Smart security cameras are not made equal: some are best used inside the house, while others are rugged and can work regardless of rain, sun, or snow. If you already have a smart indoor camera, why not take things to the next level and add some outdoor surveillance with a good outdoor security camera?
Here we show you how to pick the best outdoor security camera that suits your needs.
What Makes a Good Outdoor Security Camera
A reliable outdoor security camera will need to be able to withstand the weather and record things clearly.
At the basic level, your outdoor security camera should have these four things:
- Weatherproofing – should be rat ed IP65 and above.
- Cloud or local storage – or both if the security camera allows it.
- Night recording – usually involves IR and low-light modes.
- Compatibility – with whatever system that runs your smart home.
Past that, there are five more qualities that help smart cameras integrate better in an existing smart home system:
- AI capabilities – includes face detection, geofencing, and activity zones.
- Video quality – field of view, resolution, HDR, zoom levels.
- Audio recording – helpful during investigations but can also be used for other things, like talking to Amazon Alexa while outside.
- Power supply – some have large battery capacities that run for months on a few hours of charge, while others require a power connection to the mains line.
- Floodlight – besides being a useful thief-deterrent, floodlights also help you move around outside your house at night.
These five don’t necessarily have to be in an outdoor security camera. You can go on without all of them. However, they are all features that are good to have, which may help you decide.
Deciding on an Outdoor Security Camera
Picking a security camera will depend on your needs. Before you start shopping, ask yourself these questions:
- How much is my budget?
- Can I afford a one-time purchase, or should I go with a subscription?
- How many cameras will it take to secure my house?
- Where will I place each camera?
- Will I need an NVR? How will I connect my outdoor cameras?
- Does my house always suffer from power interruptions?
- What is the climate like in my area?
- What other devices do I have or plan to add in my smart system?
Given the different characteristics in cameras, you can have a relatively “subpar” or “fragile” security camera that works perfectly on your home system without hurting your wallet.
For instance, you could have a smart doorbell camera that overlooks the spot where the postal carrier always places your packages. You could leave all the advanced AI capabilities to that doorbell and skimp on that part with your outdoor security camera in favor of a better resolution. The reverse also works if your outdoor smart camera has a better view of the outdoors.
Your other devices can also play a role in your choice. If you have multiple outdoor cameras, some of these can have floodlights while others don’t. Or you could forego the floodlight on the camera and get a dedicated floodlight instead.
When it comes to connectivity, Wi-Fi helps if your home network can support it. If you’re only basing it on using the same router you use for your Internet needs, then maybe it’s time to consider getting a dedicated security camera router or have them all wired to an NVR.
When considering batteries, a small one can help during short interruptions. Some are wireless – charge them for eight hours or so, and they’ll run on that for a week to a month. Mileage varies, and others with solar panels can help offset the electricity cost of a security camera.
Smart Doorbells vs. Security Cameras
Maybe you already have a smart doorbell with an HD camera and are wondering if an outdoor security camera would be overkill. Unfortunately, the answer to that is always this: it depends.
Some smart doorbells can be installed next to a door, and they’re basically “set them and forget them.” But there’s a problem with that: their view is only limited to looking at what’s in front of your door. If you have a driveway or a wide lawn, your potential thief could pass through unseen.
Outdoor security cameras can help you cover blind spots. They can also provide you with more data, as they have stronger lenses and camera sensors that all fit into their relatively larger frames. These things can even record license plates from a few feet away as long as they are placed at the proper angle.
Our Picks for the Best Outdoor Security Cameras
Best Compact Solar-Powered – EufyCam 3
Here’s a problem with battery-powered devices: you have to recharge them often. But with the EufyCam 3, you can go months or even a couple of years without a full charge. That is, as long as there’s enough sunlight to power it.
