What is the best outdoor security camera?
Outdoor security cameras have been an integral part of home security and business security. In this guide, we list the 6 best outdoor security cameras considering not just the popularity, but also the performance and unique values. We will talk about the pros and cons of each model so you can decide which one is right for you. After that, we will provide you with common knowledge that you should know about before buying an outdoor camera.
SimCam Alloy 1S – Best outdoor security camera without subscription fee
SimCam Alloy 1S is a feature-rich outdoor camera that doesn’t come with a long-term subscription fee. It uses on-device AI to detect the presence of people, animals, and vehicles. The recording can be saved in an inside SD card or a NAS drive. You can easily access the recording anywhere, anytime on the APP without paying monthly fees.
Unlike other cameras which are for evidence after the fact, it allows you to respond to real incidents in real-time. The exclusive AI smart deterrence feature can automatically set off a siren or plays a pre-recorded message upon the detection of people, animals, or vehicles. No other outdoor cameras are more serious about security than SimCam Alloy 1S.
- No false alerts
- Almost zero latency
- No subscription fee
- 24/7 continuous recording
- Active deterrence rather than just recording
- APP requires learning curve
- No cloud storage
Weatherproof rating: IP65
Arlo Ultra – Best wireless (wire-free) outdoor security camera
Arlo Ultra is the newest edition in Arlo’s wire-free lineup. It is the first consumer-grade security camera that shoots 4K video. That means you have a better chance of reading a license plate at a long distance with more details.
With enhanced night vision and a built-in spotlight, it allows you to see colors in the night rather than only black-and-white images. Being battery-powered, Arlo Ultra can be placed anywhere you like without having to be near an outlet.
- 100% wire-free
- Detail-rich 4K video with HDR.
- Color night vision
- Integrated motion-triggered spotlight
- 180° field of view
- Motion-tracking and auto-zooming
- Indoor and outdoor use
- The most expensive one
- Require subscription for AI detection and 30-day recording
- Require a base station for two or more cameras
Weatherproof rating: N/A
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor – Best motion-detection outdoor camera
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is packed with lots of powerful and unique features. In addition to normal motion detection, it tells the difference between a person and other moving objects. Similar to Arlo Ultra, it can automatically zoom in to follow a person on the move.
If connected to Nest Aware service, Nest Cam can unlock the facial recognition. This feature can send you specific notifications when a person you know or a stranger arrives at your front porch. With Nest Cam, you will get to know more but receive fewer alerts.
- Advanced motion detection and facial recognition
- Auto-zoom tracking
- Daytime HDR
- Need cloud service for AI detection
- Unstable WiFi connectivity
Weatherproof rating: IP66
Eufy Cam 2 – Best battery-powered outdoor camera
Eufy Cam 2 is another wire-free outdoor camera that is worth mentioning. Inheriting the battery technology from its mother company Anker, Eufy Cam 2 claims 365-day battery life. It is much longer than its Arlo counterparts which usually last less than 2-3 months.
The camera is in sleep mode most of the time. After being activated by motion, the camera will use AI person detection to filter out false alerts. If battery life is your major concern, you won’t regret going with the Eufy Cam 2.
- Unrivaled battery life
- IP67 waterproof rating
- Person detection
- Works with Apple HomeKit
- Only record based on motion
Weatherproof rating: IP67
Ring Floodlight Cam – Best outdoor camera with lights
What’s special about Ring Floodlight Cam is two big 3000° Kelvin floodlights that are attached to the camera. The lights can be activated by motion to illuminate the live view. In addition to the night vision, you can get a clear view of someone entering your yard at the night. At the same time, the lights can also be a deterrent for would-be burglars. This is can be a solid option for someone who is looking for extra protection of their property with motion-triggered lights.
- High brightness floodlights
- Multiple motion zones
- Wide angle lens
- Ultra-wide 270° motion detection angle
- Require subscription for video recording and downloading
- Only support 2.4G WiFi
- Complex installation
Lorex 4K Nocturnal – Best infrared night vision outdoor camera
Lorex 4K Nocturnal is more like a professional-grade IP security camera for large property and businesses. It shoots high definition 4K video with HDR. The lens is able to zoom in and out with optical zoom. When connected to the proprietary NVR, it can tell the difference between people and vehicles. The best part of Lorex 4K is its infrared night vision which can illuminate areas up to 90 feet away. It seems to have everything you need for an outdoor setting.
- Long-range night vision
- 4K and HDR
- Optical zoom
- IP67 weatherproof
- Heavy-duty aluminum housing for vandalism prevention
- Need an NVR for recording
- Limited field of view
Weatherproof rating: IP67
Common questions and answers
How do outdoor cameras work?
The only special thing about outdoor type cameras is that they are weatherproof. Note the word “weatherproof” not “waterproof”. You cannot dunk those things into the water.
