Smart home technology has made home security systems cheaper than ever. And while you can still pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a comprehensive system covering the interior and exterior of your property, it’s possible to pick up an internet-connected, high-definition security camera for significantly less.
While many readers will be aware of smart security cameras from Nest, Ring, and Arlo, these generally carry three-figure price tags. For this article, we’re focusing on security cameras that cost significantly less, and are closer to the $50 level. This means they don’t necessarily have the same intelligence as more expensive options, but they still get the job done and provide your smart home with an extra level of security.
Some smart security cameras at this price come from brands you might be less familiar with. But fear not, because startups like Wyze have a proven track record for offering extraordinary value, quality products, and a good set of desirable features. The US company’s Cam v3 is even weather resistant for outdoor use, connects to Alexa and Google Assistant, and has color night vision, yet costs just $30.
Similarly, the Blink Mini (opens in new tab) is an Amazon product that integrates with your existing Alexa-powered smart home system, with 1080p Full HD resolution, but costs under $40.
But there is a limit as to how far your money will go. Generally speaking, smart security cameras in the $50 range miss out on 4K video, have fairly small imaging sensors, and tend not to have the same artificial intelligence features as more expensive models. So, while most will start recording when movement is detected, they can’t all spot the difference between a potential burglar and next door’s cat.
As with many smart security cameras, it is often the case that more advanced features (and the ability to save footage to the internet) are only accessible if you pay a monthly subscription. In the case of Wyze, for example, the company’s Cam Plus service is $1.99 a month and makes recordings available to view online for 14 days.
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Seattle-based Wyze is a startup that has made a name for itself when it comes to cut-price smart home tech. The Cam is the company’s most popular product, and the third-generation example featured here includes Full HD video, color night vision via a Starlight sensor, waterproofing for outdoor use, and smart home integration via Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT.
The Wyze Cam v3 has a microphone and speaker for two-way audio, plus a siren, an adjustable stand, and a microSD card for local storage. Alternatively, Wi-Fi opens the door to cloud storage, which costs $1.99 a month and automatically holds an unlimited amount of recorded footage for 14 days.
Blink is an Amazon company, so naturally, this camera is a good option for those already invested in the Alexa smart home ecosystem. However, while this is a compact and well-priced indoor security camera, most features require a Blink subscription, which costs $3 or $10 a month depending on the plan you choose.
Without paying, the Blink Mini will notify you about movement, then show a live stream for up to five minutes, but the video is not recorded, as there is nowhere for a microSD card, and cloud storage requires a subscription. On the plus side, we like how the camera and its speaker double as a chime for Amazon’s range of Ring video doorbells.
Read our full Blink Mini review for more details
Motorized panning and tilting give this camera a near-360-degree view of its surroundings, helping you view an entire room from one point. The Reolink uses fast 5GHz Wi-Fi, has a 1440p resolution, and includes infrared night vision that works up to a distance of 12 metres or 40 feet. Google Assistant integration means you can ask with a voice command to see a live video feed on your Google or Nest smart display.
The footage is stored locally on a microSD card (not included), so there’s no reliance on cloud storage or a subscription.
Like Wyze, Eufy is another smart home company selling a range of connected products. This wired, indoor security camera features a 2K resolution and artificial intelligence. This helps the camera spot the difference between a person and a pet, and can also identify the sound of a crying child, turning the device into a baby monitor too.
Infrared night vision works to just over 30 feet, and the Eufy’s smart home credentials are strong, thanks to integration with Alexa, Google Assistant, and, rare at this price point, Apple HomeKit. Video can be recorded to the cloud or a microSD card, and a 24/7 recording mode is also available.
This essentially has the same camera as the Blink Mini, but adds a motorized 'pan-tilt' base to give your a better all-round view of a room - offering 350° of rotation, and being able to tilt through 125°. Although this is sold with the camera and base, you can buy the rotating mount as an optional extra if you already own a Blink Mini. The motor is surprisingly quiet - which is obviously a good feature for surveillance. The camera will not automatically follow a moving subject, though, so this is best used for live-view observation.
See our full Blink Mini Pan-Tilt Camera review (opens in new tab) for more details
Another panning camera, this time from TP-Link. The Tapo has a 2K resolution and night vision, plus artificial intelligence to help tell the difference between a person and a passing vehicle. There’s also a microphone and speaker for two-way audio, support for microSD cards of up to 256GB, and integration with Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Tap also doubles as a baby monitor, but upgrading the artificial intelligence to recognise crying requires a subscription to Tapo Care, which starts at $3.49 a month. This also includes 30 days of cloud storage, notifications with video snapshots and the creation of privacy zones.
We think this Kasa indoor security camera is great value, at under $30. It shoots in Full HD, has infrared night vision and works with the Alexa and Google Home smart home systems. It also offers full, 360-degree coverage of whichever room you put it in, and rotates to track options as they move. Customizable activity zones mean you can set the camera to only react when movement is spotted in a certain part of its view, preventing false-positives.
Cloud storage is also available, but only when subscribing to Kasa Care which starts at $3 a month for each camera you install.
A small and simple security camera, the Tapo 2K by TP-Link records in greater than HD, but not the ‘Ultra-high resolution’ mentioned on the manufacturer website. There’s two-way audio and it accepts larger microSD cards than most cameras, at 256GB, which is enough for 512 hours or 21 days of recordings.
This camera works with Alexa and Google Assistant, but lacks more advanced features like activity zones and person detection.
Marketed as a security camera and baby monitor in one, the C1C has a longer infrared range than most others, at about 12 metres or 40 feet. It records at 1080p Full HD, which isn’t as high as some other cameras in this price bracket, but has a simple, compact design and a convenient magnetic base for attaching to different mounting kits.
We like how the C1C accepts microSD cards up to 256GB in size, and while cloud storage is available as an optional extra costing a fairly steep $5.99 a month, the focus here is to opt for local storage instead.
Lastly, the Abode Cam 2 is a compact indoor security camera with support for Alexa and Google Assistant. It lacks local storage, so you’ll need to pay a subscription to store recordings online, but it benefits from person detection, weatherproofing for outdoor use, and a starlight sensor for full-color night vision.
What we like here is how Abode sells a wide range of devices, making it easy to build up a security system that includes window and door sensors, as well as cameras and motion sensors. This camera doesn’t currently work with Apple HomeKit, but Abode says it is constantly evaluating whether to change this or not.
Other useful home security buying guides:
Best outdoor security cameras (opens in new tab)
Best indoor security cameras (opens in new tab)
Best baby monitor cameras (opens in new tab)
Best HomeKit cameras (opens in new tab)
Best PoE cameras (opens in new tab)
Best NVRs (opens in new tab)
Best PTZ camera (opens in new tab)
The best doorbell cameras (opens in new tab)
The best body cameras (opens in new tab) for personal security