The 10 Best Security Cameras
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in December of 2015. Not so long ago, if you wanted to monitor your home or business, you had to pay an outside company a hefty monthly fee. But today, affordable surveillance solutions are available in the form of compact security cameras that can connect to smart-home systems or the Web – allowing users to monitor their premises in real time from anywhere or store video locally to review at any time. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
January 14, 2021:
We removed the Sir Gawain G007 Mini Spy Camera due to availability issues, and replaced the discontinued Blink XT2 with the Blink Outdoor 3rd Generation — an outdoor Wi-Fi camera which boasts temperature-monitoring capabilities and a two-year battery life.
We also added the Eufy T8411121 to our list. Like the Amcrest UltraHD Indoor, the T8411121 separates itself from much of the competition in this category with 360-degree pan functionality and a 96-degree tilt range (which is slightly better than the UltraHD Indoor).
If good resolution is at the top of your want list for this purchase, then you might be interested in hopping over to our list of 4k security cameras.
December 28, 2019:
This was a busy round of updates, to say the least. While the Lensoul 1080 IP-02, Amcrest TVL 960H, Amazon Cloud Cam and Ebitcam 1080P Wifi HD Outdoor all fell by the wayside – due to availability issues, the Amcrest UltraHD, Nest Cam Indoor and Netgear Arlo Pro were all replaced with newer versions of themselves. On top of this, the Remocam Smart Home RMCU-1508, Yi Technology Indoor 87001 and Vimtag P1 Ultra IP all needed to be eliminated to make room for new additions that presented better affordability, superior features or fewer negative user reports.
Some of our new additions include, but are not limited to, the Sir Gawain G007 Mini Spy Camera, a tiny unit that can easily be unobtrusively integrated into most rooms' designs; the Smonet Weatherproof System, a set of five-megapixel, IP66 cameras that come with a one- or two-terabyte-hard-drive DVR; and the Logitech Circle 2, which boasts a 180-degree field of view and has handy plug- and window-mount accessories available (sold separately).
A note on protecting your privacy:
One of the nicest features offered by an increasingly large portion of the products in this category is their ability to connect to your home’s existing smart systems, or store video via cloud so you can review it remotely from your phone. However, this convenience can quickly become a double-edged sword, as it exposes your family to a host of cyber security threats. In the case of an online breach, not only could an intruder potentially be watching your family through your own cameras, but with the two-way audio functionality presented by more and more these models, they could also be listening to your conversations or even talking to your children when you’re not around.
It’s a horrifying consideration, especially when entertaining the idea of a purchase that’s supposed to foster safety for yourself, your business or those you love. To avoid invasions of your privacy, make sure that your network is equipped with current security software. Or, consider opting out of cloud storage, and store video locally via SD card or internal hard drive.
It should also be noted that the immensely popular Ring Stick Up Cam was eliminated from our rankings as a precautionary measure, in light of the recent lawsuit brought against the company, questioning just how safe and secure its product is.
A few things to think about while shopping in this category:
The View: A camera’s field of view speaks directly to how much of an area you’ll be able to observe with it (or how many of them you’ll need to observe the entire area). This can vary considerably from unit to unit, so it’s worth paying attention to. For example, the Sir Gawain G007 Mini Spy Camera features a 150-degree wide lens, while the models that come with the Annke CCTV Camera System have only an 82-degree field of view.
One way to mitigate the inconvenience inflicted by a narrow field of view is by investing in motorized models with pan and tilt features. Selections like the ceiling-mountable Amcrest UltraHD Indoor come equipped with a 90-degree tilt and 360-degree pan capability – which allows you to observe an entire room with a single camera (as long as there’s no corners to hide around).
The Picture: Grainy surveillance footage is a cliché that’s being left in the past by this generation of cameras. Even the infinitesimal Sir Gawain G007 Mini Spy Camera and the budget-friendly Wyze Cam v2 shoot full-HD, 1080p video. So, don’t settle for anything less than crisp footage.
