Burglars who catch sight of a camera outside your home, or inside while peering through a window, are more likely to move on. In the event they don’t, having the best security camera you can will at least mean that vital evidence collected can be used by the police to track them down.
Not only that, but a security camera will send you a warning when someone has been detected, giving you the opportunity to respond to an issue, and even frighten the thieves off.
There are a huge number of security cameras to choose from, and we’ve got the best of them here. We’ve split our list into two: indoor and outdoor cameras. This will make it easier to find the model you want.
How we choose the best security cameras
It’s important that all security cameras are tested in the right conditions. For indoor cameras this means installing them in a room, so we can monitor comings and goings; outdoor models are fitted to the outside of a house, in order to obtain real-world footage of the outside world. In all cases, we compare the quality of each camera, looking at the footage captured during the day and at night using the camera’s IR lights.
In addition, we test motion detection (and how accurate/annoying it is), configure and sound-recognition technology, test motion zones and let you know how easy it is to find a specific incident after it’s been recorded.
For convenience, we’ve listed our top cameras in the list below, but check out the full descriptions below for more information, where you can also click through to the full reviews.
- Best indoor security camera Nest Cam IQ
- Best flexible indoor security camera Hive View
- Best budget indoor security camera Neos Smartcam
- Best indoor/outdoor security camera system Arlo
- Best outdoor security camera Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
- Best flexible outdoor security camera Ring Stick Up Cam
- Best budget outdoor security camera Nest Cam Outdoor
- Best smart security camera and doorbell Nest Hello
Best indoor security camera 2020
1. Nest Cam IQ
The most powerful indoor security camera
- Excellent image quality
- Incredible face recognition
- Can track intruders around a room
With its 4K sensor, the Nest Cam IQ is capable of shooting some of the best footage you’ll see from a security camera. Although footage is streamed to the cloud at 1080p, using a 4K sensor ensures better image quality. Plus, the sensor gives one more advantage: you can zoom into the picture
with an effective 4x zoom if you really want to get up-close-and-personal with what’s going on in your home.
Beautifully designed, the Nest Cam IQ has one of the best stands in the business, allowing you to angle and adjust the camera to capture what you need to. The camera comes into its own when paired with a Nest Aware subscription. This adds in motion detection zones, so you can choose which parts of the image to monitor for alerts; however, the camera can record for 24 hours a day, so you’ll never miss anything.
This model offers facial recognition, so you’ll know if someone you know or a stranger comes into your home. The Nest Cam IQ isn’t cheap, but if you want high-quality footage partnered with a superb app then there’s no competition.
Read our full Nest Cam IQ review
2. Hive View
A flexible and fun security camera
The Hive View is a neat and fun security camera that looks great. The camera is powered through the flexible stand, but can be battery-powered too, so you can temporarily monitor another area for around an hour or so. This is handy for those times you may have the front door open, for example, or are unloading your car and want that extra bit of protection.
Hive’s app has had a fair bit of work since the camera launched, fixing most of our initial issues. For starters, you can now download footage to your phone, enabling you to save any evidence you might need. It’s nice to see free cloud storage, with clips stored for 24 hours; if you want more storage, you can simply pay for more with a reasonable monthly fee.
Video quality is pretty good, capturing detail in faces both during the day and at night. However, it’s a shame that you can’t draw motion zones to monitor certain areas only.
Read our full Hive View review
3. Neos Smartcam
Stunning value from this camera that costs less than £20
A Full HD camera for less than £20 with free cloud storage – there has to be a catch, right? Well, yes, but for many people, the slight limitations of the Neos SmartCam are easy to forgive at this price. The main downside is that the free cloud storage is for 12-second clips and there’s a five-minute delay between clip creation.
We found that the camera mostly captured faces and movement properly, but there’s a chance in busy areas that the camera may not record the crucial evidence that you need. A backup is that you can record to microSD card, with the camera recording permanently, although you can’t view the footage through the app, only by taking the card out and inserting it in into a computer.
