Updated

Best home security camera: Keep an eye on the home front

A boom in wireless security cameras is inspiring a movement in DIY home surveillance. Follow our buying guide and read our reviews to find the best option for you.

Monica Lee

Whether you rent or own, you want the best security camera system for keeping an eye on your home while you’re gone. That used to entail signing on with a professional—and pricey—security service like ADT. But a boom in consumer-level smart-home tech is putting indoor and outdoor home surveillance into our own hands.

Home security camera cheat sheet

Our quick-hit recommendations:

Read on to learn why these products rank best.

These close cousins of webcams require minimal installation and offer flexible setups and a range of security features. Indeed, the offerings vary widely by camera, and deciding what to buy gets more daunting as this category grows ever more crowded. But whether you’re looking for an easy way to check on your kids and pets, or a full-service sentinel to monitor for intruders, we’ll help find the right product for your needs.

Updated February 6, 2019 to add our review of the Reolink C2 Pro pan/tilt security camera. This camera's best selling point is its five-megapixel image sensor that captures video in 1920p resolution. It's a very good camera that earned a four-star review, but its inability to detect sounds and the fact that its microSD card slot is limited to cards 64GB or smaller prevents it from knocking out any of our current top picks.

Best indoor home security camera

The Arlo Pro was already a great security camera. The second-generation model is even stronger, adding even higher resolution and better motion detection to its long list of features that already includes the flexibility of operating on either AC or battery power (and there’s an optional solar panel that enables the camera to operate completely free of wires).

Netgear Arlo Pro 2 review

Runner-up

The Ooma Butterfleye certainly doesn’t look like the typical home security camera, and that departure from convention extends to its feature set, too. It can operate on a back-up battery should you experience a power failure, and it can record video to onboard storage should your broadband connection fail. In other words, it will continue to capture forensic evidence in the most adverse conditions. 

Best outdoor home security camera

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is the most sophisticated outdoor home security camera on the market.  Equipped with a 4K image sensor, high dynamic range, and person detection, this camera zooms in on humans in its field of view and will follow that person around the room, capturing their face in great detail.

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor review

Runner-up

Redesigned for 2018, Ring's Stick Up Cam can be deployed indoors or out. It's not as sophisticated as the Nest Cam Outdoor, but its low price tag means you can almost set up two cameras for the price of one Nest. It's particularly good choice for homeowners operating a Ring Alarm home security system. 

Best security camera/outdoor lighting combo

There’s a lot to like about the Maximus Camera Floodlight, starting with its camera’s crisp, clear 1080p video. Its dual articulating LED floodlights cover a very wide area, and you can dim them via its app if you want mood lighting on your deck or patio for a party. 

Other features that differentiate the Maximus from its better-known competitor—the Ring Floodlight Cam—include pre-recorded messages that can be triggered by the camera’s motion detector (causing the intruder to instinctively look up at the camera) and a subscription service that’s actually optional: You can look back only two hours and you’re limited to three downloads per month if you don’t subscribe, where Ring gives you only real-time viewing and no downloads if you don’t pay.

Runner-up

The Ring Spotlight Cam is a great choice for folks who don’t want to replace their existing outdoor lighting with a camera/light combo. You don’t need to deal with bare electrical wires, you just plug it into a nearby outdoor socket. And if you don’t have one of those, you can buy a battery-operated model and trickle-charge it with a solar panel. 

Best budget home security camera

Xiaomi’s Mi Home Security Camera isn’t quite as cheap as our previous pick in this category—the $20 Wyze Cam V2—but Xiaomi’s Mi Home Security Camera is an even better value at $40. 

What to look for when shopping

Most home security cameras perform the same basic functions—they detect an event, record the event, and send you an alert—but they don’t all perform them the same way. And some cameras have special features that go beyond those basics. Here are some common features you’ll encounter while shopping and why they’re important (we’ve listed them in alphabetical order). In each of the reviews that follow this buyers’ guide, we’ll discuss how each camera delivers on these features.

How to choose a home security camera

Alerts: Home security cameras push notifications to your smartphone when they detect events. Without watching the live feed all day, this is the only way to keep tabs on your home in relative real time. Depending on the camera, it may send text alerts when it detects motion, sound, a face (known or unrecognized), or all three. Some can send alerts to multiple people, usually anyone else in the household using that product’s app; others will send emails in addition to text messages as a failsafe in the event you can’t access your mobile device.

Flir

The Flir FX’s battery backup ensures the camera will continue to operate during a power outage. 

Battery backup: Power outages happen, and clever burglars cut electricity before breaking into your home. When that happens, your camera goes dark and, if there’s a crime taking place, you lose all forensic evidence. For this reason, some cameras can also run for a short time on battery power. It’s a feature worth looking for.

