Looking for the best outdoor security camera for your home or business? This guide will take you through the top systems, and discuss the different features, so you can decide on the best outdoor security system for your budget – and buy it at the best price.
Since the internet provided a direct link to your pocket, and AI has even made it possible to tell package delivery from intruders, installing smart cameras can do a lot. You can check you closed the garage door from an app, tell the kids to come in for dinner via a built-in speaker, and, of course, receive alerts if something happens which shouldn’t.
See also: Best indoor security cameras
The market has seen a lot of innovation from big players as Google and Amazon have snapped up and developed the brands Nest, Ring and Blink. Inevitably there is integration with their respective smart home brands (Google Assistant and Alexa) while these firms – and some very interesting competitors – are also well aware of Apple’s HomeKit.
Most brands here also offer cameras designed to live indoors; rather than miss good choices, we’ve created a separate list for the indoor security cameras, but don’t forget you can often mix-and-match to create your own complete system.
A significant difference between cameras is how they stream footage; some do it via wi-fi to your router all the time, others only when they detect some kind of motion (an ‘event’). To record a feed like this, you’ll usually need a subscription (and no limit on your monthly bandwidth). Others work via a base station which may make it possible to gain some local control.
In terms of on-camera tech, look out for night vision (either infrared, lit invisibly, or via a floodlight of some kind), one- or two-way speakers (which let you speak remotely from the camera), and the field-of-view.
You will need to decide how you want to fit your camera which will depend on your DIY skills, the security of the location and the access to power. Continuous power means cabling, but may also offer the option of continuous recording, while battery-powered devices will require regular visits to charge or replace batteries and will likely only offer clips. We also suggest you check local rules on the need to display CCTV warning signs, too.
With the power of Google’s Nest Aware system, the Nest Cam Outdoor has a great deal to offer; the support of the software giant is evident in the elegance of the app as well as the relatively low instance of false alerts. The design is good; it’s a simple and good looking camera and the mic and speaker are on the front (not always the case). It might not have wireless installation, but it comes with a long power cord and the magnetic mount is easy to adjust. Those not subscribing to Nest Aware get three hours of still photos of events, which is nice but really serves to remind you how good the 30-day trial of the full thing was. Live video (with up to 8x zoom from a 3 megapixel sensor, at 30fps) and two-way audio is there for all users, though, fee or not. If you want all this and 4K HDR, the more expensive Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is an option.
The Arlo system, from Netgear, stands out amongst security cameras thanks to the system’s dedication to supporting all the major smart home systems – including Apple HomeKit. It works via a hub, so is best bought in a package, and while 4K is nice to have there are lower resolution options at lower cost. Arlo’s AI detects the difference between delivery man, person, pet or vehicle, which makes phone alerts less likely to cry wolf. Dispute needing to attach a hub to your router, installation is a breeze thanks to the magnetic mounts (do put them out of reach though). The camera works well near the front door thanks to the dual noise-cancelling microphones which reduce street or weather noise in a two-way chat. There is also a siren and a bright LED. Apple-enthusiasts won’t just appreciate HomeKit support; the charging cables are magnetic (though it has to be said that the promised 6 months battery life seems optimistic); you can just take the camera down or reach up and connect the cable in situ.
The Ring Stick-Up camera is an ideal development of the enormously popular Ring smart doorbell brand so, if you’d like a broader view of your property all coordinated in a mature app, look no further. The Stick-up cam can be positioned indoors and out and is powered by a battery which will last about 1,000 activations. In fact much of the volume of the device is taken up by that battery which you can charge yourself or choose to keep topped up via an optional Solar Panel. You can also buy an extra battery pack so keep charged ready and speed up the transition (though it does feel a bit irksome effectively having to pay to keep the camera on while you are charging otherwise), though you could run a USB cable to the camera in situ too. Ring’s app is sophisticated and has an easy-to-follow tutorial, and the cheaper cloud event storage is probably enough for most.
