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Best PoE cameras in 2021: the best surveillance camera systems

Best PoE camera
(Image credit: Reolink)

Looking for the best PoE camera or best surveillance camera system? This guide will help you find the Power-over-Ethernet camera 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 solve the need for regularly charging batteries and protecting 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 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). 

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, they check out our separate guide to the best NVRs

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 2021

(Image credit: Reolink)

Specifications
Sensor: 1/ 2.49” CMOS
Video: 3840 x 2460 (8MP) @ 25fps
Recording format: : H.265
Field of view: 87˚ x 44˚
Night vision: Yes, 30m
Audio: Yes
Dimensions: 105 x 93mm (camera)
Reasons to buy
+No Subscription+Smart person & vehicle detection+2TB storage +Cameras have MicroSD recording
Reasons to avoid
-‘Human’ rather than individual person detection

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!

(Image credit: Annke)

2. Annke H800 4K Dome system

Best dome-style PoE camera system

Specifications
Sensor: 1/ 2.7in CMOS
Video: 3840 x 2160 (8MP) @ 25fps
Recording format: : H.265+
Field of view: 123˚ (diagonal)
Night vision: Yes, 30m
Audio: Yes
Waterproof: IP67
Reasons to buy
+Sony CMOS +Smart person & vehicle detection+2TB storage +Cameras have TF card slot
Reasons to avoid
-Dome cameras have more wide-angle distortion 

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. 

(Image credit: Swann)

3. Swann Master-Series 4K system

Quad-camera system with 4K output for cost-effective install

Specifications
Sensor: 1/ 1.7in CMOS
Video: 2560 x 1920 (5MP) @ 10fps (15fps 1080p)
Recording format: : H.265+
Field of view: 90˚
Night vision: Yes, 40m (10m color)
Audio: Yes
Waterproof: IP66
Size: 142 x 71 x 71mm (camera) | 235 x 310 x 53mm (box)
Reasons to buy
+Complete DIY Install Kit+Alexa and Google Integrations+Local and some free cloud storage
Reasons to avoid
-Maximum of eight cameras on NVR-Vehicle & pet detection requires subscription

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.

(Image credit: Reolink)

A dual cameras system which just needs PoE

Specifications
Sensor: 1/1.7in CMOS
Video: 2560 x 1920 (5MP) @ 25fps
Recording format: H.265+
Field of view: 80˚ x 58˚
Night vision: Yes, 30m
Audio: Yes
Waterproof: IP66
Dimensions: 120 x 77mm
Reasons to buy
+Good balance of price and function +Motion alert systems & defined detection areas+Works with Google Assistant+iOS, Android, Mac and Windows apps
Reasons to avoid
-PoE injector(s) required 

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 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 it’s worth noting that you’ll need to supply power so an 802.3af 48V ‘PoE injector’ might be needed too. 

(Image credit: Annke)

5. Annke C800 4K Zoom Bullet Camera

The best fixed PoE camera for active monitoring

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.5in CMOS
Video: 4000 x 3000 (12MP) @ 25fps
Recording format: : H.265+
Field of view: 40-125˚ (diagonal)
Night vision: Yes, 50m
Audio: Yes
Waterproof: IP67
Dimensions: 297.5 x 93mm
Reasons to buy
+Large Sony IMX226 CMOS +Sophisticated AI systems+Optical zoom+Ultra 
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive for private buyers 

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.

(Image credit: Lorex )

6: Lorex Fusion Bundle 4K PoE System

Most flexible PoE security system – can even include doorbell

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.5in CMOS
Video: 4K (8MP) @ 25fps
Recording format: : H.265+
Field of view: 108˚ (diagonal)
Night vision: Yes, 30m IR
Audio: Yes, two way talk
Waterproof: IP67
Dimensions: Camera: 175 x 73 x 73mm / Box: 324 x 249 x 60mm
Reasons to buy
+Allows smart triggering for lighting+Face Detection, person detection, & left object options +Amazon, Google & Apple TV integrations
Reasons to avoid
-System might be more than you need-Only 8 PoE sockets (additional wi-fi sensors can be added)

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. 

(Image credit: Amcrest)

7. Amcrest IP8M-T2499EW Turret

Best PoE camera for Alexa users

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.5in CMOS
Video: 3840 x 2160 (8MP) @ 30fps
Recording format: : H.265+
Field of view: 112˚
Night vision: Yes, 50m
Audio: Yes
Waterproof: IP67
Dimensions: 97 x 119 x 119 mm
Reasons to buy
+Good balance of price and function +Works with Alexa+H.265 +iOS, Android, Mac and Windows apps. 
Reasons to avoid
-PoE Injector(s) required 

This turret features excellent low-light video, and wide dynamic range of up to 120bB or, as TV manufacturers would tend to call it, 4K UltraHD, thanks to its back-illuminated Sony IMX274 image sensor, and is available in a moody all-black design if that better suits your surroundings.

The camera features a built-in mic, which can be used by your monitoring software to help trigger alerts or recording or just send sound back with the picture if you’re using a remote viewing app, like the free Amcrest View Pro app for iOS/Android. The software can also be used to set up the various smart features like virtual tripwires – perimeter protection. Once features like this are set up, however, Alexa Show enthusiasts can use their favourite digital assistant to give them a glimpse from the camera (which will be in Alexa’s Discover Devices list like any other new gadget).

(Image credit: ZowieTek)

8. ZowieTek NDI 30x

Best PoE camera for livestreaming

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.7in CMOS
Video: 1920 x 1080 (2.07MP) @ 60fps
Recording format: : H.265+
Field of view: 3.3-54.7˚
Night vision: 0.5Lux min
Audio: Via mic socket
Waterproof: -
Dimensions: 150 x 150 x 167 mm
Reasons to buy
+20x Optical zoom +Socket for Micro SD recording optionH.265 +⨁ iOS, Android, Mac and Windows apps
Reasons to avoid
-Only 1080P, fine for livestreaming but 4K would be nice

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.

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.

(Image credit: Revotech)

9. Revotech Mini

Best budget PoE starter camera

Specifications
Sensor: 1/3in CMOS
Video: 2304 x 1293 (3MP) @ 20fps
Recording format: : H.265
Field of view: 65˚
Night vision: 0.1 Lux
Audio: Via mic socket
Waterproof: : -
Dimensions: 30 x 30 x mm
Reasons to buy
+Compact and discrete+Optional accessories including tele lens+Straightforward remote access via apps (Mac/Win/Android)
Reasons to avoid
-No infrared -PoE injector required 

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 themselves offer the camera with a 6-22mm telephoto 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.

(Image credit: Reolink)

Best optical zoom PTZ PoE camera for CCTV

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.7in CMOS
Video: 2560 x 1920 (5MP) @ 30fps
Recording format: H.265+
Field of view: 33-98˚
Night vision: Yes, 58m
Audio: Via mic socket
Waterproof: IP66
Dimensions: 97 x 119 x 119 mm
Reasons to buy
+Socket for Micro SD recording option+H.265 + iOS, Android, Mac and Windows apps. 
Reasons to avoid
-Optical zoom could be longer 

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.

Other useful buying guides: 

Best outdoor security cameras in 2021

Best indoor security cameras

Best PTZ camera

The best doorbell cameras

The best body cameras for personal security

Adam Juniper

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 


Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 


He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook