How to Select the Best Home Security Camera

An article on how to select the best home security camera seems appropriate for a site like ours which is focused on this subject.  Simply going out to your local electronics store and buying the cheapest model they have is likely going to result in a return or purchase of a second camera.  This article will hopefully provide a framework for some pre-purchase guidance and allow to narrow your criteria down so that when you do finally take the home security camera plunge, you will select the best home security camera.

Connectivity

Many home security cameras come with wireless connectivity to your home router.  Some require running an Ethernet cable directly to your router.  You likely want to place the camera (or cameras) away from the place the router is located so be sure there is a wireless feature.  Ideally get a camera that supports a dual band frequency.  If using your camera in HD mode, you will benefit from support of the newer 5GHz frequency.

Placement

Where are you planning to put the camera and how many do you need?  Are there power outlets nearby?  Will you be placing these indoors only or will there be a need for outdoor placement?

These questions help to decide if you should look at buying a multi-camera kit or a single unit.  It also helps to answer the question of requiring a waterproof camera versus one that is designed for indoor use only.  Most security cameras are designed for indoor use only so if outdoor use is planned, be certain the camera is waterproof and can withstand the most extreme temperature swings in your area.

Cameras meant for outdoor deployment will specify that on the box.  The quality of outdoor cameras is every bit as good as the indoor varieties but they are encased in a weatherproof housing.  A few top notch examples that we have reviewed are the Nest Cam Outdoor and Ring Video Doorbell Pro.

Also put some thought on where you wish to mount your home security camera.  Most cameras come with a standard tabletop stand.  You might want to mount this on a wall or outside your home.  Be sure that alternative mounts are available to do this as it may not be included with your new camera.

Software

How would you like to access your security camera?  Do you plan to use a smartphone or only use a web browser?  Most security camera made over the past few years provide a smartphone app and it really does make remote monitoring far easier versus having to access a desktop each time you want to check in on the camera.  So check to ensure that the camera comes with a good app.

You might notice the ratings in the app store might not be too great but the ratings of the camera are terrific.  I have found this to be fairly typical.  Not terribly sure why that is.

There are some useful software features that provide motion and sound detection.  If you would like your camera to notify you, or possibly email a snapshot of the action, be sure the software supports this feature.  I have found that most systems, even bargain priced ones, do have this feature but check it out.

Video Storage

Cloud storage is very popular with security webcams.  It’s what can turn your webcam into a security camera.  Think about it.  If your camera is stolen, and there is only onboard storage on an SD card, you can’t see who took it.  If your camera streams to the cloud where it is retained, you still have the video of the thief.  Some cameras come with a few days worth of free cloud storage, others charge for it, others don’t have that feature.

Not all could plans are the same, especially around retention times.  Arlo has a very generous seven-day retention as part of their free plan.  Nest includes several hours.  We have articles describing the Arlo Smart Cloud plan and Nest Aware.  You might need to subscribe to a paid plan to get useful video archival capabilities.  This annual charge can really add up over the life of the home security camera.

Some cameras have an SD card slot so that the video images can be stored on the card.  I have a camera that’s used to monitor my pool.  I’m not worried about anyone breaking in because I have a bunch of alarm sensors installed so I’m ok without having cloud storage.  However, I might want to go back and see if the pool guy showed up and did what I paid him to do, so the SD card works out ok for me.

Hardware

Depending upon where you want to put your camera, be sure there is an A/C outlet nearby.  There are a few brands out there that use battery power for the cameras and they provide rather decent battery life if not used heavily.  Ironically, a few of these battery operated cameras are among the best around.  We reviewed the Arlo Pro and loved the features and hardware quality.  It holds a charge for many months and is easy to juice it up again.

Plan to use the camera at night when the lights are out?  Get a camera with night vision features.  Most mainstream cameras that are marketed for security have this feature, but be certain to check.

Some home security cameras come with a microphone and speaker.  Useful if you plan to use the camera as a video conferencing solution or wish to have sound alerts.  Not all security cameras have a speaker or microphone, and in some cases, the quality is poor.  We reviewed the Nest Cam IQ not long ago and found the quality to be quite good (as most Nest cameras are).

Support

If hand holding might be required in case of problems, buy from a large company with an established North American or European presence.  Smaller companies and those with support located outside of North America or Europe may not provide adequate support, if any.  I have found that sticking with larger consumer brands often yield the best support experience.  I remember trying out an off-brand a few years ago.  Support simply did not exist.  I emailed them twice and never got an answer.  Fortunately it was easy to return and get a refund for that camera.  I learned quickly that the best home security camera is probably going to have the best support too.  At least that’s my working theory.

Summary

Take your time in selecting the best home security camera that meets your needs.  Most of the product articles on our site have a table at the end summarizing the key features of each home security camera.  This is a good place to check for feature compatibility versus your requirements without having to read every word of every article.  You can also view a summary of the feature tables at our Home Security Camera Feature Comparison page.

All of these articles are written by someone (me) that figured out how to do this stuff the hard way.  I have owned and tested dozens of cameras.  Manufacturer support varies.  There are a few good companies that provide timely answers when you have questions.  There are several that sell you the camera and seem to have little interest in post sales support (which leads me to finding out stuff the hard way).