We’ve all seen at least one video of a deranged man who has wandered up to someone’s door to have a look around. Prowler, porch pirate, or drifter, it’s difficult to tell. Doorbell cameras like the Ring catch a lot of these suspicious encounters.
The footage is generally pretty clear during the day, but nighttime videos are another story. Image quality can get pretty grainy even a foot away when the lighting is low. With sketchy infrared sensors, lurkers often look more like apparitions than actual humans. If you’ve invested in a top video doorbell, you don’t want that. You want images you can use to identify a potential threat.
In other words, you want a doorbell that doesn’t just see, but that also sees well in low-light or no-light conditions. Here are our top recommendations for doorbell cameras that deliver exceptional video quality even when there isn’t much light.
Our Review Process: Key Features We Looked For
1080p and up
Night Vision quality
Color night vision with High Dynamic Range (HDR)
Field of vision
Smart home integrations
Compatible with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit
Did You Know: Color night vision cameras may shoot more detailed video at night than lower-contrast infrared (IR) cameras, but only when there’s enough ambient light. In near or total darkness, most cameras with color night vision will revert to black-and-white IR.
The new Lorex 2K doorbell cam may not have everything — like Siri integration (ouch!) — but the video quality is superb, even at night when many competitors head to Grainy Town. At $150, the wired model is 30 bucks cheaper than Lorex’s battery-powered video doorbell. Same features, permanent power source. Unless you don’t want to touch doorbell wires or you can’t get someone to do it for you, this is a great way to rid yourself of the dreaded “low battery alert” forever.
What We Liked
2K HDR color night vision
No monthly fees
Up to 64 gigs of local storage
What We Didn’t Like
No professional monitoring available
No package detection
Sharp 2K Video
The Lorex 2K delivers precision video, with live feeds as clear as recorded clips. Two-way audio is also loud and clear, eliminating laggy, off-kilter convos. As long as you place the Lorex doorbell cam snugly next to your door, the extra-wide 164-degree field of view will easily cover your entire front-door area.
Color Night Vision
Low lighting wasn’t a problem for the Lorex 2K. Without any front-door illumination, you may notice slightly washed-out colors in color mode, but black-and-white IR footage is excellent. If you need to get a closer look at a potential perp from a distance, the Lorex 2K features a pretty handy 8x digital zoom. The wider viewing range, which is good for detecting activity at the fringes, may distort objects at greater distances, especially in low-light situations.
Local storage makes sense for plenty of homeowners. You escape monthly cloud-storage bills and keep your footage away from prying eyes. Ring users will know just what I mean. The Lorex 2K comes with 32 gigs of local storage, and it’s upgradable to 64 gigs.
Our Expert Advice: Storing your video locally keeps it private and saves money, which is great. The problem is, some of the best doorbell cameras require cloud plans if you want to unlock all their AI features.
2. Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 - Best Motion Detection
The $249 Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 is an outlier on our $180-and-below list, but we’ve added it because the near-2K HDR Ring, with its square, top-to-bottom videos and six-second preroll footage, is pretty hard to ignore. The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 is another wired option, so be prepared to get your hands dirty on the installation. You don’t have to sign up for a plan to use the Ring Pro 2, but if you want cloud video storage, it will require a $3 monthly subscription.
What We Liked
Crystal-clear, near-2K HDR video
Extra-wide field of view
What We Didn’t Like
Subscription required to save recorded video
Not compatible with Google Assistant
Ring’s ongoing privacy concerns
Crystal Clear 1-by-1 HDR Video
The Ring Pro 2 shoots in near 2K. The resolution is actually 1,536 by 1,536p, or 2.4MP, which is practically double the pixel density of the Nest Doorbell (see below). The Pro 2’s square aspect ratio is like an Instagram video. It doesn’t crop out traffic at the edges and it’s tall enough to capture a visitor head to toe. In low light, color video is crystal clear without any lag in notifications or buffering when you stream, thanks to the Pro 2’s high dynamic range (HDR) technology.
Advanced Motion Detection
The wired Ring Pro 2 doesn’t use a passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor like the battery-powered Ring Video Doorbell. It’s always on, and it will add up to six seconds of footage to the front of any motion-triggered event. That means you’ll never end up with a clip of a porch pirate’s back magically appearing on your stoop, which can happen with battery-powered video doorbells that are slower to trigger. You’ll capture his or her complete entrance and exit, which is a big security advantage.
The Ring Pro 2 is compatible only with Amazon Alexa, not Google Home or Apple HomeKit, so that’s an obvious limitation. The Pro 2’s engineers, however, went to town with native automations. You can program Alexa to tell an Amazon delivery driver where to leave your package, for example — and since the Ring Pro 2 now has package detection, you’ll also know when the package has been dropped.
