Looking for the best PoE camera or best surveillance camera system? This guide will help you find the Power-over-Ethernet camera (or cameras) to meet your needs - and help steer you to the best available price.
For simplicity of installation and operation, security cameras which use PoE technology solve a lot of problems compared to older “Siamese cables.” At the same time they eliminate the need for regular battery charging and side-step the security and range limitations of wi-fi which modern wireless systems depend upon. Ethernet cables can carry enough power to operate a surveillance camera and it goes without saying that handling a digital video signal is no problem so long as you don’t mind using networking protocols. That’s why a lot of security camera systems are actually low-spec computers built with slightly different priorities when it comes to the ports (quite a lot of LAN sockets for the cameras, VGA or HDMI for the display, and a hard drive, but not too much else).
Other cameras will connect directly to power and the internet via a router and you can access their functionality via an app, or your own choice of software. In either case, PoE also facilitates software updates and P2P security when using remote viewing, meaning you can be confident placing cameras wherever you choose as they’re much safer from hacking than, for example, cheap wi-fi camera multi-packs.
Compared to wi-fi, running ethernet cables to every location you install a camera sound sounds like hard work, but over time maintaining battery-powered cameras becomes a nuisance, especially if it’s difficult to reach the camera to charge it or swap its battery. Running one lead to each location not only gives the reliability of wired power and network, but makes it easier to position cameras well out of tampering range. If your connection isn’t subject to interference, it will also have better bandwidth, which in turn should make features like person and vehicle detection – and the alerts they trigger – more reliable.
Cameras can be bought individually, but are often sold as PoE camera systems, along with a NVR (network video recorder) to record the CCTV footage on a hard drive. If creating a custom system, then check out our separate guide to the best NVR (opens in new tab)s
When thinking about your cameras, don’t forget there are distinct styles which might better compliment your surroundings. Common types are the traditional camera bullet shape (with a rear mount), the smaller ‘dome’ which are very discrete, ‘turret’ and pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) for more active observers.
Features to check include resolution, the compression system used, and the brightness of any built-in night-vision lights (usually described in yards or meters distance).
The best PoE cameras in 2022(opens in new tab)
Annke’s H800 eight channel 2TB NVR is broadly comparable to the Reolink device seen above, but offered here in a pack with four of the company’s C800 dome cameras. The NVR and cameras also support H.265 4K video compression, audio recording, remote access and the other features you’d expect, and can connect to up to eight cameras.
The cameras 8-megapixel Sony CMOS perform especially well at helping you see into contrasty dark areas, with WDR and digital noise reduction. The device is also IP67, built to survive hot (60˚C/140˚F) or cold (-40C˚/-40˚F) for extended periods, and the metal construction is IK10 vandal proof according to Annke, and the dome can survive the impact of a mallet. The 100ft/30.5m range of their night vision works in conditions down to 0.01 Lux.
Smart motion alerts allow you to draw customized polygons around areas of a cameras view, so for example your drive or parking space. You can also tweak the sensitivity and disable motion detection by area if you choose, or even add a privacy mask via the NVR.(opens in new tab)
With four 4K cameras and 2TB of storage, this camera and NVR (Network Video Recorder) combination set is a powerful security system which will give you the power to monitor most properties without further investment – and you have the option support up to 8 Reolink IP cameras if required.
Using the default H.265, the NVR can record four channels for up to 3 days at the maximum 8192kbps bit rate, but if you feel you need more, you can add 6TB internally (swap the hard drive) and 6TB externally (eSATA socket), for a total of 36 days, so there is plenty of flexibility. Even while you’re away, though, you can monitor what the camera’s see via Reolink’s computer client which works on Mac, Windows and web.
The supplied cameras can all detect the difference between people and vehicles and you can name cameras, so the alerts you get on your iPhone or Android phone read something like “Person activity is detected by Side Door”; set up properly and you’ll know very quickly when your teens have borrowed the car without asking!(opens in new tab)
Choosing a Pan / Tilt / Zoom (PTZ) camera isn’t an ideal solution for all CCTV situations; if you are leaving a system recording the camera can only be pointing one way at any one time and it might well cost a similar amount to position several fixed cameras more strategically. If you already have a system, however – especially one which uses smart alerts to draw your attention to suspicious activity – then a PTZ camera (opens in new tab) has a lot of appeal as a means of finding out more before taking things to the next level.
While it’s a shame that this camera is ‘a bit over HD’ rather than 4K, the camera can be rotated an endless 360˚ in the same direction (if you choose) as well as a full 0-90˚ so homing in on a target and staying with them is a breeze. You can also set a ‘patrol’ of up to 16 preset positions as an alternative to covering your home with cameras. In either case autofocus will keep the ƒ/1.6 optics sharp. All-in-all there are a lot of options here, well backed up with software.
Note: most NVRs support a limited number of these devices due to current.(opens in new tab)
Swann is a reliable brand, and this system, based on their 8-channel NVR-8580 recorder, comes with four cameras and leaves the option of adding another four. The video is upscaled to 4K from a 5MP sensor, which still turns out to give a lot of detail for review, and recording alerts are triggered by motion and heat. Prevention is better than detection, and the cameras all include bright LEDs and can be accessed quickly using Google Assistant, Chromecast, Alexa and iOS apps. We also liked that while Swann’s system doesn’t force you into a subscription service, it will play nice with Dropbox and a Secure+ option should off-site storage be a priority. Admittedly a 90˚ field of view is at the lower end, but with judicious positioning this system will serve you well.(opens in new tab)
The Reolink RLC-410 twin-pack is a much cheaper way into home security than a full NVR system, though it offers much of the same functionality if choose to provide it using one of the wide range of 3rd party camera support programs they support or you could choose to add a Reolink NVR at a later date (or, indeed, another brands, though for some reason they’re less enthusiastic about that). Each camera also has its own MicroSD card (opens in new tab) slot for making recordings while motion is detected though filling these is optional.
Even though, at 5MP, these aren’t the gleaming top of the line in resolution terms (4K is 8MP), the picture is sharp by day and night thanks to the 18 built-in IR LEDs. With more pixels than traditional High Def (e.g. Blu-Ray) there is certainly the detail needed for most purposes. Many will have enough Cat 5 or above cable lying around to install the cameras and begin experimenting with software but you’ll need to supply power so a PoE injector, like the 802.3af 48V will be needed too (or a capable NVR).(opens in new tab)
The Lorex system is a good one not just because it uses true 4K cameras which results in the luxury of high-quality recorded evidence from camera positions, but because it’s designed to be paired with up to two compatible products like Lorex’s wi-fi cameras and doorbells, you can store video from these locations too. That gives your overall security system a more complete view. Moreover it is recorded as continuous video, even that from the added wi-fi cameras, onto the included NVR, without the need for a monthly subscription. Thanks to the app, two-way talk is also an option and the on-the-go connection at least matches a wi-fi only camera system. The included cameras have color night vision and an especially durable metal housing which will survive in weather from -30˚C to 60˚ç (-22˚-140˚F), so that ticks of durability and flexibility.(opens in new tab)
This is an incredibly versatile system that takes advantage of a Sony EXIR image sensor and 4x optical zoom – backed up with 2.8-12mm varifocal (motorized) lens – for spectacular image quality which is still color in as little as 0.018 Lux. This means a single camera can cover a large area while looking broadly like any other bullet camera to a passer by (it’s slightly bigger than some), and the field of view can be changed remotely on demand or by timed program.
The camera includes all Annke’s behavior analysis and AI systems, the latter of which include human recognition (to avoid pet or leaf movement alerts) and scene change detection and defocus detection which can alert you to camera tampering and can even be linked directly to the alarms. The former of which looks for specific actions like crossing lines, intrusion into defined areas, leaving areas, object removal – it even has a pricier sister 12K model (Annke B1200) which can spot unattended luggage, meaning “see it, say it, sorted” is getting close to being solved by bots.(opens in new tab)
If you want to start experimenting with PoE cameras, the tiny Revotech Mini is ideal. The tiny 30mm square, supplied with adjustable-angle bracket, can be connected to a system as easily as most other PoE cameras, but costs somewhat less and can be tucked away even more subtly if you want to use it indoors. Not only that, but the casing has been used by other manufacturers meaning there is a good supply of accessories; Revotech offers the camera with a 6-22mm telephoto (see at Amazon) (opens in new tab) allowing you to position the camera a good distance from your target. It’s worth remembering, however that this modestly priced accessory requires manual focusing – a PTZ camera might be more appropriate for serious security situations, as well as being more of a deterrent.
