Long Range Security Cameras

A Long range security camera refers to any security camera that can focus at least 75 feet away from their mounting point and still recognize a person.

IP cameras come with one of three lens types:

  • Fixed, where the lens cannot move to modify the field of view, focal length, or level of zoom
  • Varifocal, where the lens is adjustable to adapt it to different focal lengths, although you have to refocus the camera after adjusting it. Varifocal cameras are either manual or motorized. All SCW varifocal cameras are motorized; this means that you can control the zoom and focus from the camera or NVR--no ladders, no tiny knobs, just simple. easy, controls on a screen.
  • PTZ, which is similar to a varifocal lens in that the lens can zoom in or out to different focal lengths but it will maintain focus while moving. In addition, the camera can move to the left and right (pan) and up and down (tilt). PTZ stands for pan, tilt, and zoom.
fixed lens


Position does not change

varifocal lens


Focal Length can be changed, which decreases angle of view as it optically zooms in

varifocal lens


Can pan, tilt, and zoom (image shows a zoom in PTZ panning left and right)

When you should use a Fixed Lens Camera for Long Distance Surveillance

In short, fixed lens cameras are not a great fit for long range surveillance.

When you should use a Varifocal Camera

  • When you have a gate, door, or other known entrance point but can't mount a camera close by
  • When you must get a close shot to identify a person or vehicle at distances greater than 50 feet, but less than 500 feet, and have a good idea where they are going to be (for example, people tend go through gates)
  • Whenever you have an outdoor physical asset (ancillary building, designated fleet vehicle parking spots, oil pumping station, solar panel array, etc) with a fixed location
  • Whenever you have a long, narrow area to watch, such as a hallway or warehouse aisle

When you should use a PTZ Camera

  • Whenever you want to be able to manually change what the camera is looking at
  • Whenever you must get a close shot to identify a person or vehicle at distances greater than 50 feet and you don't have a very clear idea where they are going to be
  • Whenever you must get a close shot to identify a person or vehicle at distances greater than 500 feet
  • Whenever you need to one of the 6 amazing things that you can do with SCW PTZ Cameras

Long Range Bullet Cameras

Most Long range Security Cameras are bullet cameras. Most long range bullet cameras have motorized varifocal zoom lens. They are durable and often waterproof. The waterproof element is extremely important, as long range cameras are almost always used outdoors.

When to use each of our Long Range Bullet Cameras

Range: 75-100 Feet

Recommendation: Use The Viking 8.0 or The Detective 8.0

At 75 to 100 Feet the Viking or Detective (their resolution and lenses are identical) is your best option as it's varifocal lens allows you to optically zoom in on the target. At max optical zoom, your viewing angle is 35 degrees.

Range: 100-300 Feet

Recommendation: Use The Archer 2.0

The Archer is your best bet from 100 to 300 foot distance. The Archer is part of our long range, low light, extreme cold series. At max optical zoom, the Archer has a 9 degree viewing angle.

It may sound strange, but at distances greater than 100 feet, you're going to switch back to a 2MP (1080P) sensor. Why is this? Because at longer range, light absorption becomes more important than resolution. Given an image sensor that is the same size, a 4K image sensor has 8x as many pixels trying to absorb the same light source as a 2MP sensor. Because the total amount of light absorbed is the same, but divided among 8 times as many receptors, long range 4k cameras appear darker than than 2MP cameras. Additionally, 2MP sensors have matured to the point of being able to absorb more light than their newer, higher resolution counterparts.

Range: 300-800 Feet

Recommendation: Use The Sharpshooter 2.0 - 26BV2-XL - 2MP Super Long Range, Low Light Bullet Camera with Motorized Zoom and Focus or a Long Range PTZ (covered next)

The Sharpshooter is best used in situations where you need to read a license plate or identify a face at 300 to 800 foot distances. Like the Archer, the Sharpshooter is part of our long range, low light, extreme cold series. At max optical zoom, the Sharpshooter has a 3 degree viewing angle.

PTZ Security Cameras Are The Best At Really Long Distances

Being able to detect people at distance often requires both long range bullet cameras and a PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) Camera. The bullet cameras can alert you to someone's presence at ranges greater than your ability to identify them, and then you can use a PTZ to zoom in on that area to capture the subject's identity.

For many situations, including large parking lots, like the kind found in auto dealerships, we recommend mounting multiple wider-angle, high resolution bullet cameras outside of your main building. These will give you an overview of the area. Then, in addition to these two cameras, you can mount a PTZ Camera that “patrols” the large parking lot. You can use the preset function to patrol and zoom in on known vulnerable or high traffic areas on a set schedule. This can effectively double or triple your range without having to upgrade every camera or reduce your viewing angles / coverage zones.

Range: 300-800 Feet

Recommendation: Use The Lookout 2.0

The Lookout is our 2MP PTZ. It can spin left and right (pan), up and down (tilt), or optically zoom in. You can control it with any of our mobile apps or software applications. At max zoom it has a 2.6 degree viewing angle.

Range: up to 1500 Feet

Recommendation: Use The Beacon 8.0

The Beacon is our 4K PTZ. It can spin left and right (pan), up and down (tilt), or optically zoom in. You can control it with any of our mobile apps or software applications. At max zoom it has a 2.4 degree viewing angle.

About the author

Matthew Nederlanden

Author Image

Matthew Nederlanden is a distinguished and renowned figure in the security industry, serving as the CEO of SCW, a leading security system provider, and Survail, an innovative video surveillance-as-a-solution platform. Under his leadership since 2009, SCW has achieved prominent success, including recognition on the esteemed INC 5000 list. You may have seen his articles on Forbes or Huffington Post, where he shares his insights on security and business leadership. In addition to his written contributions, his expertise has also been featured on television. He has made appearances on Discovery Channel's Garage Rehab and on the TV show Junkyard Empire on the Velocity Channel, further demonstrating his versatility and industry recognition.

Nederlanden's commitment extends beyond his professional achievements. He co-founded COVID Mobilize during the pandemic, showcasing his solution-oriented mindset and dedication to community engagement. As a foster parent and advocate of social responsibility, he shares considerable profits with his staff and community compared to many others in the industry.

With frequent conference appearances, media coverage, and a wealth of experience, his comprehensive expertise in the security sector solidifies his reputation as a trusted voice in the security industry. His track record in business leadership and community-focused initiatives positions him as a frontrunner in his field.

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