Security Camera vs Surveillance Camera
While the terms are regularly used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between security cameras and surveillance cameras. The difference is whether a camera is passive or active. Surveillance cameras are passive. They observe and/or record whatever is happening in their field of view. Security cameras are active. They alert people to unexpected events within their field of view. This distinction can be very subtle or very large depending on the circumstances of a particular situation. For instance, if a surveillance camera sends a constant feed to a monitor that is continually viewed by a security guard, it is essentially functioning as a security camera because simply by viewing the feed from the camera the guard would be alerted to anything unexpected happening within its field of view. However, most modern security cameras have the ability to detect motion and send alerts to owners or authorities via text or emails.
What do you need from a security camera?
Finding the best home security camera comes down to whether it meets your specific needs. Do you want a security camera to deter burglars, or are you more interested in keeping an eye on children or pets? Before you dive into the specs and features of different home security cameras, take the time to identify why you want the camera and what you need it to do.
If you’re concerned about break-ins or keeping deliveries safe, an outdoor security camera with motion alerts might be the best fit. Check in on kids after school, or tell Fido to give the barking a rest with an indoor security camera that can provide live streaming and two-way talk.
Will you use the camera inside or outside?
Once you've decided on an indoor or outdoor security camera (or both!) there are other factors to consider. Outdoor cameras need to withstand changes in temperature and be sturdy enough to survive rain or high winds.
Indoor security cameras don’t need to be quite as tough as the ones you install outside, but they should be unobtrusive. Many people look for indoor cameras designed to complement their home’s décor. For both types of security cameras, note how they’re powered and consider the proximity of a power source if they don’t run on batteries. The last thing you need is a dead security camera when it matters most.
How much area do you need to cover?
Security cameras come with different fields of view, which refers to how much of your home or yard you can see at any one time. This can make a big impact on the type and number of security cameras you need to ensure full coverage.
If you want to watch over more than one room or outdoor area, look for a home security camera system that lets you hook up multiple cameras. It should also allow different users to receive alerts and check in on what’s happening. That way, if you’re in a meeting when something happens, your spouse or a neighbor could also get the alert. Another feature that can help you cover more area is the ability to pan and tilt the security camera.
Do you need audio from your security camera?
There’s no reason to limit the power of your camera surveillance system to visuals only. Some security cameras have both sound and motion alerts, which provide extra protection. But these cameras usually let you only listen in and don’t accommodate two-way audio.
If you want to give directions to a delivery person or scare away a potential intruder, two-way talk is the way to go. These home security cameras work like an intercom. They have a mic that picks up sound near the camera, plus a speaker that lets you interact with people or pets on the other end.
What about lighting?
The sun never sets on neighborhood crime. That’s why you need a home security camera that captures crisp images in all kinds of light. We’ve all dealt with photos that are too dark to make out any details. It’s frustrating when it’s a wedding photo, but it’s nerve-racking when you’re trying to capture a face or license plate after a break-in.
Pay attention to the lighting in the areas where you want to install security cameras. Look for features like night vision and motion-activated floodlights—especially for outdoor security cameras. And beware of using an indoor camera to look outside; they can’t usually capture images through a window or after dark.
Image resolution can also impact the quality of home security footage. Make sure the camera you choose produces high-resolution images that can help identify culprits if your home is ever targeted.
What about home automation?
Today there’s a lot more to a home security camera than video surveillance. Many of the best security camera systems also help turn your house into a smart home. Security cameras can often integrate with a smart home hub like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
This can give you a huge home security advantage—the ability to remotely control lights, door locks, and your security cameras. You can also program your system to boost security measures when you’re out of town or during the holidays when lots of packages are delivered. If home automation is something that matters to you, keep this in mind when selecting your security camera.
Do I have enough internet bandwidth to support the camera?
Home surveillance cameras that stream video and send alerts via email and text can use up a lot of data on your home network. How much bandwidth your camera uses depends on many factors. Some of the considerations include image resolution and whether your camera records everything or only clips triggered by motion or sound.
Another consideration is the number of cameras in your surveillance camera system. The more devices on the network, the more data they’ll use. If you have caps on your internet data usage, make sure you understand how your security camera(s) could impact your monthly bill. You should also verify that your router can handle the extra devices and output—especially if you plan on using wireless security cameras.