REVIEW – Thanks to the “Zoom era”, most of us are very familiar with webcams and streamed events, whether those are for school, work, entertainment, or even church services or events. Most of us have also noticed the vast differences in quality and capabilities of various webcam models in the last few years. Most webcams are your classic “stick on top of the monitor” affairs, but in some scenarios it can be very handy to be able to move the camera view and zoom around without manually picking it up and adjusting it mid-stream. This is where PTZ cameras shine (PTZ stands for pan-tilt-zoom, or moving the camera left/right/up/down and being able to adjust zoom). The ROCWARE RC20 PTZ Camera is the first USB PTZ camera I’ve played with, though I’ve probably used more than 30 different makes and models of webcams in my days.
What is it?
The ROCWARE RC20 PTZ Camera is a USB webcam that can record and/or stream full-HD (1080P) resolution video and can be tilted, panned, and zoomed midstream. This gives the streamer much more control over the view instead of it just being a static frame the entire event. For example, if you were streaming or recording a play, you could zoom in to capture facial expressions of the performers, zoom in even more to highlight individual monologues or solo songs, then zoom out to capture moments where the whole stage needs to be shown. As you can imagine, in some scenarios this would be much better than even a couple static webcams to switch between.
What’s in the box?
- ROCWARE RC20 PTZ Camera
- IR Remote
- AC Adaptor with various tips (USA/EU/UK/etc).
- USB cable with additional power-over-USB connection
- Image Sensor: 1/2.7″, CMOS, 2.07 MP
- Resolution: “2K 1080P” at 30 FPS
- Lens Focal Length: f=4.7mm ~ 46.3mm
- View Angle: 58.5° ~ 6.5° horizontal, 35.1° ~ 3.6° vertical
- Horizontal Rotation: ±170°
- Vertical Rotation: -30°~ + 90°
- Video color and compression: YUV 4:2:2 / H.264 / MJPEG
- Power input: JEITA type (DC IN 12V)/ USB B type（DC IN 5V）
- Weight: 4.29 pounds with cables/remote/power
- Dimensions: 6.02 x 5.56 x 6.44 inches
Design and features
The ROCWARE RC20 PTZ Camera is a black plastic affair with silver trim. It looks like many other standard webcams, but about 5 times the size as your typical webcam – I was surprised at how large it was when I pulled it out of the box. It’s a little taller than a soda can and roughly twice the girth.
On the bottom are rubber feet to prevent slippage as well as a standard tripod hole so you can attach it to a tripod mount.
The remote has an intuitive layout and works very well. I mostly used the PTZ controls (though I messed with the focus buttons – which are nice if you’re in the middle of an event and for some reason it refuses to focus) and the response from the camera was near-instant.
Around the back is a USB 2.0 connection, power input, and an RS232 connection. I believe the last one can be used for a joystick controller or other hardware, but I don’t have anything like that just laying around, so it went untested with me.
Setup was as simple as plugging in the USB cable. I also tested with the AC cable, but it turns out on my computer it’s not needed – everything worked great with a single USB connection including power and PTZ controls. The camera was detected and worked at full resolution by default in Windows 11, and is selectable by any application or webmeeting or recording software that recognizes USB cameras.
Below is a test video I recorded on Windows 11 with the ROCWARE RC20 PTZ Camera. I zoomed in using the slow zoom feature with autofocus on and all other settings at default. Lighting in my office as shot was fairly dim to test out the advertised good low-light performance. I finish the video with a fast zoom out so you can see both default speeds.
As you can see in the video above, it’s a nice steady zoom, though you can spot some artifacts near the end when it switches from optical zoom to digital zoom (digital zoom always loses some quality since it’s cropping the full image down to a smaller portion in order to do “digital zoom”). You’ll want a steady surface, the shelf I tested on above I thought was stable but when fully zoomed in you can see a bit of wobble. I didn’t see this when the camera was on my desk or the floor, so it’s sensitive at high zoom levels (which would be true for any zoomed in camera).
I was very impressed with the low light performance, my office is pretty dim without the ceiling lights on plus the bright accent lights make for some challenging conditions for any camera. The amount of zoom (both optical and digital) combined with the very wide horizontal and vertical pan/tilt features give you a lot of control over where you are pointing the camera, which would be great for events/plays/church type scenarios. The video below shows the PTZ in action:
The 1080P resolution is a good one for most streaming situations these days (higher resolution cameras are nice, but carry a higher price tag and much higher internet bandwidth requirements for both the streaming site and the receiving viewers).
What I like
- Solid 1080P video in nearly any lighting condition
- Generous tilt/pan/zoom range
- Easy to use remote
- Plug and play USB connection and option to power entirely over USB
What I’d change
- Remote only works when pointed at the front of the camera mount, if you’re behind the camera you’re out of luck if you need to make changes to the pan/tilt/zoom.
If you have the need for a PTZ camera for recording or streaming purposes, the ROCWARE RC20 PTZ Camera is a solid contender. It was very simple to set up and control, and the video captured looks closer to professional than amateur thanks to smooth PTZ motors and controls.