Outdoor cameras usually come in a weatherproof housing that can protect itself from moisture, dust, and dirt. Aside from weathers, a proper outdoor camera also needs to withstand extreme temperatures like scorching heat and freezing cold. Some housings are even vandal-proof made from material like stainless-steel or aluminum.
An important specification you should look at when choosing an outdoor camera is the weatherproof rating. For a camera to work properly under weather conditions, the rating must be from IP65 to IP67. The first number indicates the level of dust resistance while the second for the level of water resistance. Here is more about the IP rating.
Are outdoor cameras worth it?
The answers to this question are mixed. An outdoor camera allows you to keep an eye on your property from any location, works as a deterrent, and captures video evidence. However, you cannot solely rely on it for home protection.
Most of the time, despite being caught on the camera, burglars still broke into the houses and took whatever they want. For the purpose of crime deterrence, we recommend homeowners should invest in a monitored alarm system. Alternatively, you can get cameras with active deterrence capabilities like SimCam Alloy 1S.
Because motion detection generates too many false alerts, users tend to ignore the motion alerts from their cameras. For this reason, many security cameras are only for evidence after the fact. It might be a few hours or even days later until you find the video clip of the crime scene.
How do outdoor cameras get power?
There are 3 common ways to power outdoor security cameras: mains power, battery power, and solar power.
Wiring is the most traditional way to get power supply. The cameras can either be plugged into an electrical outlet using a power adapter or hardwired to a junction box. Some support POE (power-over-Ethernet) which passes power along with data with one Ethernet cable. When purchased a wired camera, make sure the length of the cable can cover the distance between the camera and the power outlet. Otherwise, you might need an extra extension cable.
Battery power is getting more popular these days. Being completely wire-free, the installation of the cameras is super easy and flexible. And they can keep working during a power outage.
Solar power is another good option in locations where it is difficult to access power. Solar-powered cameras can either have a built-in solar panel or connected to a separate solar panel. The solar panel provides power to the camera most of the time, also charges a small battery for backup power supply.
For the sake of security, I would recommend wired or solar-powered cameras. Compared with wired ones, battery-powered cameras have several drawbacks. They are usually motion-activated so they are likely to miss the beginning of an event. Instead of 24/7 recording, they only record a clip when detecting motion. The length of a video clip is commonly 10-20 seconds, which is in most cases not long enough to identify a suspect.
Where to place outdoor security camera?
The placement of outdoor cameras depends on which area of your property a burglar or a vandal is most likely to enter. These are the most common entry points for intruders:
- Back door
- First-floor windows
- Side doors
- Garage door or driveways
- Any outbuildings that contain valuables
For the placement of wired cameras, make sure you can run cables to the target location, or is there a power outlet nearby. If the camera connects to WiFi, check with your smartphone whether you have WiFi reception or not at the target location.
In addition to walls, you can install the camera under the eaves, on a fence, lighting poles, and even trees.
How many outdoor security cameras do I need?
Most houses need at least 2 cameras to watch the front door and the back door. However, because Everyone’s home and security needs are different, there is no general formula to calculate the exact number.
These are the factors that can help you determine how many cameras you will need.
- Where you need to place the camera? We’ve already answered this in the previous question. Additionally, you don’t need to put a camera in every entry point around your property. You can prioritize the locations based on the likelihood of break-ins.
- What is the size of your property? It is obvious that the bigger your property is, the more cameras you will need.
- What is the field of view of the camera? The FOV of outdoor cameras ranges from 100° to 180°. A wider viewing angle means you will use fewer cameras. If the camera has the panning capability, it can cover the area outside its FOV – far fewer cameras needed.
- How you position the camera? Correct positioning eliminates the need for additional cameras to cover your target area. However, people might enter one area in different directions. If you want to capture the image of a visitor’s face, you might need more than one camera to monitor that same area.
- The bandwidth of your network. Some wireless cameras with high image quality can consume a large amount of bandwidth. So, your Internet speed will limit the number of cameras you can have.
How to install outdoor security cameras?
Professional installation or do it yourself?
Most security cameras are easy to install and come with complete tutorials that can guide you every step of the way. Unless you use a complex security system, there is no need to hire professional installation.
What do I need to install?
Most manufacturers provide cables, screws, and anchors. You might need additional tools like a power drill with drill bits, a screwdriver, and a ladder.
General installation steps for a wired outdoor camera
- Choose the position. It is recommended to install the camera 8-14 feet off the ground. At that height, the camera is out of the reach of a burglar or vandal and provides wider coverage.
- If there is no existing opening or junction box on the wall, you need to drill holes to route the cables to the location of the camera.
- Drill holes for mounting screws, put anchors into the holes, align the holes of the wall mount with the holes on the wall and drive in the screws.
- Attach the camera to the wall mount and secure it with screws.
- Connect the cable to an inside power source.
- Adjust the angle of the camera to get your desired view by checking the live streaming on the APP. Don’t point the camera to a light source.
If you could manage the installation of a wired outdoor security camera, it should be easier for you to install other types of cameras.