Looking for the best PoE camera or the 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.
PoE technology is simpler than older “Siamese cables,” while avoiding the need for regular battery charging. The range is limited only by the cable and not thick walls blocking Wi-Fi. An Ethernet cable can carry enough power to operate a surveillance camera and it goes without saying that handling a digital video via network is no problem. 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).
If you want to break things down into more detail, there is an FAQ below the main list, but the main thing to be mindful of is that this list covers systems – with drives and power boxes – and separate cameras. PoE also covers live streaming and broadcast setups, so we've not forgotten them, but you might prefer to check our best streaming camera and best PTZ camera guides. With a separate camera you will, of course, need a compatible system.
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With 4K H.265 cameras this system offers a good deal of detail, while the Sony CMOS sensors protected in domes can get results in tough conditions and even survive vandals.
Four 4K cameras and 2TB of NVR storage, this combination will give you the power to securely monitor a location using modern H.265 compression.
A fully-PoE powered pan-tilt-zoom camera which can be used for security purposes or even live streaming if you choose (albeit at 1920x1080).
The best PoE cameras in 2023
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 performs 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 camera's 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.
With four 4K cameras and 2TB of storage, this camera and NVR (Network Video Recorder) combination set is a powerful security system that will give you the power to monitor most properties without further investment – and you have the option to 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 cameras see via Reolink’s computer client which works on Mac, Windows, and the 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!
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 the power requirement.
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.
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 brand, 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 through 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 the software but you’ll need to supply power to a PoE injector like the 802.3af 48V will be needed too (or a capable NVR).
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.
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.
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 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 that will survive in weather from -30˚C to 60˚ç (-22˚-140˚F), so that ticks of durability and flexibility.
This is an incredibly versatile system that takes advantage of a Sony EXIR image sensor and 4x optical zoom – backed up with a 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 passerby (it’s slightly bigger than some), and the field of view can be changed remotely on demand or by a timed program.
The camera includes all of 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, and 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.
If you want to start experimenting with PoE cameras, the tiny Revotech Mini is ideal. The tiny 30mm square, supplied with an 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) allowing you to position the camera at 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.
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 the 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!
The B1186EW is a classic bullet camera – a shape that acts as an effective deterrent as well as a good camera housing – and in this case returns a crisp 5-megapixel image that 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 infrared 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 onboard MicroSD and can appreciate some might like Amcrest’s entirely optional cloud service.
This camera offers significantly better image quality than many competitors, thanks not only to 4K but carefully optimized imaging algorithms that steer clear of excessive sharpening or contrast but do support a wide dynamic range.
Axis’s AI can be set up not only to detect motion in specific areas but to 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 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!
PoE – Power Over Ethernet – is a system that channels power and data over the same computer networking cables. 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 (but these are rarely PoE type). You might link these 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 at 15W per port, while HD cameras prefer a little more.
What is the difference between PoE and Ethernet?
Both PoE, which stands for Power Over Ethernet, and ordinary Ethernet, use the same cables. Each is a bundle of smaller wires and PoE uses two of the lines to carry low voltage direct current power. That means a device connected to a PoE system only needs one cable for power and communications.
What kind of cable do I need for PoE?
Regular RJ45 connectors are used for normal and PoE networks, so in theory Cat 5E, Cat 6 and other cables will work just fine. Cat 6 is better as the thicker cables dissipate heat. To be absolutely sure the cable you get is PoE ready test it for resistance.
How do I add PoE to my network?
You can either get a router which supports PoE, and a network switch which does. Ethernet cables can be connected directly into these and draw power from them (make sure there is enough total wattage for all your devices). Alternatively you can get a PoE injector for each device, which separates the power and Ethernet parts of the cable.
What to look for when buying PoE
- Understand your objective – PoE is a very flexible system, used in security cameras and live streaming systems. Know what you need.
- Will you be replacing your power supply? – If you're installing cameras, make sure you already have, or will be getting, a suitable source of PoE power. If you're not buying in a bundle, check the number of watts each camera needs and the total output of your router or network switch.
- Cable runs – It is possible to buy reels of Ethernet cable and cap it yourself, or to buy ready-made lengths. If you choose prepared cables don't forget you'll need to fit the whole RJ45 plug through any holes you've drilled, not just the cable.
- Compression systems – Any camera you're adding, not just wired, and it is important to check the video compression format to ensure compatibility with your NAS or NVR.
- Camera features – Don't forget to look at camera functionality like resolution, and any built-in night vision.
- Camera style – Will turret or bullet shape better suit your purposes?
What we look for in PoE camera
We have a test facility with wired and wireless cameras, and endeavor to try camera systems in a real environment, connected to a real network. We have set up different lengths of Ethernet and PoE, and test cameras in night and day. Where we haven't yet been able to try a sample, we work on our experience of historical brand quality.
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