Security. We all worry about it and we all need it. Some of us choose to lock our doors and some of us keep a bat near our bedside. Others choose to get a guard dog, while some invest more heavily in their family’s safety.
If you are the type to invest your hard-earned money in order to get the best home security system, perhaps one of your best options is to purchase outdoor security cameras that will help keep an eye on your property and watch for intruders.
The Basic Components of a Home Security System
But, first, let’s back up a little. A home security system is made up of several components. Depending on the amount of security you desire and the finances you have to spend, there are several items you can select from including locks, gates, alarms, sensor equipment, motion detectors, and security cameras. Optional features might include watch dogs, panic rooms, glass-breaking detectors, and even closed-circuit television (CCTV) recorders. Whether you’re getting a security system for a business or home, one crucial component in most systems will be the outdoor security cameras. There are tons to choose from so we will go over some of the most popular options available today in our Best Outdoor Security Cameras article.
Why Do You Need An Outdoor Security Camera System?
Surveillance cameras work best when they are placed both inside and outside, around the perimeter of your property. Most top-of-the-line security cameras now incorporate wireless technology. The camera works to protect you and your belongings by sending a video signal to an outside recording device. If used correctly, security cameras can be incredibly helpful in solving a break-in or robbery, as they provide the police with a vital tool to catch the perpetrators who were responsible and can even help them retrieve stolen goods and return them to their rightful owner — you!
For added security, some indoor and outdoor security cameras are motion-activated. This allows them to run and record for much longer time periods since they only activate when movement trips their sensors. These activation mechanisms trigger an alarm system to help you catch the bad guys in the act, before too much harm is done to your property, or to you.
The Urban Institute’s (founded in 1968 by a commission of civic leaders appointed by President Johnson) Justice Policy Center ran a report on security camera statistics [PDF, 4 Pages, September 2011] that studied surveillance systems in three cities: Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Chicago. The study revealed that actively monitored cameras reduced crime in a cost-effective manner.
Top 10 most Popular Outdoor Security Camera Reviews
Let’s take a look at ten different models of outdoor security cameras so you can decide which one best meets your needs. Please note that this list is in no particular ranking order, and there are other brands and models available. This is by no means an exhaustive list of outdoor security cameras, but it will give you a review of some top choices in indoor and outdoor security cameras*. To skip straight to a camera, click a link below.
- Swann SWDVK-825558-US
- Defender 21030 Sentinel
- SVAT VU301-C
- Lorex Day/Night Surveillance Camera CVC6941
- VideoSecu IRX36
- 8MP Brown Bushnell Trophy Cam
- Loftek Naja-6h
- Primos Truth Cam 35
- Zmodo PKD-DK4216-500GB H.264
- Logitech’s 700e
Price: $550 ($68.75 per camera) – View on Amazon
- High resolution 600 TVL cameras
- Night vision, up to 65 feet
- Continuously records from 8 cameras for 15 days or more onto a 500GB hard drive
- Watch live footage on 3G/4G enabled smartphones
- Not wireless so you will have to run some cords.
Price: $250 ($62.50 per camera) – View on Amazon
- Access live footage from your smartphone.
- Uses H.264 compression, which is the most advanced compression level available for a DVR system.
- Record over 2 years of video footage on the 500GB hard drive at 600 TVL.
- No web security so anyone can watch your footage.
- Cords will need to be hidden during installation as this system is not wireless.
Price: $30 (seems to vary from day to day) – View on Amazon
- This is a CCD camera (420 TVL) that can be used to retrieve color images and can be used indoors or outdoors.
- Equipped with 12 infrared LEDs and is capable of night-vision imagery of up to 15 feet.
- Comes with a CDS sensor so it can sense changes in light levels, which should save on energy costs since night vision is only activated when it is dark.
- This camera is equipped with an adjustable bracket that makes it ‘easy to mount almost anywhere.’
- The SVAT camera is built with professional-grade housing and a sun shade to protect the equipment from rust, glare, or deterioration.
- This camera is not wireless, but it does come with 60 feet of wiring.
(formerly Lorex high-resolution indoor/outdoor color night vision camera)
Price: $55 – View on Amazon
- 60 foot night vision
- Can be used indoor and outdoor
- 64 degree field of view with 420 TVL
- Some buyers suggest placing the cameras under a roof edge so it is not in direct contact with rain/snow.
Price: $280 – View on Amazon
- This camera has a wide-view angle lens and 420 TVL.
- The camera has been equipped with 30 infrared illuminators that enable it to record even in complete darkness.
- Has an aluminum body suitable for indoor/outdoor placement.
- The camera provides color images in bright light, but when the light level drops, it automatically switches to take black and white images.
Price: $139 – View on Amazon
- This camera has the highest resolution of all the cameras we reviewed, with a capability of taking HD 1280×720 pixel videos for as long as 60 seconds, with accompanying audio.
- This is a great camera solution for those hoping to keep watch over woods and other woodlands. Its 40-LED flash is low-glow black, making it invisible to game animals as well as humans (commonly used for hunting as well as home surveillance).
- This camera is capable of filming images up to 45 feet away in the dark.
- Has a passive infrared sensor with a 45’ day and night range that captures images with a 1-second trigger.
- This security camera can take full-color 8-megapixel pictures, and it offers a feature called Field Scan Mode that uses time-lapse technology to take photographs at preset times to help track the movement of game animals.
- The battery life of this camera is up to 1 year.
- This camera has 32GB SD (secure digital) card compatibility.
- The camera can be mounted on any object via an adjustable web belt and a socket.
