Many things require a subscription, and you can probably rattle off at least five services pulling cash from your bank account every month. Security cameras might be on that list already—but they don't have to be. Here are five of the best security cameras that offer outstanding performance and their most helpful features without an ongoing subscription.
Best Security Cameras without a Subscription
Best fee-free security cameras
- : Best outdoor camera
- : Best for microSD
- : Best for budgets
- : Best video doorbell
- : Best indoor camera
EufyCam 3 Review
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1. EufyCam 3: Best outdoor security camera without a subscription
We could quickly fill this page with Eufy cameras, but we're highlighting Eufy's current flagship camera, the EufyCam 3.
- We love its 4K video resolution that looks stunning in day and night conditions.
- Built-in solar panels do an excellent job charging the camera, which makes it easier to pick the ideal location to watch over your property.
- EufyCam 3 includes facial recognition among its smart motion detection features—the only brand we know that offers this feature without a monthly fee.
- The innovative HomeBase 3 is the unlikely star of the show because it comes with 16GB of storage, and you can easily expand the capacity with a hard drive of up to 16TB. Of course, you need to buy a compatible hard drive separately, but getting a high-capacity drive is more affordable than a similar microSD card.
- The HomeBase 3 supports up to 16 cameras, including most of Eufy's other camera models—more than enough to blanket your home with outstanding, fee-free video surveillance.
At $550, the EufyCam 3 is a big investment. Still, that price includes two cameras and the HomeBase 3, which cost close to $600 when purchased separately. It's worth the expense if you can afford it, especially since you can supplement the pricier EufyCam 3 models with Eufy's cheaper options.
Learn more in our full EufyCam 3 Review.
Why Eufy made our list
Eufy's security camera strategy is perfect for skipping a monthly fee: it makes outstanding standalone products when many manufacturers build security cameras to sell subscription plans. This fee-free mentality is evident when you see that Eufy's paid cloud storage doesn't unlock any additional features, like smart motion detection, rich notifications, or video recording. Essentially, Eufy's cloud storage backs up your local storage.
Although the EufyCam 3 represents Eufy's peak features and pricing, you can easily save cash with its cheapest camera: Eufy Solo IndoorCam C24 (about $43). The 2K video resolution, low price, and excellent performance make it a favorite among cheap security cameras. While it's not compatible with the HomeBase 3 yet, you can use a microSD card up to 128GB.
2. Lorex 4K Spotlight: Best for microSD local storage
The Lorex 4K Spotlight is an excellent option for anyone seeking a wired 4K spotlight camera that includes a microSD card. It also has smart motion detection to help organize your recordings for easy review. Still, it lacks the facial recognition of the EufyCam 3.
One of the coolest things about the Lorex 4K Spotlight is the multicolor smart security lighting, which you can program for different camera modes, such as warning or welcoming visitors. It's also great for giving your security cam some personality during the holidays.
While the 4K Spotlight's wired power source limits your installation options compared to battery-powered cameras, it's a reliable way to keep your camera running through cold weather conditions where batteries may underperform.
Why Lorex made our list
Lorex is notable as the only brand on this list that doesn't offer a cloud storage plan. Fear not; you can still access Lorex cameras and video recordings from a mobile app. Additionally, Lorex is one of the only home security camera brands that include a microSD card with every camera—32GB in this case—and you dwon't need a separate purchase to use your camera to its fullest.
But the best thing about Lorex is that its latest cameras support microSD cards up to 256GB. For comparison, many other brands top out at 128GB, cementing Lorex as the best option for folks using this storage option.
3. TP-Link Tapo C110: Best fee-free security camera on a budget
The TP-Link Tapo C110 is the cheapest indoor security camera with 2K video resolution—around $13 and $24 less than comparable models from Eufy and Wyze, respectively.
- It supports microSD cards up to 256GB, like Lorex, but doesn't include a card in the box.
- We like the simple layout of the Tapo app, especially how you can organize cameras into a helpful grid. The app even supports simultaneous live viewing on multiple cameras—a feature absent from Eufy and Nest.
- You can use person detection and baby crying alerts without a subscription, though Tapo reserves better options for its paid Tapo Care plan.
We love that Tapo works with Alexa and Google Home, which makes it a great option for folks starting a smart home from scratch—especially when using the company's smart lighting, plugs, and security sensors.
Why TP-Link Tapo made our list
TP-Link has long produced some of the best smart home gear on the market, and our only regret is that we should've covered it sooner. Tapo is still a relative newcomer to the US market compared to Kasa, TP-Link's other smart home label. Between TP-Link's two smart home brands, Tapo is the clear winner for security camera selection, offering cameras for as little as $20, which is cheaper than Wyze.
As you'd expect from a budget camera brand, Tapo locks some features behind a paywall, including rich notifications and smart detection, which Tapo calls Smart Sort. Still, Tapo has a better no-fee approach than Wyze, which is a bit of a hassle without a subscription.
The Tapo C420S2 (about $200) is a set of two wireless outdoor cameras similar to the EufyCam 3. Even though there's no solar-power option, we like the 2K video quality and smaller base station, which helps keep the price low.