- Up to 16TB local memory
- Allows you to set up activity zones and geofencing
- Fully wireless and does not need to be connected to external power source
- Clear night vision
- Low light mode has problems looking at license plates
- Activity zone only allows up to six sides
- Protective casing comes as an add-on
Best Sturdy Night Camera – Lorex 4K Nocturnal
Sturdy and sharp, the Lorex 4K Nocturnal lets you do 4K-quality recording all day and night, while tough enough to resist anything short of a week-long blizzard. It’s best used if you’re going to buy multiple cameras to cover all of the blind spots.
- 4K HD recording, even at night
- Low cost per camera (sold in bundles)
- Waterproof, coldproof, and heatproof
- Sturdy metal exterior
- Needs a Lorex NVR
- No built-in AI on camera
- NVR adds to the price
Best Budget Smart Security Camera – Wyze Cam V3
With the Wyze Cam V3, you get what you pay for. On its own, it’s a basic plug-in-the-socket camera that’s small enough to work inside the house but sturdy to last in the outside weather. If you start paying for the low-cost subscription, you’d be amazed with all the features of this tiny outdoor camera.
- Really cheap
- Feature-packed despite its price
- Subscription-based AI capabilities as add-on
- Does not support Apple HomeKit
- Should be placed under shade
- You’ll need a long cable to keep its battery from dying
Best Mount and View – Ezviz C8C
Of all the smart outdoor cameras in this list, the Ezviz C8C gives the best view from anywhere. With a wide pan and tilt range, it’s best placed where you can get a good view of the surrounding area. If only it was cheaper to send data to cloud storage with this thing.
- 325° pan and 95° tilt
- SD card slot for local storage
- L-bracket lets you install it basically anywhere
- Optional cloud storage
- Audio recording
- No HDR
- Cloud storage can get pretty expensive
- No two-way audio
Best Budget Subscription – Arlo Pro 4
When it comes to subscriptions, look no further than the Arlo Pro 4. At only $3 per month, you get many AI features and a 30-day event history. It also has a decent basic camera with two-way audio and 160° FoV.
- Two-way audio
- 2K resolution
- 12-month battery life
- Low subscription price for , a lot of benefit
- Limited free features
- Does not work with Apple HomeKit
Best Battery-Operated – Blink Outdoor
Looking for the best battery-powered outdoor security camera that doesn’t have to be charged every couple of months? Say hello to the Blink Outdoor. Quite ironically, though, it doesn’t have “batteries” in the same way others do. It works with a pair of 1.5V AA batteries that can make it last up to two years. Yes, it’s the same batteries you’d use in your alarm clock!
- Best battery life
- Has a USB port for local storage
- Two-way sensor, night vision, and temperature sensor
- Has Wi-Fi and RF
- No geofencing
- Uses a hub
- Settings for one Blink camera will always affect the settings for the other cameras connected to the same hub
Best Zoom – Reolink RLC-811A
At 5x zoom, the Reolink RLC-811A offers the best zoom capabilities with a proper mix of night vision, resolution, and basic AI capabilities. It can alert you to people and vehicles coming through your driveway, as well as detect pets and animals in its field of view.
- 5x zoom
- 4K ultra HD
- Local storage using SD card
- Can be powered through PoE
- No battery
- No pan and tilt
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I allow my outdoor camera battery to run out?
It’s generally a bad idea to drain your outdoor camera’s battery, as it reduces its lifespan. However, it’s a good idea to check the instructions first: some devices have special circuits that protect the batteries from drainage. Some older models might even require you to drain the battery first.
Can laser pointers damage outdoor security cameras?
The kind of lasers used to point at stuff or play with cats normally can’t damage security cameras. These things typically have filters to protect them from slightly more powerful light sources. However, they can blind the security cameras temporarily.
What can I use to clean my outdoor security camera's lens?
As with most things that have lenses, you should use a lint-free cloth to wipe dust and water off your outdoor security camera’s lens. If there’s a lot of dirt on it (or worse, mud), you can spray it with some soapy water then use a soft-bristled brush to dislodge the dirt. Never use tissue or other materials with rough surfaces on them, as they might scratch the lens.
Image credit: Unsplash
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox