Get a little extra security at home, even if you aren’t there. With a connected security camera, you can be alerted if something is going on in your home while you’re away. The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is best in test because of its good image quality, intelligent functions and easy-to-use app.
All models have been tested over the long-term in a domestic environment in their intended position. The cameras with some form of cloud service requiring a subscription have been tested both with and without it. The cameras have been tested with several users connected and connected to Android and iPhone as well as tablets and computers. We have also looked at any accessories and third-party services supported and how they work.
All factors are weighted together with other points such as build quality, functions, accessories and guarantees. The final score is then a reflection of the product’s value for money.
Stylish camera that recognises people
Type: Security camera for outdoor use Camera: Yes (Full HD/4K) Motion sensor: Yes (motion zones) Night vision: Yes (black-and-white) Facial recognition: Yes Storage: In the cloud (subscription-based) Siren: No Voice control: Yes (Google Assistant) Microphone/speaker: Yes (two-way communication) Power: Electric What’s included: 1 x camera, installation accessories
With its intelligent functions, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is the best security camera for outdoor use that we’ve tested to date. Nest is owned by Google, which means it can easily be integrated into a smart home based on Google’s voice assistant. But this is less good if you want more of an all-in-one solution for outdoor alarm and monitoring.
Simple installation with enormous mains adapter Installing the Nest camera isn’t difficult, and the fact that the power cable included is both a good length and flat makes it even easier. But the mains adapter is a very large one that takes up two or even three sockets.
Before installing the hardware in place, however, you need to pair the camera with Nest’s service a bit closer to your Wi-Fi router, to make sure it all works properly. This too is extremely simple and mostly involves logging into your Nest account in the app.
Out in the garden, the reception is very good, which is helpful as the camera only communicates over Wi-Fi. At the same time it’s something you need to experiment with.
The design is very similar to indoor cameras, but the discreet design means that it fits into the majority of outdoor environments.
Unlike other outdoor cameras, it includes neither a built-in light or siren. So if you want illumination when you go out to the garden shed at night or if you want to frighten away trespassers, you have to look elsewhere or supplement the camera with other smart home equipment.
Recognises people But when it comes to image quality, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is very convincing. The camera films in 1080p resolution and has a 4K sensor. This means that it automatically zooms in on objects moving in front of it to see them more clearly.
Together with facial recognition and very quick communication with the app, you can rapidly get an overview of what the camera sees. However, the camera only recognises faces, not car registration plates.
But this is dependent on Nest Aware, the company’s subscription service. Without this you receive push notifications and can see what’s happening live, but you no longer have the possibility to save video or do facial recognition. It’s a shame that you can’t insert a memory card as a supplement.
The image quality and ease-of-use put the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor slightly ahead of its competitors among outdoor cameras and make it the best in test in this category.
Smart camera on several levels
Type: Security camera for indoor use Camera: Yes (Full HD/4K) Motion sensor: Yes (motion zones) Night vision: Yes (black-and-white) Facial recognition: Yes Storage: In the cloud (subscription-based) Siren: No Voice control: Yes (Google Assistant) Microphone/speaker: Yes (two-way communication) Power: Electric What’s included: 1 x camera, installation accessories
The Nest Cam IQ is the slightly more high end of Google-owned Nest’s two models. The “IQ” bit gives it a couple of extra functions compared to a normal camera, which actually do make a difference in practice.
Extremely easy to install But let’s start from the beginning. The camera itself is slightly larger than average, but feels well built and is sufficiently discreetly designed to blend in. The included cable is generously proportioned, but unfortunately so is the mains adapter that goes with it. This enormous lump takes up two or even three sockets without any problem and could definitely have been designed better.
The actual camera is only connected via Wi-Fi, but even at slightly longer distances we still get really good reception and image quality. After this the installation is simple and mostly involves downloading the app and registering the camera.
Subscription dependent Once set up, the camera offers a really good image with wide angle and good sharpness both in day and night lighting conditions. Movement is either picked up over the entire field of view or in an area that you draw in the app yourself. Notifications to your phone are fast and show a short sequence of what the camera is reporting.
If you want more than this, you have to subscribe to Nest Aware, which is Nest’s premium service. But this gives you a really handy timeline of what the camera has seen. However, we’d have liked there to be a memory card option or similar local storage as an alternative.
Because the camera films in 1080p resolution, but has a 4K sensor, it zooms in on anything moving in front of the camera without losing quality. This combined with really good facial recognition means you can quickly find out if it’s someone you recognise or a stranger in front of the camera.
