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Security cameras are a popular investment among homeowners—and for fairly obvious reasons. Both your house and its contents are valuable, and a security camera is an inexpensive way to keep an eye on items you hold dear.
Modern security cameras are much more high-tech than their VHS predecessors, with many allowing you to view real-time footage through your phone or desktop. The following are some of the best stand-alone security cameras on the market today, both for in and outdoor use. Whether you’re looking for a camera to watch over your yard or a product that lets you monitor your home at night, there’s a high-quality, affordable option to fit your needs.
Best Overall: Arlo Pro 3 2-Camera Indoor/Outdoor Wire-Free 2K HDR Security Camera System
If you're looking for a reliable and powerful security camera to install on your property, our top choice is the Arlo Pro 3 Security Camera System. This camera security system can be installed inside your home or outside—or both since it comes with two cameras. It’s free from any unsightly, complicated wires, and comes with a base station that you connect to your router. (Here’s what you need to know about wired vs. wireless security cameras.) The cameras have a simple, stylish design, and are small enough that they can be mounted somewhat discreetly. They’re also weather-proof, so you don’t need to worry about the elements damaging the devices if you’re putting the camera up outside.
Reviewers note that the set-up is easy—and fast. Once it’s in place, you’ll be able to view the video (both live and recorded) from the cameras directly on your smartphone. If you want, you can set up notifications so that you get an alert when there are people, animals, or vehicles in camera range. You can tweak the sensitivity to suit your environment—that is, if you live in an area with lots of animals, you might want to raise the bar for what qualifies for an alert.
This device has a lot of key features: since the cameras come with an LED light, viewing at nighttime is easy. There is a built-in two-way speaker, so you can speak to visitors and hear from them too. And, there’s also a siren to frighten away intruders.
Best Outdoor: Google Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera
As is appropriate for a device designed for the outdoors, the Google Nest is built to withstand the elements (bright sunshine, torrential rain, and so on). The camera comes with everything you need to install it yourself. No hub is required for this camera to work—and, since it plugs in, you won’t need to worry about replacing batteries. Reviewers note that set-up is easy for this security camera. The Nest Cam Outdoor sends an alert when there is activity. Use the app for the camera to communicate with visitors, intruders, or delivery people.
There is live video around the clock, that’s viewable even at nighttime thanks to night vision. Plus, the camera also stores 30 days of history, in case you need to go back and view the recording—it’s easy to share these videos, too, whether you want to post a video of the neighborhood’s wildlife on social media, or more urgently, share a recording with the police. Reviewers appreciate the “crisp” high-quality video, although some caution that there’s a delay when you’re speaking through the camera.
Best Wireless: Ring Spotlight Cam Solar Outdoor Security Wireless Standard Surveillance Camera
Want to avoid tacking down wires and placing your camera near an outlet? The motion-activated Ring Spotlight Cam Battery provides HD video. And since it uses solar power to charge the batteries, you won’t have to worry about replacing the batteries all the time. This is a feature reviewers particularly appreciate, noting that you just need one to two hours of sunshine for the solar panels.
Motion sensors can be adjusted to fit the sensitivity level that makes sense—that is, if there are lots of deer, you may want to opt for a less sensitive setting. During set-up, you’ll link the camera to the device of your choice (computer, phone, or tablet). Reviewers report set-up is reasonably quick, and praise the camera’s clear instructions. Once the camera is installed, you’ll get an alert when the sensors are set off—as needed, you can watch and hear the video, speak to anyone on your property, or set off a blaring alarm to discourage intruders.
While many reviewers found the camera quality up to their needs, some wished they were able to zoom in for a more detailed view.
Best System: Blink XT2 3-Camera Indoor/Outdoor Wire-Free 1080p Surveillance System
There’s a lot to love when it comes to the Blinkxt2 camera: it can be used indoors or outdoors, runs for two years on one set of batteries, and allows you to stream live video and use two-way audio. And, no monthly subscription is required (you can store two hours worth of video on the cloud for free).
Reviewers appreciate how quick the installation is and that the system can be integrated with Alexa. Use this system to monitor your puppy from afar, watch over the baby in the nursery, or guard against intruders since the cameras are suitable for both indoor and outdoor coverage. Customers also mention that the video quality, audio, and night vision are all excellent.
