Updated December 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best security cameras

Security cameras can fill a wide variety of use cases — while they’re intended to make your home or business more secure, you don’t have to use a security camera for security alone. If you want a camera that can store data remotely, or that can allow you to watch its video feed in real time, a security camera works well.

At BestReviews, we pride ourselves on the detailed research we perform on many different products. We aim to provide readers with the trustworthy information they need to make a wise purchase, by testing products ourselves and analyzing reviews and feedback from existing owners.

We never accept free samples from manufacturers, meaning you can feel comfortable that our selections and product reviews are free of bias. We’ll help you find the right security camera kit for your needs.

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Pick a video camera that offers the highest resolution you can afford. Sharper video will allow you to see everything more clearly, which is probably why you’re buying a security camera.

Security camera features

When considering security cameras, make sure you look for one that has the features you need most. Because cameras with more features will cost more, make your wish list carefully. Don’t pick an all-around camera if you just need one or two features, or you’ll pay far more than you need.

  • Indoor or outdoor: Most security cameras will be rated for either indoor or outdoor use. An outdoor camera will be sealed and protected against weather and the elements. Most outdoor cameras automatically have night vision capability, too. You can use an outdoor security camera indoors, but you cannot go the other way — your indoor camera may not last long when exposed to the elements.

  • Motion detection: To avoid storing a bunch of video data that shows nothing, you may want a security camera with motion detection. The camera will not begin recording until it detects movement in the viewing area. You also may receive a smartphone alert when the camera detects motion, if desired. Typically, cameras with motion detection allow you to adjust the threshold for recording. This allows you to adjust for local conditions. For example, an outdoor camera with too high of sensitivity may alert you every time the wind blows the branches on a nearby tree!

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For your safety
Don’t try to use an indoor camera outdoors, as it won’t be sealed from the elements.
  • Movable vs. fixed: You will be able to control some cameras remotely, panning up, down, or slightly right and left. This allows you to see areas of your property or room that may not normally be visible. Some security cameras are fixed in place, and those cameras are quite a bit cheaper than cameras that can move.

  • Nanny cam: A security camera sold as a nanny cam functions as a simple indoor security camera. Usually those listed as “nanny cams” are designed to fit in with the decor of a nursery, and some are even hidden in everyday objects.

"If you add an extension cable to a wired camera, check the cable rating carefully. The rating will tell you how far you can run that cable without signal degradation."
  • Night recording: If you want to record what’s happening at your business or home in darkness, you need a security camera that offers night vision recording. A night camera likely will either use a near-infrared chip that records successfully in low light, or it will use LEDs that illuminate the area near the camera. These LEDs may be activated when the camera detects motion.
  • WiFi: Many security cameras offer WiFi connectivity these days. These cameras transmit captured video to a router, so that the video can be viewed via a smartphone app, and recorded on either a local hard drive or in cloud storage. If the cameras are battery powered, WiFi capability also enables you to place them without running wires through your walls.


Understanding video quality

With security cameras, you’ll typically pay more for a camera with higher resolution and video quality. Understanding different video qualities that are available will help you find the right camera to fit your budget.

  • Full 1080p HD: A full HD video quality should allow you to identify faces and objects in the video. Full 1080p video has1920x1080 resolution, which yields roughly 2 million pixels per frame. This means you’ll need a lot of storage space and internet bandwidth to handle this video resolution, but you’ll get excellent footage from your security camera.

  • 720p HD: This resolution still qualifies as HD, but it needs less storage space and bandwidth. Some faces will be clearly identifiable, as long as you have adequate lighting available.

  • VGA: If you want to limit the storage space required, VGA resolution gives you a great option. It translates to 640x480 resolution. However, faces and objects will not appear very clear on your video. This resolution works better when you just need to monitor movement, or perhaps see when there’s a delivery person at your door.

Some people don’t need the highest video camera resolution. If you’re only looking to keep an eye on your kids at home, you may not need the greatest detail. If you think you may need to identify a person’s face with your video though, a high quality will be needed.

Additionally, pay attention to the number of frames per second (fps). A video feed with only 3 to 5 fps will be choppy, while a feed with 30 fps will look smooth. However, you need more storage space to handle more frames per second.

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Did you know?
The position of some cameras can be adjusted remotely. This means you can tilt the camera up and down, or move it side to side from a remote location.

Security camera kit prices

Security camera systems can be expensive, especially with features like higher quality video, wireless communication, and mobile alerts.

Additionally, think about how many cameras you want. Don’t buy more hardware than you need to do the job, as you’ll end up overpaying. Most systems allow you to buy and add more cameras to your setup later, if you didn’t buy enough cameras initially. Before purchasing, though, check whether your system allows for expansion.

  • Under $100: Any security camera kit you find for less than $100 probably will feature older technology. It probably won’t have high-quality video, and it won’t offer any high-end features. Simple, low resolution nanny cams are most likely to fit in this price range.

"An IP-ready security camera will be viewable directly through entering an IP address in a web browser. "
  • $100 to $250: If you just need one camera and a base unit, you’ll probably fit in this price range. These single cameras can give you live video monitoring and full HD in most cases. Occasionally, you may find a two-camera kit in this price range, but it probably will have lower quality video.

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Expert Tip
Some security cameras need a power outlet available where the camera will be mounted. Other cameras run from battery or pull power from the cable that connects them to the base.
  • $250 to $500: Two- and three-camera kits often fit in this price range, along with a base station. You should expect full HD video quality when you pay this much, along with data storage. Some manufacturers will even throw in free cloud storage for 24 to 48 hours of video with a kit in this price range. You may be able to adjust the position of the cameras remotely for this price, too.

  • More than $500: These kits will include high-quality components that you may need for business surveillance. Such security camera setups may have an onsite DVR or hard drive to store the video. Some systems aimed at business owners can cost far more than $500, running a few thousand dollars.

  • Other Costs: You may find that you need to upgrade your WiFi router coverage, depending on where you place the cameras. A WiFi booster system can cost anywhere from $30 to $100. If you want to store video for a few months at a time, you’ll have to spend some money on storage capacity. You also may need to upgrade to a faster tier of internet upload speeds to accommodate video you’re sending to the cloud.


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Expert Tip
Most security camera kits allow expansion with additional compatible camera models later, to gain more coverage.


Q. Will I be able to install the cameras myself?
Security cameras have become easier to install over time, particularly as battery-powered, wireless cameras have become more common. A camera system intended for home use, with cloud storage and a smartphone app, should be relatively easy to install. A more sophisticated system that requires running wires through the walls or ceiling might require professional help.

Q. What do I need to view my security cameras remotely?
Most modern security camera setups connect to a WiFi network to make the video signal available anywhere. You can use an app on a smartphone or tablet to view footage, or access it via a web browser.

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It’s sometimes possible to aim an indoor camera through a window for outside coverage, but this often leads to poor video quality.

Q. How can I store data from my security cameras?
Some security camera kits do not store data, only presenting a live feed. However, most setups do store data in some manner. Storing video data to a computer hard drive is a common method. Others will store data using technology and hardware similar to a DVR. Older and cheaper security camera systems may make use of a VCR. More current systems send data directly to a cloud storage system, making the video easily viewable from any location. Cameras that run from a battery in a remote location may use a memory card to store data.

Q. Do I need a special camera to use for night vision?
Most security cameras have some sort of low light capability, but some will do better at night than other models. If you want a security camera that excels at night, look for one with near-infrared capabilities. You also can make use of a camera equipped with bright LEDs, that activate at night whenever motion is detected. If you need really clear video at night, look for a security camera that excels in this area, but you may have to sacrifice a little bit of video quality during daylight.

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