Outdoor Security Camera Buyer’s Guide
Last Updated Feb. 7th, 2016
Outdoor security cameras are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting what’s most important—your home, property and family—and they are a crucial part of any home security system. Outdoor surveillance provides the assurance that anything and anybody approaching your property and home will be noted, whether in real time from inside the safety of your home, remotely, from computer or smart phone screen, or recorded digitally to be called upon at a later time, if desired.
Besides being a deterrent to intruders, the advantage of having an outdoor security camera(s) is the forewarning—knowing just what made that strange sound outside or who is ringing the doorbell before you open the door, or the precious extra minutes to alert officials at the first sign of a threatening advance or presence.
With the rise in popularity of and the advancing technology, the myriad of security camera choices can feel overwhelming. Retail shelves and websites are a blur of details, terms like CCTV, infrared, DVR CMOS and CCD chips can be hard to grasp. So, we’ve prepared this buyer’s guide to help homeowners navigate the options and make the best choice for their home and family.
Table of Contents
- What are Outdoor Security Cameras
- How They Work
- Different Types and Features
- Leading Brands and Popular Options
- How to Choose One for Your Home
- Final Verdict
What are Outdoor Security Cameras
Outdoor security cameras, or a multi-camera surveillance systems, monitor any outdoor area you choose. Common placements are entrances, walkways and driveways, but every property is unique, as is every homeowner’s needs, so placement is dependent on several variables. The result may be as minimal as a front entry camera or highly comprehensive, monitoring every part, or “zone” of your yard and outdoor property.
Available as either wired or wireless, outdoor security cameras may be placed virtually anywhere. With a DVR (digital video recorder) and a computer or monitor, all of the camera feeds can be viewed from a central location inside the home. The cameras may also be integrated into an existing home security system with the option of subscribing to a monitoring service which watches the camera feeds 24/7, 365 days a year, ready to alert the homeowner and emergency services at the first sign of alarm. In addition, remote surveillance is available for homeowners who want to view footage on a wireless device such as a phone or tablet. Many cameras are capable of recording and storing video, which may serve as evidence should a crime occur.
While there are many similarities between indoor and outdoor security cameras, outdoor cameras are specifically designed with a wider viewing angle to keep watch over large outdoor areas. Many also come with night vision to capture images or video even in the darkest night, and all are equipped to be weather resistant or weatherproof with a tough protective housing.
How They Work
In simplest terms, outdoor security cameras are installed, either using wired or wireless technology around the home and property to monitor and/or record activity in its area, or “zone.” Connected to a central control center, whether through a DVR or over a wireless network, the homeowner is able to see and access everything the camera(s) sees, recording if desired to access at a later time. These cameras are typically programmable to record at specific times, when they sense motion, or upon demand.
Analog Surveillance Cameras
Most cameras on the market are analog security cameras that rely on closed circuit television, or CCTV surveillance software. Connected to a DVR or computer monitor, these cameras have a lens, a DSP (digital signal processing) chip, and protective housing to stand against the elements. Transmission cables connect the camera to the DVR, and receive the video from the “eye” of the camera. The DVR then compresses the video and stores it onto a hard drive to be accessed at a later time. It’s likely the DVR will also have the capability of converting the analog video into a digital format so that it the video can be streamed over the internet using a built-in webserver. The DVR is also where all programming is made such as alarms, notifications, and scheduled operation.
Network Surveillance Cameras
Network security cameras, or IP security surveillance systems, are pricier than analog cameras, but its technology is more advanced, enabling more options. In this type of camera, there is no need for a separate DVR because the camera has this capability built right into it. The camera not only captures the images and video, it also compresses and converts it to a digital format and streams it over the internet. Many network security cameras come with an SD card capability as well, so video can be stored directly onto the card. If the camera is also connected to an NVR (network video recorder), it can stream video directly to the NVR or a computer or smart device, all of which can record it. High resolution is one of the perks of this type of camera, but it requires much larger bandwidth and storage, which can be a challenge for some households.
Different Types and Features of Outdoor Security Cameras
As outdoor security cameras continue to grow in popularity, they are practically becoming a household name. As demand rises, so does the number of different needs and application for these cameras. The result is a fast-growing market of different types of outdoor security cameras, which is great news for choosey homeowners, who can better meet their needs today than they could have in what was a much smaller market with less choice even five years ago.
Here is a brief rundown of some of the types of outdoor security cameras available as well as a listing of key features. As you read each one, keep your home and property in mind, paying close attention to the details of each type that may or may not suit the specific applications you need and want.
