You can invest thousands of dollars to have a professional home security system installed and then pay more to have it monitored 24/7. However, if your security concerns don’t warrant that level of protection, you can install a smart home security camera yourself—often within minutes—for less than $300. The best home security cameras can help you monitor your home directly from your phone or computer.
These security devices include features like motion detectors, full-color night vision and cloud storage. Some, including our top pick, the Arlo Ultra 2 Wireless Security Camera, are compatible with most smart home systems, including Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. Many also rely on a mobile app that gives you full remote control over the camera from virtually anywhere. After testing and extensive research, here are our top recommendations for the best security cameras you can add to your home right now.
How We Chose The Best Home Security Cameras
We approached this product category just like you would have: as homeowners seeking to protect our homes 24/7. We researched and read up on the best home security cameras, we cross-referenced claims made by the companies with comments left by past customers and then we narrowed things down to a select few cameras that made the cut. Then, we secured multiple cameras and put them to the test firsthand.
In the course of that testing, we noted things like ease of setup—both of the app and of the hardware itself—we tried the cameras in daylight and darkness, we sounded the sirens, we shined the lights and we noted the accuracy of motion detection alerts and the ease of accessing video recordings. And we played with special features like motion detection zones, package detection and more.
Finally, when it comes to security for your home or place of business, it’s hard to put a price on things—but of course cost is a factor here. So, while a few of the camera featured will set you back by around $200 (not to mention the added and on-going cost of subscriptions), most of the cameras are actually quite affordable, and that’s by design.
Why Trust Forbes Vetted
The Forbes Vetted tech team is made up of of accomplished tech experts, many of whom have (literally) written books on the subjects. This story was written by contributors Jason Rich and Steven John, both accomplished writers, journalists, photographers and experienced product testers.
In addition to covering dozens of tech topics, Jason has written several of our TV best lists (listed below). Over his career, he has accumulated hours of in-depth product research and has conducted firsthand testing, including for the writing of this story.
Steven has written many articles covering everything from camping gear to kitchen hardware to DIY tools and more. He’s an expert in the smart home space, from providing top recommendations on the best robot vacuums for carpets to testing out the best smart lights for your home.
We know tech tends to become quickly outdated. To keep this piece fresh and accurate, it will be regularly updated; its current iteration is from January 2024.
What To Look For When Choosing An Outdoor Security Camera
In today’s tech-oriented world, it makes sense to invest a small amount of money to monitor your home. Most home video cameras are easy to install yourself and cost between $50 to $300. They provide tremendous value when it comes to the added peace of mind you’ll experience knowing that you’ll be alerted if a person, wild animal or unknown vehicle approaches your home. While you can find plenty of features on many of our top recommendations, here are some of the ones you should consider before purchasing.
A camera’s resolution determines how much detail the video camera will capture, display and record; the higher the resolution, the better. Choose a camera offering at least 1080p resolution, although you’ll be able to see and record more detailed video if the camera supports 2K resolution—or better yet, 4K resolution.
The field-of-view (FOV) determines how wide of an area the camera can monitor, measured in degrees. Most capture a 130- and 180-degree field of view. And almost all outdoor security cameras include a night vision feature. However, not all of them offer full-color night vision. With full-color night vision, you’ll capture video with a lot more detail at night or in low-light situations (especially if the camera unit does not have a built in floodlight).
Motion and Sound Detection
Most outdoor security cameras use a built-in motion sensor to detect movement. As soon as the camera registers this movement—be it from a person, vehicle or animal—an alert will immediately be sent to your phone and the camera will start recording. Some cameras also offer sound detection, so if something can’t immediately be seen on-camera, if it’s making loud and unusual noises, you’ll still receive an alert.
All outdoor video cameras are designed to withstand a range of weather elements, including rain, snow, high winds and more. Make sure the manufacturer included build-in weather protections so you’re assured it offers appropriate weatherproofing for your home’s location. Usually, the company will state that it’s an outdoor camera, or mention an IPX waterproofing component. Many security manufacturers sell different cameras for indoor versus outdoor use, although they might look similar in appearance, so be sure to check the fine print. Very rarely are they designed to work in both settings.
Hardwired Versus Battery Powered
When an outdoor security camera is hardwired to your home, this means it needs to be powered by the electricity in your home. Thus, unless you’re replacing a traditional outdoor floodlight with an outdoor security camera (with floodlight), you’ll likely need to hire an electrician to install the camera with the proper wiring. This eliminates the need to use batteries, however it’s not a catch-all. If there’s a power outage, your camera will stop working until it’s restored.
That said, if you opt for a wireless outdoor security camera, these typically use a rechargeable battery pack or solar panel for power. You can typically install one of these cameras using little more than a ladder and screwdriver. With the battery power comes a large caveat—unless the unit is solar powered, you will periodically need to replace or manually recharge the camera’s internal battery.
Some outdoor security cameras have a powerful floodlight attached that will automatically turn on when the camera’s motion or sound sensors are activated. You’re also able to control the floodlight manually using the camera’s mobile app, plus pre-set optional timers for the light to automatically turn on or off at specific times of the day or night.
The brightness of an LED floodlight is measured in lumens. The more lumens, the brighter it’ll be. Keep in mind that if the floodlight is coming on more frequently, any wireless, battery-operated outdoor security cameras will see its battery drain more quickly.
Smart Home Compatibility
Not all outdoor security cameras’ software is created equal. While many of them offer compatibility with Apple and Android smartphones, not all of them can connect to the dedicated smart home networks like Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit. Most cameras are upfront about which networks they can pair with, and no matter what, the security camera will need to be connected to your home’s Wi-Fi. Your smartphone can use either Wi-Fi or a cellular data internet connection to check the feeds.
Some of these cameras also work with either an Amazon Echo or a Google Nest Hub, so you can see the camera’s live video feed and interact with the camera using the smart hub that’s already located within your home.
Cloud Video Storage Versus Local Storage
In addition to displaying a live video feed on your smartphone, these outdoor security cameras have the ability to record video content and automatically store it in the cloud or internally on an inserted memory card. In some cases, you’ll need to pay a monthly fee to take full advantage of cloud-based recording—typically between $5 and $10 per month—to unlock this functionality.
In order to unlock all of the features and functionality that an outdoor security camera offers, you may need to pay an ongoing monthly fee. For example, if you want unlimited cloud-based storage of the recorded video content, most outdoor security cameras require a subscription fee. Some of them also paywall the number of security cameras that can take advantage of cloud storage.
Our recommendation: Determine how much it will cost to unlock and take advantage of all the features built into the outdoor security camera you’re considering, and then decide if the ongoing monthly fee is worth it to you. If it’s not, there are plenty of other options to choose from for your home security that will cost less over time.
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