The 10 Best IP Cameras
This wiki has been updated 28 times since it was first published in June of 2015. Ideal for security purposes or for interacting with your family and pets when you are away from home, one of these feature-rich IP cameras lets you keep a close watch on your property from wherever you are in the world, seeing what they see on most computers and mobile devices. Some are built to act as visible deterrents, while others are small enough for discreet surveillance. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 10, 2020:
While there weren't a ton of new models to feature in this category, we did see an upgrade to the Blink Outdoor HD, though this model has little new in its offerings and still suffers from the motion detection problems reported of its predecessor. And while it is a pretty good option, the Google Nest Cam Indoor has simply gotten too long in the tooth to justify a spot on a tech sector list, as it will turn six soon.
Newcomers to the ranking include the H.View Outdoor Security and the Lorex E861AB-E Smart Security, with the H.View model earning a high place for its zoom function. Often, these cameras will deliver a digital zoom only, as is the case with the Lorex. Even 4K footage will start to look pretty grainy when you zoom in digitally, whereas optical zooms are like the ones you see on nice camera lenses. They actually move the lens elements to refract the light in different ways, enlarging the image the sensor sees, not just blowing up the one it's already recorded, which can make a big difference when trying to see a face or make out a license plate.
December 19, 2019:
With resolution expectations continually on the rise for any and all cameras — not just security models—, we wanted to make sure to include as many 4K options on this list as there were reliable offerings on the market, leading to the inclusion of the Arlo Ultra among others, which is one of the easiest options to set up and use, with a magnetic mounting system and an incredibly intuitive mobile app. Resolution is also the main reason we sent away the Phylink spycam from our last ranking, as it topped out at 720p.
Other important features we scrutinized included motion detection, and while most models offer some kind of motion activation — to initiate recording, turn on lights, or send alerts to your phone — the upgraded Foscam G4 Outdoor Wi-Fi actually boasts the ability to differentiate among cars, cats, and people, so you can get fewer false positives sent to your phone or eating up your storage space. There was also weatherproofing to consider in any outdoor models, with IP65 being a baseline for reliable performance in the elements.
Keeping An Eye Out
The main difference there is that these lenses are larger, so they can collect more light without resorting to digital enhancements that sacrifice image quality in the dark.
It's a shame that we live in a world where our security is consistently at risk, but it seems as though things are only destined to get more dangerous around here for the time being. Violent crimes saw a 10 year decline in the United States up to 2013, but data from 2014 and 2015 show spikes in violent offenses that imply a coming wave of violence.
The IP cameras we've reviewed for you offer up more than just a video record of potential perpetrators, they can act as nanny-cams, baby monitors, deterrents to potential wrong-doers, and more.
Video is a powerful tool in recording past events and presenting cases of innocence or guilt. Imagine you were accused of a crime you didn't commit, and the only alibi you had was that unreliable one: "I was home alone." Well, if you've got the footage to prove it, you'll be set free.
On a more dastardly note, should something bad happen like a home invasion, or even an attack on your premises, the footage from your IP camera could help catch the bad guys involved and recover stolen goods.
Each one of these cameras sports a small, but high-quality lens, not unlike the lenses used on better smartphones. The main difference there is that these lenses are larger, so they can collect more light without resorting to digital enhancements that sacrifice image quality in the dark. Furthermore, a majority of these IP cameras have infrared capabilities, giving you an even better picture in low-light scenarios.
They mount easily on desktops or hung from ceilings, and a couple are meant to be concealed between books on a shelf, or inside a stuffed animal — whichever hidden camera cliche speaks to you the loudest. All of them connect to your internet server, so you can log in remotely and view live and archived footage from anywhere.
What Goes Bump In The Night
Given the multitudinous threats to our homes and families, and the filming needs that correspond to them, finding an IP camera that can suit your purposes is paramount. If you end up with a well-rated camera that does everything but the one thing you need it to do, you'll have wasted a good bit of time and money. Fortunately, a lot of the cameras on this list boast a handful of useful features, and we're going to work together to figure out the combination you need.
If you end up with a well-rated camera that does everything but the one thing you need it to do, you'll have wasted a good bit of time and money.
If you're simply trying to increase the security of your space, whether it's a home or business, by letting anyone who might cause you harm know that they are, most definitely, on camera, you'll want a piece that stands out. Those little spy cams won't do the trick in this instance, but a more traditional-looking security camera will. Bad guys know to look for these hung up in the corners of rooms, so installing one there will not only give you the best viewing angle of the space, it'll also advertise to potential perps that this space is protected.
Maybe some precious items have gone missing from your home recently, and you suspect the maid. One of the more clandestine cameras on our list, the kind the you can hide in a dozen low-key places, is the best way to catch her in the act. What you do with the incriminating footage is up to you. Blackmail is fun, but, remember: like so many fun things, it's illegal.
Once you figure out whether you want your camera to stand out or to blend in, you can then evaluate the remaining systems based on features. Some cameras on this list capture in 4K UHD, while others only attain 1080p HD. Frankly, this isn't quite as important as frame rate.
If you've ever seen jumpy security footage that looks more like the camera took a still picture every two seconds, you know how a slow frame rate fails to tell the whole story of a scene. Professional movies shoot at 24 frames per second, so if you want something clean and fluid, shoot for a camera that can capture at least 20 frames per second.
Old Tech Meets New
IP cameras are the product of a happy marriage between two enormous families. The first of these families appeared on the scene back in Germany, in 1942. If you recall, there was a little war going on at the time, and German engineers pointed a simple camera at the launch site of their V-2 rockets. That camera fed its images to a receiver on a closed circuit, and closed circuit television, or CCTV, was born.
CCTV was the go-to system for security footage around the world, with the UK attaining dystopian numbers of security cameras by the 1990s. Right around that time, in the computer science department of Cambridge University, students pointed a small and simple camera at the coffee pot in the hallway outside one of their research rooms.
The idea was to keep an eye on the coffee level so they would never be without the substance, and they connected the camera feed to their computers via the building's internet.
Thus, the first webcam came into being, and as soon as internet feeds grew fast enough to outpace CCTV feeds, IP cameras became the norm for security in homes and businesses.