The Nest Cam IQ isn’t the cheapest camera, either to buy or run. But the price pays off in terms of good image quality and really useful functions.
The modern doorbell
Type: Doorbell with camera Camera: Yes (1600x1200) Motion sensor: Yes (motion zones) Night vision: Yes Facial recognition: Yes Storage: In the cloud (subscription-based) Siren: No Voice control: Yes (Google ) Microphone/speaker: Yes (two-way communication) Power: Electric What’s included: 1 x camera, installation accessories, screwdriver
The Nest Hello is a doorbell with a built-in camera, which is really useful for most homes. Nest is owned by Google, and the model they have launched is similar in many ways to the equivalent from manufacturers such as Ring.
The kit consists of a doorbell unit – in this case one with a relatively modern design that doesn’t try to blend into its surroundings – which is connected to mains power and Wi-Fi. Unlike Ring’s doorbell camera with mains power, however, it doesn’t include a replacement transformer (many existing doorbell power supplies are insufficient and must be upgraded). Instead you have to buy one yourself, which feels rather stingy. And if you don’t have any electrical skills, you also have to include the price of an electrician to install the doorbell.
Another difference with Ring’s doorbell is that you have to settle for the colour camera comes in, as you can’t replace the front housing with more suitable colours.
Once it’s installed, Wi-Fi is your only choice for connection, so make sure you test the position in advance to check that you have good coverage by your door.
Once connected, we get a slightly more positive impression of the Nest Hello. Pairing the camera with the app is very simple and you’re quickly up and running.
You can operate the camera without a subscription, but this gives you pretty much no way of saving video clips from the doorbell. Instead you’re intended to add a subscription to Nest Aware. This gives you both the opportunity to save video clips (of different lengths depending on your subscription) but also gives you access to the camera’s biggest strength – facial recognition.
This feature allows you to train the camera to recognise people so that you can more easily find out who’s ringing the doorbell.
Pressing the doorbell causes a chime at the doorbell itself and in any chime indoors, in connected mobiles and also in your Google Home speaker if you have one. This means that you always hear when somebody rings doorbell.
The motion sensor can also be used to detect people outside your door (in our case, mostly the neighbour’s cat) and can be set to a very accurate level so it doesn’t give out false alarms all the time.
The sound quality when you choose to speak to the person ringing the doorbell is mostly good, if a little bit quiet. Even if the image isn’t in full HD (or 4K, like Nest’s other cameras) neither we nor the facial recognition software have any problem seeing who's outside the door regardless of the time of day.
Nest Hello is a bit fiddly to start using compared to Ring’s equivalent, and doesn’t offer as many options. Once it’s up and running, however, there’s very little to complain about, and if you’re looking for a doorbell with a camera, despite the installation issues, we’d currently recommend the Nest Hello.
Use your mobile to see who’s at the door
Type: Doorbell with camera Camera: Yes (Full HD) Motion sensor: Yes (thermal detection) Night vision: Yes Facial recognition: No Storage: In the cloud (subscription-based) Siren: No Voice control: Yes (Alexa) Microphone/speaker: Yes (two-way communication) Power: Battery (3-6 months) What’s included: 1 x camera, 2 front plates, 2 angle adapters, screws, screwdriver
The Ring Video Doorbell 2 is a bit different from a traditional security camera, both in terms of design and concept. This camera is a replacement for your doorbell. Instead of ringing a bell indoors (although you can connect your old doorbell’s ringer or Ring’s own ringer accessory, Chime), it sends a signal to your telephone, both when someone presses the button and when the doorbell detects movement. From there you can see live video of the person outside the door and speak directly to them.
The entire point here is that you should be able to see who’s outside the door without having to open it. Either to get rid of door-to-door salespeople, to make it look like you aren’t at home or to buy yourself a bit more time when somebody rings the doorbell and you’re in the shower.
The actual doorbell is almost ridiculously large and quite plasticky. Even the ringtone that comes from the bell sounds really hollow and cheap. But the size is due to the fact that it’s battery-powered, so there must be space for a battery. (Ring also sells the Doorbell Pro, which has mains power and is less than half the size.)
The battery power means that the doorbell is very easy to install. You simply screw it in place and connect it to your Wi-Fi network. Here, Ring get extra points for including everything you need to use for the installation, including a screwdriver.
Pairing the doorbell with the app is also very simple, as is giving permissions to other family members. During the time we have it installed, we rarely run into any problems with connection or with it taking a while for the ring signal to reach the phone. Regardless of whether it rings, whether the motion sensor goes off or if you want to check the live video, it never gives any problems and works pretty much immediately in each case.
