Keeping tabs on your home, kids or pets has never been easier thanks to the prevalence of the modern, connected home security camera. They’re everywhere these days, allowing you to play Big Brother from wherever you happen to be. and it’s usually effortless, too – just launch an app, select your camera and you’ll be able to see whether burglars have just broken in or it’s just the cat climbing the curtains.
It’s not only about live streaming, however. These cameras are packed with smart tech that means they can capture video recordings when they detect movement or sounds, recognise the faces of familiar people, and even alert you when they detect strangers and even tell you if a courier has left a package on the doorstep while you’ve popped out to the shops for a pint of milk.
With so many products available, however, and the popularity of security cameras mushrooming, it can be tough to know which camera to buy. That’s what we’re here to help with. In the guide immediately below, we’ll explain some of the features to look out for – what separates the merely good from the great security cameras. If you want to skip immediately to our selection of the best home security cameras you can buy right now, however, click one of the links below.
- The best indoor home security cameras
- The best outdoor home security cameras
How to choose the best home security camera for you
What type of home security camera do you need?
There are two main types of home security camera: indoor cameras and outdoor ones. Indoor cameras tend to be cheaper and typically rely on mains power (often via a USB adapter), while outdoor cameras will have some form of weather-proofing and are usually battery powered to allow for easier DIY setup.
While you can also go wire-free indoors, bear in mind that battery-powered cameras need to be recharged from time to time, which is a faff, especially if you have the camera mounted in a hard-to-reach place.
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Is video quality important?
In a word, yes. If your camera isn’t capable of recording crisp, detailed video in all types of light conditions you may not be able to make out important details, such as number plates or faces. Fortunately, the days of smeary, murky low-resolution video have largely been banished to history and most cameras will capture at 1080p or higher today.
What marks out the best cameras today, however, is the way that video is processed. The most important feature on this front is HDR. These cameras with HDR take the video signal from the camera and brighten up the dark areas while ensuring the bright areas of the image aren’t blown out and difficult to see. Cameras without HDR tend to struggle to balance areas of bright and dark with the result that it’s often difficult to make out crucial details.
Night vision is also a key consideration. Most cameras have a night vision mode these days using infrared LEDs to illuminate the area immediately in front of them so they can effectively see in the dark. One or two LEDs are usually enough to light up a small or medium-sized room but, for larger rooms and outdoor spaces, you may need a camera with multiple LEDs. You should also consider a floodlight camera for large outdoor areas, which pairs bright white floodlights and cameras for the ultimate intruder deterrent.
How expensive is the subscription?
Once motion or audio has been detected, most modern home security cameras will store that clip online so you can view it from or download it to your phone or laptop. And while many home security cameras offer a basic free storage service so you can use your camera without ongoing costs, the free service is often limited in some way.
Indeed, some manufacturers – Ring, for instance – don’t allow any access to online storage at all after an initial trial period, after which you need to pay for anything more than live feed access.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that what starts out being free may not continue to be in future. In 2017, Y-Cam famously reneged on its cloud storage offering, giving users 14 days’ notice that they were going to be charged for a service that was previously free.
With this in mind, it’s worth looking for cameras that can also record video clips locally to a microSD card. While this isn’t as flexible as cloud storage, it does give you the option to keep using a camera if the company hikes prices beyond what you’re willing to pay.
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What other home security camera features should I look out for?
- Pan and zoom: Some cameras have a motor and optics that allow you to move the camera around remotely. It’s a useful feature but not essential. Most home security cameras have a very wide field of view and, if positioned carefully, will be able to provide a view of your entire room
- Smart assistant/speaker integration: Many manufacturers boast of integration with either Alexa or Google Assistant in their specifications but while some aspects of these features are useful, they’re worth taking with a pinch of salt. In most instances, they refer to the ability to ask the digital assistant to display the feed from your camera on your smart screen speaker, which isn’t all that useful in our experience
- Object, person and pet detection: This sounds like a gimmick but being able to filter a long list of motion-triggered video clips by the type of motion detected can be a big time-saver. Some cameras even allow you to link names to faces so that you can be alerted when the camera spots certain people – if you want to know when your kids get home from school, this is an incredibly useful feature.
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The best indoor home security cameras to buy in 2020
1. Blink Mini: Best budget security camera
Price: £35 | Buy now from Amazon
Most of Amazon-owned Blink’s security cameras are rugged outdoor cameras, but the Blink Mini takes a different tack. It’s a small, lightweight and basic security camera that costs barely anything, yet it performs at a high level and doesn’t cost too much to run.
All the core features you’d expect are covered: it records in 1080p at 30fps, which is better than most cheap security cameras can manage, it offers night vision, motion detection with adjustable motion zones and two-way audio so you can speak and hear through the camera remotely. There’s a lengthy free trial of the video-clip cloud storage service, too, until 31 March 2021 after which you have to pay, but it isn’t too expensive at £2.50/mth per camera or £8/mth for unlimited cameras.
Image quality is good both in good light and at night, audio is surprisingly clear, and it’s an absolute doddle to set up. Oh, and it also works seamlessly with screen-based Echo devices, too, allowing you to bring up the video feed from the camera with a simple voice command.
Key specs – Size: 50 x 49 x 36mm; Field of view: 110 degrees; Video resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 at 30fps; Night vision: Yes; Motion detection: Yes
£34.99 Buy now