The app is nicely designed, although basic, with the ability to control motion detection sensitivity. False positives were kept down and the camera only triggered when something was physically moving in front of it. You can further restrict recordings by arming and disarming the camera either manually or using geofencing.
Image quality is good, although a touch off the pace of the best cameras that we’ve reviewed. Still, for less than £20, it’s hard to complain. If you want a camera for occasional use in less busy areas, this is a great choice.
Read our full Neos SmartCam review
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Best indoor and outdoor camera system 2020
Arlo Pro 3 and Ultra
The Arlo system is one of the most powerful, using a range of wireless cameras that talk to a base station plugged into your home network. These cameras can be used inside or out, giving you whole-home coverage, which is why we’ve listed them under their own special section. The two best models at the moment are the Arlo Pro 3, which has a 2K resolution, and the Arlo Ultra, which has a 4K resolution (although, this model needs a special cloud subscription to let you store Ultra HD footage). Once you’ve bought a starter kit of either of these two models, you can add in older cameras, too, such as the Full HD Arlo Pro 2.
This makes the Arlo system one of the best and most convenient to use. All cameras are controlled by the same excellent software, which lets you set cloud activity zones so that you only get notified about movement in areas you’re interested in. You can further enhance this with smart notifications, letting you choose to get notified about your choice of people, animals or vehicles.
One of the best things about the Arlo system are its modes. These let you choose how you want your cameras to work. Geolocation is the easiest to set up, letting your cameras turn on when you go out, and move to a schedule when you get home. With a schedule, you can set which cameras record when, saying turning on all downstairs cameras at night when you’re in bed, but turning them off during the day. It’s a hugely powerful system that’s far better than anything the competition has.
Arlo is relatively expensive to buy into but additional cameras work out at better value. If you want an easy-to-install wireless system to cover inside and out, there’s nothing better.
Best outdoor security camera 2020
1. Nest Cam IQ Outdoor
The most powerful outdoor security camera even has facial recognition
Nest’s high-end outdoor camera is the pinnacle of security. The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is a little trickier to install than the previous model, but since the power cable is kept inside the house and the camera is screwed to its mount, it’s also more secure. Just be aware that you may need to have it professionally installed.
Once in place, the camera provides the best-quality footage we’ve seen, thanks to the 4K image sensor. Video footage is downsampled to 1080p, but the quality is superior to any 1080p camera. The added advantage is that you can use the high-resolution sensor and get up to a 4x zoom, letting you really see what’s going on.
The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is best when paired with a Nest Aware subscription. With this, you can set motion activity zones, and the camera records for 24 hours a day, enabling you to capture everything. Despite this, Nest’s app makes it easy to find an event and scroll back in time – it really is the best cloud service you can buy. Neatly, this camera has facial recognition, so it can tell you who’s been hovering around your home.
With few false positives, excellent image quality at night and during the day, the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is the best outdoor security camera you can buy. It’s expensive, though.
Read our full Nest Cam IQ Outdoor review
2. Ring Stick Up Cam
A powerful indoor/outdoor camera that can be powered via Ethernet
There’s a lot to like about Ring’s Stick Up Cam. This model is designed to be used inside or out and has a clever trick: it can use Power over Ethernet (PoE). Using the adaptor in the box, you can power the camera via an Ethernet cable, which also provides a rock-solid internet connection. If you’ve got poor Wi-Fi outside or just need to place the camera a long way from your home, this solution is ideal, giving you around 85m of range.
Beyond that, the camera is excellent. Thanks to Ring’s powerful software, you can set up motion zones to monitor, and you can now tune the system so that you only get notifications when a person is spotted. All footage is saved to the cloud alongside any footage from other Ring cameras or doorbells.
More recently, Ring has introduced modes, which lets you control the camera’s operation: armed the camera records disarmed it turns off. Even better, modes can be tied into the Ring Alarm system, so when you disarm your alarm system you can choose to have the Stick Up cam turn off so that you don’t record yourself at home.