The eufyCam 2 Pro, the latest addition to the Eufy system, caught a lot of virtual eyes at CES 2021. The new outdoor camera isn’t only prepared for the weather, with IP67 protection, but for a straightforward installation, able to run entirely from battery for a whole year. That long life is in part thanks to the Sony sensor which provides good quality low light imagery without the need for a white light, which will mean climbing the ladders to charge the camera(s) less often. Rather than a potentially expensive subscription, Eufy’s system makes use of a base station, the HomeBase, making it sensible to buy in multi-camera kits from the start. The HomeBase’s on-board 16GB can be extended via USB, and the video stored on it is encrypted, but can be accessed via the app easily. Eufy also boasts a great app with good options, a thumbnail alerts option, and great alternative cameras and doorbells if you’re looking for, say, floodlights.
Blink’s compact cameras are designed to capture short video clips when activated by motion, but avoid being hard-wired thanks to the power from 2 AA lithium batteries. These can keep the device going for up to 2 years, communicating via a mini hub called the Sync Module 2. Customers of Blink before April 2020 got free cloud storage – many customers chose Blink for this. Now, although that is no longer available for new customers, it is possible to record via a simple USB stick and the Sync Module 2 (included if you buy a system), but new features will essentially be reserved for those who subscribe; a fun one is hourly photos assembled into timelapse so you can review what happened as you slept. The Blink system’s friction installation is simple, though you’d want it out of reach for thieves. Clearly the default settings are designed to preserve battery life, but the app offers choices like ‘early motion’ so you can choose your own priorities.
• Read full Blink Outdoor review
The priciest of the Ring outdoor cameras (the cheaper Ring Stick-Up Camera is also on this list), this is more a bout packing a punch than saving pennies. The dual-bulb 2000 lumen floodlights and a scary 110-decibel siren sit either side of a high dynamic range camera and the whole system is weather-resistant and is claimed to work in temperatures ranging from -20°C to +48.5°C, while the app offers notifications and live view for free, meaning you can be alerted to movement and see what’s happening live at no cost. Recording footage to the cloud for up to 30 days starts from $3 / £2.50 per month with the Ring Protect service.
The system also offers a great deal of flexibility. The lights are adjustable, and Amazon’s “3D motion detection” makes it easier to prevent unwanted triggering; as well as person detection there is distance detection built-in. Finally (assuming you subscribe) you’ll get some of the most immediate clips thanks to the pre-roll feature making them more useful when reviewing security breaches.
If you want a compact indoor camera which might occasionally need to be positioned outside (or under a leaky roof) then look no further than the updated Wyze Cam’s v3. This is a compact 1080P cube camera which is IP65-rated for weatherproofing and able to capture color even in the dark thanks to what Wyze calls a Starlight CMOS sensor, and its f/1.6 maximum aperture. There are two switchable infrared wavelengths built-in, for near and far illumination, so re-positioning the camera in and out poses no risk. The ‘near’ one makes things hard to see, so perhaps better for baby monitoring. Mounting is straightforward too; there is a magnetic mount or screw mount. The two-way talk system makes use of a simultaneous speaker/mic system rather than push-to-talk. All these are great features, well realized, but the choice of inserting a microSD or using the subscription service is really appreciated. In most respects it beats the fairly recent Wyze Cam Outdoor, too, unless you need a battery-powered system.
The Alptop camera might have a distinctly arachnid look, but that smattering of ‘eyes’ serves to provide illumination for both infrared and visible light night vision. This camera is also not priced at a point where excessive investment in industrial design is to be expected; instead this is a great way to get 1080P HD footage from locations important to you or your business. The lens itself has a fairly narrow 70˚ field of view, but this extends to 320˚ horizontal and 90˚ vertically with the pan-and-tilt. The app, camHI, could certainly be better styled, but allows pan, tilt and zooming, too, and provides motion alerts. The camera records to an on-board MicroSD card if you choose. One thing it can’t do, despite suggesting it could, is connect to a web browser; it seems it needs the now-retired Flash player. There is still software for Windows, and an RJ45 connector; a nice extra option.
