"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."
It wasn’t all that long ago that home video surveillance was a bit of a rarity, requiring a professional installation and a serious investment. Now, you can keep an eye on your place at all times for a few hundred dollars—or even less for the most basic cameras—and handle the setup yourself in no time. Home security cameras can vary considerably from one to another, however, which makes it important to choose the right one (or ones) for your needs.
What to Consider
There are a few key distinctions that separate outdoor security cameras from each other, and can account for differences in price. Some need to be hardwired or plugged into an outdoor outlet, while others are battery-powered and can give you more flexibility in their placement. Most cameras also rely on WiFi for connectivity, which means you may also need a WiFi extender if you aren’t able to get a good signal outside. And, while video quality may not be of utmost importance for a security camera, you will want to make sure you can get clear footage in both daytime and nighttime—some cameras now even offer 4K recording, which can let you capture even the finest details.
How We Chose
To pick these outdoor security cameras, we turned to a slew of professional reviews from trusted publications like PCMag, CNET, Wirecutter, and others. We also looked at online customer reviews from Amazon, Walmart and other retailers, focusing on products that have consistently been rated at least four stars out of five.
Installing an outdoor security camera (or a few) is an easy and effective way to protect your home against a break-in. With motion detection and mobile alerts, they can record footage or provide a real-time HD feed so you can keep tabs on whatever’s going on outside your home, whether you’re in bed inside or on vacation 1,000 miles away.
Until fairly recently, the only options for personal home security were comprehensive (read: expensive) systems installed and monitored by security experts. Now you can set up your own cameras and home security system, and save a lot of money in the long run.
According to Security.org, simply having a clearly visible camera on your property serves as a strong deterrent for trespassers. With the best outdoor security cameras, that protection goes well beyond a simple deterrent, giving you more control and peace of mind.
Best Outdoor Security Cameras
The Expert: Over the years, I’ve set up several outdoor security cameras around my home and tested different doorbell and indoor security cameras, including the models from popular brands like Ring and Nest. Outside of testing for research and review purposes, I set up security cameras around my home following burglaries in our area. When I’m not writing about tech for Popular Mechanics, doing work for publications like Gear Patrol, Forbes, and Reviewed.
What to Consider When Buying an Outdoor Security Camera
Monitoring the area around your home has gotten easier with the rise of affordable, consumer-grade outdoor security cameras. They’re durable, weather-resistant, and you can install most of them without professional help. Knowing what features to look for will allow you to see when people—or animals—enter your property. Here are the things we recommend before buying an outdoor security camera.
Buying a Camera Vs Buying a “Security System”
When buying an outdoor security camera, you get a single device that can monitor motion and record video of potential intruders. In some situations, this can be enough–maybe there’s one specific spot where you’re worried about intruders sneaking inside undetected.
That said, most homeowners will need to buy multiple cameras, individually or as part of a set, to cover every window and door around their property. No matter how you choose to approach it, buying an outdoor security camera is more affordable and gives you more control than working with a security company.
Since you aren’t working with a security expert, making a plan and buying the gear you need to meet your security needs is essential. Whether that’s a single camera, multiple cameras, or an entire security system is up to you.
Finding a power source to keep your camera running may play a large role in where and how you set up your outdoor security camera. There are two types of consumer-grade home security cameras–Wired and battery-powered.
Wired security cameras are the more traditional choice. They draw power from your home’s power, so you’ll want to have an electrician install them. Despite the added up-front cost, a wired camera will never run out of power and offers a more secure and convenient experience in the long run.
If you’d rather avoid all that, there are also plenty of wireless security cameras powered by batteries. With a battery-powered camera, you have more flexibility for perfect placement–you just need to keep it within range of your Wi-Fi router. The downside, of course, is that you periodically have to recharge or replace the camera’s battery–usually once every few months.
In a recent and interesting wrinkle for wireless cameras, some manufacturers now offer a solar panel add-on for their cameras, giving you an alternative way to keep them powered without an outlet.
