Cameras : Dome, Turret, Bullet, Full body, PTZ – Which one is The One ?

CCTV or surveillance cameras have been around for a very long time. And almost from the very beginning they presented themselves in various shapes. This is even more true today when our market is covered by at least 5 types of cameras and almost all of them with sub-divisions.
The reality is that we could at a general level categorise the cameras by shape in 5 categories: dome cameras, turret cameras, bullet or tube cameras, full body and PTZ cameras.

Let’s analyse each type a little to clarify the subject and bust some myths.

1. Dome cameras
These are the cameras that we have seen for a long time. They have a round shape, installed mainly on ceilings and sometimes on wall brackets and the video camera enclosed is covered by a clear plastic resistant bubble. There are some advantages to these cameras. Fist of all, the clear bubble protects the video element and its from projectile impact. The round shape naturally will deflect projectiles and chances are that any scratch will not immediately obscure or block the field of view.

One other advantage is that in general, these cameras have a wider selection of lenses. Due to the geometrical placement of the camera and due to the housing enclosing the electronics, you can find these cameras fitted with lenses from 1.18mm (fisheye) all the way up to 35mm. Traditionally the dome cameras have been the preferred selection when it came to commercial applications such as high rise perimeter protection, shopping centres, etc. They are generally a little bit more expensive then their other brothers, the turret cameras.

2. Turret cameras.
Also sometimes called pig nose cameras due to their pig nose appearance in some designs, are becoming more and more popular. The turret cameras, such as the DAHUA 10514, benefit from the same electronics as the dome cameras. Due to manufacturing processes, these cameras cost a little less. Do to this fact, in large installations they have started showing up more and more. The turret cameras performance is today excellent. They can be found in extremely high resolution up 8MP , equivalent to 4K image. They can also be equipped with a range of lenses. The range is a little more restricted. Normally these cameras can be found in versions of 2.8mm lens up to 13.5 mm.

Turret cameras can also be installed on ceilings, walls, on brackets and extension poles. They have one advantage. Because the way the lens in protected by a smaller window and due to the placement of this window, there is less chance of dust and dirt accumulating in front of the lens. Furthermore, the camera’s infrared projector is physically separated from the lens which also eliminates any infrared refraction and reflection into the lens creating a haze or halo effect in the image.

3. Bullet cameras.

Also known as tube cameras, have been around almost the longest, second only to the full body cameras. Tube cameras have many applications and one of their main advantage is that they can be equipped with very large range of lenses spanning from 2.8mm wide angle to 65mm zoom lens.

From an installation point of view, these cameras are also protected from elements due to their shape and housing. One of the disadvantages is that because of their mounting option, they can be vandalise and lassoed. The general performance is excellent, Tube cameras can be found predominantly in the commercial and industrial applications. Because of the shape and the fact that their size is considerably larger than the dome or turret cameras, you will most likely not find them in residential applications.

4. Full body cameras

Full body cameras are the oldest shape. They have been installed on brackets, internally, in housings, etc. These cameras are perhaps some of the most flexible in terms of lens selection. Because they camera itself does not come with any lens, the installer can choose any lens that fits. Some of the cameras can also be fitted with adaptors which will allow SLR type lenses to be installed for special application such as space observation, etc.
The number of full body cameras used has dropped recently due to the rise of the tube, dome and turret cameras. They are still used but because of the requirement of using extra housings, etc, the cameras’ applications is now limited to special situations. You will find these types of cameras more in licence plate recognition and special situations where extremely long range fixed cameras are required.

5. PTZ Cameras

PTZ stands for Pan, Tilt and Zoom. These cameras are easily recognizable due to their tear drop shape at the end of a goose neck bracket. They are generally bigger than any other cameras. Their internal mechanism makes them perfect for those applications where the operator needs to observe multiple points and wants to control the direction of the field of view. These cameras spin a great speeds, being capable of covering nearly 360 degrees in a couple of seconds or less.

PTZ cameras are extremely versatile. They can be used in security applications, in industrial safety applications, in marketing (such as viewing the construction of a building in real time) , etc. They are generally the most expensive cameras of the 5 types but recently prices have dropped dramatically. The camera performance is today amazing. Some cameras come equipped with lenses offering up to 48x optical zoom which allows an operator to see extreme details at great distances.

Now that we got the explanation out of the way, let’s bust some myths.

Q. Are dome cameras better than turret cameras ?
A. “Better” is a relative term. Today, the two types offer the same resolution. It depends on the application. Turret cameras are NOT lower in resolution, NOT less reliable and NOT less resistant to mechanical attacks such as vandalism when installed correctly

Q. Are PTZ cameras a replacement for multiple cameras ? Would my investment be better in one or two PTZ cameras and less fixed cameras ?
A. Not really. PTZ cameras perform a vital function. They allow a live operator to control the direction of the camera and the zoom level. However, we MUST remember that when the camera is controlled and turned in one direction, there is nothing to show the operator what happens behind the field of view. The better approach is a combination of shapes: fixed cameras for general view and PTZ cameras where required for detailed view.