There are a lot of options when it comes to smart home security cameras and video doorbells. Finding the right one for you doesn’t have to be a pain.
Look for a camera with a decent field of view that can record well in low-light conditions and has an automatic night vision mode. It should also notify you via smartphone when it detects motion and provide zooming capabilities.
1. Consider Your Needs
The best security cameras are designed to work with your smartphone or tablet and alert you of suspicious activity. They also have features like two-way talk that allow you to converse with someone who approaches your home and a 105-decibel siren that can scare away porch pirates.
The quality of the video is another important consideration. Grainy black-and-white images and tunnel-like field of view were standard for early surveillance cameras, but contemporary models can provide full color in high resolutions. Some also feature night vision.
Look for models that offer local storage, either on a microSD card in the camera or on a connected hard drive. This can be useful if your network is interrupted, and many cameras support up to 64 GB of storage.
As with any Wi-Fi-connected device, security cameras can be hacked, and if you don’t have end-to-end data encryption, your footage could be intercepted as it travels from one endpoint to the other. That’s why all of the top-rated models in our ratings have two-step authentication, end-to-end data encryption and WPA2 compatibility.
2. Consider Your Budget
The cheapest security cameras can cost just $100, but they don’t skimp on essential features. Look for live video streaming, a motion sensor and compatibility with smart home ecosystems like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Some also allow you to record video locally on an SD card (though this may require a monthly cloud storage fee).
Resolution: A camera can’t detect motion if the video is blurry or pixelated. Look for a minimum of 720p resolution and consider upgrading to 1080p for sharper footage. Some cameras offer higher resolutions, but that may take a toll on internet and Wi-Fi bandwidth.
Look for cameras with two-step authentication, WPA2 wireless security compatibility and end-to-end data encryption. These measures prevent hackers from accessing your live feed and stored video clips. Other desirable features include night vision, two-way audio and smart algorithms that keep the number of triggered alerts to a minimum by distinguishing between people, pets and other objects.
3. Consider Your Installation
If you’re going to mount cameras outside, look for weatherproof models. Security cameras that aren’t designed to withstand the elements will either become less effective or won’t function properly.
The light level of the environment you’re monitoring will also play a role in what kind of camera you choose. If the area you want to monitor is dim, consider selecting a model with what’s called low-light infrared LEDs. These will help the camera record clear footage even in dim lighting conditions.
Another thing to consider is whether you want a wired or wireless security camera. Wired cameras send a stronger and more secure video signal, but they require you to run a cord from the camera to both power and your internet connection. The alternative is a battery-operated device that connects wirelessly to your home network. Some systems allow you to store video locally, while others push it to a cloud server for storage and access.
4. Consider Your Security Needs
When choosing a security camera, consider whether you need it to record and store footage locally on your device or if you prefer cloud storage. The former option allows you to watch your footage anytime, anywhere — though this requires a constant Internet connection and the cameras might not work as well in dim lighting conditions.
The latter option gives you a more flexible monitoring experience, but the camera may suffer from poor video quality in low-light conditions and it’s important to make sure the brand you choose has a good track record with data privacy concerns. Look for two-step login authentication and WPA2 compatibility to protect your footage from hacking as it travels over the Internet.
Also, determine if you want the camera to automatically send alerts to your phone or if you want it to pair with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home/Assistant for instant access and additional control. This can be a helpful feature for those worried about porch pirates and others who don’t want to pay for third-party alarm monitoring.