Hey @jer2911matt, thanks for reaching out.
I definitely understand the desire of PTZs, and there are situations where they can make sense. However, I see a very common situation with churches where their expectations for PTZs are completely unrealistic. Allow me to explain:
- Churches often purchase systems with only PTZs hoping that they can replace (or take the place of) manned cameras entirely. Usually it's due to a lack of volunteers and/or a lack of physical space for manned cameras. The issue with this reasoning is that PTZs were never designed to fully replace manned cameras (at least not in the low or mid budget ranges), they were meant to be a supplement or secondary to manned cameras.
- Churches often try to use PTZs to track and follow a person on stage, and it becomes a major distraction to the viewers. This is especially common when PTZs are a considerable distance away from the stage, like in your situation. Think of it in terms of geometry... the camera motors must make smaller and smaller movements the further away the subject is from the camera. A width of 10' from 50' away is nearly 12 degrees of motion, while the same width of 10' from 100' away is less than 6 degrees. The more granular the movements are, the better the motors (and operator) need to be to do it smoothly and successfully.
- PTZs are 1/3rd camera and 2/3rds motors and other controls. So a $3,000 PTZ can only look as good as a $1,000 camcorder in almost every situation. It's simply a rule of economics.
- Many times PTZs are purchased so they can be mounted on walls, columns, ceilings, or balconies. This, more often than not, becomes a major issue due to vibrations and other movements from the building or structure the cameras are mounted to. This in turn leads to more purchases of shock absorbing products like the Nigel B Design mounts, which aren't cheap, or frustration in trying to find another way/place to mount the cameras to prevent this issue.
Now, with that said, PTZs can work well for you as long as you understand and have these expectations:
- Only plan on using the cameras for static shots - no movement or zooming while the camera is live. While there are some instances where you can do zooms while live, many of the sub-$5,000 PTZs do not have parfocal lenses which allow the lens to stay in focus during the zoom.
- The image will not look as good as comparably priced camcorders, mirrorless cameras, or cinema cameras.
- Mounting locations and methods will need to be tested thoroughly to prevent unnecessary frustrations or surprises.
I am more than happy to talk PTZ options with you if you're clear on these things and still think it's the best way to move forward. I want to be clear that I am not "anti-PTZ" like a lot of people assume. I am just a firm believer in having realistic expectations when it comes to these types of systems, and I've seen far too many frustrated and defeated pastors and church techs that are stuck with PTZ systems they don't like, that didn't meet their expectations, or can't be used to the fullest.
Above all, though, I would caution against heeding the advice from anyone that recommends a full PTZ system without setting these expectations first. It's disingenuous and can easily lead to frustration and disappointment, which I have seen many, many times.