If you’re placing a camera outside, it needs to be able to withstand the elements. (Never use an “indoor” camera outside!) Most electronics, including security cameras, feature an Ingress Protection (IP) rating, which gives you a sense of how well they handle dust and moisture. The first digit (0-6) refers to the degree of protection against solid objects, while the second digit (0-9) refers to the protection against liquids. Generally speaking, outdoor security cameras offer an IP66 rating, which means they can withstand dust from the dirt in your yard and sprays of water, including rain and snow. That should protect them from general exposure, even in harsher climates like the southwest.
I live in Arizona, where temperatures are frequently over 100-degrees for half the year, and monsoons rage from June to September. Even with such harsh weather, my IP66-rated cameras can survive the heat, dust, and storms.
Motion and Sound Detection
To avoid recording 24/7, which wastes battery and storage, outdoor security cameras usually feature a motion sensor trigger that will tell the camera to start recording whenever there’s a chance you might need to see what’s happening. When something sets off the motion sensor, the camera will start recording its footage and send alerts to your designated devices, such as your phone.
Most modern cameras give you some ability to calibrate the motion sensor by setting motion zones in spots where you expect frequent false alarms, like a sidewalk. There are other smart features that can differentiate between people, animals, and vehicles. You should also have the ability to customize your notifications, so you’ll only receive an alert in certain situations, like if it detects a person.
Some cameras also feature microphones, enabling audio detection, which can trigger recording and alerts based on nearby sounds that may be out of view (like a window breaking). Audio detection is a useful extra layer in a few specific situations, like when a single camera can’t cover the entire side of your home, but may also lead to more nuisance alerts. If you decide to use one, we recommend customizing your audio alert sensitivity so you aren’t constantly getting notified when the neighbor’s dog barks.
Resolution and Field of View
The best outdoor security cameras should record video in Full HD (1080p) resolution, which captures enough detail to identify facial features or a car’s license plate. More expensive cameras can record at higher resolutions, such as 2K (2560 x 1440p) or 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) video, which will allow you to see smaller, more specific details. In a worst case scenario, a higher resolution may help, but a 1080p video will be plenty clear and give you more than enough information in most situations.
Your camera’s field of view (FOV), which in simple terms is how much of a scene the camera can see, is just as important as its resolution. With a wider FOV, your camera can see a wider area around your property, providing more coverage. For the best results, we recommend a model with a view between 130 and 180 degrees.
Sometimes things go bump in the night, so it helps to have a camera that can see in the dark. Some cameras feature an integrated spotlight that can illuminate its surroundings if motion is detected, improving its visibility in low-light situations. A spotlight can also act as a deterrent by making potential intruders more visible.
Most modern outdoor cameras offer some kind of night vision feature, which uses infrared (IR) lights to record a high-contrast black and white video in the dark. Top of the line cameras may be able to record standard video in low light, minimizing the need for night vision. Though they don’t look as good as a well-lit scene, low-light recordings still allow you to see more of what’s going on. Night vision, at the very least, will allow you to safely confirm whether the motion in your side yard is a raccoon or a person.
There’s no point in recording camera footage if you can’t store it for when you need it. Many manufacturers offer free cloud storage for a limited time–typically seven days–after which video is overwritten with new recordings. You can always download and save that footage, so long as you do during that initial window.
If you want to save your footage for a longer window, there are a couple of options. Many companies will let you pay a subscription fee for a larger amount of cloud storage in their system. Some will also feature a slot for a microSD card, which will allow you to record your footage locally. Others will allow you to save recordings directly to a server or hard drive, though this is rare. Of course, using local storage adds some extra maintenance, in the form of occasionally removing the card and either deleting or downloading the recorded data to free up more space on the card.
