With so much to choose from, it’s hard to know which security camera is right for you. That’s why we break down everything from video resolution to smart home compatibility to help you find the security camera that meets the needs of your home and family.
Netgear’s Arlo Pro is a SafeWise favorite—in fact a few of us have bought them for our homes after testing because we couldn’t bear to give them up. It also tops our list ofbest wireless security cameras. The Arlo Pro is a solid all-around camera that works inside or out, and it’s super-easy to install. The biggest drawback is the investment. You need to purchase a base station in addition to the camera, which makes the up-front cost more hefty than other cameras.
Read our full Arlo Pro review to get all the details from our at-home test.
The Wyze Cam Pan has quickly become a staff favorite. Whether you want to use it as a baby monitor (like one of our testers did) or as a means to keep Fido off the sofa (like me), this camera’s advanced motion tracking won’t disappoint. Instant alerts plus motion tracking let you see exactly what’s happening while it’s happening. And two-way talk is a great way to settle down upset kiddos or excited pets—not to mention scaring away would-be burglars.
You might recognize the Ring brand for its doorbell cameras. But the company has branched out and added its smart surveillance technology to this compact outdoor security camera. Because it can be difficult to find power sources for outside cameras, we like that the Ring Spotlight Cam has three power options: battery, hardwired, or solar. It also has a built-in, motion-activated spotlight that will stop trespassers in their tracks. Plus added features like two-way audio, a 110-decibel siren, and integration with Amazon Alexa make this camera a leader in outdoor surveillance. That’s why the Ring Spotlight Cam was ranked our number one choice for outdoor security cameras.
Vivint has a reputation for innovative home security solutions, and the Ping Indoor Camera doesn’t disappoint. This home security camera stands out with customized notifications, video analytics, and seamless integration with the Vivint Sky smart home platform. And if you’ve got kids or parents at home, you’ll love the one-touch callout that lets family members call your cellphone right from the camera with the touch a button.
While the Nest Cam is one of the more expensive stand-alone security cameras for home use, it makes our list for crisp image resolution and its forward-thinking smart home design. Nest Cam IQ comes with a built-in Google Assistant and integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Nest home automation suite. It stands out with an 8x digital zoom feature and large 130° field of view. But there is no pan-and-tilt capability, and you need to get a Nest Aware subscription ($5 to $30/month) to access advanced features like facial recognition.
This little security camera delivers a lot at a reasonable price point. You get pan-and-tilt functionality, two-way voice, 4x digital zoom, and clear night vision—all for under $80. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about complicated setup. The Vimtag P1 is plug-and-play with built-in Wi-Fi to make setup a breeze.
It feels a little bit like cheating, but Amazon designed its Cloud Cam to work hand-in-hand with Alexa—making it the easiest camera for voice control. If you want to boss your security camera around, then the Cloud Cam might be just what you’re looking for. You get even more convenience by sending smart alerts to your smartwatch as well as your smartphone. Now you don’t have to worry about leaving your home vulnerable when you’re on your morning jog.
If you want a security camera that can double as a nanny cam, then you’ll love the YI 1080p Indoor Security Camera. This camera features baby crying detection—that means you’ll get different alerts depending on whether the camera detects motion or picks up the sound of your little one giving their lungs a workout. And you get free app-sharing with up to five family members, plus seven days of free storage in the YI cloud.
The SereneLife Indoor IP Camera offers superb image quality that isn’t compromised once the lights go out. The night vision on this camera is praised time and again in customer reviews, and it delivers a crisp picture up to 32 feet. And even though the app and software are easy to work with, it’s a bit of a letdown that you can’t integrate this camera with any smart home hubs or gadgets.
It’s easy to scan an entire room with the Wansview’s advanced pan-and-tilt capabilities—and you can control it completely from your phone. If you check in on the Wansview mobile app, you can scan the room by simply swiping your finger in the direction of whatever it is you want to check out. So if you have a sneaking suspicion that your kitty is clawing the ottoman while you’re at work, you can catch her in the act with just a flick of your finger.
Talk and listen features
Good picture clarity
Responsive customer service
Loud beeping if Wi-Fi disconnects
Types of Security Cameras
There are a lot of security cameras to choose from. It’s important to understand the differences so you can find the security camera that fits your needs.
Indoor Security Cameras
Indoor cameras can be part of a complete home security system, or used on their own to add extra protection to your home and your loved ones. And today’s indoor security cameras deliver a lot more than recorded video footage. Most come with the option to view live action video, and cameras with two-way communication let you check in with kids after school, tell Rover to get off your favorite chair, or scare the daylights out of someone who doesn’t belong in your home (plus you’ll have their picture, to boot!).
But—big surprise—indoor cameras are designed to be used inside. You probably won’t be able to make an indoor camera do double-duty by pointing it out a window to see what’s happening on the street or in your yard. Make sure that you select an indoor camera based on the need to keep an eye on what’s happening inside your home, not with fingers crossed that it can do the job of an outside camera.
