Choosing a security camera is something of a minefield these days. Indoor, outdoor, battery or mains powered, and that’s before you start looking at cameras from different manufacturers.
Add in factors such as whether a subscription is needed or not and it can become quite overwhelming.
But that’s where we come in. Here you’ll find recommendations for indoor and outdoor cameras, so whether you need something to watch what happens outside your home, or inside it, we’ve got you covered.
While all cameras are wireless, this means they use Wi-Fi to connect to the internet instead of a cable. If you’re thinking of buying one to put in an elderly relative’s home to keep tabs on them, remember to factor in the cost of broadband (or mobile broadband) as a Wi-Fi security camera simply won’t work without an internet connection.
Only battery-powered models are truly wireless. These are great if you plan to move the camera around your home regularly, but they make the most sense outdoors where there’s no mains power nearby. The downside is that you’ll have to recharge them, but there’s usually the option to connect a solar panel which can keep the battery topped up.
These security cameras allows you to see what they see wherever you happen to be thanks to companion apps that run on your phone.
On the whole, security cameras are easy to set up and require very little technical know-how. Some use cloud storage to store recorded video. Once uploaded, it’s safe from thieves who might steal the camera. Often you have to pay extra for cloud recording, but that’s not always the case.
How to choose a security camera for home
Expect the same basic functions from any security camera: detect an event, record the event and send you an alert. But, of course, their ability to determine what’s an important event and what’s not varies considerably, as does the experience in the app.
There’s two different types of recording. Some cameras record only when motion is detected but others can record constantly (like CCTV). If you’re looking to secure your business rather than a home, we’d recommend the latter, but these can often come at extra cost, and continuous recording isn’t usually possible on battery-powered cameras.
As with many gadgets, it’s unwise to choose on the basis of specifications alone. Our reviews will tell you how well they work in practice and whether their day and night video quality is any good.
Here are the models to buy, but carry on scrolling to find a more in-depth buying guide. And, if you’re looking for a security camera bargain, take a look at the best security camera deals.
Best Security Cameras 2021: Reviewed & Ranked
- Very affordable
- Good-quality video
- Short power cable
- Recording requires subscription
The Ring Indoor Cam is great value. It delivers impressive 1080p video, good night vision (even in ‘colour’), a built-in 110db siren, two-way talk and other features that you usually find only on premium smart security cameras costing a lot more.
The Ring app is really good and offers privacy-focused features such as disabling audio recording, which is useful for an indoor camera, along with access to previous recordings and other customisable settings.
It’s not perfect; the cable is too short to mount the camera far away from a socket and you can’t use geo-location to enable and disable recording and alerts, which is a little annoying.
But that doesn’t detract from the fact that, at this price, the Ring Indoor Cam is one of the best-value security cameras around.
Read our full Ring Indoor Cam review
- Very cheap
- Free cloud storage
- Motion detection is very basic
- Indoor use only
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the SmartCam won’t be any good because of its low price. But it does almost everything most people will need it to. If you don’t need the best image quality or all the frills and features, it’s a top option.
For free, the camera will record 12-second clips to the cloud and you can have up to one hour of recording per day for 14 days. If that’s not good enough for you, you can insert a microSD card into the camera and record longer clips, or subscribe to Neos Boost that increases clip length to 1 minute.
As a bonus, the SmartCam can become battery powered if you attach its USB cable to a power bank, so it can be completely wireless for a good few hours.
It even supports geo-location so you can set the camera to ‘arm’ when you leave home with your phone.
The downside is that motion detection isn’t very smart. It will alert you of any motion, even if it’s not relevant.
Read our full Neos SmartCam review
Arlo Essential Indoor Camera
- Good quality video
- Relatively expensive
- Requires subscription
Though budget by Arlo standards, the Essential is still much more expensive than some models here.
But it has a nifty feature: a shutter that covers the lens when you don’t want it recording. This also disabled the mic.
Video quality is great, and when you’re viewing the live feed you can talk to people near the camera thanks to a built-in speaker.
We like Arlo’s easy-to-use app, but it’s shame that you have to subscribe if you want any events to be recorded. And like some others here, some features are only available if you subscribe.
Read our full Arlo Essential Indoor Camera review
- IP66 water-resistance
- Free cloud storage
- Outdoor use
- Buffered recording
- Waterproof (IP66)
- Mains powered
The Hive View Outdoor offers an good combination of style, design and features. It’s also relatively easy to install as long as you have a convenient mains socket or can route the cable through a nearby window – the cable isn’t particularly long.
It offers a good range of features including two-way talk and is easy to use via the Hive app, and it’s even more convenient if you already have other Hive devices.
Clips are recorded when motion is detected, and they’re stored for free on a rolling 24-hour period so you don’t need to pay the monthly subscription unless you need more than 24 hours of footage.