Wired Cameras: Often requiring professional installation, wired security cameras must be located in places where they can meet the necessary outlets. Wires may be difficult to hide, making surveillance obvious to an intruder, who will try to avoid the range of the cameras. They may offer a clearer picture than wireless cameras, as well as more reliance when it comes to streaming, but in the outdoors, the wires may be in jeopardy due to weather and other outdoor vulnerabilities.
Wireless Cameras: These cameras are ideal for outdoor installation, which can be otherwise challenging. Without wires or reliance on a power source (they run on batteries) to restrict placement, they are quite versatile, covert (no visible wires), easy to install, and a snap to relocate as the homeowner sees fit.
Color or Black and White Cameras: With both options available for outdoor home use, color security cameras are more expensive than black and white, but provide a higher degree of footage. A black and white image will capture light versus dark tones compared to precise color captured by a color camera. When it comes to identifying an intruder, things like the color of clothing, skin, eyes and hair can make all the difference.
Wide-Angle Lens Cameras: Depending on the size of a property, choosing one or more with a wide angle can lessen the number of cameras needed. Backyard areas are ideal for this type of camera, which can cover 104 degrees of movement up to 40 feet away.
Bullet Cameras: Named for its streamlined, bullet shape, this camera is best suited to a wall or ceiling mount, making it ideal for entrances such as a porch area where it works best pointed in one direction. It doesn’t typically have capability to move direction or zoom in. From an intruder’s perspective, it is easy to see the direction it’s pointing, clueing him in on how to avoid its sight.
Dome Cameras: These cameras are dome-shaped and are designed to be an “in-your-face” type of protection. Very obvious in their purpose, dome cameras are also most suited to a more protected entryway type mount so they will be immediately visible to anyone who approaches. Unlike the bullet camera, it’s difficult to tell where the camera is pointed, increasing its purpose as a deterrent. “Speed domes” are a variation that spin quickly to capture a broader range of images.
Discreet Cameras: The complete opposite of the obvious dome cameras, discreet cameras are disguised as typical outdoor accouterments such as a clock, a plant, or an electrical box. Alternatively, any camera can be well hidden inside a planter or in a tree to obscure notice.
Infrared/Night Vision Cameras: These cameras have the ability to capture images and video in shadows, shady areas and in darkest night thanks to infrared LEDs. Highly desirable for outdoor security, since night often heightens our need to feel secure, and is a time when intruders think they can escape our sight.
Weather Resistant Cameras: Every outdoor security camera should have some degree of safeguarding against the weather and the outdoors. There are models to suit every type of climate whether rainy, freezing, high temperature, or heavy winds. Look for a hood that protects the lens so that it’s not obstructed by precipitation. In addition, some come with thermostatic controls, which allow the camera to heat or cool to prevent condensation from forming over the lens and obscuring its sight. Consider also that outdoor cameras should be secure against dust, insects, ultraviolet sunrays and be vandal-proof as well.
Day/Night Cameras: Because the degree of daylight and the impact of artificial outdoor lighting are so often changing, outdoor cameras have to adjust to varying glare, reflections, backlight, shadows and complete darkness.
PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) Cameras: Ideal for outdoor coverage of a large area, a pan, tilt, zoom security camera has the ability to move and capture different angles, which gives PTZ cameras the capability of doing the job of several fixed-sight cameras. A PTZ security camera can be pre-programmed or controlled by an operator in a remote location.
Leading Security Camera Brands and Popular Options
Now that you’re familiar with some of the basic types of outdoor security cameras, we’re going to introduce you to a number of popular brands. Keep in mind the type of camera you think will best meet your property’s needs, as well as options available in each brand’s models, and, of course, price.
The Australian based company has been around since 1987 and is readily available at everyday retailers such as Walmart and Home Depot. All about “Advanced Security Made Easy,” Swann’s outdoor security cameras feature
- CCD (charge-coupled device) sensors, which deliver high quality images in a wide range of light
- Infrared technology, up to 65 feet in total darkness
- Easy installation
- Resists extreme temperatures between 4 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Swann
- Swann SWDVK-425504 S 4-Channel Digital Video Recorder with Smartphone Viewing and 4 x PRO-550 Cameras
- Swann SWDVK-830008-US TruBlue D1 3000 8CH DVR and 8 x 600TVL Cameras with 1TB Hard Disk Drive
- Swann SWPRO-750CAM-US Pro-750 Pan Tilt Zoom Camera with 3x Optical Zoom (White)
- More options from Swann (SEE ALL)
Also available from a wide number of retailers, Defender prides itself on a product that is hassle-free, do-it-yourself, affordable, and comes with lifetime live customer support.
- Color capability
- Energy-saving technology CDS (cadmium sulfide) sensor notes changes in light levels which save energy, for example, night vision only kicks in when it’s dark.