Cloud recording: Many manufacturers offer cloud storage plans with their camera. With one of these, your recorded video is sent to a remote server and stored for a predetermined time— usually anywhere from 24 hours to a week—and then deleted to make space for new videos. Though sometimes free, these cloud plans usually require a monthly subscription, but are worth it both for their convenience and if you want a surveillance record during a vacation or other extended time away from home.

Environmental monitoring: This is the feature that sets all-in-one home monitors apart from strictly-security cameras. Though the home “vitals” that these units track vary by model—we’ve seen everything from motion to luminosity included in home health profiles—three tend to be ubiquitous:

  • Temperature monitors for spikes and dips in indoor temperature and alerts when it falls outside a range you define.
  • Humidity tracks relative humidity inside your home. Humidity outside optimal levels—usually defined as between 30 and 50 percent—can contribute to problems such as static electricity, sinus irritation, and mold growth.
  • Air quality tracks pollutants ranging from cooking odors to carbon monoxide. However, most monitors don’t identify the pollutant in their alerts, merely warning that the air quality is “abnormal.” Because of that, this feature should not be considered a substitute for potentially life-saving devices like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Netatmo

The Netatmo Welcome supports facial recognition and can alert you when people it doesn’t recognize come within its field of view (our review).

Facial recognition: A few newer cameras are experimenting with facial recognition. This feature could more accurately be called “facial identification,” as in practice it’s much better at distinguishing a face from, say, a lamp, than it is at actually distinguishing between one person’s face and another’s. If you opt for a camera with this feature, know that it typically learns faces through increasing exposure to them, so be prepared to spend a lot of time in front of the lens.

Local storage: Some cameras include memory-card slots in lieu of, or in addition to, cloud storage, so you can store video right on the device. It’s an attractive feature as it can eliminate the cost of monthly storage fees. The downside (if there isn’t a cloud backup) is that if a crook steals your camera, he takes your forensic evidence with it.

Mobile app: Most of today’s home security camera’s are accessed primarily through a smartphone/tablet app. In addition to offering you a reliable way to view the camera’s live feed, it should offer plenty of options for customizing the way the camera performs. The ability to customize notifications, adjust motion and sound detection sensitivity, and set detection areas are some of the key features to look for. The app should also be intuitive and easy to master.

Myfox

Any home security camera worth its salt will support motion detection. 

Motion detection: Assuming you’re monitoring your home when it’s empty, motion detection is one of the most desirable features in a security camera. Built-in sensors pick up movement within the camera’s field of view and trigger video recording.

You’ll find an in-depth explanation of how motion detection works in this article.

Because these sensors are sensitive to any movement—even a shift in lighting or leaves blowing outside a window—it’s important the camera system also offer the ability to narrow the range of detection, adjust the sensor’s sensitivity, or otherwise customize this feature to cut down on false alerts.

Night vision: Most break-ins occur after dark, so this feature is nearly as important as motion detection. Technically, most home security cameras support infrared LED illumination, versus true night vision based on image intensification or thermal vision. Be that as it may, some camera’s will switch to night vision automatically in low-light conditions, while others allow you to customize when and how it should be activated.

Pan/Tilt/Swivel: Most security cameras—including all the ones in this guide—can be manually tilted and swiveled to focus on a certain viewing area, but this is a purely set-it-and-forget it feature. A true pan/tilt camera is equipped with a motor so that you can move its lens—or even follow a moving object if you’re watching a live feed—using its app or browser-based app.

Nest Labs

The Nest Labs Nest Cam delivers higher-than-typical 1080p video resolution.

Resolution: No amount of security video will help you if it’s blurry, jittery, or otherwise distorted. Look for a camera that offers the highest possible resolution. Most currently offer 720p (often referred to as “high definition” or HD), but some newer cameras are coming out with 1080p (often referred to as “full HD”). Keep in mind higher-res cameras use more internet and Wi-Fi bandwidth and battery life. Many cameras also offer a software zoom feature (which is not the same thing as having a physical zoom lens).

Scheduling: Scheduling features allow you to tell the camera to turn on and off, detect motion, and/or send alerts at specified times. This is useful when you, say, only want to be notified when your kids get home from school or just want to monitor your home when you’re away. It also reduces the amount of false alerts.

Security: There have been plenty of headlines about hackers compromising home cameras, baby monitors, and other Wi-Fi devices to spy on people, so be sure to check what steps has each manufacturer taken to eliminate this problem. Look for a camera that supports up-to-date wireless security protocols, such as WPA2, and make sure it encrypts internet transmission of your user name, your password, and the live feeds. Never install a security camera (or a router or any other device on your home network) without changing its default user ID and password.