However, if you want to store recorded video clips you have to pay extra for Ring’s subscription service, which also allows you to download clips if you want.
Despite its plasticky appearance, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is a really intelligent camera that works very well and actually adds something quite useful to the domestic environment that we didn’t know we needed before we had it.
Versatile and well-equipped security camera
Type: Security camera for indoor and outdoor use Camera: Yes (Full HD) Motion sensor: Yes (thermal detection and motion zones) Night vision: Yes Facial recognition: No Storage: In the cloud (subscription-based) Siren: Yes Voice control: Yes (Alexa) Microphone/speaker: Yes (two-way communication) Power: PoE or USB What’s included: 1 x camera, PoE injector, network cables, mains adapter, installation accessories, screwdriver
The Ring Stick Up Cam Wired follows the manufacturer’s admirable tradition of providing everything you need in a single package. The camera itself is intended to work both indoors and outdoors and is designed to easily blend into a domestic environment. You can rotate the foot pretty much how you want to make sure the camera can easily be installed either standing or on a wall or ceiling, and all of the screws (and a screwdriver) for the installation are included.
Because this camera doesn’t have a battery, you can run it on Wi-Fi and use the included USB adapter for power. But it also includes a PoE (power over Ethernet) adapter, which allows you to both power the camera and feed it data via a network cable. Ring have been particularly generous in that one of the two network cables included is also suitable for outdoor use.
With the network cable connected, you don’t need to worry about dodgy Wi-Fi, and even with a good wireless network it’s much faster to connect to the camera in wired mode. It also gives much more stable video quality. Regardless of whether it’s night or daytime, the image quality is very good, and it’s rarely difficult to see the faces of passers-by.
Both the Wi-Fi and wired connections are very simple to carry out and you’re up and running after just a few minutes. After that you can look at the camera when you want, or get notifications in your phone when it detects movements. You can set the motion sensor quite accurately in the camera’s field of view and can supplement this with scheduling.
Unfortunately, the scheduling isn’t very advanced and there’s no way to shut off the camera if you're home. We’d also have liked to see facial recognition among the functions. This is largely because the app has been designed to make it as easy to use as possible, but it doesn’t feel anything like as complete as the hardware in the package. To record video of the movements detected by the camera, you also need to buy an add-on service that has a monthly cost
The camera has no built-in floodlight like Ring’s other outdoor cameras, but it does have a siren (with a relatively low volume) and the possibility of both hearing what the camera hears and talking through it.
Ring need to work a little on their software for it to feel like it’s on the same kind of level as the competitors offerings. But as a camera, the Stick Up Cam is a very generous and good value for money package with everything you need to get started.
Versatile and well-equipped security camera
Type: Security camera for outdoor use Camera: Yes (Full HD) Motion sensor: Yes (thermal detection) Night vision: Yes Facial recognition: No Storage: In the cloud (subscription-based) Siren: Yes Voice control: Yes (Alexa) Microphone/speaker: Yes (two-way communication) Power: Battery (3-6 months) What’s included: 1 x camera, installation accessories, screwdriver
The Ring Spotlight Cam Battery is an entirely wireless camera that in terms of hardware feels very complete. As the name indicates, there’s a built-in lamp that can illuminate smaller outdoor areas when someone passes the camera. Either to frighten away intruders or simply to give you a bit more light if you’re moving around outside at night. If you want to inform people that they’ve been caught on film, there’s also a built-in siren, and if you don’t want to make quite that much noise, you can also talk to and hear the person standing by the camera.
The image quality is also good regardless of whether it’s filming during the day or night. The camera isn’t exactly a design triumph, but it does its job.
There are several advantages to having a battery-powered security camera (you can also buy it with a standard power cable for the same price). Above all, it makes it much easier to install the camera because you don’t have to worry about laying cables. In addition, the camera has space for two batteries – even if the package only includes one.
But simultaneously there’s the question of the wireless connection. You need to have really good Wi-Fi coverage where the camera is installed to get the video stream to be smooth. This is a marked difference to Ring’s equivalent mains powered cameras. Not only to save on batteries, but the freedom that comes with an entirely wireless camera quickly becomes limited in this case.
But for reception there are no problems. Ring’s app is incredibly easy to get started with and it doesn’t take many minutes to add the camera to your account. You immediately get notifications on your phone when something happens and you can see the live view, but if you want to store film clips you have to pay a subscription fee.
The wonderfully simple app also comes with limitations, such as a not entirely straightforward scheduling system, the lack of facial recognition and a slightly fiddly timeline of what has been seen and recorded.
