Digital PTZ Cameras vs ePTZ Cameras – What Is The Difference?

A true PTZ Camera
A true PTZ Camera

There is a significant difference between PTZ and ePTZ cameras (or webcams). Unfortunately, the distinction is not always clear and it can be hard to find concrete definitions. I’ve even seen camera dealers confuse the labels! There are also hybrids of the two, as well as cameras that do not fall into either category. So what are they?

Let’s get the acronyms out of the way, first. You may know that PTZ stands for “pan-tilt-zoom”. EPTZ is simply “electronic pan-tilt-zoom”. That doesn’t really clarify the distinction, and may even be part of the confusion. A better label for ePTZ might be “digital pan-tilt-zoom”.

“PTZ” refers to a specific type of camera hardware. A PTZ camera uses motors to physically adjust the camera’s aim and zoom. Users are able to remotely control the actual orientation and optical zoom of the camera.

Technically, the “ePTZ” label refers to a software feature rather than the hardware. A camera using ePTZ does not physically move. Users are still able to digitally zoom and navigate the camera’s viewable area. These cameras are not always labeled ePTZ – most would simply refer to it as a digital zoom.

Essentially, they are just two different ways to control the view from a camera. Neither is strictly the “better” solution. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. These are some of the most important distinctions:

A Fixed-Position (ePTZ) Cameraa
A Fixed-Position (ePTZ) Cameraa

Viewable Region

PTZ cameras can cover a very large area. Not only can they tilt up and down, they can usually rotate 360 degrees. Users can aim a live PTZ camera to any region at any time. This obviously does not work with recorded video or images; the camera does not record its entire 360-degree view. When used for surveillance, PTZ cameras are usually programmed to scan across a set area. This is called a “guard tour”.

A fixed camera (with or without ePTZ) will usually have between 60-90 degrees of horizontal field-of-view. However, some fixed cameras have exchangeable lenses. This opens up possibilities for wide-angle or telephoto lenses.

Winner: PTZ Cameras


PTZ cameras use optical zooming, so the image quality is not affected by zooming. If you zoom a 1-megapixel camera to its furthest point, you will still have a 1-megapixel image.

With ePTZ, everything is digital. The image will pixelate as you zoom in, since you are effectively stretching out the original image. If you zoom in by 4x, your image resolution will effectively decrease by 4x. To compensate for this, fixed cameras are available in higher resolutions.

Here is a simple demonstration of this effect, which I used in a previous blog post:

Original Image
PTZ optical zoom
Optical Zoom
Digital Zoom

Winner: PTZ Cameras

Simultaneous Users

Live cameras can either serve streaming video or still images. With streaming video, only one user will be able to control a PTZ camera at any time. Other users will be forced into a queue. With live images, it is possible to avoid queues. With ePTZ, there is never a queue since the camera does not need to move.

Winner: ePTZ Cameras


Consider a PTZ camera serving live images to its users. Every time a user aims or zooms, the camera will have to take a new picture. This picture then has to be uploaded from the camera location and downloaded to the user. Usually this only takes a few seconds.

With ePTZ, manipulating the view is instantaneous. The camera has done its job after capturing one image. Users can zoom and move about the webcam image with no delay.

Winner: ePTZ Cameras


You probably want your entire subject to fit into one frame, when creating a time-lapse video. For this reason, there is no immediate advantage to either type of camera. However, a PTZ camera could create multiple time-lapses at different view settings. For instance, a construction project could simultaneously time-lapse two different regions of their jobsite.

Winner: PTZ Cameras

Price & Resolutions

The capabilities of a PTZ camera come with a higher price tag. They are not usually available in ultra-high resolutions. Their optical zoom makes that unnecessary. Fixed cameras are usually cheaper, and come in higher resolutions. Keep in mind; you will appreciate that higher resolution when you’re using the digital zoom.

Winner: ePTZ Cameras

Other Considerations

I’ve covered the basic differences between PTZ and ePTZ, but there are always exceptions. Any PTZ camera could use digital zoom. Some companies even mount fixed cameras onto robotic arms. This lets the camera function like a PTZ, but without the optical zoom.


Fixed cameras with ePTZ are a rock solid solution, and probably suit the majority of buyers. You may want to consider a PTZ camera for large areas, or if you need to capture details while zooming. Try out a few different cameras and consider your goals and the intention of your end user. You could view our PTZ and fixed construction camera demos to get an idea of the real-world applications.

You can also check out TrueLook’s fixed-position cameras, as well as our PTZ cameras for more information about our specific products.

Allison Shaub headhsot

Allison Shaub

Allison is TrueLook’s Chief Marketing Officer. In her role, she is responsible for developing strategic marketing and communications programs that generate awareness and drive deeper customer engagement. She has over a decade of experience helping brands build and scale their marketing efforts. Outside of business hours she enjoys spending time with her husband and two fur children.

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