Read our full Hive View Outdoor review
Netatmo Smart Outdoor Camera with Siren
- Built-in floodlight and Siren
- No subscription required
- HomeKit support
- No two-way talk
- No face or package recognition
We’re big fans of the Netatmo Outdoor Camera for a number of reasons. It doesn’t look like a security camera and the built-in floodlight is great.
Motion detection is pretty reliable, video quality is very good and you don’t have to pay any subscription fees, which saves a lot in the long run.
Just note that it doesn’t offer continuous video recording – only clips – and there’s no face recognition or talk-back speaker.
Read our full Netatmo Smart Outdoor Camera with Siren review
- Pan and tilt
- No subscription required
- Indoor use
- Pan & tilt
- No subscription
- Mains powered
There’s a lot to like about the TP-Link Tapo C200. It’s inexpensive and yet, unlike most rivals, has real pan-and-tilt support so the lens physically moves.
This provides 360° horizontal and 114° vertical coverage in any indoor space.
Video quality is good and the accompanying app is too, lacking only one or two handy features offered by others.
The deal-breaker for some will be the lack of a cloud storage option. However, it means you won’t be forking out a monthly fee to save your footage and you don’t have to pay a subscription to unlock key features as you do with the likes of the Ring and Nest.
Just note that your footage will be lost if the camera or microSD card are stolen.
Read our full TP-Link Tapo C200 review
- Pan and tilt
- Colour night vision
- Optional local storage
- Fussy design
- Cloud storage isn’t cheap
It’s not a sleek as Ring and Nest cameras, but the C8C offers proper pan and tilt so you can remotely adjust the view instead of being limited to whatever a fixed lens can see.
If offers sharp 1080p video and the motion detection is smart enough to recognise people so you can ignore other events.
You can subscribe to the cloud storage service, but there’s also a microSD card for local recording.
Read our full EZVIZ C8C review
- Indoor or outdoor use
- Free 7-day cloud recording
We have no quibbles with the quality of the Arlo Pro 2, so this is certainly one of the best 1080p cameras you can buy.
The kit is easy to setup and use, with a great image and lots of features – especially if you use it wired. You don’t even need to pay for any subscriptions if 7-day cloud storage is enough.
That’s a good thing because this kit is fairly expensive so that’s the main issue here. You’ll want to carefully consider how many cameras to buy from the start. Adding more later is not good value.
Read our full Arlo Pro 2 review
Security camera features explained
You should get notifications on your phone when the camera detects an event. Without watching the live feed constantly, this is the only way to keep tabs on your home in relative real time.
Some can send alerts to multiple people; others will send emails in addition to text messages.
Many cameras record video to a server in the cloud and store it for anything from 24 hours to a couple of weeks. Rarely offered free, these cloud plans typically require a monthly subscription, but may be worth buying for their convenience and, where available, 24/7 recording.
Some models offer facial recognition so you can get alerts when certain family members arrive home – or only if an unfamiliar face is spotted. It does work, but it’s not foolproof.
Some cameras include memory card slots to store video. We like this option as it can eliminate the cost of monthly storage fees – but if a thief steals your camera they take the evidence with them.
All the latest cameras can be set up and managed via a smartphone app. In addition to offering a way to view the camera’s live feed, apps let you adjust settings and turn on and off recording, motion detection and more.
Some are better than others, especially if you have multiple cameras.
Motion detection is achieved using built-in sensors or software algorithms pick up movement within the camera’s field of view and trigger video recording. Because you’re not interested in just anything that moves, it’s important to be able to choose which notifications you receive, and to be able to ignore motion in certain areas of the frame.
Some models can identify people, packages, cars and pets, while others aren’t as smart and will notify you even when it’s just a tree swaying in the wind.
Most burglaries happen after dark, so this feature is nearly as important as motion detection. Every camera here will switch to night vision automatically in low-light conditions, and most allow you to customise when and how it should be activated. This won’t work through windows, where you’ll see a reflection of the LEDs – that’s why you need an outdoor camera to monitor your garden or driveway.
Unfortunately, even on the most expensive cameras, night vision offers much worse quality than during the day. There’s less detail and where it’s claimed to be in colour, that’s either false colour (where colour is added to a black and white image) or it’s achieved using spotlights to light the scene.
Pan, Tilt & Swivel
Most security cameras can be manually tilted and swivelled to focus on a certain viewing area. A true pan/tilt camera is equipped with a motor so that you can move its lens using its app or browser-based app, but most home security cameras opt for wide-angle or fisheye lenses instead of physical movement.
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. However, bear in mind that video is often reduced in quality in order to upload it to the cloud, so it’s not the advantage you might think.
Look for HDR, which can bring out more detail.
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 want to be notified only when your children get home from school, or when you’re away. It can reduces the number of false alerts.
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…