Best Outdoor Security Cameras of 2021
Nearly one-third of Americans have had packages stolen, according to USA Today. If you are looking for a way to prevent theft and watch over your property, outdoor security cameras are a great solution.
There are a wide variety of outdoor security cameras on the market. Features on outdoor security cameras range from infrared night vision to motion alerts. Some home surveillance cameras even allow you to send images of the burglar or thief to your local law enforcement. Here is a look at the best outdoor security cameras available right now.
How to Power an Outdoor Security Camera
Setting up security cameras around the exterior of your home has numerous benefits, but up until the last 5-10 years or so, it often involved complicated installations and hardwiring done by a professional.
These days, with an emphasis on wireless DIY technology, almost anyone can add outdoor cameras to their home – whether it’s an entire system of cameras rife with advanced features, or one high-tech gadget that can automatically pan and tilt over an area to get up-to-the-second coverage. And it’s all controlled via a mobile app.
That’s all easy enough, but if you’re wondering how to power outdoor security cameras, it’s important to remember that not all outdoor cameras are powered the same way. In our review repertoire, we’ve tested PoE (Power over Ethernet) cameras, wire-free (battery) cameras, plug-in cameras, hardwired cameras, and the most popular configuration, wireless cameras.
We suggest doing an in-depth perimeter check around your home, paying special attention to the location of power outlets. This is especially crucial if you have a “wireless” camera that needs to be plugged into a wall.
Wait… a wireless camera that needs to be plugged into a wall? But I thought it was … wireless?
Yes, terminology in the security camera industry can get a bit confusing, especially when it comes to wireless, Wi-Fi, and wire-free cameras. It’s hard to keep all those W’s straight, so here’s a quick cheat sheet.
Wired, Wi-Fi, or Wired Free? Which is which?!
- Wireless cameras are powered over the Internet, but they sometimes require plugging into a standard AC outlet.
- Wi-Fi cameras are wireless cameras, but not all wireless cameras are Wi-Fi cameras.
- Wire-free cameras are completely wireless cameras that run on batteries.
Still confused? Here’s an example: The Blink wireless camera system we reviewed most recently includes a battery-powered indoor camera, a small plug-in camera, a battery-powered outdoor camera, and a sync module. Since they’re wireless, we got the whole thing online in under 30 minutes. That’s a lightning-fast install, owed mostly to the fact that the indoor and outdoor camera are both powered by two extended-life AA batteries that last up to two years.
And, zeroing in on the outdoor camera for a moment, we had a device that worked without wires, which gave us lots of flexibility. Who needs wires, anyway?
This is a typical configuration, but keep in mind you can also buy a wireless kit from another brand that includes more than cameras – like a SimpliSafe system, for instance, with alarms, sensors, and cameras that you can set up in DIY fashion. In this industry, it’s all about your needs and preferences.
Of course, as with any battery-powered technology, you do have to remember to change batteries or recharge the batteries from time to time. This is no different than any wireless electronic device, and many cameras we’ve reviewed send us reminders through their mobile app that the battery is low.
Ring’s wireless cameras, which include battery and plug-in devices, take a similar approach to Blink’s. But after reviewing both brands, we did notice one big difference: Ring’s battery cameras use a rechargeable battery pack, not the extended-life batteries Blink uses.
We’ve found advantages to both setups. But here’s our bottom line: Powering outdoor security cameras should not be too difficult for the average homeowner, thanks to built-in, state-of-the-industry wireless technology.
How to Hide Security Cameras Outside
An outdoor security camera is one of the most vital tools in our home security setup. We’ve reviewed a ton of them – floodlight cams, spotlight cams, stop-speeding-down-my-cul-de-sac cams, all kinds of cameras for all kinds of functions and purposes. We highly recommend them for dimly lit backyards, for front porches and patios, or beamed onto outdoor recreation areas like swimming pools and playsets.
But what if you need a camera you don’t want would-be burglars to see? What if you’re dealing with someone more brazen, who isn’t spooked by deterrents like this? If you’re wondering how to hide security cameras outside, read on!
