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Varifocal vs Fixed Lens Security Cameras

What's the difference and when would I need varifocal lenses?

Part 1 - What's the difference?

A fixed lens doesn’t let you adjust the focal length, angle of view, and level of zoom. Almost all fixed lens cameras have a wide angle.

With a varifocal camera, you can adjust these things. Let's look at some examples of what this means:

This an image from a fixed lens 4MP camera (The Warrior 4.0), which is fixed at 4mm with someone standing 10 feet away


This is an image from a 4MP bullet camera at 12mm (The Viking 4.0, which is adjustable from 2.8 to 12 mm)


By increasing the focal length, you get a much better image of the man/license plate. At 10 feet, this doesn't matter very, much but at larger distances (which we will show in a second) this can mean the difference between identifying a suspect and not getting a clear enough picture of their face.


There is a drawback to increasing the focal length, however.

By increasing the focal length (the mm setting) and magnifying an area, you reduce your viewing angle, as superimposing the 12mm image on top of the 4mm one easily shows. You get a lot more detail for one area at the cost of losing a wide angle view.


Not just two settings

A varifocal camera allows you to adjust between its top and bottom limits on its view angle. This means that you have the ability to manually set both the view angle and level of zoom. Have a scenario where you need to zoom in on a gate or other access point? Use the 12mm setting (12 degrees and about 4x zoom). Need a wide angle view? Go with 2.8 mm (109 degrees). Need something in between? Try 6mm (~45 degrees) or 9mm (~30 degrees).

How to Adjust the Lens

As of 2018 all SCW adjustable cameras feature motorized zoom..This means that you can control the zoom and focus from the camera or NVR. No ladders, no tiny knobs, just simple. easy, and auto focus capable cameras.

Looking to change the viewing angle on the fly when responding to active security threats?

We also have PTZ cameras which allow you to pan, tilt, and zoom via the NVR, computers, or smartphone/tablets.

PTZs also have preset, patrol, and pattern options allowing you to quickly jump to pre-set views.

Part 2 - When Would I Need a Varifocal Lens?

One camera in a square room - When vari-focal cameras are nice

Because your normal fixed lens is 75 degrees, placing a fixed lens camera in the corner of a square room, will give you a coverage map like this:

This means that you really need two cameras to cover that area. With one 98 degree camera, you could cover the whole space and not have to buy two cameras (The walls are 90 degrees). So, a varifocal camera, set at 98 degrees would be able to see the whole room.

Distance - When vari-focal cameras become necessary

At about 50-100 foot a wide angle lens 1080P camera, will not do a tremendously good job at identifying faces. (At about 20 foot, a standard definition camera will also not work identify faces, but if you are willing to pay for a vari-focal standard definition camera you should go HD wide angle - for about the same price as a standard definition vari-focal, you get a higher resolution picture that extends the distance that you can identify faces while not giving up any the wide angle view).

To demonstrate why varifocal cameras are necessary at distance, here's a picture of the same man throwing a rock with the same 1080P fixed lens camera (The Warrior), this time from 50 feet

And now from 100 feet


With greater distances, a wide angle view camera will lack the ability to identify faces. It becomes necessary to use a higher millimeter lens when you are trying to identify a security threat that is further away.

Here's the same two scenarios with the Viking set at 12mm


Practical Applications: When you should absolutely use a Vari-focal Camera

1. When you only have the budget to have have one camera in a room, only need one, and the room has 90 degree walls.

2. When you are have a gate, door, or other known entrance point but can't mount a camera very close.

3. When it is imperative that you get a close shot to identify a person or vehicle and have a good idea where they are going to be.

4. Anytime you want to identify someone more than 50 ft away.

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  1. The Warrior 2.0 - 26BF4



    The Warrior 2.0 - 26BF2 - 1080P 2MP Fixed Lens Mini Bullet Camera

    In stock.
    Usually ships the same business day if ordered before 2PM EST.

    $150.00


    Resolution

    1080p HD

    1080P @ 30 FPS; 1920 × 1080

    Detect: 100 ft
    Recognize: 50 ft
    Identify: 25 ft


    Processing Power and Compression: Not All 1080P Cameras are Created Equal


    Weather

    weatherproof

    IP67
    Full protection from dust, rain, snow, dew, frost, and sprinklers.

    You can even submerge it for a few minutes.


    Temp

    temperature rating

    Temperature rated from -31°F to 140 °F

    Humidity rated between 10 and 95%.


    Lens

    fixed lens

    Fixed: 4mm
    85° of coverage

    Digital Zoom Only

    Learn about the 4 types of Zoom


    Day/Night

    night footage

    Infrared night vision up to 100 FT

    Larger image sensor for low light

    Color video possible until 0.02 lux

    How to get the best footage at night


    Special

    special features

    Digital Wide Dynamic Range

    Seeing in shadows: Understanding WDR



  2. The Warrior 4.0 - 26BF4 - 4MP (2x1080P) Fixed Lens Mini Bullet Camera



    The Warrior 4.0 - 26BF4 - 4MP (2x1080P) Fixed Lens Mini Bullet Camera

    In stock.
    Usually ships the same business day if ordered before 2PM EST.