The Ring Spotlight Cam Battery is a great choice if you have good Wi-Fi coverage outdoors too. It includes everything you need for installation. It’s also great that it has space for double batteries, but we’d have liked to see better Wi-Fi reception and slightly more modern functions in the app.
Oversized camera with good lights
Type: Security camera for outdoor use Camera: Yes (Full HD) Motion sensor: Yes (thermal detection) Night vision: Yes Facial recognition: No Storage: In the cloud (subscription-based) Siren: Yes Voice control: Yes (Alexa) Microphone/speaker: Yes (two-way communication) Power: Electric What’s included: 1 x camera, installation accessories, screwdriver
In practice, the Ring Floodlight Cam is the same camera as the wired Spotlight camera. Here, the camera is flanked by two LED spotlights and all three parts are attached by adjustable arms to a shared back plate. If you have existing wall lighting, the idea is that the camera can replace it.
Laying cables suitable for outdoor use is a bit more tricky than the indoor version. This makes Ring’s Floodlight Cam a clever design. Because it’s not unlikely that your garden already has some form of lighting, and replacing this with combined lighting and surveillance is a sensible idea.
However, because this is one of the company's smaller cameras with two floodlights attached, you can’t exactly call it discreet outdoor lighting, or very attractively designed either.
The installation is simple and no more difficult than it is to install a normal lighting cable. All of the tools for the installation (including a screwdriver) are included.
The light can be set to illuminate on movement or to be switched on either manually or according to a schedule. However, you can’t set the light level, so the alternatives are either dark or “lights up the entire garden”. Both the light and the camera can be set very accurately in terms of the motion sensor’s field of view, but there’s no automatic on and off depending on whether or not you’re at home (obviously this is more useful for indoor cameras, but it's still a nice function to have).
The image quality is generally really good regardless of whether it’s day or night time. Unlike Ring’s battery-powered units, we experience the reception strength for the Wi-Fi as being significantly better. It would have been nicer to have the option for wired connection, but this camera doesn’t offer that.
Getting started with the app is extremely simple, however. As standard, you get notifications on your phone when the camera sees something and you can check it yourself at any time. If you want recording, you have to pay for Ring’s subscription service, which you’ll probably want to do to use the video clips in any way.
The app is easy to use, although it doesn’t have a vast number of functions. We have like to see facial recognition included, but have to settle for motion detection.
If you want to replace an existing garden light with combined lighting and surveillance, the Ring Floodlight Cam can be a good choice provided you have sufficient Wi-Fi coverage. At the same time it’s quite a clumsy unit with few light settings. From this point of view, a separate light and camera can be a better choice for outdoor use.
Older product that gives you full control
Type: Security camera for indoor use Camera: Yes (Full HD) Motion sensor: Yes (thermal detection) Night vision: Yes Facial recognition: Yes Storage: Micro SD-card/Dropbox/FTP Siren: No Voice control: Yes (Google/Homekit) Microphone/speaker: Microphone only Power: Mains adapter What’s included: 1 x camera
The Netatmo Welcome has major advantages that many of its competitors are lacking, but it’s also getting a bit elderly. It’s quite an attractive camera built into an aluminium tube. However, this causes problems in pretty much every position if you were thinking of putting it on a table or similar.
You have to work out some of your own accessories for wall mounting, and the fact that all the cables stick straight out from the back doesn’t help either. But the camera gets a big plus for having an outlet for a wired network for more stable connection.
Another major advantage is that you don’t have to have a subscription to store video clips. The camera has an outlet for Micro SD-card for storage, but can also be connected to your Dropbox account or via FTP, for example to a network hard drive. This gives you better control over recorded clips – and your own data – than many other camera solutions.
Getting started with this camera is as easy as it is with the majority of others. Download the app, create an account and follow the instructions, and you’re ready to go in a couple of minutes.
After it’s been installed for a couple of days, the software also starts to ask about the faces it has seen so it can identify them.
The Netatmo Welcome was released couple of years ago, and unfortunately this is quite evident. Regardless of the light, the faces we are asked to identify are very blurred.
While it’s easy to get started, receive notifications and watch the live view in the camera, the app is rather fiddly to use. The live video is rarely of high quality (although the recorded material is), there are very few settings for the camera and identified faces and history are quite difficult to manage. The app would really benefit from a major update.
It’s also worth mentioning that the camera gets worryingly hot, so make sure it’s positioned in a well ventilated place.