Another consideration, when it comes to picture, is each option’s respective night-vision capabilities. While some ability in this respect seems to be a near-standard here (and indeed strikes me as a logical pre-requisite for the category), the Annke CCTV Camera System seems to be a cut above the rest, boasting a night-time range of vision of up to 100 feet.
The Storage: As previously mentioned, for security reasons (among others), some users might prefer to opt out of cloud storage and stick to local file saving. If this is a route you’re considering, you’ll need to assess the amount of memory you’ll need, based on your intentions for the camera. This is another area where options can vary considerably, so be mindful of your purchase. For instance, the Smonet Weatherproof System features a DVR with a two-terabyte internal hard drive, while the Sir Gawain G007 Mini Spy Camera can’t accommodate anything larger than a 32-gigabyte micro SD card, which will store about six hours of footage.
Your Camera Is Watching You
Well, it can gum up your internet traffic on the upload side, and it usually costs you a monthly fee to accumulate all that server space.
Imagine that the camera on your phone was running constantly, and the information it gathered was uploaded minute by minute to a server in the cloud.
Plenty of conspiracy theorists claim that this is happening all the time, that your camera is always on, and that it's always recording everything you do, everywhere you go, etc.
These conspiracy theorists aren't too far off, unfortunately. Just last year Samsung announced that it would be in their customers' best interest not to speak about sensitive personal information in the presence of any of their latest Smart TVs. Apparently, they're always listening
That's sort of how a lot of security cameras work, though without all the secret gathering of personal data.
A modern security system is either hooked up to a physical data recorder that can hold many days worth of footage, or is hooked up directly to a Wi-Fi router so that it can constantly upload video to a cloud service.
The downside of the cloud service? Well, it can gum up your internet traffic on the upload side, and it usually costs you a monthly fee to accumulate all that server space.
Most security cameras today also have some kind of night vision capability, usually in the form of infrared sensitivity. Your camera will actually put out infrared light (which you can kind of sort of see happening if you hold the camera lens in your peripheral vision in an otherwise dark room).
Once that infrared bounces off of whatever is in the room, it's picked up by an infrared sensor the same way the camera's regular white light sensor picks up any daytime action.
An Army Of Options
Everybody wants to stay safe. Nobody wants to think they're being watched.
So, maybe you strike a balance. You get yourself one camera for the main space in your home, for the area that someone would absolutely have to pass through to do harm to you, your family, or your property.
Maybe that's enough. Maybe it isn't. The thing is: you know your space.
After that, you have to grapple with what quality video you want and whether you want it recorded physically in your space or out there on the Internet.
Some of these units have incredibly wide angles of view, and if your space is open enough, a single camera can provide you with all the coverage you could ever hope for. If you've got a split-level house and/or you're a hoarder, you might need more than one camera.
That's an easy question.
After that, you have to grapple with what quality video you want and whether you want it recorded physically in your space or out there on the Internet. If you do have an Internet hookup, what kind of access and control do you want from your smartphone?
For my money, I want a system with more than one camera (rest assured that you can sync up multiple units by any of these brands) that records physically in my space, and has as many mobile features as I can get my hands on.
I understand the folks who want to just have it automatically upload their video to the cloud. It's much easier that way. It's also a fraction less secure, should that video fall into the wrong hands.
Old Security Cameras All Had Two Lenses
Two lenses? Yup. They're called eyes.
You're looking at an image of the famous Scots Guard, a regiment of the British army that's as much a tourist attraction as they are a standing force.
And, in a way, they're the first security cameras. Except for the one who's passed out. He's fired.
What comes next for cameras is always right around the corner for your security.
What I mean to say is that, long before cameras came around, we relied solely on human lookouts to keep our places safe.
Okay, but cameras are a totally different story. They're totalitarian and spooky, a primary tool of Big Brother, and I don't make that reference casually.
The fact is that there is next to no evidence of video cameras being used for security surveillance until after the publication of George Orwell's 1984. That might just be the most depressing thing I've learned about security cameras in my time playing with them and researching them.
I suppose science fiction does often predict science fact.
From that time (the 1960s) onward, security cameras and their video capture technology have kept pace with advancements in personal and professional camera developments. What comes next for cameras is always right around the corner for your security.