Home Security Camera Buyers Guide

Home Security Camera Buyers Guide

Finding The Right Security Camera For Your Home Network

In not much time at all, we went from low-resolution baby cams that were difficult to set up and temperamental to operate to the HD, WiFi-connected remote control wonders of technology that we have today. The typical home security camera can be set up in minutes and accessed from a remote location with a smartphone or a cloud storage account.

security camera user

As the market for IP cameras grew so did their capabilities. The field of IP cameras has expanded to the point where it has a language all its own. You need to have a good basic knowledge of their various features and capabilities before making a decision on which one is for you.

Security Camera Features To Look For

There’s a lot to know when it comes to security cameras and all the different options can get overwhelming. The purpose of this guide is to give you an overview of the most important features to look for when shopping for a home security camera.

Only you know the requirements you have for your home network. The following is a list of questions to ask yourself about each camera you look at before deciding on which one is for you. 

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How Is It Powered?

Most cameras will either be powered by batteries or AC power. The placement of a camera powered by AC power is limited to the length of its power cord or any extension cables you may use. Battery life is also a limiting factor. Consider whether replaceable or rechargeable batteries work for you. The Blink Indoor Cam is designed to last up to two years on 2 AA lithium batteries. Some outdoor cameras like the Ring Stick Up Cam offer the option of solar power to keep batteries charged.

Another option is POE or Power Over Ethernet. POE uses your Ethernet cable to charge the camera and requires a POE switch to send power through the cable.

How Is The Audio Quality?

Most indoor security cameras have built-in speakers and microphones that allow you to hear what going on as well as speak to family members through the mobile app. Make sure the audio is “two-way” meaning there’s both a speaker and a microphone. Good quality is important too. Some cameras will screech and make annoying feedback noise. This can usually be remedied by adjusting the volume.

How Does It Connect?

Most cameras are either connected by WiFi, Ethernet, or both. WiFi cameras should be kept on the 2.5GHZ band to prevent them from interfering with more bandwidth-intensive devices like HD TVs and game consoles. Some cameras like the Blink Indoor Cam don’t rely on Ethernet or WiFi at all. They connect to a hub or module device using RF (radio frequency) waves and the module is in turn connected to your home network by WiFi. Considering the extra device Blink cameras are surprisingly easy to set up.

Does It Have Zoom Capability?

I consider Zoom a luxury item. If a camera you like doesn’t have zoom it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Affordable security cams use digital zoom which reduces picture quality the more you zoom in by pinching the screen on your mobile device. It can be kind of an annoying feature. Optical zoom is better but more expensive.

Is It Durable?

Most of the cameras on this site are indoor cameras so durability shouldn’t be much of a concern. Durability is important when it comes to outdoor cameras like the Ring Stick Up Cam because of their exposure to the elements. Outdoor cameras should be weatherized and have an IP (Ingress Protection) rating. For example, the Ring Stick Up Cam has an IP rating of IPX5 which means it can withstand low-pressure jets of water from all directions. Learn more about IP ratings here.

Can It Integrate With Smart Home Devices?

Home automation is another important consideration. You can expect a security camera like the Google Nest Cam to work with Google Home devices or the Ring Stick Up Cam that was recently purchased by Amazon to work with Alexa home automation but what about other smart home devices? Usually, it will be difficult to find a security camera that works with Alexa, Google, and Apple because of the competing technologies.

A new standard of communication called IFTTT allows you to download “recipes” to your mobile phone app to integrate with smart home devices such as smart light switches and air conditioners in your home. Find more information on IFTTT and home automation here.

Can It Send Out Notifications?

If something happens while you’re away from home what better way to find out about it than having your security camera notify you through your mobile phone? Most security cameras available today have some sort of way to text you in case it detects motion, changes in light, or even temperature in your home. Many motion sensors are very sensitive and you may find yourself getting notifications every time your cat moves or a tree stirring outside causes a shadow to move in your home. The sensitivity to motion can usually be controlled with the security camera app or web interface. You can also create “activity zones” for the camera to focus on or ignore.

How Does It Store Recordings?

