We never publish a list like this without doing our homework first. We want to know what every camera out there can do and how they all compare to one another. What do we look for? A whole range of features, including price, image quality, recording options, installation, durability, monitoring choices, and extras. Find out more about what we look for in each category below, or take a look at our guide to choosing a security camera.
Our first consideration for this list was whether a company actually offers a solar-powered model. Not everyone does. ADT doesn’t, for instance. Nor does Nest. We should probably mention that some of the cameras on our list include built-in solar panels, but others require you to purchase the solar panel separately.
Price always matters. We love a good deal, but even a free camera isn’t much good if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to: protect your family and home. In addition to the price itself, we also consider what you get for your money. The average price for solar-powered cameras is about $140, whether they come as a package or you have to purchase panels and cameras separately. We’re fans of companies like Blink that offer quality cameras for a lower price, but we don’t mind paying a little extra for a camera if it comes with useful features such as 4K resolution and person detection.
When it comes to image quality, we look at three categories:
- Resolution has to do with how many pixels an image uses. Higher pixel counts equal clearer images. Generally, 1080p HD is our minimum, but you may notice that some of the cameras on this list go as high as 4K.
- Field of view refers to how much of a given area a camera can capture. We like cameras with at least a 120-degree field of view. Any smaller and we may have to buy more cameras to cover the same basic area.
- Night vision, of course, has to do with how well security cameras see in the dark. There are some great infrared cameras on the market that provide a great picture, but we prefer color night vision because it helps illuminate shadowed areas better.
The ability to record footage is crucial for any top-tier security camera. If your cameras can’t record, then you can’t go back and review video. Recording storage comes in two flavors:
- Cloud storage refers to a camera’s ability to send footage directly to the cloud, usually through a Wi-Fi connection. Cloud storage is generally more convenient to access, and you don’t have to make room for any bulky recording equipment. Many homeowners, however, prefer the peace of mind that comes with having direct on-site access to their recordings. Cloud storage also usually costs a fee each month, depending on how much footage you need to store.
- Local storage means your video footage is kept on-site. There are different types of local storage, including DVRs, NVRS, microSD cards, and other USB storage devices. Holding on to your own footage can be time consuming, but it requires no subscription.
A few companies still offer professional installation, and we prefer it since it guarantees your system will be properly installed and function as it should. Professional installation, however, costs extra. We don’t mind DIY installation, as long as it’s simple enough to do it ourselves.
When we consider durability, we look at two sets of numbers. First is temperature ranges. What are the minimum and maximum temperatures at which a given camera will work?
In addition, we look for ingress protection numbers. These are two-digit numbers that indicate how well a camera resists dust and water. The first number indicates how well it withstands dust, while the second shows how well it withstands water. Higher numbers are better.
Monitoring comes in two types: professional monitoring and self-monitoring.
- Professional monitoring means a company has eyes on your property 24/7. Any time your equipment detects something suspicious, a professional security team takes a look at the live feed and decides whether to contact you or emergency services. It costs a monthly fee, but it guarantees your home is safe even if you aren’t available to monitor your equipment yourself.
- Self-monitoring, as the name suggests, means you monitor your security entirely on your own. Self-monitoring systems typically send you real-time alerts when they detect movement. You can then check out the live feed or review footage. You’re ultimately responsible for alerting emergency personnel if you need them.
For the most part, we recommend professional monitoring. You never know when you may be too busy to respond to an alert. With professional monitoring, you’re covered no matter what you may be doing.
We understand why people choose self-monitored security though. Saving money is always a good thing. If you choose to DIY your cameras and other equipment, then you may want to consider a company that offers both DIY and professional monitoring options. That way, when you have to be out of town for a week or two, you can simply sign up for a one-month professional monitoring subscription to cover things while you’re away.
Security companies offer a range of bonus features. Some, for instance, even come with free storage. The most common include:
- Two-way audio: This refers to a camera’s ability to let you talk to and hear people on the other end. The best two-way audio features noise reduction and echo cancellation.
- Activity zones: Most cameras’ images are broken into visual zones. You can reduce false alerts by making some zones passive while keeping others active. Some cameras also allow you to set privacy zones, which are areas of the image that are blocked out so you can’t see what’s going on behind them.
- Artificial intelligence: Many cameras now offer advanced AI features. Some, for instance, come with person detection. Others can tell the difference between people, packages, and pets, and send you custom alerts depending on which they detect. A few have even begun offering facial-recognition programs.