4. Nest Doorbell (Battery): Best video doorbell without a subscription
The Nest Doorbell (Battery) easily tops our list of the best video doorbells because it's easy to install and brings Nest's best-in-class smart motion detection to users for free. While the facial recognition feature still requires a paid plan, we're excited that the other smart detection features—for people, animals, packages, and vehicles—all work without a subscription.
Learn more in our Nest Doorbell Review.
Why Google Nest made our list
Simply put, Google Nest offers the most effective smart motion detection features among home security cameras without subscription fees, only reserving facial recognition and hazard alarm detection for paid cloud storage plans. Nest is far and away the best camera brand to use with Google Home, and its Amazon Alexa compatibility is quite good.
While noteworthy, Nest didn't make our list because of free cloud storage. The latest Google Nest cameras all include three hours of free cloud storage, which seems tiny but goes further than you'd think. Realistically, there's a good chance that if you wait to save an important video immediately, you'll remember when it's too late, or it blends in with other clips in your video history.
Consider subscribing anyway
There's a strong case for subscribing to a Nest Aware plan. Dollar for dollar, it offers the most value of any cloud storage plan. For $6 per month, you can save video from unlimited cameras—a privilege typically reserved for plans that cost $10 or more on brands like Ring, Wyze, and Arlo. Considering that Eufy, Tapo, and Reolink don't even offer unlimited-camera plans, it's clear that Nest Aware is a steal.
If you want a traditional wireless security camera, the Nest Cam (Battery) is a solid choice for the same price as Nest's doorbell—but with no doorbell button. It exceeded expectations in our long-term battery tests, making it a serious contender for folks looking to recharge as little as possible. Learn more in our Nest Cam (Battery) Review.
5. Reolink E1 Zoom: Best indoor camera without a subscription
The Reolink E1 Zoom is the top-performing security camera on SafeWise. Period. No other security camera has given us the same flexibility to customize settings as we've seen with the E1 Zoom. Despite this, the E1 Zoom tends to fly under the radar compared to our other top picks since we don't have formal rankings yet for indoor or pan-and-tilt cameras. It also tends to take a backseat to Reolink Argus, which has weatherproofing for more flexible installation options.
Still, we love the E1 Zoom for its exceptional video quality and optical zoom, which is the secret sauce to why the videos look so crisp. Even at 2K resolution, the E1 Zoom holds its own against 4K behemoths from Arlo and Eufy—all for a fraction of the price.
Check out our Reolink Cameras Review to see how the E1 Zoom compares to other Reolink cameras.
Why Reolink made our list
Reolink is a favorite among SafeWise reviewers because it produces some of the best video quality we've seen during testing. This brand isn't perfect, but it balances the good and bad in a sweet spot without costing too much. Reolink tends to dominate our rankings in other categories, but the local storage options for its standalone wireless cameras lag behind those of Eufy and Lorex. However, Reolink's multi-camera systems have storage capacities on par with what Lorex offers.
Aside from rich notifications, which show a photo preview with each motion alert on your phone, Reolink doesn't lock any features behind a paywall. While Reolink's cloud storage is great, it's generally more expensive than other entries on our list. Reolink provides seven days of free cloud storage for a single camera, which is helpful for smaller homes.
The Reolink Argus 3 Pro (about $150) dominates our lists of the best wireless security cameras and the best solar security cameras. Still, it offers fewer features than the E1 Zoom, and competitors like the Arlo Pro 4, which has a solar panel and excellent performance to balance things out. Learn more in our complete Reolink Argus 3 Pro Review.
Any brand on this list will work without a subscription, but the EufyCam 3 is an easy recommendation for anyone wanting peak performance in outdoor settings. The built-in solar panels keep it ready to catalog every person, animal, vehicle, and face that crosses its field of view. It's certainly a pricey option, but the 4K video resolution, easy installation, and excellent HomeBase 3 base station are absolutely worth the extra investment. If it's too rich for you, Eufy's huge selection of security cameras likely has a more affordable option up your alley.
How we picked
We set two ground rules for this list. One, we ignored brands where the most valuable features require a subscription. This restriction meant that Arlo, Ring, Wyze, and Blink didn't make the cut. In our experience, these brands are borderline unusable without a fee. While it might seem odd that Wyze isn't a contender, the brand's latest cameras lack free cloud storage, and its approach to local storage on microSD cards is worse than before.
As for our second rule, we prioritized brands that offer the best features—namely smart motion detection and video storage options. Ultimately, we decided that Eufy, Lorex, TP-Link Tapo, Google Nest, and Reolink fit the bill. Google Nest is the sole entry that relies on cloud storage, but we think a little goes a long way.
We chose the best security camera models that represent what each brand brings to the table. Some of these features easily apply to other models in most cases, so we also highlight alternatives for each brand to give you an idea of what's available.
Arlo Ultra 2 is the only Arlo camera that still requires a base station, which makes it the only out-of-the-box solution for local storage on Arlo—though you'll need to provide a USB storage device. While you can upgrade other Arlo cams with a SmartHub, this add-on adds significantly increases the overall price of Arlo cams.
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