- Very small cameras available for undetected placement
- Requires only one wire to connect to several viewing devices
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Defender
- Defender 21031 Sentinel 8-Channel Smart Security DVR with 8 Ultra Resolution Outdoor Security Cameras
- Defender 21117 PRO Sentinel 16CH Smart Security DVR with 16 Hi-Res Outdoor Security Cameras
- Defender PX301-010 Digital Wireless DVR Security System with LCD Monitor, Long Range Night Vision Camera
- More options from Defender (SEE ALL)
This global company specializes in video surveillance of every kind, calling out “Loss Prevention” as the way we need to think in order to protect ourselves today. Readily available in thousands of North American retailers, Lorex offers upwards of 150 models.
- Zoom capabilities
- Anti-glare features for clear images even in the brightest light
- High-resolution video
- Day/night mode that will switch to black and white video in low light conditions
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Lorex
- Lorex Digital Wireless Outdoor Security Camera with Audio LW2220
- Lorex Day / Night Surveillance Camera CVC6941
- Lorex Super Resolution Weatherproof Day/Night Security Camera LBC6040
- More options from Lorex (SEE ALL)
A leading manufacturer of TV mounting brackets and CCTV video security products, VideoSecu offers an impressive variety of options for outdoor security cameras.
- Wide angle lenses
- Adjustable mounting brackets
- Infrared technology
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from VideoSecu
- VideoSecu 8 CCTV IR Infrared Night Vision Weatherproof Bullet Security Camera 520TVL
- VideoSecu Outdoor Security Camera Infrared Weatherproof CCTV Wide View Angle Lens
- VideoSecu Outdoor Bullet Security Camera Built-in Sony CCD Weatherproof Wide View Angle Lens
- More options from VideoSecu (SEE ALL)
It’s no surprise that Bushnell, the leader in sports optics and game cams, has a few outdoor security cameras under it’s belt. Sometimes the intruder isn’t a human, after all, but even if it is, these cameras have you covered.
- Low-glow flash makes it invisible to animals and humans
- Captures images with a 1-second trigger
- Very high resolution with HD 1280X720 pixel videos
- Long-life 1-year battery
- Adjustable web belt bracketing will mount anywhere
Loftek focuses on the development, design and manufacturing of consumer surveillance and security product, including a range of high-quality security cameras that are designed to withstand outdoor environments and deliver exceptional day/night video performance even in complete darkness.
- Wired and wireless models
- Motion detection can be integrated into and alarm/alert system
- Wide angle lenses and distance viewing
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Loftek
- LOFTEK® Conch-shaped dome 24 Infrared LEDs Day/Night Vision Security CCTV Wide View Angle Lens
- LOFTEK CXS 3200 Wireless Ip Camera Pan 8-10 Meter Night Vision
- More options from Loftek [SEE ALL]
This well-known Swiss company has been around since 1981, distributing products from gaming and headsets to webcams and security cameras in more than 100 countries.
- Wide, 130-degree angle lens
- Motion-capture activation
- Security feed through computer and smart devices
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Logitech
- Logitech Alert 700e Outdoor Add-On HD Quality Security Camera with Night Vision
- Logitech Alert 750e Outdoor Master Security Camera System with Night Vision
- More options from Logitech [SEE ALL]
Zmodo specializes in security products such as cameras, DVR and NVR, surveillance systems, integrated video platforms and intelligent management systems. As an integrator in R&D, manufacturing, sales, and service, Zmodo provides security solutions to various sectors including finance, public security, transportation, justice, education, utility, public health, and others.
- Multi-channel systems
- Remote Access via Smartphone or PC
- Advanced Motion Detection Recording
- Durable & Weather Resistant
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Zmodo
- Zmodo KDB8-BARBZ8ZN-500GB 8-Channel H.264 DVR with 500GB HDD and 8 CMOS 480TVL 65-Feet IR Outdoor Security Cameras
- Zmodo PKD-DK0863-500GB Outdoor Security Camera
- ZMODO 8CH H.264 CCTV Surveillance DVR + 4 Outdoor Waterproof Security Camera System
- More options from Zmodo [SEE ALL]
Uniden America Corporation manufactures and markets wireless consumer electronic products including Cordless Telephones, Bearcat® Scanners, Video Surveillance Systems, FRS/GMRS Radios, Marine Radios and other wireless personal communications products.