As nice as it is to whip out your phone and see what’s going on in your home using your camera’s mobile app it doesn’t help much with events that take place before or after your Live View session.

You need a way to record and store the video so you can review it later. This is usually done using local or cloud storage. Local storage is usually done with a micro-SD card inserted into a camera, a USB flash drive, a hard drive on a computer on your network such as a NAS. The advantage of local storage is it’s easy to use and cheap.

Cloud storage usually involves paying for a subscription but it allows you to view recordings from anywhere. The Amcrest ProHD IP2M-841B can be configured to work with a Synology NAS that’s set up for remote access. A setup like this eliminates the need for a cloud service. I illustrate how to make the Amcrest Pro HD store recordings on a Synology NAS in my Free eBook.

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Does It Have Night Vision?

There are 24 hours in a day and only half of those are during daylight so night vision is an important feature for a security camera to have. To achieve night vision a security cam will use a series of infrared LED sensors placed around the lens that actually detect heat using IR or electromagnetic radiation. This produces a black and white image that’s not so pleasing to the eye but provides an accurate representation of what’s going on.

How Wide Is The Field Of View?

Field of view is the measure of how wide-angle a camera’s lens is. The mathematical limit is 180 degrees. As you can imagine that would create a lot of distortion. A good number for a security camera with no pan function is 120. If your camera has pan functionality an extreme wide-angle lens is not needed.

How Much Cloud Storage?

If you plan on using cloud storage instead of local storage you may want to do a little research on the camera manufacturer’s website to learn all the ins and outs of their cloud subscriptions before making your purchase. Usually, a cloud subscription will run you about $3 to $6 monthly depending on how much video you want to be stored. Some have free plans that offer a limited amount of storage time.

Is It Easy To Set Up?

One reason security cameras have become so popular is they’re so easy to set up. More expensive, security systems with multiple cameras and a central recording device such as a DVR require professional installation.

The standard home security cameras listed on this website usually involve little more than turning them on, scanning a QR code with your mobile phone to get it connected to your home network and placing it on a table, or attaching it to a wall with the included mounting hardware. The default settings usually work well on most security cameras. Any customizations can be done with the mobile app or web interface.

Top 5 Security Cameras

1. Ring Stick Up Cam

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Ring Stick Up Cam Battery HD security camera with custom privacy controls,...

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Last update was on: January 4, 2023 4:52 am

Given that outdoor security cameras can typically be costly and somewhat challenging to set up, the Ring Stick Up Cam Battery is a good choice if you’re looking for a reliable, affordable outdoor camera. It offers good-quality views both inside and outside. The solar-panel option allows for flexibility when setting up in locations with poor accessibility.

Ring Stick Up Cam Full Review

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Ring Stick Up Cam Design The Ring Stick Up Cam looks almost identical to the Ring Indoor cam. The battery pack and weatherized shell add some size, flexibility, and about $40 to the price. The …

2. Google Nest Indoor

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Google Nest Cam Indoor - 1st Generation - Wired Indoor Camera -...

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The Google Nest Cam Indoor has a sleek design. The matte-black plastic camera and its grey metal stand can be disconnected if you wish to conceal or make it less conspicuous. Why they selected to couple it with a white USB wire is a head-scratcher. Above the eye of the lens is a blue light that flashes blue when attempting to connect, and is solid green when recording.

The Nest Cam Indoor is an excellent device and the application is well designed, and simple to use, but you would expect to pay more for this quality. The major shortcomings of the camera are its high price, the need to subscribe to gain access to all of its features, and its requirement for integration with other smart home products.

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Blink Indoor – wireless, HD security camera with two-year battery life, motion...

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The Blink Indoor Camera features two parts: the camera and the inner hub or Sync Module. The Sync Module serves as the hub for the camera, and once it is wirelessly linked to your home WiFi, setting up the camera is a simple matter of connecting to the batteries, turning on the camera, and scanning the QR code using your phone.

The camera automatically detects and establishes a connection with the SYNC module. It seems complicated but in fact, it’s a quite useful way to streamline the process.

