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 power) around the site being secured. In the movies at least, you’d also need a dejected old man haplessly watching numerous screens through a night shift.
IP is how most data travels around us – over ethernet and wi-fi – and it makes perfect sense to use the same network to carry security video. As well as keeping things tidy, it brings all the internet’s advantages, like the ability to remotely connect to the cameras and live view from anywhere. While traditional cameras needed something (like a DVR) to connect to, IP offers options including the cloud.
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 – but expect a subscription fee. You’ll also need to provide 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.
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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.
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.
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.
Taking the mechanics of PTZ out of a wide field of view, the ReoLink Duo 2 dual-camera offers a full 180˚ field of view from a single unit. Offered in Wi-Fi, PoE and (soon) LTE versions it can be placed nearly anywhere and offer a broad perspective, without the fish-eye effects of too wide a lens. It makes a good choice for a building corner, and the spotlights offer up to 100ft (30m) color night vision.
With a 6MP live preview which can be viewed on your phone or a Reolink NVR, the camera integrates like most others. It can also send video to an FTP location and has a MicroSD card slot, though the housing is still IP66. Call it a plus or not, we think the Wi-Fi version’s antennas look a bit like robot ears.
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.
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.
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.
While Amazon’s Ring series already start at a fairly reasonable price, the Blink Mini was already cheaper and more compact. The new Pan-Tilt base (which essentially sits beneath the same Blink Mini camera we knew already. That means a camera head that looks at home indoors can now be remotely controlled to offer a broad view without needing to pepper rooms with the devices.
The industrial design, reminiscent of a Pixar lamp, offers a pan and tilt range of 350˚/125˚ – more than needed for all-round viewing of a room from an island-style counter. It manages not to look too intrusive as the outer case turns with the camera, while the tilting effect is achieved by nodding the camera. This needs a bit of counterweight, so no worries about pets knocking it over. It is controlled with a little D-pad in the camera’s we app, and quiet enough not to disturb babies.
See full Blink Mini review
See also: Blink vs Ring
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.
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