While the mainstream digital camera market remains, at best, a bit flat, the specialised PTZ market (mounted ‘Pan, Tilt, Zoom’ cameras) is expanding, with market demand remaining strong against pre pandemic level in FY21, according to UK-based IT market analysts, FutureSource.
Another market analysts, Market Growth Reports, estimates the global PTZ Cameras market size will reach USD $3,766 million in 2028, growing at a CAGR of 14.6 percent.
There has been a demand spike due to the pandemic, as remote working practices became mandatory across many organisations, and limitation on budgets for broadcasters created the conditions for this product category to thrive. However, this success has, at times, come at the expense of other professional video services. That is – PTZ cameras are doing videographers out of a job.
As the optical performance of Pro PTZ cameras has improved, technical decision makers have become more open to considering them in place of camcorders or even system and box cameras, especially as Pro PTZs offer potential for both cap-ex (product cost) and op-ex (labour) savings.
Familiar camera brands are joining the market. Canon recently (and quietly) launched the interesting consumer-oriented $549 Canon Powershot Pick in Australia, built around face-detecting and tracking technology that allows it to follow and automatically capture events based on what it ‘sees’, in an AI kind of way. It detects smiles and can be programmed to shoot photos or videos without any interaction from the user.
The Pick has 340-degrees of panning movement and tilt capabilities between -20 and 90 degrees. It has a 3x optical zoom via a 19-57mm lens with automatic image stabilization, enhanced by a 4x digital zoom that allows it to keep tabs on subjects with its auto tracking and auto photo capture features. It is battery-powered, supports voice commands, produces 11.7-megapixel photos, and can shoot Full HD 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second.
While this is a distinctly consumer product, Canon also offers professional grade PTZ cameras (eg, the CR-N500 and CR N-300) and a dedicated remote camera controller.
Sony has just this month announced a PTZ cinema camera! The Sony FR7 is the world’s first interchangeable lens PTZ camera with a full-frame (35mm) sensor. It’s a PTZ version of the Sony FX6 broadcast camera. It uses a 12MP full-frame image sensor with 4K/60p video at 4:2:2 and records 4K120p video. The camera delivers 15+ stops of dynamic range. ISO goes from 80-102,400, expandable to 409,600. It has an electronically variable ND, delivers touch tracking AF, and offers real-time tracking and Eye AF.
Sony sees it being used to record cooking and other educational programs, music videos, events, episodic dramas, reality shows, etc.
When it comes to costs, FutureSource claims that five or more PTZs could be purchased for the same price as two system cameras, ‘and while this may not deliver the same optical quality, the lower cost of these cameras allow more to be purchased to create more coverage and angles’. Alternatively, says FutureSource, spare budget can be sunk into lighting or other equipment to raise the ‘production values’ of what is seen on screen. Furthermore, multiple PTZs can be controlled centrally by a single operator.
‘This is not to say that PTZs are replacing all system and box cameras, but for cost-conscious live content producers they represent a very strong value proposition,’ the analyst adds.
‘These advantages are instrumental in expanding the addressable market and allowing multi-camera live video production to become more attainable in non-traditional verticals such as corporate/enterprise, education, houses of worship and government.’
Internet networking is gaining momentum in the professional video market, and this is directly benefitting the PTZ market. The introduction of NDI and NDI HX compatibility in many vendors’ product portfolios has been very well received by the market. (According to Wikipedia: ‘Network Device Interface (NDI) is a royalty-free software specification developed by NewTek to enable video-compatible products to communicate, deliver, and receive high-definition video over a computer network in a high-quality, low-latency manner that is frame accurate and suitable for switching in a live production environment.’)
However, it’s not only connectivity that is driving the PTZ market: end users are also seeking more features to simplify ease of use for operators with limited production experience or even without operators at all. This is creating an opportunity for AI technologies as auto-tracking PTZ cameras start to penetrate the market. The technology is developing at two places in the workflow, either embedded in the camera itself or as a software layer that sits across multiple cameras at the camera control layer. The popularity of auto-tracking PTZ cameras has been notable in high school and tertiary education sectors, as it enables more rooms to be equipped with lesson capture and distance learning capabilities.
Many new brands are entering into the market. The lower -price categories have become highly saturated with different options. Some new brands have been able to capture market share while larger players have encountered supply chain issues. For example, Aver and Birddog have been able to establish a strong presence in this market due to their market penetration within specific verticals. Aver’s wider product portfolio, existing channel connections and auto-tracking capabilities were all well suited for success in education.
Birddog has championed the use of full NDI and support for the IP protocol throughout its product range has made it the go-to brand for end-users, as the demand for IP workflows has risen.
Futuresource’s Global Pro PTZ Camera Market Report reveals the extent of market growth in FY21 and volume and value share held by leading brands across different price segments.