If you’re concerned with privacy, be aware that cloud footage is generally kept on a manufacturer’s servers, which can be stolen if the company’s digital security is breached. Some companies may also use or share data from stored recordings in ways you might not anticipate. For example, Amazon has shared footage from Ring cameras to law enforcement without customers’ permission on many occasions. While storing locally requires more legwork, it is definitely the most secure option for privacy-conscious homeowners.
Smart Home Compatibility
As more and more people add video doorbells, smart speakers and other connected devices to their home, it’s increasingly important to pick security gear that’s compatible with whatever smart home system you already have. There are several smart home systems available, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit. There are also platform-agnostic options like Zigbee for home automation, smart lighting, and security systems: They often require more tech-savvy and tinkering, but also give you more freedom and control.
Support for voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant is also increasingly common, allowing you to trigger specific actions, like locking your front door, using your voice.
With large manufacturers that make many types of smart devices, you may find extra compatibility when you work with many devices in a single ecosystem. For example, Amazon makes it easy to pull up a live feed from your Ring camera(s) on an Echo Show or Fire TV.
In addition to cloud storage upgrades, many camera manufacturers offer premium subscriptions, which unlock extra services and features for their cameras. Some of the paid feature upgrades we’ve found included extended video history, downloadable videos, and the ability to arm/disarm alarms. Some companies also offer security-system-style 24/7 professional monitoring, which can request law enforcement in an emergency.
Since prices and features vary from camera to camera, and users’ needs vary from home to home, it’s hard for us to tell you whether these services are definitively worth it or not. That said, we recommend looking at the full range of services available on any camera you plan to buy to see what works for you, and to understand the true cost of your security system.
How We Evaluated The Best Outdoor Security Cameras
To select the best outdoor security cameras, I relied on my personal experience setting up, using, and maintaining four cameras around my home. I also drew on my expertise as with cameras–I’ve written about cameras for video and photography for publications such as Popular Mechanics, Reviewed, and Moment. I built on that experience with research and information from reviews by critics and home security experts, including past coverage from Popular Mechanics.
The Arlo Pro 4 is powerful and easy-to-install, making it an easy recommendation for most people looking for an outdoor security camera. It shoots video in 2K with a 160-degree field of view, providing clear coverage and a wide picture. With up to 12x digital zoom, you can also examine your subject closely. It supports full-color low light night vision, so you can easily see and identify whatever’s in frame at night. It’s rated to withstand temperatures of -4 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s durable, too.
You also get two-way audio, so you can talk to intruders—or a young family member sneaking out. The camera features a built-in siren that you can program to automatically trigger when motion or audio is detected or activate it manually from Arlo’s smartphone app.
The Arlo Pro 4 connects wirelessly via Wi-Fi, and gets power from a rechargeable battery that can last up to six months on a single charge. It supports the three largest smart home ecosystems–Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, though you’ll need an extra accessory, the Arlo SmartHub, to sync with HomeKit.
Arlo offers a multi-tier premium subscription, Arlo Secure, which expands the camera’s cloud storage to 30 days of footage, more detailed notifications, 24/7 emergency response, and customizing “smart” motion sensor controls to minimize false alerts. The Arlo 4 Pro comes with a free trial, but Arlo Secure costs anywhere from $4.99 for the base membership on a single camera, $24.99 per month for the “Safe & Secure Pro” plan, which features emergency response support.
Arlo has a newer “Pro” camera–The Arlo Pro 5S–which offers improved battery life and a more stable wireless connection thanks to dual-band Wi-Fi support for substantially higher $250 per camera. While they are useful upgrades, they do not necessarily justify the extra $100 since both cameras when the Pro 4 records support the same resolution, field-of-view and core features. That said, both versions would make excellent additions to any home security setup.
The Wyze Cam Outdoor is an affordable alternative with many of the same features you’d expect to find in our more expensive picks. The camera supports two-way audio, so you can talk to the person on the other end and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to six months. The battery is non-removable, so you must bring the whole unit inside for charging. Alternatively, you can use a Wyze Solar Panel that can help extend the battery.