We do have a separate guide to the best doorbell cameras, but it crosses over with this one for a couple of reasons. Many of the manufacturers are the same, and they use the same apps, technology and subscriptions so you can keep things tidier and cheaper by being brand loyal! The Arlo Essential Wire-Free model is our choice because it has a square HD camera, offering a much more rational field of view for something next to a door, and because it includes package detection so it can alert you next time the delivery agent leaves something expensive in full view of passers by and drives off.
In terms of installation, it can either connect to a traditional chime and wiring, or be topped up from time to time and connect via wi-fi. Despite not being an Amazon company, it can also use an Alexa Echo as a chime if you choose.
With a low asking price and nothing to worry about when it comes to looks, you might expect that Nooie are looking to make their money back with an outrageous subscription scheme, but in reality this camera offers the choice. There is cloud storage, signed up for via the app, and the opportunity to record locally. Sometimes getting a cheap product means sacrificing the opportunity to be part of a useful ecosystem, but Nooie offer doorbells and baby monitors too. Outdoor fitting does involve running a power lead – a battery option would be nice – but given the entry price it’s hard to complain. It is true that 1080P isn’t the highest resolution out there, but it’s worth remembering that it’s good enough for Google’s Nest too; where things do fall down a little is the frame rate, which is only 15fps – enough to see what’s happening, but not TV-like.
The C3X uses a dual-lens set up to offer color video at night even without supplemental lights. In addition building AI into the system means the camera can spot human and vehicle shapes even in difficult lighting. The system works by combining data from the infrared camera (lit using two invisible-to-human-eyes lights) with the ambient brightness with a proprietary algorithm. The resulting H.265 video is then sent on via wi-fi, ethernet or recorded locally. The system still has a bright strobe (and siren) which it can use to deter intruders; people, vehicles, or both, and in what region is up to you. The MicroSD and reset button are tucked under a screw-sealed plate, which should make it harder to interfere with as well as earn the IP67 rating. It’s handy that a cable waterproofing clip is included too. The design is also kind to those installing a long way from wi-fi bases; the dual antenna are effective.
What to look for in an outdoor security camera?
Top tips for picking the best outdoor security camera system:
- Ecosystem Does the camera use wi-fi or its own base station, and if the later do you have to pay extra for the base station? Are you willing to? Is the ecosystem wide enough for all your needs? Smart doorbells, for example, have quite a crossover with outdoor cameras.
- Subscription Is there a subscription (or multiple subscription options), and do they charge per camera or per home? Are you willing to pay?
- Local recording? Is there the option to record locally, and is it in the camera or a base station? If you’re recording into the camera, can you be confident the recording is secure?
- Lighting Floodlighting, or more subtle options like bright LEDs on the Google Nest IQ or Ring Spotlight Cam can both offer color when you’re seeing in the dark and surprise trespassers.
- Sirens Can deter those you don’t want on your property. High decibel counts can be most effective, but may be more than your neighbors need!
- Two-way-talk Can let you check in with the kids in the garden, or let you talk to a trespasser.
- Camera quality Resolution is important, but certainly isn’t the only factor; outdoor cameras are often used mainly at night, so low-light imagery matters and that depends as much on infrared lighting as pixel count. In fact you may end up needing to turn down the image resolution rather than dominate your internet bandwidth!
- Live View Live view refers to the live video you can see from the camera on your app. It’s also worth looking for latency – the delay between real life and what you see on your phone.
- Event The cameras have sensors of one kind or another to detect humans, animals or vehicles before activating the camera, alert, lights or siren, and each occasion is referred to as an ‘event’ in the jargon. Some cameras or subscriptions only record video in clips after an event, while others offer 24/7 options.
- Connection loss The answer here is usually reasonably straightforward in terms of power depending on the presence of a battery, but what about the footage? How dependent is the device on an internet connection?
Other useful buying guides:
Best indoor security cameras
The best body cameras for personal security
Best camera phones in 2021