Looking for the best IP camera? This guide will help you look for the best security cameras connected over Internet Protocol - and find them at the best price.
Old-school security networks involved running co-axial cables, and probably wired electricity, around the site being secured and – at least in the movies – a dejected old man haplessly watching numerous screens through a night shift.
Coax is now the past, and our homes and offices are connected with IP over ethernet and wi-fi, so why not use that to carry security video as well as streaming services? It brings all the same advantages, too, like the ability to remotely connect to the cameras and live view from anywhere.
IP also creates a lot of possibilities when setting up cameras, either for a business or as part of a smart home. You need to think about video in terms of ‘live view’ (what you can see by logging into the camera via an app or hub device), ‘events’ (moments that camera’s motion or sound sensors are activated and a short clip is recorded) and 24/7 video history. The latter two might be stored locally or on the cloud; the later will almost inevitably come with a subscription fee and means you need decent bandwidth (if your Netflix looks OK, you should be fine).
IP cameras can be wireless (with battery power) or they can connect via the mains (which saves a lot of maintenance) and cable internet. The latter sometimes allow for ‘PoE’ – standing for Power Over Ethernet – a single cable which also carries current and saves a bit of install fuss.
Best IP camera in 2022(opens in new tab)
Google’s Nest system is a great example of a system which uses IP in a very different way to traditional CCTV, eliminating any need for on-site video storage. Instead you can see the live video via the Nest app on your phone (iOS or Android) wherever you are, and it’s a good app with configurable sound and motion alerts. Any storage, however, requires a cloud subscription. Google offer these in two tiers, ‘Aware’ (events) and ‘Aware Plus’ (24/7 history and events), but with neither the camera only really offers live view. We loved DIY installation via the magnetic mount, but looking back realized that cable needed to be completely out of reach or the camera wasn’t secure.(opens in new tab)
If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, with the advantages of modern IP, then an NVR is the way to go. A Network Video Recorder with an internal hard drive can connect to a display (HDMI or VGA) for viewing live video – though it can also be seen using an app. Any recording is kept on the NVR (no cloud subscription) and the Reolink can be expanded to up to 12TB of storage (it comes with 2) and another four cameras. We also liked the fact the system was H.265 capable so the included 2TB drive isn’t filled straight away and because its wired it keeps the hackers away.(opens in new tab)
The Ring system offers a lot of choice in terms of cameras but, since its parent company is Amazon, support for Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit don’t seem high on the priority list. Nevertheless that is a route many people have chosen and Amazon do have a lot of great deals, so we can recommend it for plenty of people. The Spotlight camera is the middle of the outdoor range, between the ‘Stick Up’ outdoor model (no lights) and the quite pricey Ring Floodlight Cam, all of which are worth investigating. This seems a great option for those who appreciate a light coming on to ward off burglars or just light their way to the car in the dark.(opens in new tab)
Since Internet Protocol can go anywhere, so can CCTV cameras, and that means (just like the cameras in our pockes) they are no longer tied down by wires of any kind. Perfect for temporary locations, like building sites, camping, or off-grid homes. Installation requires sourcing a Nano SIM (signing up for a data plan of some kind) but you need not worry about dubious signal strength; full quality will be recorded to the MicroSD on site (32GB is included). At night the system runs from the battery which is topped up by the solar panel. We enjoyed the power of controlling the device via app from miles away!(opens in new tab)
The Solo Pan and Tilt is a very accessibly priced camera that is smart enough to distinguish pets from people and keep its eye on a moving object, pretty impressive given the price bracket. It also sports a discrete MicroSD card for subscription-free recording (very neatly designed into the back of the ‘eyeball’). It doesn’t seem to lack any of the handy features like 2-way talk that bigger brands aggressively promote, but – unlike Nest – Eufy have managed to include compatibility with Apple’s HomeKit, putting it right to the top of the list of indoor cameras for those building a system via that platform.(opens in new tab)
The S21 is a very versatile IP66 weatherproof camera which offers a powerful addition to both a wired or wi-fi setup, can be connected to via X-Sense’s app without a monthly fee, and includes on board storage in the form of a MicroSD card slot. There is a siren onboard too, should you need to scare folk off, or a 2-way chat facility for more constrictive discussion through the app. It even boasts compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa though, sadly, not HomeKit. It might lack some of the elegance that premium brands bring, but it more than competes on features.(opens in new tab)
Amazon’s Ring series of cameras – offered in black or white to fit any room – are simple to install, and not only can you see a live view via a phone app but if you have an Echo Show (Alexa with a screen) you just need to ask. The system is backed up by an integrated cloud service, of which you get a 30-day free trial, called Ring Protect, and offers phone alerts when it spots motion in an area of the camera’s view you define from the 140˚ field of view. A really nice touch is that the camera is offered as a basic model at a price to beat its competitor from Nest, but if you want extras – like battery backup or weather protection – you can choose different models with similar styling (though, oddly, ever-so-slightly narrower fields of view). There’s even a Solar HD option for the outdoor version, and a special app, Neighbors by Ring, to build a neighborhood watch group.(opens in new tab)
While Amazon’s Ring series already start at a fairly reasonable price, the Blink Mini is even cheaper and even smaller. Despite that, its cunning design allows the base to be connected to either the bottom or the back of the camera, or detached altogether, for different and discrete mounting options. There’s also a cable tidy. The camera is easy to set up and captures very natural color, which – with the optional Sync Module 2 (opens in new tab) – can be recorded without subscription to a MicroSD card (opens in new tab). In night mode the infrared light (invisible to people) seems to flood subjects, but it can be turned down in the settings. Even though this camera is so accessibly priced, it is compatible with Echo Show (Alexa with a screen) and has a fully featured app (iOS/Android) – the only thing that’s missing is a simple way to dismiss the red-circle notification alert without deleting footage.
See full Blink Mini review (opens in new tab)
See also: Blink vs Ring (opens in new tab)
Thanks to its MicroSD card slot, the Reolink RLC-811A might look like a traditional bullet camera, but plug in a 256GB memory card and it can store up to 97 hours of 4K video. Like many modern cameras it is powered using PoE – Power Over Ethernet – meaning it can be installed with a single cable. It can also send its output to a PoE NDR or an FTP server.
The camera also boasts an optical motorized zoom which narrows the viewing angle from 105˚ to 31˚, meaning it can be targeted at more remote subjects. Of course the spotlights or IR lights only have a limited range and they’re optional; disabling the spotlights means night vision is in monochrome. Person and vehicle (as well as a limited pet) detection options are available, and you can give intruders a shock with the two-way-chat or even the siren. Finally we love that the Reolink App makes timelapses possible, as well – of course – as their 7-day free cloud storage option.
This camera, though not cheap, is effectively two cameras in one, which results in ultra-wide 180˚ degree coverage of a location. Thanks to Annke’s pixel-level matching algorithm, the dual cameras provide a single image of 5120 x 1440 resolution. This, combined with AI which picks out people or vehicles (and license plates) help ensure the device is capturing useful video. This should also serve to minimize unwanted alerts. It’s also equipped with strobe and siren to ward off unwanted guests and supplementary lights with up to 40m/130ft of strength. These aren’t entirely necessary, however, as nocturnal videos take advantage of Annke’s impressive low-light color night vision which operates even in extremely dark conditions (0.0005 Lux). It’s a pricey choice, but it does afford a very wide view - with a choice of either turret or bullet housing.
Other useful buying guides:
Best outdoor security cameras (opens in new tab)
Best indoor security 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