What you need to know about home security cameras

In the same way folks are ditching cable for contract-free subscription services like Netflix and video streaming viewers like the Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick, security firms like ADT are being forced to share the market with an increasing number of do-it-yourself devices — and standalone cameras represent a significant portion of that growing subcategory.

While the shift toward DIY security gives consumers many more options, it also complicates the purchasing decision a bit. That’s why we’re here. We’ll address a bunch of topics and potential questions in this buying guide so you can figure out exactly what today’s DIY home security cameras offer and how you can reach out to a security camera warehouse provider to get exactly what you need for your home. 

Taking matters into our own hands

Before getting bogged down by the specifics, think about what you hope to get out of a security camera. Here are some questions to consider:

  1. Do you want to look in on a mischievous pet while you’re at work or are you more interested in protecting your property 24/7?
  2. Will your camera stay in one spot or would you like to be able to move it around with ease (including outside)?
  3. What about the app? Do you want to have access to your camera on your computer as well as on your phone?
  4. Is a high-resolution video feed necessary or is it OK if the camera captures a simple standard-def clip or photo of a security event?
  5. If you’re interested in saving video footage, would you rather use cloud storage or access your video locally (via a microSD card or a USB drive)?
  6. How much are you willing to spend on a security camera?
  7. Do you want your camera to work with other devices?

Webcam or security cam?

There’s a lot to consider as far as security camera features, specs and general tech goes. The difference between a webcam and a true security camera is one important distinction. Webcams are often lumped under the security camera category because many of them offer some security features, but I would argue that they’re pretty limited if your main concern is security.

Take the Nest Cam Outdoor and the Canary View as examples. Both let you view a live video feed on your phone wherever you have an internet connection, but Nest Cam won’t alert you every time a potential security issue takes place (such as when the built-in sensors detect motion, etc.), whereas the View gives you a ton of customizability so you can receive alerts every time something happens, if that’s what you want. 

This may seem like a small distinction, but if you are going the standalone DIY security camera route, those notifications are the only way to approximate real-time monitoring (short of staring at the feed all day). DIY also often means that, unlike ADT and other providers, there’s no professional monitoring service behind your camera. That means, for better or worse, it will be up to you to contact the police if you see someone breaking in to your house.

If you want to get extra serious about home security, there are a handful of models, like the Canary All-in-One and even the free Salient Eye Android app (which can turn spare Android devices into security cameras for free), that come with built-in sirens and arm and disarm modes for a more straightforward security setup.

In addition, an increasing number of cameras respond to voice commands. Nest’s IQ Indoor works with Google Assistant; Canary’s cameras work with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant and the D-Link Omna works with Siri via Apple’s HomeKit platform. 

More recently, we’re seeing integrations between cameras and the Apple TV or the Amazon Echo Show, Echo Spot or Fire TV so you can pull up your camera’s live feed on a larger screen. 

There are also smart home hubs like Wink and SmartThings, which are compatible with a variety of different protocol languages and help bridge the gap between two products from two different brands that speak two different protocol languages. Wink, for instance, works with Nest’s cameras and SmartThings has its own IFTTT channel.