Image quality is excellent from this camera, producing sharp, Full HD images. If you’re looking for an extremely flexible camera that doesn’t rely on Wi-Fi, this is the model for you.
Read our full Ring Stick Up Cam review
2. Nest Cam Outdoor
A simple-to-install outdoor camera with plenty of features
The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is the pinnacle of camera technology, but the older Nest Cam Outdoor makes for a good alternative if your budget won’t stretch to the former. This model is also easier to install: screw the magnetic mount into place, run the power cable to an outdoor socket, and you’re done. The downside of this installation method is that the camera is easier to steal, although you’re likely to catch the person in the act.
Video is recorded at 1080p, with high-quality night and day footage; only the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor captures better footage. Add in Nest Aware and you get motion detection zones to reduce false positives, plus 24-hour recording, so you capture everything that goes on. We’ve said it before, but the Nest app and Nest Aware are the best in business, making it easy to scroll through footage and find a specific event.
You lose out on the Nest Cam IQ’s facial recognition, but otherwise, the Nest Cam Outdoor is an excellent choice.
Read our full Nest Cam IQ review
3. Nest Hello
A smart doorbell that acts like a security camera
What’s a smart doorbell doing in this list, you may well ask? Well, in short, it’s because the Nest Hello is also one of the best outdoor security cameras. This model has all of the quality features of the other Nest cameras.
With a Nest Hello subscription it means you can set activity zones to reduce false positives, you get continuous recording, so you’ll never miss anything, and there’s facial recognition, so you can see who’s hovering around outside of your home, too. Video quality is excellent, with the doorbell recording in portrait mode to capture all of a person walking up to your door.
And, of course, you can use it as a doorbell, answering a call from anywhere in the world – decent phone reception allowing. You’ll get better coverage with a different security camera, as you have more installation flexibility, but the Nest Hello is a great way to boost security around your front door.
Read our full Nest Hello review
These are our picks of the best security cameras for 2020. For more information, read our buying guide
Security camera buying guide
Best security camera – Indoor or outdoor? Typically, we prefer outdoor security cameras for two reasons: you capture people before they get into your home, and you don’t record all of your indoor actions, which feels a bit like bugging your home. That said, indoor cameras are easier to install and you can control when they’re active.
Best security camera – What resolution do I need? A 720p camera will capture enough detail for you to spot facial details and spot individuals, but they can look a little soft. Going for a 1080p camera or higher will generally get you better quality video, with more detail in the stream. However, be careful of buying on resolution alone: high compression on the video stream can blend out details, so you lose information.
Best security camera – Should I turn them on or off? If you don’t want to record all of the time, such as for an internal security camera, then look for a model that allows you to control when it records. This can be through a simple schedule, setting the hours the camera is active for, or through geolocation, with your camera turning on automatically when you go out. You may find it easier to simply toggle a camera on or off manually when you go out, although you need to remember to do this.
Best security camera – Do I need cloud storage? The advantage of cloud storage is that any footage is safe from theft; you can always download it and hand it over to the police. However, there’s a monthly cost associated with this. If you only want the odd bit of footage and don’t want to be tied to monthly plans, look for a camera that has local storage instead.
Best security camera – Should I get a camera with a pan and tilt motor? Cameras that you can remote control to pan and tilt around used to be very popular, giving you a way to look around to see what’s going on. They’ve falled out of favour for two reasons. First, they’re expensive. Secondly, if you move the camera’s field of view, you may not be convering the most important parts of your property. And, motion zones don’t work with these cameras, as you can’t mark an area to watch if you may move the camera. Instead, we recommend buying a fixed camera and focussing in on the area that you want to monitor. If you need more coverage add an additional camera.
Best security camera – What else should I look for? Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support is handy if you want to stream footage to your TV or screen-enabled smart speaker. IFTTT can be useful, too, letting you control other devices when motion is detected, such as turning on a light automatically. Nest cameras have Works With Nest automatic rules, so they can be turned on automatically when a smoke alarm goes off, for instance, or they can turn on your Hue lights automatically if suspicious activity is detected.