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PTZ Camera

The Best PTZ Cameras (2021)

This is a list of the best PTZ cameras I recommend and use for live streaming and multi-cam production.

In this list you'll find:

But first...

What Is A PTZ?

PTZ is an abbreviation for Pan-Tilt-Zoom, a reference to the movements the camera unit can make.

While focus is not part of the abbreviation, it is assumed when zoom is present.

To be considered a PTZ, it must:

Realistic Expectations

When considering PTZ cameras, it's important to have proper expectations...

Good PTZs Are Not Cheap

This is easily the most common misunderstanding I find.

PTZs simply consist of more moving parts than camcorders.

Therefore, expect PTZ pricing to break down to around ⅓ camera and ⅔ everything else. And that does not include the controller, cabling, accessories, etc.

It is safe to assume a $3,000 PTZ will only look as good as a $1,000 camcorder, and that is nearly always a best case scenario.

You can see this formula pretty accurately reflected when comparing the PTZs here to my camcorder recommendations in The Best Cameras For Live Streaming.

Where PTZs Excel

Where PTZs Often Fail

The keyword here is often. While PTZs can do some of the things below well, you generally have to pay a premium for it.

Matching Cameras

If you want a good chance at making all cameras match when it comes to color and image quality, it's best to at least stick with the same brand for all cameras.

And the more you pay, the more control you get.

As a general rule, if the PTZ costs less than $2,500 then there's a high likelihood that it will be extremely difficult to match well with other cameras and brands.

Do I Need A Hardware Controller?

In most cases, absolutely.

While some PTZs offer control over IP, Wi-Fi, and/or Bluetooth, nothing beats the speed, consistency, and reliability of a matched hardware controller.

It's also important to keep in mind that serial controllers are usually quicker and more responsive compared to IP-based controllers.

If your situation just needs a few presets, and manual camera moves are not necessary, then software control can work. But if you plan on using the cameras in a more dynamic environment then I highly recommend using hardware controllers.

Demo Or Rent

Don't believe me?

That's okay.

Sometimes seeing is believing.

Therefore, I recommend that you do your due diligence by getting a demo or renting the specific model(s) you are considering. This is the only true way to know if your expectations will be met or not.

What About _____?

I can't be more clear about this...

If you don't see a brand in this list, there is probably a reason why.

I have the unique perspective of seeing many different systems and fielding many requests from people that need help or advice with their PTZs. Because of this, I see very clear trends in the brands that people enjoy, tolerate, or dislike.

It is also important to know that the PTZ market has quite a few categories that include security, corporate, industrial, teleconferencing, and broadcast. And many of the non-broadcast brands try to market their products as broadcast cameras to reach more customers. This ultimately causes confusion, and often frustration.

Ultimately, I want you to have the information you need to make your own educated decisions. At the end of the day, it is your system, not mine. But I also personally have standards that guide what recommendations I make (and don't make).

Now, let's dive in...


PTZ Cameras

Panasonic UE150

Panasonic UE150

Top Pick for 2021!

Panasonic has consistently provided some of the best industry standard PTZs, and this is no exception.

It slices! It dices! It does all this:

Outputs: 12G-SDI, 3G-SDI, HD-SDI, HDMI (Type A - Full Size), optical fiber (12G capable, includes slot for optional module), and IP

Output Formats: Up to 3840 x 2160 at 59.94 fps (12G-SDI, HDMI, optical fiber, or IP) and up to 1920 x 1080 at 59.94 fps (3G-SDI)

Control Protocols: IP or RS-422 (both through RJ-45 port)

Recommended Controller: Panasonic AW-RP150 or AW-RP60

Suggested Camera Matches: Panasonic broadcast cameras and the UX and CX camcorder series

My Favorite Feature: Image looks about as "un-PTZ" as you can get

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BirdDog Eyes P200

BirdDog Eyes P200

Budget-Friendly Pick

A solid low-cost option with a full Sony sensor and imaging system.

