The best outdoor security cameras to protect your home

Which cameras are the best for the outside?

The best outdoor security cams

Smart outdoor cameras are surging in popularity as the connected home takes shape – offering peace of mind and a strong security deterrent. Until now, much of the focus has been on smart cameras for inside the home – which are as much about checking on pets, cleaners and whether the kids got home than actual security.

But when someone is inside you're home, it's all a bit late – which is why outdoor security cameras are taking hold. They offer both a preventative deterrent and powerful way of checking the security of your home – and with new models offering better waterproofing and totally wire-free set up – there's never been a better time to buy.

We've rounded up some of our favorite outdoor cameras for you to take a look at.

Smart outdoor cameras: Things to consider

The first thing to consider, naturally, is price. And not just the upfront price, which will start at around $200 and move up to $450 depending on the brand you go with. No, you need to also consider the hidden fees of subscription services.

What you're really going to be paying for here is storage. Each company does storage a little bit differently. For instance, Nest has its Nest Aware plan. It comes in three storage tiers, allowing you to keep footage from three, 10 and 30 days, but it also comes with several smart features - like facial recognition - to make things a little more tempting.

Other companies are just charging you for pure storage, hosting all your video up in the cloud. Some will give you a limited amount of storage out the box and then charge you for more.

What you'll need to figure out is if you need that extra storage. Do you want to be able to have a collection of backup footage in case something happens? Several cam makers allow you to keep clips of your footage by default - for free - so that you can share it with law enforcement a little easier. If that's all you need, you may not even need to opt into any subscriptions.

The other thing to consider here is on-device storage. It's nice to have, but it's also possible for a burglar to rip out your SD card, or even just pull off the camera, and be done with it. You need off-device storage, so we've gone ahead and pointed out which, if any, of these devices have that option.

Battery operation and weather-proofing

Most outdoor cameras require a wired connection, which might put off those unwilling to get it professionally fitted. If you don't fancy having a wire hanging out of your window or splicing a cable off your mains then you might be best off with a 100% battery operated model.

With the outdoors, the other things you'll need to consider are weatherproofing, night vision and whether you want an attached light. Weatherproofing is given because your camera will need to stand up to the elements no matter where you live. We're talking dust, rain, birds, wind and maybe even some snow. Night vision speaks for itself, and a built-in motion-sensing light is extremely helpful in scaring the thievery out of potential intruders.

Now that we've gone through that, these are the outdoor smart cameras you should consider.

The best home security camera for your smart home

Arlo Pro 2

$449.99, arlo.com | Amazon

The Arlo Pro 2 is a serious indoor and outdoor smart home camera, and one of the most feature-rich setups you can throw money at. With an IP65 rating it's comfortable outside in rain, shine or worse.

The cost may seem prohibitive, but for the $449 price tag you get two wireless, weatherproof cameras and the hub. Yes, it's a bigger outlay, but fairly decent value against the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor.

It’s 1080p and produces excellent quality footage in daylight and low light. There’s night vision too, but this was the only area we felt lagged the competition. The IR often blew-out if placed too close to a surface, so you'll want to use the supplied magnetic mount.

What really strikes us about the Arlo Pro 2 is its versatility. Firstly, it's completely wireless thanks to a lithium-ion battery that will last a couple of months between recharges via a USB-C cable. That's a game-changer and makes it a great proposition for outdoor use.

It's also slim and compact, which makes it easy to place on the outside of your house. It looks good, so if you ever need to put it indoors it'll blend into your home decor better than the rest.

While it’s annoying for a camera to require a hub to be plugged into your router – very few of the alternatives require the same – the range of the Arlo 2 Pro is really impressive. We got great signal from the 802.11n hub throughout the garden, way beyond the limits of our router. The hub features a USB socket so you can store your clips offline if you wish – a win for data privacy.

And the extra features offer everything you need: motion and sound alerts, two-way audio and active motion detection areas within shot (that requires your cameras to be plugged in) are the main events.

Finally, data storage is a huge win. You get free storage from up to five cameras for a week – all accessible within the Arlo app. Arlo has recently added a paid-for tier; Arlo Smart costs $2.99 per month and offers AI-based alert triggers (a souped up version of the activity zones, which can be done with the device on battery) and the ability to make an e911 call from anywhere in the world.

This is on top of the seven-day playback of motion detected clips from five cameras you get for free. The Smart Elite plan ($14.99) offers the same, but you get 60 days of footage storage from up to 20 cameras.

