Home security cameras come in many types and have seemingly endless feature options. With so many different kinds of home security cameras available, deciding which one makes sense for your home can be a daunting task. The information in this guide will give you the knowledge you need to find the security camera or cameras that will help you keep your home and your family safer.
Types of Security Cameras
The simplest way to think about the types of security cameras is to break them down into two groups: indoor cameras and outdoor cameras. While each of these groups have different styles of cameras within them, those differences will become apparent when you compare features, so separating them further isn’t necessary. For instance, none of the cameras we talk about in this guide are dome cameras, not because dome cameras are of lower quality, but because they simply aren’t necessary for most home security camera systems.
Both types of security cameras are available as stand-alone units with monitoring apps or as part of subscription-based home security monitoring systems. In this guide, we compare the top indoor and outdoor security cameras as well as the combinations of cameras available through the top subscription monitoring services.
Important Security Camera Features
Below are some of the important features to keep in mind when comparing home security cameras.Motion Detection
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.
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. Cameras with both can double as intercoms.
Resolution defines how clear the image from your camera will be. A clearly visible image is very helpful when trying to identify faces or items in the images your camera records.
A camera with Wi-Fi can communicate with your home network wirelessly, which can be very handy for installation, and is also less susceptible to being disabled because it doesn’t have wires that could be cut.
The distance from which your camera can record images in low- to no-light situations can have a great impact on its effectiveness because often criminal activity can happen at night.
A camera that can pan and/or tilt may be able to record a larger area than a static camera and therefore reduce the total number of cameras needed to observe a particular area.
Obviously, if a camera costs so much that you can no longer afford the valuables you’re trying to protect with it, then it doesn’t serve a purpose. Cost is a factor for every purchasing decision.
• Indoor Cameras
Indoor cameras are the cornerstone of a good home security system. We researched dozens of indoor home security cameras and found these to be a consumer’s best bet. The cameras in this chart have Wi-Fi capability and can be monitored online and on your smartphone via each cameras corresponding app.
Vimtag VT-361 PTZ Cloud Camera
The Vimtag VT-361 HD home security camera is a great investment for any homeowner. Along with the great range of motion and two-way talkback highlighted in the chart, the 361 has a 3x digital zoom function. This kind of control is rare among stand-alone cameras. The VT-361 has 720p resolution, and while that’s not the highest available, it’s still considered high definition, so you should have no problems with image clarity. The best part about this camera is the price—it comes in at just under $100. It also gets strong customer reviews on Amazon with an average rating of four stars from over 4,700 ratings.
Nest Cam Indoor
While the Nest Cam is one of the more expensive stand-alone home security cameras, it makes our spotlight for high resolution and its seamless integration with the rest of the Nest home automation suite. It has two-way talkback capability and an incredible 8x digital zoom. The Nest Cam doesn’t have any pan or tilt capabilities, but with its enormous 130º field of view, the motion isn’t as necessary. Although the Nest Cam costs nearly $200, you can find discounts for ordering multiple units at once. Its average customer rating on Amazon is four stars with over 5,600 ratings.
• Outdoor Cameras
AMCREST Qcam POE Bullet IP Camera
If a clear image is import to you, then the Qcam is the camera you want. With 1536p resolution, it tops any camera we reviewed in this guide. It also has a decent 70° field of view. It lacks the sound capabilities of other cameras, and it’s a stationary camera, which could make installation more difficult, but for pure visual quality, you can’t beat this camera. And, at just under $120, you’re getting a great value. The Qcam scored 3 stars on Amazon with sixty ratings.
The ZOSI 960H makes our spotlight for one reason—price. At just over $20, it is by far the most affordable camera we reviewed. It also has a large field of view, 72°, and a night vision range of nearly twice what you’ll get with almost any other camera. The ZOSI 960H doesn’t have any movement capabilities, and its image resolution is very poor compared to other cameras in this guide. If you’re just looking for the lowest-priced home surveillance possible, this is the camera we recommend. With over 1,200 ratings on Amazon, the ZOSI 960H averages 3.9 stars.
Monitored Home Security Camera Systems
One advantage of ordering a monitored system is that you don’t need to worry about the details of each specific camera because you can talk with the home security company’s representative for help picking the system with the appropriate cameras to accommodate your needs. Each company’s cameras will have the functionality to work best with its system, eliminating guesswork. Below you will find the home security monitoring services with the best camera and functionality combinations.
Lower monitoring fee
Frontpoint makes our spotlight for the great reputation its home security systems have among customers. The system has both indoor and outdoor camera options and also has pan and tilt capabilities on its indoor cameras. Frontpoint systems are all self-install systems. But, for anyone who needs a little help, Frontpoint offers installation tutorials for all its for all its components. Although the start-up costs for Frontpoint are high, the monthly monitoring fee is lower than most, so you can make up the difference over time. If you want a comprehensive home security system and good customer service, Frontpoint is the perfect choice.
Vivint Smart Control
Under $65 per month
Vivint offers the perfect balance of all the features you want from a home security monitoring system and a reasonable price. With multiple camera options and professional installation, Vivint gives you peace of mind in knowing that you have the equipment you need to properly monitor your home and that it has been installed correctly. This is the primary advantage of a monitored system in the first place. The one drawback to Vivint is the five-year contract, but as long as you’re happy with the service, that shouldn’t be an issue. The monthly monitoring charge is just under $55 and includes one camera. If you want a professionally installed system with lots of options, Vivint is the system you want.
ADT Pulse Video Service
We spotlight ADT for its low setup fee and lifetime warranty. With this stem-to-stern approach to ensuring the value of its service, ADT gives customers plenty of reason to sign up and a continuing reason to stick with the service. It also offers unlimited cloud storage. This could come in handy if your valuables go missing, but you don’t notice it until months or even a year later. With unlimited cloud storage, you may be able to find stored video of the theft. ADT Pulse has both indoor and outdoor cameras. The outdoor cameras will cost a little extra. If you’re a homeowner with no plans to move, ADT is a great choice because of the unlimited storage and the lifetime warranty.
Security Resource Center
What Is a Home Security Camera?
Although they come in a wide variety of sizes, image qualities, fields of view, and ranges of motion, home security cameras all perform one basic function—they provide a video image of what is occurring within their field of view. Cameras either show live action in real time or record everything for viewing later. Some camera systems even let customers monitor and control their security cameras online.
How Do Security Cameras Work?
Not only can home security cameras help catch burglars,but they can also actually help to stop the criminals before they become intruders. Cameras work as a deterrent when would-be burglars see them and decide breaking into your house isn’t worth the risk. With that in mind, keeping surveillance cameras clearly visible on your property is a good idea. You also want some hidden cameras because a determined burglar may try to block or disable cameras they can see. For more help assessing your property and determining the best combination of cameras for your needs, consult a home security expert from one of the monitoring companies spotlighted above.
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 the camera’s field of view. However, most modern security cameras have the ability to detect motion and send alerts to owners or authorities via text or email.