Looking for the best outdoor security camera for your home or business? This guide will take you through the top systems, and discuss the different features, so you can decide on the best outdoor security system for your budget – and buy it at the best price.
Since the internet provides a direct link to your pocket, and AI can tell packages from intruders, installing smart cameras can do a lot. You can check you closed the garage door from an app, tell the kids to come in for dinner via a built-in speaker, and, of course, receive alerts if something happens in time to do something about it.
The market has seen a lot of innovation from big players as Google and Amazon have snapped up and developed the brands Nest, Ring and Blink, and it’ll be no surprise to learn the brands integrate thoroughly with Google Assistant and Alexa respectively. Other competitors are staying neutral and supporting both, and sometimes Apple’s HomeKit (Apple provide the software underpinnings to support cameras without offering products themselves).
Most brands here also offer cameras designed to live indoors; rather than miss good choices, we’ve created a separate list for the indoor security cameras (opens in new tab), but don’t forget you can often mix-and-match to create your own complete system. Indeed there is much to be said for choosing a system rather than just a device.
Certainly you’ll need to choose between cameras networked to a recording device (NVR) or the increasingly common cloud storage. The later, which Google, Ring and others Silicon Valley brands seem at home with, almost invariably come with a subscription fee for the full feature set, including the ability to review video. This list covers both options.
Key features to consider are whether you want always-on recording or clips of detected “events,” what kind of night vision – if any – is on offer, whether there is one- or two-way speakers (which let you speak remotely from the camera), and how large the field-of-view is. Finally think about installation; this might depend on your DIY skills, but continuous video will undoubtedly need cabling – other cameras offer alternatives with all kinds of ways to replace and recharge batteries. Finally we also suggest you check local rules on the need to display CCTV warning signs, too.
The best outdoor security cameras in 2022(opens in new tab)
In terms of simplicity, the “Nest Cam (outdoor or indoor, battery)” – yes, that’s its full name – is fantastic. Once charged, it can be mounted magnetically to your home and sends a live view to the Google Home (not Nest) app. The newer Google app allows monitoring of multiple live cameras, among other features. Smart features like person, animal, package or vehicle recognition all take place onboard the device, so you can choose which you’re notified about and don’t have to pay for a subscription for this. It also speeds things up compared to those services which rely on footage being sent to and processed on cloud servers.
Why’s the video ‘only’ 1080P? Because good HDR 1080P can be more useful than bad 4K (and uses far less battery to send via wi-fi); this is excellent quality within the limits of 1080P. There are some quirks to the design, like only being IP54 weatherproof (keep it under the eves) and the weird way the power cable looks plugged in. That said, the system seems designed to be used in battery mode. There is built-in storage to cope with internet outages, while features like two-way voice (typical of app-controlled cameras) are there.(opens in new tab)
The Arlo system, from Netgear, stands out amongst security cameras thanks to the system’s dedication to supporting all the major smart home systems – including Apple HomeKit. For that, though, it works via the Arlo Smart Hub, so is best bought in a package; for video clips only the cameras can be picked up alone. Given Arlo’s pricing, it’s worth asking if 4K is necessary to you (Arlo also offer lower resolution options at lower cost), but the brand’s AI is a great feature – detecting the difference between delivery man, person, pet or vehicle, which means your phone alerts are much less likely to cry wolf.
External installation is a breeze thanks to the magnetic mounts (do put them out of reach though). The camera works well near the front door thanks to the dual noise-cancelling microphones which reduce street or weather noise in a two-way chat. There is also a siren and a bright LED. Apple-enthusiasts won’t just appreciate HomeKit support; the charging cables are reminiscent of Apple’s MagSafe, so while the promised 6 months battery life seems optimistic; you can easily just take the camera down, or reach up and connect the cable in situ. Arlo’s software, too, makes reviewing clips on your phone or via a browser (with dual verification) painless and – like Ring – there is a range, including a doorbell, to build a complete system with.(opens in new tab)
If you want a compact indoor camera which might occasionally need to be positioned outside (or under a leaky roof) then look no further than the updated Wyze Cam’s v3. This is a compact 1080P cube camera which is IP65-rated for weatherproofing and able to capture color even in the dark thanks to what Wyze calls a Starlight CMOS sensor, and its f/1.6 maximum aperture. An optional Outdoor Power Adapter is needed for external use, or perhaps this value-for-money choice would be top of the list. There are two switchable infrared wavelengths built-in, for near and far illumination, so re-positioning the camera in and out poses no risk. The ‘near’ one makes things hard to see, so perhaps better for baby monitoring. Mounting is straightforward too; there is a magnetic mount or screw mount. The two-way talk system makes use of a simultaneous speaker/mic system rather than push-to-talk. All these are great features, well realized, but the choice of inserting a microSD or using the subscription service is really appreciated. In most respects it beats the fairly recent Wyze Cam Outdoor, too, unless you need a battery-powered system.