For times when you need a more discreet setup, we’re sharing three ideas on how to put your outdoor camera into incognito mode:
- Put it in a birdfeeder or lawn ornament. This might require some creative underground wiring if your camera has a power cord, but if you’re handy with underground wiring, you could choose this option for some nice 3-dimensional coverage for your yard.
- Install a camera with outdoor lighting. Our favorite one is the Ring Floodlight Cam, which gave us powerful outdoor lighting for our dark and spooky backyard. As a two-in-one device, Ring Floodlight looks much less like a camera and much more like an attractive light fixture.
- Go green! Hide the camera in shrubbery or tree branches. Quick pause, though – we always dole out this one with a word of caution. You’ll want to keep checking on this camera pretty frequently, as it’s very easy for branches and leaves to move around out there, possibly blocking your live feed.
Features of the Best Outdoor Security Camera Systems
Most outdoor home security cameras are equipped with night vision, motion sensors, and high-resolution video capability. Here are some other features of outdoor security cameras that you should look for when shopping for one.
Any security camera worth its salt has to have effective motion detection. Modern-day cameras are known to include features that can be customized to fit our needs, and it can usually be done simply through the camera’s mobile app. From adjusting sensitivity to mapping out privacy zones to distinguishing between people, animals, and vehicles, we have more options than ever to get the most out of our outdoor cameras.
Cameras without two-way audio, or two-way talk, are becoming more rare as the security industry evolves. We’ve made no secret of our love for this feature, for one main reason: there’s nothing like using our own “outside voice” to spook potential burglars. Relatedly, it’s especially helpful for times when you’re trying to make an unwanted visitor think you’re home … when maybe you’re not.
Seeing at night has gotten a whole lot easier in outdoor security cameras thanks to full-color night vision. Not every camera has it – most indoor cams don’t – but monitoring your space at night in full color is an experience that, in our opinion, can only be seen to be appreciated.
We tend to pay extra attention to video quality when choosing security equipment. These days, we’d be hard pressed to find a security camera without high-resolution video; the lowest we’ve seen is a standard 720p SimpliCam, which still records in high resolution but not quite as sharp as the industry-standard 1080p, or HD. For us, HD is essential for any camera; a camera that records in up to 1080p resolution will most likely give you smooth, reliable footage with lots of detail. Higher resolutions, like 2K, 5MP, or 4K, are certainly impressive, but keep in mind that they’re by and large unnecessary in DIY cameras.
As wireless technology continues to dominate the industry, we have seemingly endless flexibility in terms of how we want to record our video footage. Now, we’re no longer limited to just a hard drive like an NVR/DVR system for storing footage around the clock; many cameras these days record motion-activated video clips as an easy way to monitor your home yourself.
Cloud security technology has propelled simple security cameras into smart home devices. It’s not as expensive as it once was to store camera footage in the cloud; a monthly subscription from Ring Protect, for example, to store video footage starts at only $3.49 per month. Plans offered by other brands tend to be a bit pricier, but the bottom line is: if you don’t have an option for local storage like an NVR or microSD, the cloud is always a nice alternative.
Built In Siren
As new cameras are released into the market each year, we’re finding more and more of them offered with built-in sirens. This is an encouraging development for us, for one key reason: sirens are one of the most effective active deterrence tools. In many cameras, including Arlo, Ring, and the beloved Nest, the siren can be activated manually or set to activate when motion or sound is detected, all through the mobile app.
Front door, back door, and everywhere in-between — this feature allows you to remotely tap into your outdoor security camera and watch the activity unfold. Live view capability is great for those who travel often, and it’s especially well-suited for the curious consumer. So pull up a chair and pop some popcorn, the live stream is about to start.
Looking for an outdoor security camera that can weather the fiercest storms? You’ll want to go with a weatherproof camera. Sun, wind, rain, sleet, snow (even very feeble tornados) — the elements have never met such a worthy adversary. Weatherproof outdoor home security cameras are built with quality materials that last and last.