Knowing your lenses: Fixed V. Varifocal V. PTZ Leave a comment

What are the differences between fixed, varifocal and PTZ cameras?

Customers often wonder the differences between fixed, varifocal and PTZ cameras, and which one is best for their situation. This all depends on the number of cameras you are wanting to run and the area you want to place them in. It also depends what abilities you want these cameras to have. These units also have different prices which will factor into your decision. There are pros and cons to each, so let’s take a closer look and decide what lens camera will be best for you.


A fixed lens camera operates, as its name implies, using a nonadjustable lens. You have a fixed focal length and you are unable to adjust the field of view. These tend to be the cheapest option because of the simpler lens mechanism. They also tend to provide a better picture quality because there is no zoom adjustment occurring. For general surveillance needs, or if you know you are installing multiple cameras on your property, fixed cameras will serve you just fine.  


A varifocal lens camera allows the user to adjust the zoom and angle of the lens. This is done on the camera unit itself and cannot be adjusted remotely. This is primarily for users who don’t car to constantly adjust the angle to check in on things. Instead, it functions well in locations where traditional fixed lens cameras will not fit discretely and still be able to record an optimal view. Users can install a varifocal camera and then adjust the view to the desired location.


PTZ stands for “pan, tilt, zoom.” This is a more advanced form of varifocal lens and adjustments may be made through an external device. Users are able to move the lens around to focus on different aspects around the property. PTZ cameras tend to be the most expensive due to the more complex motorized mechanism which allow it to move. Although, with the increase in cost, you gain the ability to control your cameras from any location. For many users these features are worth it. Whether you’re a contractor checking up on progress on work sites or management checking in on employees, PTZ cameras provide an effective option.

Wild card, Fisheye

A fisheye lens camera captures a 180 degree panoramic view. This allows for one camera to capture a wider angle and surface area. There are some drawbacks however, fisheye lenses have a tendency to distort the image, lowering image quality. Circular fisheye cameras are frequently used on cars as backup cameras. Here, distortion is less of a concern and capturing the widest view possible for the driver is the goal.  

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