Feature check: Free seven day storage. IP65 weatherproofing. Full HD streaming, wireless, 130 degree angle lens, night vision, motion/sound alerts, two-way audio.

the ambient verdict
Arlo Pro 2
The Arlo Pro 2 is a top wireless indoor and outdoor camera boasting great range, superb battery life and great set of features. It's a great performer, whether you're looking for security or even for spotting wildlife in your garden. It's versatile – and performs in every situation. What's more, the free storage is a big win, and offsets that big price tag.
PROS
  • Great quality footage
  • Big wireless range
  • Good battery life
CONS
  • Not the best night vision
  • Expensive
  • Can't affect motion sensitivity


The best home security camera for your smart home

Nest Cam IQ Outdoor

$349, nest.com | Amazon

Nest's smart home cameras come in two flavors - outdoor and indoor, each one specifically tailored to their chosen needs. The Outdoor features a bunch of advanced tracking skills that are enabled with the optional Nest Aware subscription.

Nest Aware doesn’t come cheap either. It’s $5 a month for five days of cloud storage, $10 a month for 10 days of cloud storage, and $30 for 30 days. You'll also get discounts of $10 , $20, and $60 if you commit to 12 months upfront.

But that’s just for your first camera and if you add more, you'll need to pay for each one – albeit not at full price. But you get some neat features for the extra wonga. The biggest difference is 24/7 recording and playback (rather than just activity triggered events), the ability to share clips and timelapses, activity zones and intelligent alerts such as facial recognition and differentiating between a dog's bark and a human's speech, for example.

Installation, as with any outdoor bit of tech that requires wiring to the mains, is a bit of a faff. You'll have to drill a hole through the wall in order to get it plugged in, unless you have outdoor power, but good luck hiding the 7.5m cable, which is brutally thick.

But recording quality can't be sniffed at thanks to 1/2.5-inch, 8-megapixel (4K) colour sensor, with 12x digital zoom and enhance, close-up tracking view and a 130° diagonal viewing angle. The camera will zoom in and follow people around automatically – and can recognise familiar people with the Nest Aware subscription.

Two way audio comes courtesy of Nest's Talk and Listen HD audio tech, and the big speaker on the base makes you clearly audible – unlike many rivals. You'll also hear their reply as a result of an upgraded 3-microphone array.

Google's Assistant isn't built in like it is on the Indoor variant (for obvious reasons) but you can control on/off switching, and viewing the Nest stream on a Chromecast-enabled device through a Google Home speaker. Likewise you can view a feed on an Alexa and an Echo device with a display.

The IQ Outdoor has an IP66 weatherproof rating – which means -40°C to 45°C (-40°F to 113°F) operating. It works on Wi-Fi at 2.4GHz, so make sure you've got a strong signal where you're planning on putting it – that could be a stumbling block for some.

Feature check: Storage from $5. 1080p streaming, IP66 weatherproof, 130 degree angle lens, night vision, person alerts, facial recognition, HD talk and listen, 4K close-up tracking.

the ambient verdict
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
Nest's top outdoor camera is one of the stand-out performers in an ever-growing market - even though many of the features that set the IQ apart come at an additional cost. Those quibbles aside though, if you're looking for the most feature-rich camera on the market, tied into a superb ecosystem, then the Cam IQ Outdoor is a top choice.
PROS
  • Packed with intelligent tracking tech
  • 12x HDR zoom
  • HD 2-way audio
CONS
  • Expensive
  • The best features cost more
  • Installation requires DIY skills


The best home security camera for your smart home

Logitech Circle 2

$179 (wired), $199 (wireless), logitech.com | Amazon

With 180-degree field of view, the Circle 2 has the widest-angle lens of the cameras on test. This is great for wide backyards or driveway, but generally speaking, a lens with 110 degrees is enough and 180 is just unnecessary.

It’s maybe not the sexiest to look at and you’ll want to fork out for one of the alternative mounts but all the features are there, including Full HD video recording. As far as mounts, there are a couple different options. The window mount especially is a stroke of genius.

You'll be able to easily mount it outside without worrying about drilling a hole in the wall. The standard mount is a bit frustrating to use when it comes to getting a straight picture, but it'll do. There's also a plug mount, though that's a little more useful indoors than it is out. All in all, the mount options make the Circle 2 one of the most versatile we’ve used. We’ve been living with the wired version, though there is a battery-powered model on offer as well.

The Circle 2 boasts all-weather protection and the app experience is decent. You don’t need to spend hours tinkering with sliders to stop it reporting false alarms, and does a good job of categorizing alerts into low and high-level disturbances.

While you can check on individual motion alerts, the Circle creates a Day Brief, which is a timelapse version of what’s been going down, and is particularly funny if you have children or pets. Burglars – not so much. That said, the Circle 2 has no siren to scare off intruders - which is rather disappointing.

Subscription-wise, things are promising. A day’s worth of history and unlimited video downloads is free. Upping that coverage to 14 days will cost $3.99 per month, per camera, or head for the $9.99 package, which throws in person detection, action zones and more.

But it's iOS users that get a great deal. There are certain advantages in having your Circle stream a little more front and centre on an iPhone, thanks to decent Apple HomeKit integration. Likewise, Alexa integration means you can check cameras on screen-toting Alexa speakers, although it's less useful on-the-whole.

