity they offer will almost always outweigh the potential advantages of fixed focal length lenses. For one, few options exist for various focal lengths in fixed lenses, especially under 3MP. This greatly limits selection. Additionally, in preliminary tests of Tamron fixed and vari-focal lenses, we saw no clear optical advantages to using fixed focal length lenses. 

1 report cite this report:

Surveillance Statistics Survey Directory Vol 1 on Jan 03, 2012
In this report, we aggregate and present dozens of statistics about how surveillance is being used in the real world. Recently, we conducted an in...
Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

ADT Stock Surges - "Leading The Commercial Space" on Nov 15, 2019
Don't call it comeback... but maybe call it a commercial provider. ADT, whose stock dropped by as much as 2/3rds since IPOing in 2018, has now...
Camera Field of View (FoV) Guide on Nov 13, 2019
Field of View (FoV) and Angle of View (AoV), are deceptively complex. At their most basic, they simply describe what the camera can "see" and seem...
Open vs End-to-End Systems: Integrator Statistics 2019 on Nov 11, 2019
Preference for open systems is on the decline, according to new IPVM statistics. We asked integrators: For video surveillance systems, do you...
Biggest Low Light Problems 2019 on Nov 08, 2019
Over 150 integrators responded to our survey question: "What are the biggest problems you face getting good low-light images?" Inside, we share...
Axis Cracks Down On Illicit Channel Sales on Nov 01, 2019
Axis has stepped up efforts to crack down on illicit channel sales according to various industry sources, though, Axis denies this. Online sales...
Remote Access (DDNS vs P2P vs VPN) Usage Statistics on Oct 25, 2019
Remote access can make systems more usable but also more vulnerable. How are integrators delivring remote access in 2019? How many are using...
Integrated IR Camera Usage Statistics 2019 on Oct 21, 2019
Virtually every IP camera now comes with integrated IR but how many actually make use of IR or choose 'super' low light cameras without IR? In...
Altronix Claims Tango 'Eliminates Electricians' on Oct 15, 2019
Power supply provider Altronix claims its new Tango power supply 'eliminates the need for an electrician, dedicated conduit and wire runs'. In...
Camera Focusing Tutorial on Oct 14, 2019
Camera focus is fundamental to quality imaging. Mistakes can significantly reduce details, making cameras less effective. In this guide, we...
Top Ways Security Integrators Improve Their Careers on Sep 03, 2019
With DIY products expanding and the future of integration debated, how do integrators stay sharp so they are not left behind? 180+ integrators...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hidden Camera Detectors Tested on Nov 18, 2019
Hidden cameras are a growing problem as cameras become smaller, cheaper and easier to access. However, some companies claim to be able to detect...
Wyze Fires Back at JCI - Your Patents Are Invalid, Pay All Of Our Costs on Nov 18, 2019
Goliath JCI targeted startup Wyze this summer alleging the fast-growing consumer startup was violating a slew of JCI's patents. Now, Wyze has...
ADT Stock Surges - "Leading The Commercial Space" on Nov 15, 2019
Don't call it comeback... but maybe call it a commercial provider. ADT, whose stock dropped by as much as 2/3rds since IPOing in 2018, has now...
Gatekeeper Security Company Profile - Detecting Faces Inside Vehicles on Nov 14, 2019
Border security is a common discussion in mainstream US news and politics, as is the use of banned Chinese equipment by US Government agencies....
Hikvision CEO And Vice-Chair Under PRC Government Investigation on Nov 14, 2019
In a surprising and globally covered move, Hikvision CEO Hu Yangzhong and Vice-Chairman Gong Hongjia are being investigated by China's securities...
Camera Field of View (FoV) Guide on Nov 13, 2019
Field of View (FoV) and Angle of View (AoV), are deceptively complex. At their most basic, they simply describe what the camera can "see" and seem...
UK Big Brother Watch: Hikvision Is 'Morally Bankrupt' on Nov 13, 2019
UK civil liberties advocate Big Brother Watch has condemned Hikvision as being 'morally bankrupt' following IPVM exposing Hikvision marketing...
Color Low Light Mega Camera Shootout - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Speco, Sony, Vivotek on Nov 12, 2019
This is the biggest color low light shootout ever, testing 20+ super low light models from 10 manufacturers: Increasingly, each manufacturer...
Wireless / WiFi Access Lock Guide on Nov 12, 2019
For some access openings, running wires can add thousands in cost, and wireless alternatives that avoid it becomes appealing. But using wireless...