It didn’t take smart security cameras long to become a firm fixture of the smart home. From the get go they’ve worked like a charm, not only working as a replacement for traditional security cameras, but offering people a way to check what's going on at home, use as a pet camera, or as a supercharged smart baby monitor.
Here, we’ve picked out six good smart home security cameras. These are all cameras that we’ve spent time living with, so rest assured that we know them inside out.
Smart home cameras: Things to consider
Cost is obviously high on the agenda and smart cameras range from around $150 to $300, but that’s just for starters. One contentious issue is subscription fees. What you’re paying for is a cloud storage service where you can access and share your video clips from the last week, month etc. After Netflix, Spotify and the rest; do you really need another subscription in your life?
Some brands will offer you a small amount of cloud storage for nothing, others offer nothing for nothing and some get around the problem by recording everything to a local SD card. That comes with its own issues (what happens when a burglar comes in and pinches the camera and the evidence?). Some off-site storage is a must.
What's a little hard to bear is that some manufacturers won’t enable some of your camera’s features - two-way talk, action zones, face recognition - if you don’t pay the subscription. The occasions where these cameras do the real business of recording and catching burglars are, hopefully, few and far between. So what these extras offer is everyday value, two-way talk for a home intercom especially.
The only essential features of these devices is that they can record and live stream video 24/7, that they have a night vision mode, that they can detect when there’s a person, that they’ll record the footage when they do and that they’ll notify you on your phone. Recording and streaming at Full HD resolution is preferable because it means that you can zoom into the footage and get a decent look at the perp.
A wireless device is nice and mobile but, if want to place your camera in a specific spot, then it’s not necessary. If you do go wireless then make sure that the battery life is very good. Now we’ve got that sorted, these are the smart home cameras that we like best and a few reasons for and against each of them…
Nest Cam IQ Indoor
The more advanced version of the indoor Nest Cam, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor, builds on what came before by adding a 4K sensor and HDR imaging. There's also a new speaker that Nest claims is seven times more powerful and three microphones with echo suppression and noise cancellation which really make a difference – the HD talk and listen feature is easily the best we’ve tested (and it’s subscription-free too, which is nice).
Subscription-free isn’t something you’ll hear too often though when it comes to Nest Cams. Although there are a tonne of great features you can tap into without topping up your initial outlay – such as night vision, motion and sound alerts, snapshot history, 1080p live views and a neat close-up tracking view (for that ultimate Baldwin in Sliver surveillance power trip) – you will have to cough up for the extra smarts that set Nest apart.
Essential reading: Nest Cam IQ Indoor vs Hive View
And cough up a fair bit unfortunately; Nest Aware doesn’t come cheap. It’s $10 a month for Basic (10 days of cloud storage), $30 for Extended (30 days), and you get 12 months for the price of 10 if you pay for a year upfront. But that’s just for your first camera. Subsequent cameras will cost you again – albeit not at full price. For that extra cash you’ll get 24/7 recording, sharing of clips and timelapses, activity zones and more intelligent alerts.
Design wise, the Nest Cam IQ is a bit of a hefty beast and there is only a wired-version available, which uses a USB-C cable; so don’t go thinking you can simply swap your old Nest Cam out for the newer IQ model and use your existing wiring.
The Nest app is great and super simple, giving you control over your various Nest devices based on their location. Obviously, the Nest app can ping you notifications as well – such as motion detection – and it can even help to tell the system when you are home or away based on your location. The Nest Home / Away function is superior to anything else we’ve tested too, as not only can your Nest Cam determine when you’re not around for security reasons, it can also do clever stuff like turn the heating off when you leave the house (if you’ve got a Nest Thermostat, that is).
It’s that ecosystem that helps to make Nest the heaviest hitter in this bunch. Sure, some of the others can play nicely with Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit (Nest does all but Apple’s platform too, by the way) but the whole Nest in-house system, combined with the expanded Works with Nest portfolio, makes it a superb all-in-one smart home setup.
The best features are reserved for people paying for Nest Aware, but there’s still enough on offer, at a decent price, to make the Nest Cam IQ Indoor (and its Outdoor brethren) a top smart security camera pick.
Oh, and there's Google Assistant built in too - if you live in the US, at least. So your Nest Cam doubles up as a smart speaker.
Feature check: Full HD streaming, 130 degree angle lens, night vision, three-hour snapshot history, person alerts, facial recognition, HD talk and listen, HDR and 4K close-up tracking.
- Full Nest ecosystem integration
- HDR close-up tracking
- Facial recognition
- Expensive cloud plan
- Quite a bulky design
- Mains only – no wireless option
Most smart home cameras have one thing in common: they’re really obnoxious. Big glass eyes monitoring your every move, and that of your guests. “Welcome to my house, Big Brother is always watching”.
