What Is the Best Security Camera for Outside?
If you’ve ever had a package stolen from your porch or had a car broken into while parked in your driveway, there’s a good chance that the perpetrator was long gone before you even found out you had been victimized. There’s an even better chance that you’ll never know who committed the deed. If this sounds familiar, it might be time to invest in an outdoor security camera.
These rugged smart home devices, designed to withstand rain, snow, and extreme temperatures, typically connect to your home Wi-Fi network and allow you to view live video footage of activities occurring outside of your house. They’ll also send an alert to your phone when someone or something is out there, record video of the event, and depending on features, let you talk to whoever is on your property, all without ever having to open your door (or even be inside your house, for that matter).
Read on to find out what features to look for when choosing an outdoor security camera, and to check out our top picks. Note that a number of the cameras on this list are suitable for use both indoors and out. If you want a model that’s geared specifially for keeping tabs of what’s going on inside your home, head over to our list of the Best Indoor Home Security Cameras.
How Do Outdoor Security Cameras Work?
Most smart outdoor security cameras use a Wi-Fi radio to connect to your home network, allowing you to access them from anywhere using a mobile app. But there are also models that can use wired Ethernet, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, or a proprietary wireless technology to connect to a mobile app or a dedicated hub.
Wi-Fi cameras are easier to install than their wired counterparts because they don’t have to be located near an Ethernet port and don’t require wiring. Battery-powered Wi-Fi cameras are the easiest to install because you can put them just about anywhere (as long as they can connect to your router) without having to snake a power cable into your home to plug into an outlet. These types of cameras typically use rechargeable batteries that can be easily popped out and taken indoors for charging with a USB cable, but they tend to drain quickly in colder weather. Bluetooth cameras are also easy to install, but you have to stay within 40 feet or so to connect to them with your phone.
Look for an outdoor Wi-Fi camera that can connect to either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz radio band to alleviate network congestion. If you’re having trouble getting a good signal outside, try pumping it up with a wireless range extender.
What Type of Weather Can Outdoor Security Cameras Handle?
Any outdoor camera worth its salt must be able to withstand exposure to the elements and should carry an IP (Ingress Protection) rating. IP ratings contain two digits that tell you just how well the camera will hold up under most weather conditions. The first digit following the IP prefix tells you how resistant the camera is to the ingress of solid objects such as wind-blown dust and ranges from 0 (no protection) to 6 (total protection against dust and dirt). The second number tells you how resistant the camera is to moisture and ranges from 0 (no protection) to 9 (protected against close range, high pressure spray downs from all angles).
Most outdoor security cameras have an IP66 rating, which means they offer complete protection from dust ingress and can handle water jets from any direction, but shouldn’t be immersed in water. They’re typically safe from rain, snow, heat, and cold.
What Resolution Do You Want?
There’s no use in having an outdoor security camera if you can’t recognize who or what the camera is looking at. A camera that captures video at 720p will usually offer a fairly sharp picture, but 1080p video offers more detail and is the most popular resolution for these devices; it doesn’t require lots of storage capacity and can be viewed on nearly all phones, tablets, and PCs.
Cameras that capture 4K (Ultra HD) video are also available, but you’ll need a very strong network connection to stream it without experiencing choppiness or lag, and you’ll need lots of room to store recorded video, which may result in expensive cloud storage fees.
No matter the resolution, try to choose a camera with a relatively wide field of view (viewing angle) and make sure it can capture clear night vision video. Most cameras use IR (infrared) LEDs to deliver black-and-white night video, but there are a few out there that use white light to deliver full-color night video. Look for a camera with a night vision range of at least 30 feet.
Do You Need Motion and Sound Detection?
Nearly all outdoor security cameras are equipped with a motion sensor that will trigger the camera to record video when motion is detected. The sensor can also initiate a push alert to your phone when activity is taking place, and some will also generate an email alert. For an extra layer of security, look for a camera with sound detection that can let you know if somebody is out there even if they’re out of range of the camera lens and the motion sensor. Fair warning: You’ll probably have to tweak the sound sensitivity settings to avoid alerts from barking dogs, loud cars, and other random noises.