Best Outdoor Security Cameras of 2020
The best outdoor security cameras don’t merely record crime. They prevent crime! With built-in features such as motion-activated floodlights and sirens, they can easily scare trespassers away. Furthermore, the best security cameras make crisp recordings in any light; most have infrared night vision, and some have color night vision. Below we review five top-rated brands to consider.
As you compare outdoor security cameras, keep these important factors in mind:
- Power Source: Outdoor security cameras vary in terms of power sources. Main choices are mains power, battery power, and solar power. Each company below has models you can set up wire-free.
Cordless outdoor cameras are generally powered by long-lasting rechargeable batteries. One company below, Arlo, offers solar-powered cameras.
If a camera uses mains power, it might also have a cord. The best outdoor cams with cords have protected cords to help defeat vandals, plus they have battery backup.
- Continuous Video Recording: Some outdoor security cameras only record audio and video when triggered by trespassers. Others can record continuously. Continuous video recording is sometimes advertised as CVR.
- Resolution: Resolution on this year’s leading cameras ranges from 720p to 4K. Most common is 1080p, which is video that’s 1080 pixels tall and 1920 pixels wide.
- Recording Cost: Each brand below has smartphone apps and desktop apps. Apps let you see live camera footage for free. However, generally a paid plan is needed in order to save video clips or record continuously. One exception is Blink XT, a budget security camera brand reviewed below; Blink gives you very minimal cloud storage for free.
Many paid plans for home security combine video storage with professional monitoring of your system. Professional monitoring alerts emergency dispatchers of potential trouble; they can send police even when you can’t call 911. Most alarm monitoring companies can also dispatch firefighters and paramedics.
- Two-Way Voice: Today’s best outdoor security cameras can capture exceptionally clear audio; they have echo cancellation and other advanced audio features. Furthermore some have two-way voice, which lets you holler at criminals and also stay in touch with family members around your property.
- Doorbell Video Camera: A wide-angle doorbell camera can guard your doorstep and might also have long-range view. A smart motion detector will ignore running squirrels and swaying trees, and it will alert you to a person’s presence even if they don’t ring the bell. A smartphone app lets you use two-way talk and give the impression that you’re at home, no matter where you might be. Additionally some doorbell security cameras, such as Nest Hello, can recognize familiar faces and play pre-recorded messages for expected visitors.
With the exception of Lorex, all companies below have video doorbells in their lineups.
Best Outdoor Security Cameras of 2020
- Ring – Best Outdoor Security Cameras Overall
- Nest – Best DIY Install Outdoor Camera
- Arlo – Best Wireless Outdoor Security Cameras
- Blink XT – Most Affordable Outdoor Cameras
- Lorex – Best Selection of Outdoor Cameras
Ring – Best Outdoor Security Cameras Overall
Ring first made it big with rather small cameras: doorbell video cameras about 2.5” wide and five inches tall. Today Ring can provide video security for your entire property, from the foot of your driveway to inside your home. As a camera owner you can handle video security 100% independently or pay Ring Alarm for professional backup.
Great Selection of Outdoor Cams
The outdoor security camera selection from Ring is impressive. While other companies have just one or two models, Ring has multiple options whether you want battery powered, solar, or plug-in equipment. Before discounts, Ring outdoor cameras are $99 and up. In our review they’re priced fairly and are best outdoor security camera values overall.
Examples of special features on Ring weatherproof cameras are sirens, two-way talk, LED floodlights, and infrared night vision. The 100-decibel sirens on Ring outdoor cameras can be activated two main ways: by a trespasser’s motion, and by your pressing a button in the Ring mobile app.
The hub used for Ring security cameras also lets you automate your home. It has a Z-Wave radio chip to connect wirelessly with smart lights, keyless door locks, and other smart home equipment for safety and convenience.
You’ll be able to use Amazon Alexa commands with your cameras and other equipment connected to the Ring hub. For example, “Alexa, show me the most recent event from Camera Behind Garage” and “Alexa, turn off my Bedroom Light.” You can also use Siri and Google Home speakers with your Ring camera system.
These features are included with some or all weatherproof Ring camera models:
- 1080p resolution
- Custom motion zones
- Infrared night vision
- Two-way talk
Typical setup time is five to 20 minutes per security camera depending on its design. No hardwiring is required.
Affordable DIY and Pro Monitoring
DIY monitoring of Ring cameras with cloud video storage starts at $3/month, which is a best-in-industry deal. Ring will securely store all motion-triggered clips for your review, and you can keep clips for up to 60 days each. For comparison the cheapest Nest camera plan costs $5/month and includes just five days of storage.
Note that Ring doesn’t let you record continuously… yet. They’re reportedly developing a low-priced paid plan with CVR. For now only motion-triggered clips can be saved. However, with the Ring app you can see live footage anytime.
You can also connect with your community via the Ring Neighbors app; it lets locals stay in touch about criminal activity, and neighbors can share security footage with each other and the police.
Professional monitoring from Ring Alarm is cheap at $10/month. This no-contract plan also includes DIY monitoring with your smartphone. Professional monitoring can include various Ring devices besides security cameras, such as door entry sensors, indoor motion sensors, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors. Ring’s pro monitoring service does not receive alerts from third-party products, although those products can send alerts to your smartphone.
- Easy DIY installation
- Professional monitoring optional
- Cheap professional monitoring
- Cheap video storage
- Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri
- Ring alarm hub supports Z-Wave for home automation
All in all, Ring offers fair prices on feature-rich outdoor security cameras made for DIY setup. Professional monitoring by Ring Alarm is optional and a best-in-industry deal at just $10/month.
A possible downside is that Ring’s cloud storage is currently for motion-triggered video only; you can’t set cameras to record 24/7. For continuous recording, check out the following review of Nest outdoor security cameras.
Nest – Best DIY Install Outdoor Camera
Nest, a Google-owned security brand, is a leading competitor with Amazon’s Ring. They feature the Nest Hello video doorbell, two outdoor security cameras, and complete home security systems. The selection is small compared with Ring, but Nest offers the best DIY install camera choices for people who want continuous video recording (CVR); cameras by Ring can only save motion-triggered video.
Also, Nest outdoor security cameras are best for easy DIY setup; Nest Cam Outdoor ($149) and Nest Cam Outdoor IQ ($159) simply plug into an outlet. Compared with Nest Cam Outdoor, Nest Cam Outdoor IQ is an upgrade in terms of weather resistance, vandal resistance, and having facial recognition. Nest Hello, a doorbell camera, is also easy to install; it runs off a long-lasting lithium battery.
About CVR, Do-It-Yourself Monitoring, & Pro Monitoring
Nest outdoor security cameras and the Nest doorbell camera have CVR; they can record activity 24/7. The cams can send you motion alerts too, which let you check in and see live footage.
To avoid too many alerts, you can use Activity Zones that exclude sections of the viewing field from motion detection. Example: You could use Activity Zones to get alerts about motion at the perimeter of your property, but not about your kids running back and forth in the yard.
Payment is required for you to see and save security video with Nest Aware. Three plans are offered: Five dollar per month with five days of storage, $10 with 10 days of storage, or $30 for 30 days.
You can also choose professional home security monitoring from Nest-Brinks, which cost $39 month-to-month at last check. Professional monitoring ensures that someone can call police, firefighters, and/or paramedics in response to automated alerts from your security system.
Paid pro monitoring also provides the perks of DIY Nest monitoring, such as text alerts and access to live streaming video anytime.
Nest security cameras have best-in-industry compatibility with Google Assistant. Incorporating a Google Home speaker, you can control your security cameras and video with phrases like “Hey Google, show the garage camera.” You can stream live and saved video to your tablet, a Chromecast TV, and other screens.
You can also use voice to control other equipment monitored by the Nest hub. For example, “OK Google, dim the lights in the baby’s room.”
- Easy DIY installation; no hardwiring
- 1080p resolution
- Continuous video recording
- Facial recognition
- Up to 12x zoom
- Activity zones
- Works with Google Assistant & Google Home
- Nest supports home security systems and automation
Overall Nest is the best option for DIY security cameras with continuous recording. They also offer professional installation for $79.
Long-term video storage is pricey at $30/month, but Nest Aware’s $5/month deal is competitive.
A possible downside of Nest outdoor cameras is that they plug into mains power. Both Nest Cam Outdoor and Nest Cam Outdoor IQ have cords. The IQ version has a protected cord to guard against tampering… but if you prefer cordless options, see Arlo below. Long-lasting batteries let Arlo outdoor cameras operate cord-free for years. A trade-off is that unlike Nest, Arlo doesn’t partner with Brinks or another pro monitoring service.
Arlo – Best Wireless Outdoor Security Cameras
For people seeking totally DIY home security, Arlo offers the best selection of outdoor wireless security cameras for $189 and up. Color night vision, floodlights, and facial recognition are among their special features. You can choose from four cameras that work indoors or out. A main difference among these is resolution: Choices include 720p, 1080p, 2K, and 4K. They also feature a video doorbell with up to 300ft range.
The Arlo brand is also a great option for indoor video security. The Arlo Baby camera is especially popular, as it’s portable and has special functions ranging from air quality testing to lullaby mode.
Monitoring Arlo Cameras
Arlo doesn’t offer professional monitoring of alerts. You can work the cameras into other security systems, and you can self-monitor an Arlo camera for just $2.99/month. Continuous recording is included with storage up to five days. Optionally you can monitor up to 10 cameras for $9.99, and up to 20 cams for $14.99. Videos are stored for up to 60 days with premium service.
Some special features of Arlo Pro outdoor security cams include:
- Wire-free installation
- Color night vision
- Motion-activated spotlights
- Facial recognition
- White, black, and camouflage print
Arlo is working on integrations for Z-Wave and Zigbee, which will let their camera hub support smart lights, smart thermostats, and other wireless equipment besides cameras. For now the main Arlo products are indoor cameras, outdoor cameras, and security floodlights.
- Wireless design for quick installation
- Up to 4K resolution
- Low-priced DIY video monitoring
- Continuous recording
- Compatible with Alexa
All in all, Arlo has the best deals on high-end home security cameras that you can monitor yourself. Their four weatherproof options cover the spectrum from 720p to 4K, with infrared or color night vision. Discounts are given on two or more, and Arlo cloud storage for continuous video recordings is low-priced.
Blink XT – Most Affordable Outdoor Cameras
Blink XT sells dependable outdoor security cameras for just $69 and up. Mobile alerts and a bit of cloud storage are free, helping the brand take credit for “Most Affordable Outdoor Cameras” overall. The weatherproof Blink XT2 Indoor/Outdoor Security Camera ($99) is easy to install and maintain too; it’s powered by batteries that last up to two years per charge. Resolution is the industry standard 1080p.
Cams by Blink aren’t feature-rich, but are good value for DIY video security. They’re easy to install, have motion detection with customizable zones, and record with infrared vision at night.
How much storage does Blink provide for free? Each user account holds up to two hours of footage. Each clip can be up to 60 seconds long. Blink deletes videos automatically as new clips arrive, so it’s important to check your mobile alerts as soon as they’re received.
- Wireless for easy installation
- Two-way voice
- Compatible with Amazon Alexa
- Low-priced equipment
- Free cloud storage
Overall, Blink XT is a best option for low-budget DIY security. Free storage has limited value, as you get only two hours and important footage might be overwritten.
Lorex – Best Selection of Outdoor Cameras
Lorex Technology has the best selection of industrial-quality outdoor security cameras. Compared with leading home security cams, Lorex Wi-Fi and IP cameras are even more durable and high-performing. They’re virtually vandal proof and have long depths of field with color night vision. For instance, the 1080 HP Outdoor Wireless Security Camera ($149) has a 115-ft range in the dark. Resolution on some Lorex camera models is “ultra-high” at 4K, whereas resolution on others is merely “high” at 1080p. Weatherproof Lorex cams with 4K resolution start at just $159.
Various Lorex models have two-way voice systems, geofencing, and other special features. A feature we haven’t seen elsewhere is sensitivity to off-screen audio: Noise from off-screen activity can trigger alerts.
With Lorex you can record continuously or choose audio-triggered and motion-triggered alerts only.
DIY Monitoring and Installation
Monitoring Lorex camera activity is DIY. You can access video on your regular computer or smartphone, connect to a DVR, and/or use a widescreen LCD monitor from Lorex.
Lorex cameras can use mains power or battery power. Generally the batteries should be changed every four months.
- Industrial quality
- Color night vision
- Long range
- Ultra-high resolution
- IP cameras & Wi-Fi cameras
For durable cameras with high performance, Lorex Technology is a top-rated brand. Their website has the best selection of outdoor security cameras including single cameras, cameras sets, and bundles with high-resolution monitors.