If you’re a Google household and you’re on the hunt for a premium smart buzzer, the $179.99 Nest Doorbell is a tough act to follow. You can program the Nest to flip on the porch lights, pause your music when there’s a visitor at the door, and a thousand other things via the Google Home app.
In terms of low-light performance, the Nest Doorbell doesn’t quite match the clarity or range of the Lorex 2K, our No. 1 pick. At 960 by 1200p, the Nest’s 1.2MP resolution is a far cry from the 5MP Lorex, but the new wired Nest Doorbell delivers one thing very few video doorbells can: 24/7 continuous recording that kicks in instantly.
What We Liked
Above-average video quality in low light
Works seamlessly with Google Assistant and other Nest devices
24/7 continuous recording (with Nest Aware Plus plan)
Sleek, stylish design
What We Didn’t Like
A bit tricky to install
Requires cloud plan to unlock AI features
Separate chime box
High-Res Night Vision
Like the Nest Cam, which packs 4K worth of information into its 1080p screen, the Nest Doorbell manages to deliver crisp video day or night — even with its punier resolution and lower (6x) maximum zoom factor. Thanks to its wired connection, footage is crystal clear without buffering, whether you’re streaming or reviewing clips.
If you want to unlock the Nest Doorbell’s much-touted 24/7 continuous recording feature, you’ll have to cough up $12 per month for a Nest Aware Plus subscription. That fee covers all your Nest cams, if that softens the blow. Otherwise, you’ll have to settle for the three hours of event-triggered recording Google gives you for free.
Smart Home Integration
The Nest Doorbell works with all Google smart devices, plus Amazon Alexa and Samsung SmartThings. Apple HomeKit is a bust, however. Sorry, Apple folks. Basic stuff such as hooking up your doorbell to your Nest Hub or Nest Secure to see who’s at the door is predictably easy, but smart automations with third-party devices such as light bulbs and switches could get tricky. If this is your first plunge into Google’s smart ecosystem, you may want to check out integrations with your existing smart equipment before you commit.
The Nest Doorbell is a Google product, so it’s smart and AI-powered. When I say “smart,” I mean the Nest can tell a man from a dog from a package. Smart alerts are free. The Nest Doorbell also supports advanced facial recognition — a feature they call Friendly Faces — which lets you train your Nest camera to not only recognize a human, but also to recognize specific humans and alert you accordingly. The only rain on this AI parade is that Friendly Faces isn’t free. You’ll need a basic Nest Aware plan to unlock it.
A smart doorbell camera with 1080p HD color night vision that works with your Alexa- or Google-powered home for $65? Too good to be true? Nope. But there are a few things you should know about the dirt-cheap, 1080p Wyze Video Doorbell before you buy.
What We Liked
Good image quality for the price
Built-in LED light
Affordable cloud plans
What We Didn’t Like
12-second clips on free plan
Person detection is extra
Narrow field of view
Full HD Video Quality at 3:4
Some top security cameras with less-than-stellar resolution load more info into their screens via extra-sensitive sensors, enhancing picture quality. Google Nest cams are good at this. Others have the numbers but stint a little on the goods. The Wyze Video Doorbell boasts a healthy 1080p resolution. That’s full HD on paper, but in the field, the camera’s lower processing power can’t quite compete with the lower-res Nest. Still, the low-light image quality is very good for a device that costs about a third the price, and that’s what we’re here to talk about. The only other image-quality factor to consider with Wyze is the odd 3:4 aspect ratio, which gives you vertical portraits, not the wider landscape views you’re used to.
Wyze is turning itself into a smart home powerhouse, so if you grab a Wyze Video Doorbell, it makes sense to pay a little more and walk away with a Wyze Lock too. You can get both for around $130. If you own both devices, you can open your front door for guests remotely via your doorbell. Sound good? Just remember that the Wyze Lock Bolt comes with a new deadbolt you have to install yourself.
At $65, the Wyze Video Doorbell is, hands-down, the best doorbell camera deal on our list. (You can actually grab the doorbell without the chime for $30!) But that price tag is a little deceptive. You can hypothetically use the Wyze Video Doorbell right out of the box without a subscription, but it would be difficult in practice. The problem is, Wyze gives you 12-second clips with five minutes of downtime in between, which is borderline useless. On the other hand, with Wyze’s $2.99 cloud storage plans — 30 days’ worth of back-to-back clips — you unlock package, pet, and vehicle detection. That’s an offer most Wyze users will literally not be able to refuse.
FYI: Smart doorbell automations give you all sorts of options for tricking wannabe thieves. If you have an Amazon Echo, for example, you can tell Alexa to play an audio clip of dogs barking whenever someone hits the doorbell and you’re not around. Pretty sneaky.