The camera can record Full HD video with a 130-degree field of view and full-color, low-light night vision. In complete darkness, four infrared LEDs provide up to 25 feet of black-and-white night vision. There’s also an 8x digital zoom for getting extra close to your subjects. While zooming into 1080p video isn’t as crystal clear as 2K or 4K, the Wyze Cam Outdoor’s video is still sharp enough to identify small details on a recording subject.
The Wyze Cam Outdoor features an IP65 rating, allowing it to withstand fine dust particles and light sprays of water. It can also withstand temperatures of -4 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing it to withstand even the harshest climates. The camera also offers a microSD slot for local storage, which can support cards up to 32GB. Connecting the camera to a base station can boost local storage up to 256GB, giving you plenty of room to keep videos.
The camera can operate over your wireless network and connect with up to three other cameras if you have a Wyze base station. You can use your voice to stream video to your Amazon Echo or Google Nest, but it doesn’t support Apple’s HomeKit. You can also subscribe to Wyze’s Cam Plus storage plan, the most expensive of which gives you unlimited recording times, removes the delay between captures, and enables intelligent alerts for different subjects, including people, pets, and vehicles.
Floodlight Cam Wired Pro
Our previous pick for this category, the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Plus, was a terrific outdoor security camera that featured a dual-LED floodlight. The new Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro builds on that solid design with extra features, including support for dual-band WiFi and a “bird’s-eye view” feature that tracks a recorded subject as they move within the camera’s view, showing it on a top-down layout of the area. While the camera’s 1080p video resolution and 140-degree field of view haven’t changed, it now supports high dynamic range, resulting in a picture with greater colors and brightness levels.
The Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro also features two-way audio support and a 110-decibel siren, which can trigger a siren when detecting motion. It also supports customizable motion zones and 3D motion radar technology, allowing you to create custom motion zones with distance thresholds. However, to take advantage of the camera’s full capabilities, you must subscribe to Ring Protect, which costs $3.99 per month or $39.99 per year. The subscription includes features like storing videos in the cloud for 180 days, person alerts, and more control over when the camera records video.
Ultra 2 (3 Camera Set)
If you’re looking to dive directly into the deep end and buy a multi-camera system right away, the Arlo Ultra 2 (3 Camera Set) gives you a trio of powerful security cameras. Each one can record 4K HDR video with a 180-degree field of view. The integrated 400-lumen white LED light makes it possible to record color night vision, and the 12x digital zoom allows you to look closely at your subject. The camera also features two-way audio, so you can speak with whoever is on the other side.
The camera gets power from a rechargeable battery that can last up to six months on a single charge, and requires roughly 4 hours to charge fully. It also supports the three largest smart home ecosystems, including Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. The Arlo Ultra 2 connects wirelessly to your devices directly via Wi-Fi through an included smart hub, which requires a wired Ethernet connection, which may impact your setup plan.
Like other Arlo cameras, the Ultra 2 features a built-in siren that you can program to automatically trigger when motion or audio is detected and is durable enough to withstand temperatures between -4 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit. While you can use the system without a subscription plan, Arlo Secure can expand cloud storage to 30 days of footage and draw custom activity zones to reduce unwanted motion alerts. Arlo Secure ranges in cost from $4.99 for the base membership on a single camera to $24.99 monthly for the “Safe & Secure Pro” plan, which provides 24/7 professional monitoring.
Outdoor Security Camera
Another Amazon sub-division, Blink’s security offerings tend to be less complicated and more affordable than the more robust Ring lineup. The Blink Outdoor gives you the basics: The 1080p camera features a 110 degree field of view, so it’ll capture what you point it at, rather than a whole area. It’s powered by a pair of AA batteries, which you’ll need to swap out, but you’ll get an estimated two years of battery life of a set of batteries, so the maintenance is very light.