Smart device integration: If you have a home full of smart devices, consider looking for a security camera or an all-in-one home monitor that includes a Z-Wave, ZigBee, or—eventually a Thread—radio that can connect them. Support for an automation service such as IFTTT or Stringify is also useful. This allows the camera or monitor to react to various scenarios, such as taking a picture when your Nest Protect detects smoke, or telling your Philips Hue smart bulb to turn on when unexpected sounds are detected.

Logitech

Logitech’s Circle home-security camera features two-way audio.

Two-way audio: While the idea of a security camera implies eyes-on monitoring, the ability to also hear what’s going on gives you a more complete picture of what’s happening on the home front when you’re away. It can also alert you to something occurring out of the camera’s field of vision. This feature can also allow you to speak through the camera, a great tool for remotely commanding an unruly pet or startling an intruder in the act, but be aware that you might need to plug in a powered speaker for this feature to work.

Viewing angle: The camera’s field of view determines how much it can see. As you’re probably monitoring a single room, you want a wide viewing angle. Most current cameras fall in the 130-degree range. These wide angles can sometimes cause image distortion at the edges in the form of a fisheye effect, particularly when used in smaller rooms, but it’s not like you’re going to use a security to capture snapshots for your photo album.

Web client: Many cameras can be accessed through a web portal as well. This is useful for times when you don’t have access to your mobile device or a wireless connection. The web app should closely mirror its mobile counterpart, so you don’t need to learn a whole new set of controls.

Wireless range: One of the benefits wireless cameras offer is the ability to move them around your home. Ideally, your home security camera should be able to maintain a Wi-Fi connection no matter how far you move it from your router, even in a large home. Some cameras come with an ethernet port as well, so you have the option of hardwiring it to your local network. A camera that supports power-over-ethernet (PoE) eliminates the need for an AC adapter and relies on just one cable (but your router or switch will also need to support PoE. Another alternative would be to use a PoE injector.) 

Our home security camera reviews

You’ll find hands-on reviews of select home-security cameras below. Click on the product name you’re interested to go directly to that review. You’ll find a complete list of our security camera coverage here.

At a Glance

The Arlo Pro 2 adds polish to an already impressive camera.

Pros

  • Can be use indoors or outdoors
  • Customizable motion zones
  • Can operate on either AC power or a rechargeable battery

Cons

  • Motion zones are only enabled when connected to AC power

Arlo Go is a fantastic security camera, but its price tag and ongoing fees for 3G service make it a luxury for all but those with the most serious mobile surveillance needs.

Pros

  • Connects to the internet from anywhere with celluar service
  • Excellent video quality
  • Can operate on battery power, so it's entirely wireless

Cons

  • More than twice the cost of many very good Wi-Fi security cameras that aren't battery powered
  • Entails the recurring cost of a mobile data plan

The Amazon Cloud Cam is an excellent security camera with strong ties to other Amazon hardware and services.

Pros

  • Excellent video quality
  • Motion detection can differentiate between human activity and other movement
  • Can view camera feed on Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV devices, and Fire tablets

Cons

  • Some advanced features require a cloud-storage subscription
  • No provision for manually recording video or taking a screenshot of your feed
  • You'll need to buy a replacement power cord to enroll in the Amazon Key service

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is an outstanding outdoor security camera for anyone invested in the Nest ecosystem.

Pros

  • 4K sensor and 1080p video
  • Facial recognition and intelligent audio alerts
  • Supports motion and audio detection zones

Cons

  • Requires you to drill a hole in your exterior wall
  • Expensive

With its cordless operation, onboard backup storage, and advanced AI features, the Ooma Butterfleye is one of our favorite home security cameras.

Pros

  • Can continue recording video during power and/or internet outages
  • Accurately detects people and pets and recognizes faces
  • Delivers detailed alerts about detected activity

Cons

  • Some features require a cloud subscription
  • No conventional night vision

If you can mount this camera in a sunny location, it will deliver all the benefits of the AC-powered model without requiring an unsightly cable or an outdoor power outlet.

Pros

  • All the same features as the excellent AC-powered model
  • Solar panel included in the package

Cons

  • Lack of local storage means video won't record if you lose your internet connection

The Spotlight Cam provides great security for vulnerable outdoor areas.

Pros

  • Spotlights activate when motion is detected
  • Customizable motion zones
  • Does not require wiring to indoor outlet

Cons

  • Lack of local storage means video won't record if you lose your internet connection

The Mi offers flexible, full-featured home security at a budget price.

Pros

  • 1080p video with motion detection
  • Smart identification feature won't record identified family members (within limitations)
  • Can customize motion-detection sensitivity for different areas within a room

Cons

  • No sound detection

The Brinno SHC1000 Peephole Camera is an easy—but expensive—way to detect and capture evidence of package theft and knock-knock burglaries.