Best Indoor: Logitech Circle 2 Indoor/Outdoor Wired Home Security Camera
This Logitech camera can also be mounted outside. But it’s most ideal for indoor spaces. It stores video for 24 hours for free on the cloud and offers alerts when motion is detected. Through the two-way talk, you can respond to those alerts. You can also see a 30-second timelapse video of a whole day’s worth of activity (to save you the time fast-forwarding through footage). Note: you will need to be able to connect this camera to your WiFi. For people with spotty coverage, this might not be the best option.
This Logitech device can be integrated with Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, and Google Assistant. Reviewers appreciate the video quality, ease of setup and installation, and the intuitive app. Reviewers also appreciate what’s available for free, as well as the add-ons that come with a paid subscription.
Best Budget-Friendly: Wyze 1080p Cam HD Wi-Fi Wired Indoor Smart Home Camera
Security cameras can be a pricey product. For a budget-friendly pick, the Wyze Cam has some great features: the app allows you to stream live, and you can also use the app to opt to get push notifications when motion or sound is detected. The short video clips from when motion or sound is detected are stored on the cloud—for free—for two weeks. Although the video quality is good, some reviewers point out that the video clips are too short to be helpful.
The app also offers two-way talk/hear options. This camera system integrates with both Alexa and Google Assistant. While some reviewers pointed out that the instructions were a bit tough to follow, the set-up and installation process was overall quite seamless.
Best Wired: Night Owl C20X Series 8-Channel, 4-Camera Indoor/Outdoor Wired 1080p 1TB DVR Surveillance System
Spotty WiFi? A wired option can be helpful. This indoor-outdoor weather-resistant option comes with four cameras. You can add more if necessary. The video records in high resolution and full color (even at night time). There is also an option to record in black and white. Reviewers appreciated the video quality.
As well as watching live, the camera’s footage is also stored on a hard drive. While set-up takes some time, since you have to install cameras, reviewers report that it was straight-forward and relatively easy. Some reviewers noted that the app was a bit cumbersome and frustrating to use.
If you’re looking for an intelligent indoor security camera to monitor your home, the Arlo Pro 3 Security Camera System (view at Best Buy) is our top choice. This advanced security system captures high definition footage and then sends real-time notifications to your phone. The Google Nest Cam Outdoor Security Camera (view at Home Depot) is a close runner-up that also boasts excellent video quality.
What to Look for in Security Cameras
When choosing a security camera, think about what you want to accomplish with the video and decide how you want it available. Some models offer cloud storage, which lets you save video separate from the camera (sometimes for a monthly fee). Other cameras record video directly onto the device, which is helpful if you want a hard copy of your footage, but can be an issue if your camera is lost or damaged.
Security cameras usually come in two basic options: battery-powered or outlet-powered, though select cameras allow for both. Batteries are a good pick if your camera will be used somewhere you can easily access it when it needs to be recharged or the batteries changed. Outlet-powered is better if your camera needs to stay in one place for a long time or will need to be recording more often, which can drain battery life.
How do you install security cameras?
Security cameras that are plugged into an outlet will often need to be mounted and secured, requiring a drill. Battery-operated, wire-free cameras don’t require drilling and can be posed on a shelf. Installation of security cameras may include connecting the system to your router and syncing with an operating app if you control them using your smartphone or computer.
How long do security cameras keep footage?
It varies. Most businesses keep security footage from 30 to 90 days. Home security cameras may use SD cards to store footage with varying size limits. Cloud-based storage allows you to keep footage forever.
How many security cameras do I need?
This is a personal choice. If you’re simply worried about porch pirates, you might install a single camera that covers the front door. If you’re concerned about covering the driveway, front and back yard, garage, children’s rooms, and the room where you keep your safe, then adjust that number accordingly. The owner of a large home with multiple access points, and art and valuables inside every room, might feel more at ease installing a comprehensive security system that covers the entire property.
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Madeleine Burry is a health and wellness writer for The Spruce. Her work has been featured in media outlets such as Women's Health, Livestrong.com, Good Housekeeping, and more.