- Transmission range of up to 500 feet
- Easy to install
- Infrared LED’s provide up to 40ft of night vision
- Full screen, scan mode, and Quad mode
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Uniden
- Uniden Guardian Advanced Wireless 7-Inch Screen Video Surveillance System with 2 Outdoor Cameras
- Uniden Weather Proof Video Surveillance Camera
- Uniden UDR444 Guardian 4.3-Inch Video Surveillance System with 2 Cameras
- More options from Uniden [SEE ALL]
Foscam strives for a more secure life for the people all around the world by providing the highest quality security products with best competitive price. The company’s brand philosophy is simple and direct, specific and efficient.
- Wide Viewing Angles
- Remote internet viewing
- 9dbi Antenna Boosters
- Smartphone compatible
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Foscam
- Foscam FI8905W Outdoor Wireless/Wired IP/Network Camera with 30 Meter Night Vision
- Foscam FI8905E Power Over Ethernet Outdoor IP Camera with 6 mm Lens
- More options from Foscam [SEE ALL]
Agasio IP Cameras are one of the fastest growing brands in the industry due to their ability to bridge the gap between powerful capabilities, ease of use and affordability. Agasio IP Cameras are part of the next generation of advanced high quality IP cameras which feature IR-Cut Off filters for true color images.
- Full fledged POE (power over ethernet)
- Auto-Iris/Auto-Brightness feature
- Remote internet viewing
- Smartphone compatible
Best Selling Outdoor Security Cameras and Systems from Agasio
- Agasio A622W Outdoor Wireless Pan/Tilt IP Camera with IR-Cut Off Filter
- Agasio A602W Outdoor Wireless IP Camera with IR-Cut Off Filter
- More options from Agasio [SEE ALL]
How to Choose an Outdoor Security Camera or Camera System for Your Home
Everybody’s home security needs are different, and when it comes to outdoor security cameras, there are two main areas where homeowners need to focus their attention. The first is property needs and requirements, and the second is personal, or family, requirements. The two are very different, which makes this a double-faceted decision. Yet, you will likely be very pleased with how often the two intersect as you get closer to making your final choice.
Asses Your Property Needs and Requirements
When it comes to assessing the security requirements of a property, it’s pretty cut and dried. The physical aspects are not generally negotiable, so it’s a matter of paying close attention to the outer area around your home and the property it sits on as well as all structures, trees, plants, and everything else that it includes. Take a walk around your home and property, and be prepared to take notes. It would be wise to do this with another family member as well, or to have someone else walk your property separately from you so you can compare opinions and notes.
Keeping in mind all of the types and features of outdoor security cameras we’ve outlined in this guide, make note of where you think those features will help protect your outside property. Stand at your main entrance with your back to the door. What do you see? Is there a sweeping, wide-open space that allows clear visual access? Or, more likely, do you see a walkway, possible shaded and obscured by foliage, maybe a few large trees as your eye wanders further away? How about a garage to one side, obstructing part of your view? Or perhaps your driveway is a winding one and you can’t see the whole thing. Take note of these and continue your walk around your home and property until this list is complete. Here are some examples of what your notes may include as well as camera solutions:
- Front porch entry, open to walkway=Bullet camera to cover this specific area
- Large open yard area=PTZ or wide lens camera for wider access
- No back entry light=infrared/night vision camera
- Long driveway=multiple cameras placed to “open” the line of sight
- Home is on a slope, limiting view below=wireless camera for easier installation in hard to access zones
- No streetlights near home=infrared/night vision camera
- Heat and cold temperature extremes=weather resistant to particular highs and lows, determined by the area’s climate
Asses Your Personal/Family Requirements
We all have our own particular level of needs when it comes to our sense of security. It may have to do with the way our childhood home was equipped or perhaps the crime blotter on the news is reporting more in our neighborhood, or maybe the birth of a new baby has the family wanting to reel in a long- considered security system. Regardless, it’s vital to sit down as a family and determine what would make everyone feel safest when it comes to securing the home from the outside. Some aspects that may make your list:
- Entry cameras to see who is at the door before opening it
- Camera placed at the bottom of the walkway or driveway to see visitors before they get close to your home
- Disturbing night and weather related sounds and noises calmed by an infrared wide lens camera that sweeps the property
- Hidden cameras near a garage, workshop, or cabana where valuables are stored
- Camera in pet or livestock area to monitor animals
- Ability to access camera video from inside the home or via computer or smartphone while away at work or traveling
Outdoor Security Cameras: The Final Verdict
As overwhelming as it may seem, consider yourself equipped with everything you need to make a choice that will not disappoint. A familiarity with outdoor security camera types and features, an idea of what brands offer what types and features, and a personal list of property and family preferences should be all you need to begin your search. Be sure to research well-established companies with good customer service like warranties and no-hassle installation and repair, and definitely dig deep—ask questions in a retail setting and check reviews when shopping online.
Full List of Security Camera References Used in This Guide
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