When it comes to protecting your home, sometimes a simple alarm system isn’t enough. By adding one or more security cameras to your system, you can get more comprehensive protection for your home.
Since there are so many options available, it can be challenging to determine which home security camera is right for you. The This Old House Reviews Team put together a guide to the best home security cameras of 2021 to help make your purchasing process slightly easier.
Home Security Cameras Guide 2021
|Arlo Pro 3||SimCam 1S AI||Nest Cam IQ Outdoor||Wyze Cam Pan||RemoBell S|
|Arlo Pro 3||SimCam 1S AI||Nest Cam IQ Outdoor||Wyze Cam Pan||RemoBell S|
|Best Overall||Best Indoor Camera||Best Outdoor Camera||Best Budget Pick||Best Video Doorbell|
|Has the most features available Wireless and easy to install Smart home compatible||Good balance of price and features Has facial recognition Provides local or cloud video storage||Offers facial and person recognition 24/7 recording Extremely weatherproof||Very affordable 360-degree panning Free video storage||Good balance of price and function Free cloud storage Sleek, unobtrusive design|
1. Arlo Pro 3: Best Overall Home Security Camera
The Arlo Pro 3 is actually a security camera package that features two wireless indoor and outdoor cameras and a base station. Although this is a pricey investment at $500.00, each camera comes packed with features like full-color night vision, an integrated spotlight and smart siren, 2K HDR with zoom capabilities, and two-way audio. It integrates easily with Google Home Hub and Amazon Alexa and has rechargeable batteries, but it can go three to six months between charges.
To take full advantage of the camera’s notification and storage abilities, you’ll need to subscribe to an Arlo Smart Plan, which ranges between $2.99–$14.99 per month. These plans will give you access to advanced object and package detection and 911 emergency call service.
Arlo Pro 3 Pros and Cons
|Offers color night vision||Has a low battery life of three to six months|
|Has a 160-degree viewing angle||Full mobile control requires Arlo Smart Plan|
|Features an integrated spotlight that activates manually or automatically|
2. SimCam 1S AI: Best Indoor Camera
At $129.99, the SimCam 1S AI includes many of the same features of cameras twice its price. This camera includes night vision, 360-degree panning when the camera detects motion, facial recognition up to 18 feet, and person detection up to 60 feet. Even better, you don’t need a paid subscription to access these features or any recorded video.
Video storage is local, not cloud-based, and the device comes with a 16-GB SD card. You’ll have full control over the camera and its settings from the mobile app or from Amazon or Google smart home devices. The panning feature is not always as smooth or responsive as one might like, but given all its other features, we still rank the SimCam 1S AI as our best indoor pick.
SimCam 1S IA Pros and Cons
|Features 360-degree mechanical panning||Slow panning mechanism|
|Has facial recognition and intelligent alerts||No cloud storage available|
|Offers local video storage on included SD card|
3. Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: Best Outdoor Camera
Google’s Nest is a complete home security system that happens to include some of the best security cameras around. The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is our pick for the best camera to monitor the exterior of your house. Priced between $294.00–$349.00, this is not a low-end camera, but it’s one of the most versatile in its category.
Unlike other outdoor security cameras that only record short clips when they sense motion, the Nest Cam IQ records continuously, 24 hours a day. To access this feature, you’ll need to pay for a Nest Aware subscription, which can cost anywhere from $5.00 to $30.00 per month, depending on how much video history you want to save. The subscription also activates some of the camera’s best features like facial recognition and the ability to tell the difference between people and other moving objects.
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor Pros and Cons
|Has HDR 1080p video||Requires indoor power outlet|
|Features facial and person recognition||Subscription required for facial recognition and 24/7 recording|
|Integrates with smart home devices|
4. Wyze Cam Pan: Best Budget Pick
The Wyze Cam Pan offers advanced features like motion tracking, two-way audio, smoke and carbon monoxide detection, and pan and tilt capabilities for less than $40.00. The internal motor allows the lens to swivel a complete 360 degrees, as well as tilt vertically more than 90 degrees—all of which can be controlled from your mobile device.
The camera records in standard 1080p, and Wyze even offers free cloud storage in addition to local in-device storage. It even integrates with Amazon Alexa and Nest.
Wyze Cam Pan Pros and Cons
|Offers advanced motion tracking||Reported problems with CO detector|
|Provides free cloud storage||Doesn’t have an alarm or siren|
|Has 360-degree field of view plus 93-degree tilt angle|
5. RemoBell S: Best Video Doorbell Camera
A video doorbell is a specific type of security camera that allows you to see who or what is at the door and then choose whether to interact with them. For maximum functionality, you should look for a doorbell camera with two-way audio, motion detection, HD video, and night vision—all of which the RemoBell S offers at a very reasonable price.
There are video doorbells with more bells and whistles, but the RemoBell S represents the best balance of price, function, and design. You can control the system and view live video through the Remo mobile app, as well as issue voice commands through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You get access to the past three days of cloud video storage for free, but you can extend that to 30 days for a reasonable price of $3.00 per month or $30.00 per year.
RemoBell S Pros and Cons
|Offers three days of free cloud storage||Requires hardwired installation|
|Integrates with smart home devices||Records video in fisheye mode instead of fullscreen mode|
|No subscription required for alerts or video|
Additional Home Security Cameras
Of course, the previously mentioned cameras are only a small sample of the available security camera technology, and you may find other options that give you the features you need. Here are some picks with unique or unusual features.
- Deep Sentinel Smart Security Cameras—At $699.00 for three cameras and $100.00 per month for monitoring, this is a pricey system, but it comes with something other surveillance systems don’t: a live person reviewing motion-activated alerts. If you’ve got room in the budget, you can have professional eyes on your home 24/7/365.