Pros

  • Detects motion and knocks on your door
  • Logs video of all your visitors
  • Concealed from anyone coming to your door

Cons

  • Costs as much or more than some full-featured security cameras

The Canary View makes a great companion to the Canary All-In-One, but it's also a strong home security camera on its own.

Pros

  • Budget-friendly price
  • Supports person detection and motion detection zones
  • Easy-to-use app

Cons

  • A Membership subscription is required to unlock all of its features

The brand might not be as familiar, but they’re not newbies. The Maximus Camera Floodlight delivers a strong set of features at a compelling price.

Pros

  • High-quality security camera
  • Floodlights illuminate a large area
  • Two-way communication, pre-recorded greetings, and a 100dB siren

Cons

  • Can’t stream a live feed to an Amazon Echo Show or Echo Spot
  • No neighborhood watch-like features
  • Industrial/insectoid looks

Nest Cam doesn’t improve much on the Dropcam Pro, but it doesn’t need to. It’s an excellent camera if your serious about home security.

Pros

  • Sleek, sturdy construction
  • Accurate motion detection
  • Easy-to-use app

Cons

  • Nest Aware subscription required to access most security features
  • Sends alerts only once every 30 minutes
  • Weak sound detection

The Netatmo Presence is an exceptionally good, easy to install outdoor security camera that can replace your porch light.

Pros

  • 1080p video resolution
  • Powerful, dimmable floodlight
  • No subscription fees
  • IFTTT compatible

Cons

  • Might not match your architectural aesthetic
  • Operates only on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks
  • Video is stored locally in the camera (there are back-up options)

If image quality and ease of use are priorities, the Reolink C2 Pro is a great security camera for your home or small business.

Pros

  • Excellent image quality
  • Can record continuously or as motion is detected
  • Does not require a subscription for cloud storage

Cons

  • No sound detection
  • microSD card support is great, but this one limits you to 64GB

The Reolink Go is a great security camera option for locations where Wi-Fi connectivity isn't available, but it requires access to T-Mobile's cellular network.

Pros

  • 4G connectivity lets you connect anywhere you get T-Mobile cellular service
  • PIR motion detection minimizes false alerts
  • Simple setup

Cons

  • Might not work where 4G signal is weak
  • No Wi-Fi option

The Wisenet SmartCam N2's reliable facial detection makes it a great option for keeping tabs on your kids or elderly parents.

Pros

  • Facial recognition and abnormal sound detection
  • 1080p full HD video
  • Local and cloud recording options

Cons

  • Lacks conventional night vision, so it can't see in pitch black

The addition of some welcome features improves an already impressive budget-priced home security camera.

Pros

  • Amazon Alexa and IFTTT integration
  • 14 days of rolling video history free
  • Motion tagging feature makes it easy to follow moving objects

Cons

  • Accessing recorded video clips is confusing

The Wyze Cam Pan offers premium pan-and-tilt functionality at a ridiculously low price.

Pros

  • Motorized pan-and-tilt with movement tracking and tagging
  • 14 days of rolling video history free
  • Amazon Alexa and IFTTT integration

Cons

  • Accessing recorded video clips is confusing
  • Doesn't currently work with Google Home

Canary is a strong home-security system with a few significant shortcomings.

Pros

  • Terrific price/performance ratio
  • High-resolution camera
  • Relatively sophisticated security features

Cons

  • Limited integration with other connected-home systems
  • No direct tie-in with other sensors in the home
  • No cellular or battery backup

Smart-home buffs will find much to love about this camera, but other users might want a simpler security solution.

Pros

  • 1080p full HD video
  • Can remotely pan and tilt to preset waypoints
  • Motion and audio detection

Cons

  • Automation-based app isn't for users who want a simple out-of-the-box solution
  • Unintuitive and complex app

The Ring Floodlight Cam is easy to recommend if you’re already vested in the Ring ecosystem. Your decision will be more complicated if you haven’t gone down that path.

Pros

  • This product fits in well with the impressive ecosystem Ring is building out
  • Excellent video quality
  • Multiple user-defined motion zones

Cons

  • Without a subscription, you can only monitor the camera in real time
  • Operates only on 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks
  • You can’t control the floodlight with voice commands

The RCA WiFi Camera Security System is an adequate but ordinary performer.

Pros

  • Remote pan and tilt
  • No cloud storage, so no subscription fees
  • Motion, sound, and temperature alerts

Cons

  • Underwhelming design
  • Very narrow viewing angle without resorting to pan and tilt

The SimCam brings advanced AI features to modest budgets, but its manufacturer needs to work out some bugs.

Pros

  • 1080p resolution
  • in-camera artificial intelligence
  • No subscription fees

Cons

  • Some features perform inconsistently
  • No option for cloud backup if camera is stolen or destroyed
  • Seems like a work in progress