The eufyCam 2 Pro, the latest addition to the Eufy system, caught a lot of virtual eyes when orginally launched at CES 2021 (opens in new tab). This camera isn’t only prepared for the weather, with IP67 protection, but for a straightforward installation, able to run entirely from battery for a whole year. That long life is in part thanks to the Sony sensor which provides good quality low light imagery without the need for a white light, which will mean climbing the ladders to charge the camera(s) less often. Rather than a potentially expensive subscription, Eufy’s system makes use of a base station, the HomeBase, making it sensible to buy in multi-camera kits from the start. The HomeBase’s on-board 16GB can be extended via USB, and the video stored on it is encrypted, but can be accessed via the app easily. Eufy also boasts a great app with good options, a thumbnail alerts option, and great alternative cameras and doorbells if you’re looking for, say, floodlights.(opens in new tab)
Blink’s compact cameras are designed to capture short video clips when activated by motion, but avoid being hard-wired thanks to the power from 2 AA lithium batteries. These can keep the device going for up to 2 years, communicating via a mini hub called the Sync Module 2 (ensure you buy the ‘kit’ if you need one of these; if buying extra cameras you can save around $10 / £10 by buying without the module). The Sync Module also has a USB socket for a simple USB stick (up to 256GB which you can use to record clips without subscription. Non cloud-subscribers miss a few features, though, like thumbnails when reviewing clips and hourly photos assembled into timelapse so you can review what happened as you slept. The Blink system’s friction installation is simple, though you’d want it out of reach for thieves. Clearly the default settings are designed to preserve battery life, but the app offers choices like ‘early motion’ so you can choose your own priorities.
• Read full Blink Outdoor review (opens in new tab)
The Nest Cam with Floodlight is a powerful and excellent quality garden floodlight which will also look great on a stylish home so, thankfully, can be dimmed to your chosen brightness and just be used as a light. At maximum, it’ll pour 2,400 lumens over the space before it. That’s enough to ensure everything you’re looking at through that 1080P 30fps camera is in its natural colors.
Obviously that much energy needs to be hardwired, but taking a leaf from the more recent Nest camera (which also impressed us a great deal), this version has three hours battery backup to maintain the recording even where the internet fails it. Person detection and motion zones are also available without subscription, which is a classy touch, and though the lowest Nest Aware monthly fee (at $6 / £5) is higher than, say, Blink’s, it covers multiple devices so – as soon as you add a second Nest device – it can prove cost effective. On the same subject, it is also a good choice for Google Assistant fans, but offers no support for the Amazon/Alexa smart assistant.(opens in new tab)
The Ring Stick-Up camera is an ideal development of the enormously popular Ring smart doorbell brand so, if you’d like a broader view of your property all coordinated in a mature app, look no further. The Stick-up cam can be positioned indoors and out and is powered by a battery which will last about 1,000 activations (though that can be as little as a few weeks if you’ve got cats in your neighbourhood). In fact much of the volume of the device is taken up by that battery which you can charge yourself, but to reduce the need to do that, the optional solar panel can – given the right conditions – keep it topped up much longer. You can, of course, also buy an extra Ring Battery Pack to keep charged at the ready and speed up the transition – it is compatible with numerous Ring products – or run a USB cable to the camera in situ too.
All this flexibility when it comes to power and installation is nonetheless straightforward in use thanks to Ring’s sophisticated app with easy-to-follow tutorials, and the cheaper cloud event storage is probably enough for most. If you use a Ring doorbell, there is much to be said for adding Ring cameras as you can use the same cloud subscription.
• See also Best Ring cameras (opens in new tab)
The Alptop camera might have a distinctly arachnid look, but that smattering of ‘eyes’ serves to provide illumination for both infrared and visible light night vision. This camera is also not priced at a point where excessive investment in industrial design is to be expected; instead this is a great way to get 1080P HD footage from locations important to you or your business. The lens itself has a fairly narrow 70˚ field of view, but this extends to 320˚ horizontal and 90˚ vertically with the pan-and-tilt. The app, camHI, could certainly be better styled, but allows pan, tilt and zooming, too, and provides motion alerts. The camera records to an on-board MicroSD card if you choose. One thing it can’t do, despite suggesting it could, is connect to a web browser; it seems it needs the now-retired Flash player. There is still software for Windows, and an RJ45 connector; a nice extra option.(opens in new tab)
We do have a separate guide to the best doorbell cameras (opens in new tab), but it crosses over with this one for a couple of reasons. Many of the manufacturers are the same, and they use the same apps, technology and subscriptions so you can keep things tidier and cheaper by being brand loyal! The Arlo Essential Wire-Free model is our choice because it has a square HD camera, offering a much more rational field of view for something next to a door, and because it includes package detection so it can alert you next time the delivery agent leaves something expensive in full view of passers by and drives off.