Feature check: 24 hour clip storage free. Full HD recording, 180-degree angle lens, night vision, wired or battery (6400mAh), weatherproof, time-lapse mode, talk and listen.

the ambient verdict
Logitech Circle 2
The debut HomeKit smart camera, the Circle 2 ticks a lot of boxes for people looking for their first smart home security camera. It works seamlessly inside and out and the partner app is a breeze to use.
PROS
  • HomeKit enabled
  • Super wide angle 180 degrees
  • Fully weatherproof
CONS
  • Mounts are a bit fiddly
  • No scheduling on the app
  • Accessories inflate the price


The best home security camera for your smart home

Canary Flex

$199, canary.is | Amazon

The fact that Canary cams are so discreet is a double-edged sword. On one hand it won't make your house resemble a secure compound – but it doesn't do the greatest job of warding off potential intruders either.

True to its name, the Flex is has a mount with one of the strongest magnets you'll find, which ensures that you can put the camera anywhere outside. It's rated as "weatherproof" which is all you need, although details on ATM rating aren't forthcoming. What's more, it's battery operated, which means no-wires, but longevity varies hugely on usage, and you could be charging a few times a month.

The quality of the footage itself was perfectly reasonable, although it should be noted that streaming is 720p, despite the 1080p sensor. That's one of the lowest quality cameras, in terms of recording resolution in our test, and goes some way to explain the more attractive price tag.

As with the Nest, the app experience is also very satisfying. It’s a case of good design that flows all the way from the hardware through to the software UX. Its ability to ascertain whether you’re home or not which using your phone’s GPS and Wi-Fi minimises nuisance alerts, and Night Mode can arm cameras while you’re asleep, even though you might be home.

One of the biggest bugbears with Canary is what you get with the basic package or, more to the point, what you don’t get. Unless you pay a subscription, you can’t use the two-way talk feature and you can’t download any videos.

You do at least get a day’s worth of storage and all the smart detection features. That said, there’s no activity zones or facial detection available with the Flex. If you jack it up to $9.99 per month, though, you’ll get everything you need.

Better smart home integration would be welcome – currently the only official support is for Google Assistant; you’ll have to use Wink or IFTTT to get some Alexa action. HomeKit compatibility is coming soon, we’re told.

Feature check: 24 hours of clip storage free. Full HD recording, 116 degree angle lens, night vision, wired or battery (6700mAh), weatherproof, motion detection, two-way talk (with membership).

the ambient verdict
Canary Flex
The Canary Flex is a decent option for people not wanting to have obvious smart cameras on show in or outside their house. It’s feature rich enough to do the job, and the quality is good, but it does fall short of its rivals in many areas.
PROS
  • Discreet design
  • Great long battery life
  • Easy to move around
CONS
  • Only 720p streaming
  • Notification delays
  • Two-way talk is additional cost


The best home security camera for your smart home

Netatmo Presence

$299.99, shop.netatmo.com | Amazon

If you have the wiring for an outside security light in place, the Netatmo Presence – the only security camera and floodlight combo on test – is one of the most straightforward smart security set-ups we’ve tested; just plug in and you're ready to go. Weatherproofed using a HZO coating, there's no official IP rating, but it will stand up to the all conditions.

It pings you smart notifications in the simple to use Netatmo Security app, letting you know whether a person, car or animal has been seen. These notifications can also be customized.

There's no subscription plans to worry about. Netatmo also lets you record to SD card or store footage on your Dropbox account, or an FTP server. That will please those who aren't comfortable with having data held by companies, and those who want more control over footage.

However, you get Full HD camera with 100-degree field of view and a 15 meter detection range. You can set up to four Alert Zones for detection. Video footage supports pinch-to-zoom to inspect objects and timelapse mode will compile a one minute video of of photos compiled from the last 24 hours.

Onto the bad: the Presence is a pretty ugly camera/light combo that definitely looks more 20th century security than 21st century smart. The built-in floodlight is a pretty unique feature, making it a device with a useful double armory – but it's pretty striking. At least any would-be burglar will see it.

You can choose how you want the smart floodlight to operate within the app – for example coming on at a certain time of day or just firing up when it detects a person, car or animal.

The Presence joins the Logitech Circle 2 in the Apple HomeKit club but, annoyingly – especially given that other Netatmo devices do work with Alexa and Google Assistant – it is just Apple’s platform that is officially supported for now.

Feature check: Free data storage and SD card option. Full HD recording, 100-degree lens, night vision, connects to regular light wiring, weatherproof, smart motion detection, SD card recording, third party cloud recording, floodlight.

the ambient verdict
Netatmo Presence
The Netatmo Presence is a pretty unique offering that definitely screams “security” but at the same time taps nicely into Netatmo’s ever-growing portfolio of smart home products.
PROS
  • Subscription free model
  • Uses existing light wiring
  • Netatmo ecosystem is strong
CONS
  • Only HomeKit for now
  • Ugly design
  • Ethernet would have been handy



TAGGED   security cameras

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