- Ring Stick Up Cam Battery—Some wireless security cameras have to be plugged into a power source, but this one is completely wire-free, making it the easiest indoor/outdoor camera on the market to install.
- Nest Cam IQ Indoor—If you’re looking for the best video and image quality, the indoor version of Nest’s IQ camera is a top pick. Not to mention, it’s over $100.00 cheaper than the outdoor version.
Types of Home Security Cameras
Most cameras come with a method of creating and storing video recordings, providing peace of mind that there are eyes on your house at all times. Here are a few of the most popular types of home security cameras.
Unsurprisingly, some cameras are designed for indoor use while are meant for outdoor use. The difference is usually in the weather-resistance of the camera’s outer shell, but outdoor cameras may be more likely to have features like person or package detection to limit false alerts from animals, cars, or other moving objects. Outdoor cameras are often more expensive than their indoor counterparts.
Traditional security camera systems are hardwired into the electrical system of the building and use cables to transmit data from the camera itself to a recording device or TV monitor. CCTV cameras, like many businesses have, use a wired system. These systems are durable and difficult to hack, but they’re difficult and expensive to install, usually putting them beyond the reach of homeowners.
Wireless security cameras, which are becoming more popular as the price of the technology goes down, may or may not need to be plugged into a power source, but they don’t require cables to transmit video data. Instead, they use WiFi connectivity or a cellular network to send the video to your mobile device or to remote servers for cloud storage.
Usually, a home’s security cameras only send video to the homeowners who self-monitor the footage and then decide whether they need to contact the police or other authorities. However, a few companies offer a video monitoring service as well. You’ll pay a monthly fee, and if your home security cameras are activated, they will send the video feed to a monitoring center where an employee will view the footage and decide whether to call the police.
These are special outdoor cameras that combine a motion-activated camera with a doorbell and two-way speaker. When activated, the camera will send an alert to your mobile device, allowing you to view the video feed and, if you like, speak to the visitor through the audio system.
Top Security Camera Features
Don’t be overwhelmed by the sheer number of features available with modern home security camera systems. Here’s a brief guide to some of the most common features and what they do to ensure your security.
- Motion detection—Most modern cameras have the ability to sense when something in front of the camera is moving and have person recognition, package recognition, and facial recognition.
- Smartphone alerts—The camera will send an alert to your mobile device letting you know that the camera has been motion activated. Usually, clicking on the alert will allow you to watch the live video feed.
- Mobile control—Most security systems let you arm, disarm, and control the settings from a mobile device.
- Field of view—This measurement is given in degrees and refers to the width of the camera angle. Most have fields of view between 60–110 degrees.
- Pan/tilt—Since field of view is necessarily limited, the only way to get a 360-degree view is by having a camera that mechanically pans (moves horizontally) and/or tilts (moves vertically).
- Zoom—This refers to the ability to enlarge an image or video.
- Two-way audio—This not only allows you to hear the sounds around your camera, it lets you talk back through a speaker on the camera.
- Night vision—Some cameras can record even without a strong light source and may use a floodlight or record with infrared light.
- Smart home integration—Many home security cameras can join an existing network of automated home devices. For example, you may be able to ask Amazon Alexa to play the video feed from your security camera on your smart TV.
- Cloud storage—If you want your camera to record video to watch later, the data has to be stored somewhere. Some cameras have internal disks for this but many send the data to be stored on remote servers, usually referred to as “the cloud.”
How Do Home Security Cameras Work?
Most home security cameras are motion activated, meaning that they don’t record video until they detect something moving in front of the lens. When this happens, they power on and begin recording for a certain length of time.
Wireless cameras use your home’s internet or cellular network to send this video directly to your mobile device or to storage on either a local SD card or the cloud. You can play back this footage by accessing your online account or removing the SD card and plugging it into a computer.
How Do I Find the Best Home Security Camera?
Here are some questions to ask yourself when buying a home security camera:
- What type of home security camera do I want?
- Where do I want to place the camera(s)? What’s the best type of camera for this placement?
- How much control do I want to have over the camera from my mobile device?
- Do I want the camera to be hardwired or wireless and battery-powered?
- Will I use the camera primarily for live streaming or recording? If recording, what cloud storage options do I need?
- Who will have access to this camera and its footage? How can I best protect my privacy?
Frequently Asked Questions about Home Security Cameras
How much do home security cameras cost?
The prices of home security cameras vary widely based on the features they have. For example, the Wyze Cam V2 offers basic functionality starting at $25.00, but high-end cameras with facial recognition can be in the $400.00–$500.00 range.
What’s the difference between wired and wireless security cameras?
Wired security camera systems make use of a building’s electrical system for power and the video data is transferred via physical wires for viewing or recording. Wireless security cameras send this data over WiFi or cellular networks.
Can my security camera be hacked?
Unfortunately, it’s possible to hack into a wireless security camera feed. However, security companies are constantly working to find solutions, including two-factor identification and frequent software updates.
Do I need cloud storage for home security cameras?
Most newer security cameras are set up to record video to the cloud, where storage space is much larger. A few models offer local storage to SD cards, but space is limited by the memory capacity of the card.
Are there energy savings features available for home security cameras?
A security camera that records all day and all night will use a significant amount of power, so most cameras only begin recording when they detect motion. Additionally, some outdoor cameras can run on solar power, and others have incredibly efficient batteries that can last as long as a year between charges.
Any of the mentioned home security cameras can help improve the safety of your home. If you’re looking for more comprehensive home security, we recommend looking into an inclusive home security system with a company like ADT, SimpliSafe, or Vivint.
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