In terms of installation, it can either connect to a traditional chime and wiring, or be topped up from time to time and connect via wi-fi. That ‘time-to-time’ seems to be about every two weeks in a busy location, which might persuade you to either do the wiring or dip into your pocket for a spare battery; charging will leave you out of action for around four hours. Despite not being an Amazon company, it can also use an Alexa Echo as a chime if you choose. See our full Arlo Essential Wire-Free Doorbell review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
With a low asking price and nothing to worry about when it comes to looks, you might expect that Nooie are looking to make their money back with an outrageous subscription scheme, but in reality this camera offers the choice. There is cloud storage, signed up for via the app, and the opportunity to record locally. Sometimes getting a cheap product means sacrificing the opportunity to be part of a useful ecosystem, but Nooie offer doorbells and baby monitors too. Outdoor fitting does involve running a power lead – a battery option would be nice – but given the entry price it’s hard to complain. It is true that 1080P isn’t the highest resolution out there, but it’s worth remembering that it’s good enough for Google’s Nest too; where things do fall down a little is the frame rate, which is only 15fps – enough to see what’s happening, but not TV-like.(opens in new tab)
The C3X uses a dual-lens set up to offer color video at night even without supplemental lights. In addition building AI into the system means the camera can spot human and vehicle shapes even in difficult lighting. The system works by combining data from the infrared camera (lit using two invisible-to-human-eyes lights) with the ambient brightness with a proprietary algorithm. The resulting H.265 video is then sent on via wi-fi, ethernet or recorded locally. The system still has a bright strobe (and siren) which it can use to deter intruders; people, vehicles, or both, and in what region is up to you. The MicroSD and reset button are tucked under a screw-sealed plate, which should make it harder to interfere with as well as earn the IP67 rating. It’s handy that a cable waterproofing clip is included too. The design is also kind to those installing a long way from wi-fi bases; the dual antenna are effective.
A PTZ camera (opens in new tab) (pan, tilt and zoom) can act like a sentry, looking around and examining anything suspicious more closely. A 4x optical zoom goes a long way to picking up more useful footage for detective work, which in the CZ400’s case is bolstered by AI. The camera can separate humans from animals and other objects, as well as be set up for line-crossing, intrusion, unattended baggage, and object removal. It is also listening out for unusual sounds, all of which can reduce false alarms by up to 90% while giving a lot of choice as to what does cause alerts. The 1/3-inch sensor captures 24fps, and color in light as low as 0.005 lux, while four built-in IR LEDs illuminate up to 65ft / 20m. The CZ400 is designed to be connected via PoE (Power over Ethernet) cables, but it does offer the option of local storage (to a Micro SD) as well as to a NVR, though the robust metal vandal-proof housing (rated IP67 and IK10) means changing it is somewhat fiddly. See also Best PoE cameras (opens in new tab).
What to look for in an outdoor security camera?
Top tips for picking the best outdoor security camera system:
- Ecosystem Does the camera use wi-fi or its own base station, and if the later do you have to pay extra for the base station? Are you willing to? Is the ecosystem wide enough for all your needs? Smart doorbells, for example, have quite a crossover with outdoor cameras.
- Subscription Is there a subscription (or multiple subscription options), and do they charge per camera or per home? Are you willing to pay?
- Local recording? Is there the option to record locally, and is it in the camera or a base station? If you’re recording into the camera, can you be confident the recording is secure?
- Power supply Many outdoor cameras are battery powered, which makes for an easier install but more maintenance. Some offer solar panel accessories, like the Blink Outdoor Solar Mount, to save on battery swapping, charging or replacement.
- Lighting Floodlighting, or more subtle options like bright LEDs on the Google Nest IQ or Ring Spotlight Cam can both offer color when you’re seeing in the dark and surprise trespassers.
- Sirens Can deter those you don’t want on your property. High decibel counts can be most effective, but may be more than your neighbors need!
- Two-way-talk Can let you check in with the kids in the garden, or let you talk to a trespasser.
- Camera quality Resolution is important, but certainly isn’t the only factor; outdoor cameras are often used mainly at night, so low-light imagery matters and that depends as much on infrared lighting as pixel count. In fact you may end up needing to turn down the image resolution rather than dominate your internet bandwidth!
- Live View Live view refers to the live video you can see from the camera on your app. It’s also worth looking for latency – the delay between real life and what you see on your phone.
- Event The cameras have sensors of one kind or another to detect humans, animals or vehicles before activating the camera, alert, lights or siren, and each occasion is referred to as an ‘event’ in the jargon. Some cameras or subscriptions only record video in clips after an event, while others offer 24/7 options.
- Connection loss The answer here is usually reasonably straightforward in terms of power depending on the presence of a battery, but what about the footage? How dependent is the device on an internet connection?
- DFG Drop Free Glass is a technology based on electrowetting-on-dielectric microfluids; in layman’s terms, energy can be passed through parts of the glass to guide water droplets away more quickly (and using less power) than a wiper (so the lens is free of water drops).
- Person detection Not the same thing as individual recognition, at best you’ll receive notifications in genres like ‘Person,’ ‘Animal’ and ‘Vehicle.’ Whether you want an alert when there is an animal in your garden depends on how much your rose bushes matter to you, for example.
Other useful buying guides:
Best indoor security cameras (opens in new tab)
The best body cameras (opens in new tab) for personal security