    $200.00


    Resolution

    4MP UHD Quality

    4MP @ 25 FPS: 2560 x 1440

    Detect: 150 ft
    Recognize: 75 ft
    Identify: 50 ft


    4MP vs 4K


    Indoor/Outdoor

    weatherproof

    IP67
    Full protection from dust, rain, snow, dew, frost, and sprinklers.

    You can even submerge it for a few minutes.


    Temp

    temperature rating

    Temperature rated from -31°F to 140 °F

    Humidity rated between 10 and 95%.


    Lens

    fixed lens

    Fixed: 3.6mm
    80.8° of coverage (horizontal)

    Digital Zoom Only

    Learn about the 4 types of Zoom


    Day/Night

    night footage

    Infrared night vision up to 100 FT

    Color video possible until 0.02 lux

    How to get the best footage at night


    Special

    special features

    True Wide Dynamic Range (120dB)

    Seeing in shadows: Understanding WDR



  3. The Viking 4.0 - 26BV4



    The Viking 4.0 - 26BV4 - 4MP (2x1080P) Multi-Purpose Lens Bullet Camera with Motorized Zoom and Focus

    In stock.
    Usually ships the same business day if ordered before 2PM EST.

    Price: $399.00

    Limited Time DIY Special: $249.00


    Resolution

    4MP UHD Quality

    4MP @ 25 FPS: 2560 x 1440

    Detect: up to 175 ft
    Recognize: up to 125 ft
    Identify: up to 75 ft


    4MP vs 4K


    Weather

    weatherproof

    IP67
    Full protection from dust, rain, snow, dew, frost, and sprinklers.

    You can even submerge it for a few minutes.


    Temp

    temperature rating

    Temperature rated from -31°F to 140 °F

    Humidity rated between 10 and 95%.


    Lens

    varifocal lens

    Motorized Varifocal: 2.8 - 12mm
    91° - 27° of coverage

    Digital Zoom and Optical Zoom

    Learn about the 4 types of Zoom


    Day/Night

    night footage

    Infrared night vision up to 100 FT

    Color video possible until 0.02 lux

    How to get the best footage at night


    Special

    special features

    Alarm Input and Output

    Audio Input and Output
    Audio Input/Output FAQ

    Micro-SD Card Slot

    True WDR (up to 120 dB)

    Seeing in shadows: Understanding WDR



  4. The Archer 2.0 - 26BV2-L at a 3/4 view



    The Archer 2.0 - 26BV2-L - 2MP Long Range, Low Light Bullet Camera with Motorized Zoom and Focus

    In stock.
    Usually ships the same business day if ordered before 2PM EST.

    $799.00


    Resolution

    1080p HD

    1080P @ 30 FPS; 1920 × 1080

    Detect: up to 450 ft
    Recognize: up to 350 ft
    Identify: up to 300 ft


    Processing Power and Compression: Not All 1080P Cameras are Created Equal


    Weather

    weatherproof

    IP67
    Full protection from dust, rain, snow, dew, frost, and sprinklers.

    You can even submerge it for a few minutes.


    Temp

    temperature rating

    Extreme Cold Temperature rated from -40°F to 140 °F

    Humidity rated between 10 and 95%.


    Lens

    varifocal lens

    Long Range Motorized Varifocal: 4.7 - 47mm
    65° - 9° of coverage

    Digital Zoom and Optical Zoom

    Learn about the 4 types of Zoom


    Day/Night

    night footage

    Infrared night vision up to 300 FT

    Larger image sensor for low light

    Color video possible until 0.001 lux

    How to get the best footage at night


    Special

    special features

    P-Iris

    Alarm Input and Output

    Audio Input and Output
    Audio Input/Output FAQ

    Micro-SD Card Slot

    True WDR (up to 120 dB)

    Seeing in shadows: Understanding WDR



  5. The Lookout 2.0 - 26ZV



    The Lookout 2.0 - 26ZV - 2MP (1080P) IP PTZ Camera with 30x Optical Zoom

    In stock.
    Usually ships the same business day if ordered before 2PM EST.

    $799.00


    Resolution

    1080p HD

    1080P @ 30 FPS; 1920 x 1080

    Detect: 1000 ft
    Recognize: 900 ft
    Identify: 800 ft


    Processing Power and Compression: Not All 1080P Cameras are Created Equal


    Indoor/Outdoor

    weatherproof

    IP66
    Full protection from dust, rain, snow, dew, frost, and sprinklers.

    You can even wash them off with a hose.


    Temp

    temperature rating

    Extreme Cold Temperature rated from -40°F to 140 °F

    Humidity rated between up to 90%.


    Lens

    ptz lens

    Motorized PTZ Varifocal: 4.5 - 135mm
    63° - 2° of coverage

    Digital Zoom and Optical Zoom

    Learn about the 4 types of Zoom


    Day/Night

    night footage

    Infrared night vision up to 300 FT

    Color video possible until 0.03 lux

    How to get the best footage at night


    Special

    special features

    Audio Input and Output
    Audio Input/Output FAQ

    Digital Wide Dynamic Range

    Pan: 360° (endless) rotation
    Tilt: -15° ~ +90° (auto reverse)

    Seeing in shadows: Understanding WDR