You have a few options when storing video clips. A Blink Subscription Plan features 60 days of unlimited video history, giving you plenty of time to review important activity. There’s also an automatic local storage option, which can sync recorded videos with a Sync Module 2 and USB flash drive, both of which are sold separately. A Blink Basic Plan is $3 monthly per device or $30 yearly, while a Blink Subscription Plan is $10 monthly per device or $100 yearly. Both plans support 60-day unlimited video history and local storage.
The EufyCam 2 Pro gives you a strong feature set without asking you to pay a subscription to unlock its full potential. This 2K wireless camera features a 140-degree field of view, with four IR LEDs for clear night vision recording. It also features two-way audio, so you can hear and address someone standing outside.
The EufyCam 2 features a rechargeable battery that can last up to six months on a single charge. Our biggest issue with the camera is that you can’t remove the battery, so you have to take down the camera to charge it. That’s a shame because, with an IP67 rating, it’s built to handle whatever mother nature throws at it. (Technically it can even take a very quick, shallow dip underwater.)
The EufyCam 2 relays information through a base station, the HomeBase, which comes with the camera. It features 16GB of non-expandable local storage, allowing you to keep all your footage offline. That said, the base station also integrates with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit, so it’ll still work with your smart home system.
Stick Up Cam (Third Generation)
The Ring Stick Up is a versatile wireless security camera with a rechargeable battery and supports solar charging, so you can set it up anywhere without worrying about power. The Stick Up records in 1080p with a 130-degree field of view for solid clarity and coverage. It’s weather-resistant and rated for temperatures between -5 to 122 degrees. Connecting directly to your home WiFI, it’s easy to install, and comes with powerful features like night vision, two-way audio support, and customizable alerts.
Like other Ring cameras, the Stick Up effectively requires Amazon’s subscription security service, Ring Protect, which starts at $3.99 per month or $39.99 per year. That includes access to advanced customization options like “person alerts,” which limits notifications to when the camera detects a person, rather than for general motion, and the ability to download videos to view them offline.
Outdoor Security Camera Tips From Our Expert
PM: Do I need more than one outdoor security camera?
BR: Most of the outdoor security cameras in our guide come individually or as part of a larger set. Deciding how many cameras you need depends on your home security plan and how much camera coverage you want. A well-installed camera with a wide field of view can cover an important and vulnerable area on your property, such as a back door or garage.
That said, even a small home will need at least a few cameras to achieve full coverage on every ground-level door and window. In fact, you may need multiple cameras in certain specific points to cover blind spots created by corners, lawn features, and anything else might impede a single, specific camera.
Before anyone freaks out, though: Not everyone wants or needs every single square inch of their property under constant watch. It’s up to you to decide where you want an extra eye. Make sure to evaluate your needs before buying a camera (or set of cameras).
PM: Can I use an outdoor security camera indoors?
BR: Of course. There are no features of an outdoor security camera that would prevent it from working inside. That said, many companies make indoor cameras that are cheaper, and may feature a stand or mounting options that make more sense for blending in with your home or office.
PM: Should I be concerned with my privacy when using an outdoor security camera?
BR: You should always be careful when considering home security. Over the years, there have been multiple reports of strangers accessing live video feeds and recorded videos from home security cameras.
Luckily, there are simple ways to protect yourself. As with other devices, adhering to digital security best practices, such as keeping your smart home devices’ firmware up to date, creating a strong password and activating two-factor authentication wherever possible, will help prevent a breach.
You may also have concerns about who has access to video that’s stored in the cloud. Most companies ask for permission to review recordings for research and development purposes. Depending on the company, this request often comes in the form of an “opt-in” setting in the camera app, though some may turn it on by default unless you “opt out.”
Some may also share recordings with law enforcement. In some cases, they will only do so when compelled by a search warrant. A couple manufacturers, specifically Amazon (Ring) and Google (Nest), have said they will provide footage without a warrant if law enforcement claims it is an emergency.
You Might Also Like