Which smart home cameras are best?

Smart home cameras are a great way to keep your home and family safe and secure at any time, day or night. As smart technology continues to improve, so do these cameras. Many of them have such features as two-way communication, high resolution, cloud storage and Wi-Fi connectivity that lets you operate them from your smartphone or tablet. The best camera for keeping your smart home secure is the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Plus.

What to know before you buy a smart home camera

Picture quality

The image quality is based on the camera’s resolution, ability to zoom and field of view. All three of these aspects make a difference in how powerful and effective your device is at detecting movement from a distance. They also affect how well the camera picks up specific facial features and other details of potential strangers around the home.

For most cameras, 1080p resolution is standard and sometimes referred to as 1920 x 1080. Some devices can reach up to 2K resolution, though, which results in crisp images and clear color contrast.

Some cameras can also zoom in on images using optical or digital lenses. This is helpful if you want to be able to look over your recordings later and focus on specific details. It’s also useful for picking up movement from further away.

Finally, many devices use a wide-angle lens, covering wide areas for a broader field of view. Some cameras can rotate for a field of view up to 360 degrees.

Subscription and storage

Some smart home cameras have a card slot to hold a microSD card. You can save footage locally on this card to review whenever desired. This option is ideal if you don’t want to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee for storage.

Many modern devices require a subscription fee that gives you cloud storage. Most manufacturers have their storage system. This service costs $1.49-$12.50 a month for most basic plans. But the advantage is that the storage is less limited than with most microSD cards. Plus, some subscription plans come with extras, such as Nest’s facial recognition or Ring’s ability to save and share live video footage.

Connectivity

Most smart home cameras are compatible with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or both. This means you can use a smartphone, computer, tablet or another smart device to operate them and view live footage. You can also change the camera settings and delete past recordings from a separate device.

Depending on the camera, you might also be able to connect it with a completely wireless home security system like Simplisafe. Or you could connect it with digital voice assistants such as Alexa. Double-check the specifications of both to make sure they’re compatible.

What to look for in a quality smart home camera

Design

Some cameras can stand straight up on their own or attach to a wall. Others double as another device, such as a video doorbell. There are also those, such as the Ring Floodlight Cam, that include a camera and floodlight that activates when it detects movement.

When settling on a design, consider where you plan to install the device. For an outdoor camera with a wide field of view, choose one that can attach to a wall. For those that go inside the home, consider one that stands on its own.

Most cameras are small and come in either white or black. Some are very discreet, while others are easy to see from a distance.

Charging

The way your smart home camera charges affects how you should position it. Some are wireless and rely on a rechargeable or replaceable battery. A few come with a solar panel and can charge during the day.

Others are wired and run continually. These are great for anyone who doesn’t want to worry about the battery life. The biggest drawback is that they do require an outlet to be nearby. They’re also more difficult to reposition due to the wires.

Rotation

Some cameras rotate automatically throughout the day or night or when they pick up movement. Others stay in one position, which limits the device’s range but is great for keeping a specific home area, driveway or yard secure.

Additional features

Other common features include:

  • Two-way communication with built-in speakers and a mic you can use to speak with someone outside the house.
  • Motion detection to identify activity and send you alerts to your phone.
  • Activity zones make the camera ignore certain areas, such as a busy road by your home while focusing on more important ones.
  • Apps you can download to another smart device to use the camera and check for any activity.
  • Privacy settings that help prevent your camera from being hacked.
  • Waterproofing for devices that could otherwise get damaged when exposed to rain or snow.
  • Panning and tilting for a wider field of view.

How much you can expect to spend on a smart home camera

This depends on how many cameras you get and how advanced they are. For one basic device, expect to spend $25-$50. A more complex camera or a bundle deal can cost $100-$500.

Smart home cameras FAQ

Do I need to connect my camera to the internet?

A. Most smart devices need access to the internet to perform as intended. Without this connection, you won’t have online storage or the ability to monitor activity while away.

Do I need a complete smart home system?

A. If your goal is to monitor specific areas of your home, a camera should be enough. But if you want to maximize security and privacy, a complete system can help.

What are the best smart home cameras to buy?

Top smart home camera

Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Plus

Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Plus

What you need to know: This motion-activated camera is perfect if you want an advanced device that can also light up the area.

What you’ll love: It comes with 1080p HD resolution, a powerful security system, two-way talk and a floodlight. It has a wide field of view, night vision and is compatible with Alexa.

What you should consider: The audio quality isn’t crisp.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Top smart home camera for the money

Blink Mini — Compact Indoor Plug-In Smart Security Camera

Blink Mini — Compact Indoor Plug-In Smart Security Camera

What you need to know: This small indoor camera is discreet and offers a crisp resolution that lets it monitor and detect any strange activity in your home.

What you’ll love: Available in one, two and three packs, these cameras have motion detection, two-way audio and a local storage system. They can also send automatic alerts to your smart device. They’re compatible with Alexa.

What you should consider: The app is a little tricky to use. If you want cloud storage, you need to buy a separate subscription.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Worth checking out

Night Owl BTD2 Series 16-Channel 1080p Wired DVR Security System

Night Owl BTD2 Series 16-Channel 1080p Wired DVR Security System

What you need to know: This set comes with 10 spotlight audio cameras, making it perfect if you want to cover a wide indoor or outdoor area.

What you’ll love: With 1 TB of space and 1080p resolution, these cameras are ideal for anyone who wants security for their home without a monthly fee. It comes with human detection, facial capture and vehicle alerts. There’s also a convenient app that lets you monitor activity, review footage and change settings.

What you should consider: It’s not wireless.

Where to buy: Sold by Home Depot

 

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Angela Watson writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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