Highlights include 3G-SDI output, 30x optical zoom, some of the best movement and control response for the price, some of the best color matching (including a free Windows 10 Cam Control app), NDI video, and NDI control capability.

Bonus features include the ability to automate through a RESTful API, integration with BirdDog's Comms Pro and Lite, and BirdDog's substantial discounts for education, house of worship, and non-profit customers.

IMPORTANT: While this is a great bang for the buck, expect some downsides like output latency, less than ideal fine movements (especially at longer focal lengths), a steep learning curve, and top notch IP infrastructure for NDI capabilities, just to name a few.

Outputs: 3G-SDI, HDMI (Type A - Full Size), NDI, and analog composite

Output Formats: Up to 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps (23.98 and 24 fps not available)

Control Protocols: NDI, RS232/RS422/RS485 (2 x RJ-45 ports), VISCA, Pelco D

Recommended Controller: BirdDog PTZ Keyboard

My Favorite Feature: IP integrations (NDI, NDI control, Comms)

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Sony BRC-X400

Sony BRC-X400

Best Bang For The Buck

Not a lot of frills or glamour, just an excellent all-around PTZ with nice image quality and smooth action.

4K output over HDMI or IP (streaming), 3G-SDI output, genlock input, 20X optical zoom, and NDI|HX (with optional license).

Outputs: 3G-SDI, HDMI (Type A - Full Size), NDI|HX (optional upgrade), and IP (streaming)

Output Formats: Up to 3840 x 2160 at 29.97 fps (HDMI or IP streaming only) or up to 1920 x 1080 at 59.94 fps (all outputs)

Control Protocols: VISCA RS-422 RJ45 (In/Out), VISCA over IP RJ-45, and S700PTP RJ-45

Recommended Controller: Sony RM-IP500 or Sony RM-IP10

My Favorite Feature: Probably the smoothest movement you will find for the price

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BirdDog P4K

BirdDog P4K

4K & NDI

It may look like similarly priced 4K models from competitors, but it's turned up to 11!

Highlights include:

Bonus features include the ability to automate through a RESTful API, integration with BirdDog's Comms Pro and Lite, and BirdDog's substantial discounts for education, house of worship, and non-profit customers.

Outputs: 2 x 6G-SDI, HDMI (Type A - Full Size), NDI, NDI|HX, and IP streaming

Output Formats: Up to 3840 x 2160 at 30 fps or up to 1920 x 1080 at 60 fps

Control Protocols: NDI, VISCA, and VISCA Over IP

Recommended Controller: BirdDog PTZ Keyboard

My Favorite Feature: BirdDog ecosystem

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Alternative PTZ Solutions

Many times, the best PTZ is actually not a PTZ at all.

Instead, it is a fully remote operated camcorder or studio camera mounted to a third-party pan/tilt remote head.

If you want an idea of some high-end solutions available, check out Ross Furio series, Telemetrics, Mark Roberts Motion Control, and the Vinten Vantage series.

Here are a few options to consider if image quality or specific camera features are priority, but PTZ capabilities are also needed...

Bescor MP101

Bescor MP101

Low-Cost Alternative

When you just need a quick and simple pan/tilt remote head to mount a camcorder on, the MP101 has been the go-to for many years.

It can hold up to 6 lbs, rotate ±170 degrees, tilt ±15 degrees, and can be powered by 4 x AA batteries, AC power, or external batteries.

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Skaarhoj

Skaarhoj

The Middle-Man For Nearly Everything

If you've ever thought to yourself "I wish this could connect to that and control it...", Skaarhoj may already have the answer.

Their products are an essential "glue" that holds many remote and PTZ workflows together, and they do it well.

Top notch engineering, high quality manufacturing, and tons of options to get just the workflow you need.

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Middle Things

Middle Things

Most Innovative

This solution is pretty slick, uniting the indie filmmaking world with live PTZ production.

Control your DJI gimbals and Blackmagic cameras straight from your ATEM switcher, even using regular USB joysticks.

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