The freedom and lack of hidden costs together with an attractive design significantly increase the score we give to the Netatmo Welcome. But the fact that it’s quite difficult to position and has an ageing app mean that it could have done better.
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With a domestic security (CCTV) camera, you can keep track of everyone coming and going around your home. But the type of security camera that’s best for your home depends entirely on your individual preferences. Some people want a completely wireless camera (i.e. a battery-powered one) that only records when someone moves in front of it. These are more advanced than the kind that react to all types of movement, for example. Some people want to store video clips in the cloud, while others would prefer to store them on memory card in the camera itself.
These are just a few examples of the differences between cameras. In this guide, we go through all the different types of functions and parameters so you can decide which camera suits you best.
Of course, the single most important function in a security camera is how good the image quality is – both in terms of still images and film. Without a decent picture, you can’t see who’s in the image or use the recorded material later for any purpose.
The image quality largely depends on the camera capabilities, which you can find out from the specifications. It also depends on how the camera is connected, because the image quality often varies depending on how fast the connection is (more about this below). Look for the following as a kind of initial quality check (although remember that there can be significant variation between cameras with similar specifications):
Then there are other technical specifications it can be useful to watch out for.
This is measured in degrees, exactly like when you measure angles. The larger the number of degrees, the broader the field of view – so for example, it will show more of your garden.
In many cases this can be seen as a set of LEDs around or close to the camera lens (but not always). If you want to see what’s going on at night, this is an essential.
Filming the entire time is often pointless. The majority of cameras have a motion sensor, and even this isn’t directly connected to image quality, it’s still important. Both for telling you if somebody’s sneaking around in your garden and for recording events in case you need to use the material later.
Cameras often have functions for setting movement sensitivity or the option to only pick out movement in a particular part of the camera’s field of view.
How the camera communicates with the surrounding world is extremely important. We tested cameras with two connection methods – wireless (Wi-Fi) or wired (Ethernet).
If you have the possibility, a wired connection is preferable as it’s almost always quickest and least sensitive to interference.
But installing wires to a camera can seem intimidating. Consequently, many cameras now connect only through your home Wi-Fi network. If you go for this option you need a stable, fast router so that image quality and notifications are as good as possible and so that there’s good enough coverage where you’re going to install the camera.
Is the camera powered by mains power from an electrical outlet or by batteries? A battery-powered camera, particularly with Wi-Fi, is enormously flexible because you don’t need to install cables to it. At the same time you need to keep track of the battery level and how long the battery will last.
A camera with mains power obviously requires a little more work to install it because you have to put the wire somewhere. But as a consequence you don’t need to worry about battery levels and you often get a couple of extra functions in this type of camera that take too much power for battery operation.
Obviously a security camera has to store what it’s recorded. There are lots of solutions for this, but the most common for the cameras in the test is either a memory card in the camera or a cloud solution you subscribe to.
We all know how to use a memory card. Insert the card and the camera records onto it. There are memory cards of different sizes and with different storage capacities, so make sure you choose the right type for your camera. You also need to remember that it may need to be emptied at regular intervals.
The advantage of cloud services is that recorded material is still there even if your house burns down or the camera is stolen. At the same time, you have to pay a monthly or annual fee for access.
Cloud services are often specific to the particular camera manufacturer, so for example you can’t buy a camera from Nest and add it to Ring’s cloud service.
Another solution is to store the material on a networked hard disk or similar device. Often you need additional software to keep track of the cameras and recordings, but this is a very flexible solution if you want to invest a little more energy in your installation.
The majority of cameras in this test are connected and used through an app on your mobile phone or tablet. If the app on your phone is slow to show images from the camera, fails to give you notifications when something happens and so on, you’ll end up by not using it, which makes the camera pointless.
So it’s really important to have a good app that can guide you through the installation and works well during the entire lifetime of the camera.
The laws about security cameras are much more relaxed than they were just a few years ago. At the same time, there are a couple of rules you have to obey. You can find all information you need, together with the opportunity to ask questions at The Swedish Data Protection Authority’s website, which is the authority that deals with the legal aspects.
To summarise the situation, for private individuals who want to monitor their home, the following applies:
Budget: < £150. In this class, there are lots of cameras and the quality can vary enormously, both in terms of images and functions. This is also where many people start with working out what they need and how a home security system works.
Medium: £150-280 A little over £200 is normal for most manufacturers’ modern consumer-level security cameras. These often provide decent image quality and you can count on a good range of functions for this use area.
Premium: £ 280 There are lots of cameras for professional use in the higher price classes, but also more high-end consumer models. Here you can demand really good image quality and a full range of functions.
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