- This security camera is much more catered towards those who want to monitor game land rather than personal premises.
Price: $66 – View on Amazon
- 1/3” HDIS CCD and 600 TVL
- 300 foot range
- LED issues have been reported by several users.
Price: $81 – View on Amazon
- Great for hunters designed specifically to monitor the woods, it comes pre-configured for that purpose.
- This camera is equipped with 35 infrared LEDs, that should allow for good night vision.
- This camera can be set for multi-picture bursts of 1 to 9 pictures per trigger activation.
- This camera was designed to be hidden and comes in a thin casing.
- The Loftek takes an image every 0.3 seconds when active. This is a little slower than the other hunting camera on this list (the Bushnell), as it takes 1.5 seconds for the Primos to motion activate and capture a picture from sleep mode.
Price: $125 (~$31.25 per camera) – View on Amazon
- 4 cameras with 60 foot of cable per camera (420 TVL)
- Viewable with 3G smartphones and Internet
- Motion detection recording
- VGA cable and hard drive are not included with the equipment so be sure to order these (VGA cable is necessary).
- Not wireless.
Price: $665 – View on Amazon
- The second highest definition camera reviewed with HD 720p and according to the manufacturers description, this high-definition is even possible at night.
- This camera has a 130° wide-angle lens.
- This camera has all of the motion-capture activation features of some of the other cameras on this list.
- Users of this camera have the ability to view the security feed not only from their computer, but also on their Smartphone.
- This camera is only compatible with Windows-based PCs for setup.
How Do You Decide Which Security Camera Is Best for You?
5 Tips for Assessing Outdoor Surveillance Camera Features
Surveillance cameras for outdoor and indoor installation come in a wide variety of models and offer many different features. Perhaps you are looking for only a basic recording device (e.g. “nanny cam”). Or you can select a motion-activated camera, wireless technology, rotation or outdoor models. There are a myriad of security camera options to choose from, and it can be difficult to sift through the technical jargon used to describe the features of each model. Not only does this require that you invest a lot of time and thought, but if you make the wrong decision for your situation, you can end up wasting quite a bit of money. While some of these facts about security cameras may seem obvious, others are less apparent:
1. Is it Designed for Outdoor Use?
The very first thing to find out about the camera is whether it is strictly an indoor model or if it works outdoors as well. Some cameras are susceptible to moisture and other outdoor elements and must be kept indoors, while other security cameras are designed specifically to withstand the cold, rain, heat and other harsh weather.
Be warned that many manufacturers try very hard to hide the fact that the camera they are selling you cannot function as an outdoor security camera. They will often write phrases like, ‘Not intended for exposure to rain or snow,’ in small print. Be sure to read all the fine print if you are seeking an outdoor security camera.
Another option to consider is whether the camera is equipped with night vision capability. Many security cameras are equipped to operate in low light conditions, but if you want to ensure a clear picture even in the darkest of hours, you may want to invest in a security camera with night vision.
3. Is it Wireless?
If the camera is wireless, that means it does not need to be connected via wire to a recording device. These security cameras work much like a cordless phone or a wireless modem, allowing the images that are captured to be viewed remotely via a secure website.
4. Does it Plug In or Use Batteries?
Consider the power source. If the security camera is battery-powered, you will not need to plug it in, but you will need to regularly monitor and recharge or change the batteries.
5. How High-Res Do You Want Your Video Quality?
You will pay more for a higher resolution picture but it may not be necessary. Generally, you do not need HD to see enough about a break in to report the details on the burglar, the location of crime and what may have been stolen. But, if this is important to you to see every single detail, than you will want to spend the money to get a high-res solution.
By evaluating all of these factors prior to selecting a security camera, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and money.
Video: Bike Thief Caught on Camera
This video demonstrates surveillance footage from the Defender (#2 on our list) as it catches a thief red-handed as he is stealing a bike out of someone’s yard. This is not extremely high-res video but you can still get a lot of details to share with the police about the perpetrator. So while super high-res is nice to have, if the cost is prohibitive, do not worry too much. A lower priced, lower-resolution option will likely work just as well to help keep an eye on your property. In fact, one reviewer on Amazon said, “I have a friend who is a police officer take a look at the video quality (420 TVL) and he said if anything ever happened, the quality is good enough for law enforcement as well.”
Can I Use My Recorded Surveillance Video in Court?
So you might be wondering, after you catch the intruder in the act, can you actually use your recorded video footage in court? I believe the laws vary by state, but in general, the video should be able to be used to aid law enforcement investigations if it meets these criteria:
- The video is of a high enough resolution.
- The video has a timestamp and is watermarked.
- The video is stored in a way that does not compromise its integrity.
- Only authorized parties have access to the footage.
Our research shows that in the event that your video is not admissible in court, as long as the resolution is high enough it can still be used by law-enforcement to create a sketch of the suspect, which can in turn be used to apprehend and potentially prosecute them.
Which Outdoor Security Camera Do You Use?
Which outdoor security camera do you love the most? Tell us the brand, the model number and don’t forget to share all the reasons you think your choice in outdoor security cameras is the best. We want to hear the bad stories too, because that is what shapes our reviews for you and all our readers. The good, the bad and the ugly are all crucial to our success in bringing readers like you the very best information to make the right decisions for each unique need and situation.
*All pricing and other info is based on data available during review update completed in May 2014. FYI – The Clover Electronics HDC518 CCD Super High-Resolution Indoor/Outdoor Color Camera with Night Vision camera was removed from our review in May 2014 due to newer, better models referenced above.