We say home cameras, because actually, not all smart cameras are used for security. Yes, keeping an eye on your property is great, but the idea is to stop people breaking in, not get a video of them doing it. That’s why most people use their home cameras for keeping up with what’s going on back at the ranch – checking the kids are home from school, making sure the dog isn’t napping on the brand new sofa, that the dog-walker dropped them back safely.
That’s where the Hive View comes in. Light on security features, it’s designed – literally – to fit into your home. The best designed smart home camera we’ve seen, it comes with a black/copper or white/champagne stand. It really blends in.
In terms of tech you get Full HD recording, with a 130 degree field of view, so you get a lovely wide view. Those are fairly standard specs across smart cameras, but that’s far from the theme when comparing with other rivals.
Compared to other home cameras, it’s pretty light on features. There’s no two-way audio, still image taking or facial recognition. You can set motion and sound alerts, but given Hive View can’t recognize people, it makes the notifications very basic. There’s no chance for it to tell you a specific person is home (and not notify you EVERY time they walk past the camera), or alert you to an unrecognized face in your home. That’s a real shame, as it diminishes the usefulness of Hive View.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. You get 24 hours of storage of saved video clips – generated exclusively by motion/sound alerts – free of charge, which is pretty neat. What’s more, at $199 the Hive View has an extremely attractive price point.
If you’re just looking for something you can manually check when you’re away from home, it’s a decent smart home camera which looks the business.
Read our full Hive View review.
- Super stylish
- Good price
- Some free storage
- No facial recognition
- No two-way audio
- No integrations
Logitech Circle 2
With 180-degree cover, the Circle 2 has the widest-angle lens of the lot. So, if you’ve an impossibly large space to monitor, then the Circle 2 might be the one for you. Generally speaking, a lens with 110-degrees or more is enough for most situations. 180 is a bit overkill, to be honest, and makes everything look like a skate video – which was actually quite entertaining, if unnecessary.
The standard mount it comes with can be a touch frustrating when it comes to getting a picture that’s straight, but the plug mount and window mount are strokes of genius. The first means you can put it straight onto a power socket without the need for cabling or finding a surface to place it on, and the second is a great way of monitoring the outside without having to use a drill to fix it to a wall. All in all, it makes 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 is an all-weather creature and the app experience is very user-friendly. You don’t need to spend hours tinkering with sliders to stop it reporting false alarms. It automatically categorises alerts into low and high-level disturbances, which you may as well re-label in your mind as ‘nonsense’ and ‘actual things happening’, and displays them all in a timeline in different colours. That timeline is a joy to swipe through and most amusing of all is the Day Brief which it creates for you on demand. It’s a timelapse version of what’s been going down in front of the Circle that day and is particularly funny if you have children or pets. Probably not so funny if you’ve got burglars. Speaking of which, the Circle 2 has no siren to scare off intruders which is rather disappointing.
Subscription-wise, things are brighter. You get a day’s worth of video history and unlimited video downloads for free. You can up that to 14 days for $3.99, per month, per camera, or head for the $9.99 package which throws in treats like person detection, action zones and more.
The one area where Circle really wins is with iOS integration. It was the first security camera that tapped into Apple’s Home app (although there are now others, including one later on in this guide). There are certain advantages in having your Circle stream a little more front and centre on an iPhone. Telling Alexa to activate Circle is probably less useful given that Circle 2 does a decent job of geo-fencing and knows whether it needs to be on or off by itself.
All in all, it’s a very decent low-cost option. 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.
Feature check: Full HD recording, 180-degree angle lens, night vision, wired or battery (6400mAh), weatherproof, time-lapse mode, talk and listen.
- HomeKit enabled
- Super wide angle 180 degrees
- Fully weatherproof
- Mounts are a bit fiddly
- No scheduling on the app
- Accessories inflate the price
Canary cams don’t look like cams, and that shouldn’t be underestimated. Whether we’re talking about the comfort of your guests or camouflage so that your cleaner/burglar doesn’t realise that they’re being watched, it’s a very useful thing that people don’t feel like they’re getting surveilled at all moments round at your pad.
Designed to work inside or out, the Flex has a stonking battery life, and a mount with one of the strongest magnets you’ll find which ensures that you can put the Flex, like the name suggests, absolutely anywhere. There are also additional ones you can buy, such as a mount for the soil, so that you can really stick the Flex where no one is going to spot it and have it poised in the foliage like some Viet Cong boobytrap.
Those features alone make it a very compelling choice. 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. It’s a hackneyed expression but it’s all very Apple-like. It also has a better system for knowing whether you’re home or not which involves using your phone’s GPS as well as your mobile’s Wi-Fi. The result is that it’s accurate to the front door level. It also has a Night Mode which can override your location according to when you tell the app that you normally go to bed and wake up. That way, it’s armed while you’re asleep even though you might be home.