Outdoor Security Cameras
Outdoor cameras are one of the best ways to deter (and catch) burglars, vandals, and other miscreants. Like indoor security cameras, they can be integrated as part of a home security system or used individually to up the security level around your home. Whether you’re interested in a camera to deter thieves or a way to make sure packages don’t walk off the porch, there are a number of cameras designed to meet your outdoor security needs.
One of the most important things to look for is a high weatherproof rating. You need a durable camera that can stand up to the elements and drastic changes in temperature. If you live in a climate with extreme hot or cold weather, make sure the camera you choose is rated to withstand those types of temps.
Another big feature is night vision. You might also consider a camera with a built-in motion-activated light—all the better to scare you with, my dear! But before you commit to a camera, find out which outdoor security cameras made our top 10 this year.
Wireless Security Cameras
There’s a lot of talk about wireless cameras, but that term can be confusing. Some manufacturers call a camera “wireless” because it uses a Wi-Fi connection, and others refer to cameras that don’t need to be plugged into an outlet.
When we picked the best wireless security cameras, we focused primarily on cameras that are 100% wire-free, meaning they use Wi-Fi and a wireless power source. But we do acknowledge the broader usage of the term, and included a little of both in our annual roundup.
Things to consider when it comes to choosing a wireless camera include your home Wi-Fi network speed, the number of devices already using your home Wi-Fi, and whether or not you’d prefer the freedom of a cord-free camera. Completely wire-free cameras also eliminate the risk of someone cutting the cord to stop the feed.
Monitored Security Cameras
Security cameras that are part of a monitored security system usually have the same features and options as stand-alone cameras. But one advantage of ordering your camera as part of a whole-home security system is that you don’t need to worry as much about the details of each specific camera—you can tap into the expertise of the home security company for help picking the right cameras to protect your home.
Each security company’s cameras will have the functionality to work best with its system, eliminating some of the guesswork. Plus, monitored security cameras come with the added reassurance of extra eyes on your home and loved ones. That means someone will be looking out for trouble 24/7, so you can close out your camera’s app and get a good night’s sleep.
Security Camera Features
In addition to picking the best type of security camera, you also need one with the right features to protect your home and family the way you want to. Do you want a camera to deter burglars, or are you more interested in keeping an eye on children or pets? These are some of the most important features to keep in mind when comparing home security cameras.
Cameras with motion detection can send you notifications when the camera observes motion within its field of view. These notifications can alert you to suspicious activity so you can monitor the situation. If you’re concerned about break-ins or keeping deliveries safe, a security camera with motion alerts might be the best fit.
The distance from which your camera can record images in low- to no-light situations can have a great impact on its effectiveness if you want to capture activity after the sun sets. 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 existing lighting in the areas where you want to install security cameras. Look for the night vision range of each camera and consider how much area you want to cover. And beware of using an indoor camera to look outside; they can’t usually capture images through a window or after dark.
Field of View
Field of view refers to how wide an angle a camera can record. This is important because it will affect how many cameras you’ll need and where you should place them.
The sound feature can refer to your camera receiving sound via a microphone, emitting sound via a speaker, or both. If you want to give directions to a delivery person or check in on the kids after school, two-way talk is the way to go. This feature turns your home security camera into an intercom. Cameras with two-way communication 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.
A camera with Wi-Fi can communicate with your home network wirelessly, which can be handy for installation. It also makes your camera more tamper-proof because it doesn’t have wires that can be cut. But 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. 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.
A camera that can pan and/or tilt may be able to record a larger area than a static camera and could reduce the total number of cameras needed to observe a particular area. Smart motion detection features let you follow the action, whether it’s a pet racing around the living room or a youngster toddling toward trouble. If you set up motion alerts, you can check in right away to make sure everything’s okay—or respond if it’s not.
Obviously, if a camera costs so much that you can no longer afford the valuables you’re trying to protect, then it doesn’t serve a purpose. Fortunately, you can find quality security cameras for around $40, or splurge for more expensive setups with advanced features and support.
Monitored security cameras are more expensive because they come with a crew of pros that watch your footage 24/7. But if you don’t need that level of protection, you can find stripped-down self-monitored cameras ranging from $20 to $50. Just be sure to weigh the investment against the level of security you’re looking for.
Image and video resolution can impact the quality of your home security footage. Resolution defines how clear the image from your camera will be. A clearly visible image can help you identify faces or items in the video your camera records. Make sure the camera you choose produces high-resolution images that can help identify culprits if your home is ever targeted.
Smart Home Integration
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.
You don’t fool around when it comes to keeping your home and family safe, and neither do we. A home security camera is just one part of protecting what matters. If you’re ready for a full-on defense against burglars, vandals, and porch pirates, check out our comprehensive collection of safety insights, tips, and expert advice.
Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more