The NVSEE app the firm offer is available for both iPhone and Android, so real time viewing of the camera’s feed is easy. You might well find this camera is all you need – it supports some extras to the ONVIF Profile, like motion detection.(opens in new tab)
Choosing a Pan / Tilt / Zoom (PTZ) camera isn’t an ideal solution for all CCTV situations; if you are leaving a system recording the camera can only be pointing one way at any one time and it might well cost a similar amount to position several fixed cameras more strategically. If you already have a system, however – especially one which uses smart alerts to draw your attention to suspicious activity – then a PTZ camera has a lot of appeal as a means of finding out more before taking things to the next level.
The Reolink’s app-eal (sorry) comes in part from the control over the device which can easily be exercised via the company’s app. Other features, ;like two-way audio, are there too – just like the firm’s less powerful wi-fi PTZ camera – but the 5x optical zoom will let you see more. Timelapse and flexible recording modes can also be fun for photographers capturing sunrises.(opens in new tab)
The ZOSI NVR has the brushed gold styling of a retro hi-fi component, and while it doesn’t offer the latest specifications on the cameras it is sold as a complete set with 1TB drive and 4 1080P cameras for notably less than other setups. There is no slouch in terms of modern features either; H.265+ compression is supported so the drive won’t fill up too quickly and the Zosi app supports rich alerts and motion detection zones and privacy alerts, keeping pace with significantly more expensive systems. There is also a Zosi AVSS client for Mac and PC.
There is room for expansion, too, in that the system has eight PoE ports and can handle video up to 5 megapixels should you choose to add higher definition cameras in future. This, though, is a good start and – in many cases – enough for little more than the price of some wi-fi cameras, let alone their subscriptions!
This camera offers significantly better image quality than many competitors, thanks not only to 4K but carefully optimized imaging algorithms which steer clear of excessive sharpening or contrast, but do support wide dynamic range. Axis’s AI can be set up not only to detect motion in specific areas, but monitor behaviors like loitering. Indeed the Axis might be a bit much for the average install, given that users can install apps – like plug-ins – to extend the already extensive functionality; Axis’s gallery has over 100 with functions like license plate recognition. We couldn’t leave it off the list, though, because – despite the price – the varifocal lens (optical zoom) combined with color and infra-red night vision makes for an exceptional camera, one that also boasts multiple video streams and can record to a local MicroSD card. It might be pricey, but it certainly gives you options!
The B1186EW is a classic bullet camera – a shape which acts as an effective deterrent as well as a good camera housing – and in this case returns a crisp 5 megapixel image which can be viewed on a web browser or NVR. The relatively wide field of view gives you the option of installing the camera with prevention in mind, but still monitoring a relatively broad area without the cost (and extra mechanics) of a PTZ system. Night vision is achieved through infra-red and a low-lux image sensor, and the 5-megapixel image offers a sensible balance between the data storage requirements of 4K and the lower resolution of 1080P. We also liked the capability of storing video to an on-board MicroSD and can appreciate some might like Amcrest’s entirely optional cloud service.
PoE ports explained
If you want to add Power over Ethernet to your existing computer network, you can. Depending on how your computers are set up at home, you might be familiar with the basics of computer networking, or you might just leave everything to wi-fi. It’s common to have a cable modem (where your internet connection comes from) of some kind connected to a wi-fi router, but the modem doesn’t need a router at all. It’s possible that this router will have additional Ethernet sockets (though these are rarely PoE type), which you might link to devices that need more reliable connections – perhaps a TV or games console.
You can add additional connections using a box called a “switch”, and this is where you’ll need to find a PoE-capable one if you want it to power your cameras. Moreover you should ensure it is powerful enough for the cameras you select; different PoE-capable switches have higher total amounts of power (a Watt budget) they can make available to devices like PoE cameras. Basic cameras are typically happy 15W per port, while HD cameras prefer a little more.
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