Arlo Video Doorbells are the most versatile smart buzzers we’ve tested, natively compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Samsung SmartThings. Video quality is high for a $130 (wired) doorbell camera. Its viewing range is a whopping 180 degrees, and its smart functions are impressive. The only catch? Unlocking all of Arlo’s goodies requires a $4.99 monthly investment.
What We Liked
Compatible with all major smart-home systems
Near-2K HDR video quality
Three-month Arlo Secure trial
Wired and wireless models available
What We Didn’t Like
Requires Arlo Secure subscription to unlock package detection
App is a bit confusing
No IP weatherproofing rating
1536p HDR IR Video
Arlo isn’t king of the hill when it comes to nighttime video. The 1536p HDR Essential Video Doorbell can go head to head with the Ring Pro 2 — by day at least. Come nighttime, without color night vision, the Essential’s black-and-white IR shoots a bit muddy. Its massively wide 180-degree field of view, on the other hand, is impressive. The only caveat is that the 1-by-1 frame, stretched so wide, can pull objects out of shape.
Flexible Smart Integrations
One of the issues you find with many premium doorbell cameras is smart-home integration. When a buzzer isn’t compatible with your ecosystem, you have to search for hacks and middleman platforms. That’s generally a hassle, no matter how easy the patch is. Kudos to Arlo for solving the problem by allowing homeowners to connect natively to all major smart device vendors. Apple households, in particular, will appreciate this.
We have a soft spot for smart doorbells that can do tricks, such as barking at prowlers (scroll up for that). Arlo has a few tricks of its own. Package detection is at the top of the list, followed by people, vehicle, and pet detection. You can also program the Arlo Essential to ask visitors to leave a message if you’re not around, which is kind of neat but maybe not at the top of my “doorbell feature upgrade” wish list.
Unfortunately, all the features I’ve described above — the super useful and not so useful — won’t work without an Arlo Secure subscription. Those start at $4.99, so they’re not outrageously expensive, but it’s still five bucks more than basic smart features should cost.
Our Expert Advice: Wired video doorbells may be a bit of a hassle to install, but they have two major advantages over their battery-powered cousins: You don’t have to charge them because they draw power through your electrical system, and video quality and motion detection are substantially better.
Methodology: How We Ranked These Video Doorbells
For a doorbell camera to make our top-five list, video quality had to be above average. We were looking only at doorbells with full HD (1080p) and above, because crisp video is a must in low lighting. HDR was also a plus, and so was color night vision. Our No. 1 pick, the Lorex 2K, had all three. The Lorex isn’t our top all-around video doorbell, but it’s our favorite for nighttime recording.
It’s not a testable feature, but cost was also in the back of our minds when we made our selections. We were looking for affordable doorbell cameras, which meant anywhere from $150 to $180. The considerably pricier Ring Pro 2 ($249) and the bargain-basement Wyze Video Doorbell ($64 with the chime) were the outliers. The Ring Pro 2’s price was definitely a consideration. Although close in video quality to the Lorex, the Ring’s much heftier price tag earned it a lower spot on our list.
Our final two considerations were cloud plans and smart-home integration. Our favorite nighttime video doorbell, the Lorex, doesn’t lock you into a subscription plan to use its key features. Most of the other doorbells we tested do. We’ve let you know which brands they are and how much you should expect to pay each month.
Smart-home integration is last on our list, but it’s probably the first thing you should check when shopping for a doorbell camera — especially if your home is Apple-friendly. HomeKit isn’t well represented on this list, for example, while Google and Amazon are everywhere.
Those were the main criteria for our low-light video doorbell champs. There were plenty of hurdles to clear, and some pretty stiff competition. Obviously, you’ll notice a difference between a $65 camera (Wyze) and one that costs $249 (Ring). Brands can’t perform magic. All differences aside, however, any of the doorbell cameras we tested should deliver exceptional nighttime footage, making them high-quality, hopefully long-lasting additions to your home security arsenal.
FYI: Passive infrared sensors are good at picking up side-to-side motion, but not very good at detecting motion when objects are approaching from the front. That explains why, if you’re using a battery-powered doorbell with PIR motion detection, your doorbell sometimes captures events late.
That depends on what you’re using your doorbell camera for. Wider landscape views (4:3) are good for patrolling whole front door areas. Vertical, top-to-bottom shots (3:4) are good for seeing people and packages right in front of you. Square views (1:1), which you find more and more these days, are a compromise between the two.
HDR stands for “high dynamic range.” Cameras with HDR technology display colors and shades in greater detail, increasing contrast between objects. That lets you see more clearly in low-light situations.
Tough question. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to, but many brands don’t let you unlock the full functionality of their products without one. On the bright side, some cloud plans are pretty cheap. Wyze and Arlo, for example, start at $2.99 and $4.99, respectively.