Blink Indoor Full Review

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The Blink Indoor Security Camera is one of the newest indoor cameras on the market. It has a sleek design and is very easy to use. This camera can be placed almost anywhere in your home and …

4. Wyze Cam Pan

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Wyze Cam Pan v2 1080p Pan/Tilt/Zoom Wi-Fi Indoor Smart Home Camera with...

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For such a flat, boring 5-inch tall plastic cube, the Wyze Cam Pan is so outstanding when it comes to features that matter. The motorized base provides a full 360-degree pan range and the ball-like lens allows for 90 degrees of tilt. In addition to the features you would expect to find in so little of a price—cloud storage, motion and sound detection, time-lapse recording, etc.—it even has IFTTT integration.

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5. Amcrest ProHD

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Amcrest ProHD 1080P WiFi Camera 2MP (1920TVL) Indoor Pan/Tilt Security Wireless IP...

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The Amcrest Pro HD offers outstanding performance and a wide range of storage options. The self-enhancement of others by pushing the DVR to the cloud irks quite a few of the Amcrest Pro HD ‘s configuration options. Some of the settings in the web browser can be too daunting, so I recommend keeping it simple.

The image quality is a bit distorted in some spots but remains excellent with varying amounts of colour. The NAS compatibility is the cherry on top if you re an NAS user. In my Free eBook, I show you how to modify the Amcrest Pro HD to work with a Synology NAS as storage.

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Buzzwords You Should Know

Cloud Storage

You probably already have some form of Cloud Storage for your music, pictures, and videos. A security camera cloud storage account is virtually the same thing except that the videos are placed in the cloud by your camera. Your camera uses the cloud as storage instead of a local hard drive or microSD card. The nice thing about it is you can log into it and review your camera’s video recordings from anywhere on the Internet. 

PTZ

PTZ is simply an acronym for Pan, Tilt, and Zoom. Pan is the camera’s ability to scan left and right on its axis. Tilt is scanning up and down and Zoom is the lens using either optical or digital technology to move the image closer or farther away. Digital zoom usually creates a blurry, distorted image. Optical zoom is better but more expensive. 

Live View

Live View is a common term that describes using your camera’s mobile app or web interface to view what your camera is capturing as it happens. The distinction between Live View and recording is important because what you see with Live View is gone the instant it happens. Live View is probably not being saved to local or cloud storage unless the recording has been triggered by a motion, light, or sound sensor.

POE

POE stands for Power Over Ethernet. Only 4 wires in an Ethernet cable are actually used for data communication. That allows unused wires (Usually the brown and white pair.) to be used to transmit other things such as electric current. A special POE switch must be used to transmit electric current through the cable to provide power to the device as well as data. POE is usually used by outdoor cameras. None of the cameras featured on this website use POE but it’s important to know about it in case your situation calls for it.

QR Code

A QR code is a sort of digital device serial number that can be read and recorded by your phone’s camera lens. Like a serial number a QR code is unique and identifies that device and that device only. When you scan your camera’s QR code with your mobile phone the phone must be on the same wireless network you are placing your security camera on.

Once the QR code is captured the camera’s mobile app associates that QR code with the WiFi network settings on the phone and creates a marriage between that security camera and your home network. The app encodes all this info and stores it in an online account that allows you to access your security camera from anywhere. This technology is so awesome it’s almost scary but it’s the age we live in.

microSD

Some cameras may use bulky USB drives for local storage but most cameras use the same tiny storage chips you use in your phone. These tiny memory chips are capable of storing GBs of video and can easily be inserted and removed from a security camera. Viewing recordings on your microSD chip doesn’t require and special cloud service. The only disadvantage is it’s not being stored in the cloud so it can’t be accessed from anywhere.

IFTTT

IFTTT stands for IF This Then That. It’s a clever way to describe a logical chain of events. An example of a logical chain of events could be IF you flip the light switch THEN the light will go on. (Or off.) IFTTT is a special app that you can download to your mobile phone and use to create applets or “recipes” that allow devices of different types to interact with each other. If a security camera works with IFTTT it can be set up to work with home automation devices. 

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Jerry Jones (WiFi Guy) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

“As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” – Jerry Jones

Affiliate Disclosure

Jerry Jones (WiFi Guy) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

“As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” – Jerry Jones

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