Where we were less impressed is with notifications. It gets them right but it took a hell of a long time to present us with the video clips from each alert. Many times it never managed to load them up at all, and that’s at odds with the Live View which it didn’t seem to have a problem with. The quality of the footage itself was perfectly reasonable, although it should be noted that streaming is 720p, despite the 1080p sensor.
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. In fairness to Canary, having a free service at all is relatively costly for them. They’re not a company like Google, Netgear or Logitech that can subsidise this kind of thing, or even leverage back-end systems that already exist.
While the Flex is more portable, wire-free and weatherproof, we’re not convinced that it’s quite as complete a package as the older Canary All-in-One, which just seems a bit more refined. And, even though we understand the need for careful pricing, having to pay for two-way talk and downloads doesn’t feel right.
Better smart home integration would also 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: Full HD recording, 116 degree angle lens, night vision, wired or battery (6700mAh), weatherproof, motion detection, two-way talk (with membership).
- Discreet design
- Great long battery life
- Easy to move around
- Only 720p streaming
- Notification delays
- Two-way talk is additional cost
The Somfy One is probably the least well-known option in our list, but it more than earns its place thanks to its extra security smarts. Somfy snapped up security startup MyFox in 2017 and the Somfy One was the first new product out of the door. The good news is that it gets along just fine with any existing MyFox security kit, such as window and door sensors (IntelliTAGs), or alarm systems.
However, the Somfy One is also designed to be an alarm system itself – you don’t need to go out and buy additional sirens. Sure, other security cameras have built-in sirens, but the Somfy One is designed to work together with motion sensors in your house, so it doesn’t just rely on what it sees to raise an alarm. If your Somfy system is activated and someone opens a window or door, your One camera can raise the alarm. Likewise, if it spots motion itself when the alarm is armed, it can fire off its siren too (90+ dB and, believe us, very loud indeed). If an intruder is detected by the camera, a still image is taken and a small video clip is recorded and that’s yours for free – no need for a cloud plan.
A nice touch on the Somfy One is the motorised shutter that effectively turns the camera off, but also gives peace of mind to people that you’re not spying on them. You can set the shutter to only be open when you’re not home, or only when the alarm system is activated.
On to the minus points and the app is a tiny bit clunky – the One isn’t front and centre of the Somfy app, you need to click the little camera icon in the top right corner – and there’s no two-way talk option, just a weird ‘press and hold’ to send your voice, which makes intercom chat pretty impossible (it’s designed to warn burglars, not chat with your family). Activity zones are limited to highlighting squares within a grid and there’s no facial recognition on board, which would be useful in this sort of setup.
Also, the design is pretty hefty – no doubt due to it packing in that whopping alarm and its only motion sensors (in case someone tries to move it). A couple of people who spotted ours asked us if it was the new second gen Amazon Echo speaker, which we suppose at least shows that the shutter does make it look less camera-like when shut.
Back to the plus points and you can command it using Alexa through an Echo device and it also carries the Works With Nest badge, with some neat home/away integrations available there.
Feature check: Full HD, night vision, 90+ dB siren, motion alarm, 130 degree angle lens, motorised privacy shutter.
- Loud siren alarm
- Teams up with IntelliTAGs
- Privacy mode with physical shutter
- No facial recognition
- App is a bit clunky
- Limited two-way talk
An outdoor specialist, the Netatmo Presence is one of the most straightforward and easy-to-use-out-of-the-box smart security cameras that we’ve tested. That’s not only because there are no subscription plans to worry about (simply fire up the app and you’re away) but because there’s no need for complicated installation and mounting. If you’ve already got an outdoor light on the side of your house, porch, garage or shed, the Presence can simply make use of the wiring already in place.
Thanks to the company's 'deep learning algorithms', that are honed on the popular Welcome camera, the Presence is able to record and analyse, in real time, if someone or something is loitering around your premises. 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 customised depending on how much detection information you need.
And all of this subscription free. Netatmo offers a record to SD card option but also lets you store your footage to your Dropbox account, or an FTP server. It’s a neat approach that we’d like to see other brands offering up. Why should you pay for server space if you’ve already got plenty free somewhere else?
On to the bad points and 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 armoury, but surely it could have looked less blocky?
What that blocky box does offer is a Full HD camera with 100-degree field of view and a 20 metre detection range. An Alert Zone mode lets you set up specific zones for detection and the app sends out notifications based around those zones. Up to four Alert Zones can be set up with a single system. Video footage supports pinch-to-zoom to zone in closer to suspect objects and a time lapse mode where the camera will collate one minute of photos compiled from the last 24 hours filmed by the camera.
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: 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.
- Subscription free model
- Uses existing light wiring
- Netatmo ecosystem is strong
- Only HomeKit for now
- Ugly design
- Ethernet would have been handy