- Outdoor security cameras can help you to safeguard your property.
- The most important features to look for are high-quality video and reliable connectivity.
- After extensive testing, we recommend the Arlo Pro 4 as the best outdoor security camera.
A good outdoor security camera system helps you to keep tabs on your property from anywhere and can act as a deterrent to unwelcome visitors. Motion detection will trigger the camera to start recording and send a notification to your smartphone so that you can review any activity around your home.
When choosing a camera, it’s important to consider video quality, audio quality, and connectivity. Your budget will also factor in, and some security cameras require subscriptions if you want access to additional features.
After testing several devices and researching expert reviews, we’ve selected the best outdoor security cameras you can buy in 2021. Our picks fall into a few different categories so that you can find something with the features you need at a price that works for you.
Here are the best outdoor security cameras of 2021
- Best outdoor security camera overall: Arlo Pro 4
- Best budget outdoor security camera: Wyze Cam Outdoor
- Best wired outdoor security camera: Nest Cam Outdoor
- Best local-storage outdoor security camera: Reolink Argus 3 Pro
- Best video doorbell camera: Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell
The Arlo Pro 4 captures high-quality video and audio, performs reliably, and has the best notification system.
Pros: Excellent video quality, smart motion detection, great alert system, easy to install, reliable performance
Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage and smart features
The Arlo Pro 4 is an elegant wireless security camera that’s easy to set up and install. There’s a choice of magnetic or screw-in mounts and a charging cable in the box. It connects directly to your Wi-Fi router, but that’s the only thing that sets it apart from the excellent Arlo Pro 3, which connects to a SmartHub.
Video footage is sharp and clear, with HDR ensuring that bright areas don’t get blown out and darker areas retain detail. Color night vision and a spotlight ensure you don’t miss anything at night. The two-way audio allows for easy conversation and there’s a siren should you want to scare off any unwelcome visitors. The Arlo Pro 4 does the basics very well, and the app is easy to use. It connects swiftly and reliably and quickly recovers its connection after power or Wi-Fi outages.
False positives can be a big issue for security cameras, so Arlo’s array of fine-tuning options is a big bonus. You can limit the area to record for privacy and draw multiple activity zones to dictate precisely where motion should trigger a recording. Videos are accurately categorized as people, animals, vehicles, packages, and other motion. What I like best about Arlo cameras is the rich notification system. It shows a screenshot thumbnail with the subject highlighted, so you can see at a glance if you need to load the app to investigate further.
Expect to get between three and six months of battery life from a fully charged camera, with plenty of warning when it’s running low. There’s comprehensive smart-home integration, and it’s relatively quick to bring up a live feed on a smart display. The big drawback with the Arlo Pro 4 is the need for an Arlo Smart subscription to get 30 days of cloud video history and all the smart features that make this the best outdoor security camera for most people.
The best budget outdoor security camera
The Wyze Cam Outdoor is a bargain, with a competitive set of features, local video storage, and free cloud storage.
Pros: Very affordable, good video quality, local storage, free cloud storage, easy to install
Cons: Requires a subscription for smart detection and unlimited recording, requires a hub, app can be slow
Bargain hunters will love the Wyze Cam Outdoor. Quick and easy to set up, this boxy camera connects to a small hub that plugs into your router. There’s a base with a foldout frame and screws for mounting. The camera attaches magnetically and has a MicroSD card slot for local storage, as does the hub, though you’ll have to buy cards separately.
The picture quality is generally good and provides enough clarity to recognize subjects quickly, but it can’t match more expensive cameras. The resolution is fine, but the frame rate is lower than the other cameras on our list, which can make videos appear a little jerky. The infrared night vision works well, but videos are much noisier. The audio quality is passable, though it occasionally sounds distorted. You can have a two-way conversation provided that you are patient about the slight lag.
While the connection is reliable and recovers gracefully from outages, it takes a little longer to connect to the app than cameras like the Arlo Pro 4. The app is easy to use and offers a customizable detection zone with a grid system and a sensitivity slider. You can review recorded videos saved on a MicroSD card or via the free cloud storage. If you stick with the basic free plan, videos are limited to 12 seconds, with a five-minute cooldown before it starts recording again.
Battery life is a standard three to six months. There’s a good range of smart-home integration, but loading live feeds on smart displays is relatively slow. If you want motion detection to recognize people, packages, and vehicles, with the promise of pet detection and face recognition to come, then you have to sign up for the Wyze’s subscription, which also removes the limit on video length and the cooldown period. At this price, the Wyze Cam Outdoor is unmatched, and paired with a MicroSD card it’s your best budget option.
The best wired outdoor security camera
Elegant design and reliable performance make the Nest Cam Outdoor a tempting option if you want to plug in.
Pros: Very good video quality, smart motion detection, well-designed app, reliable performance, no charging required
Cons: Requires expensive subscription for cloud storage and smart features, installation can be tricky
If you’d prefer not to have to worry about charging batteries, the Nest Cam Outdoor is a solid pick. Installation may be trickier if you don’t have an outdoor outlet, because you have to run a power cable into your home. With no battery inside, this is the smallest camera on the list.
Even with a lower resolution than some other cameras, the Nest Cam Outdoor produces impressively high-quality video. Night vision is equally good thanks to multiple infrared sensors, and there’s an 8x digital zoom to help you track and identify subjects. The audio is clear enough to carry on a conversation, but it works like a walkie-talkie so when you press to talk there’s no incoming sound.
Reliability is good and connections are established swiftly with the straightforward app. You can customize activity zones, set up smart alerts, and there’s even face recognition. There’s also support for 24/7 recording for those that need it. The more expensive Nest Cam IQ Outdoor offers higher image quality and lots of small improvements, including proper two-way audio, but it’s currently unavailable and a refresh of the line-up is imminent.
With strong reviews from TechRadar, CNET, and a recommendation from Wirecutter, this aging camera is still among the best. If Google is your preferred ecosystem, it will merge seamlessly with your smart home setup. The main downside is the pricey Nest Aware subscription, which is a necessity with this camera.
The best local-storage outdoor security camera
With no subscription necessary, the Reolink Argus 3 Pro boasts an impressively long feature list for the price.
Pros: Affordable, great video quality, local storage, free cloud storage, solar panel power option (sold separately)
Cons: App can be confusing, limited battery life, no 2FA
The Reolink Argus 3 Pro has a familiar design and comes with a choice of ball socket screw-in mounts that make it easy to adjust the view. Set up is straightforward, and it connects directly to your Wi-Fi router wirelessly. Reolink offers free cloud storage, but there’s also a MicroSD card slot on the camera that supports large-capacity cards.
With a high resolution and reasonably good contrast, the Argus Pro 3 makes it easy to review the action in any video. There’s no HDR, so bright sunlight can blow areas out. The frame rate is limited to 15 frames-per-second which means action looks a little jerky at times, but there’s lots of good detail. A spotlight and night vision offer reasonably clear video at night. The two-way audio works well enough to have a conversation, but there is distortion on recordings sometimes. There’s also a siren.
Connectivity has been stellar for me. The Reolink Argus 3 Pro offers dual-band Wi-Fi, which is still quite rare in security cameras. It reconnects quickly after Wi-Fi or power outages. You can tweak the sensitivity, but it lacks customizable activity zones, and it sometimes misidentifies motion, like a swaying branch or cat, as a person. Notifications work well, and the live feed loads impressively swiftly as a default view.
Battery life runs down quite quickly. With the spotlight and frequent alerts, my review unit was on course to last six weeks at the most, but you can buy a solar panel accessory for $25 and never have to worry about it. Even installed in partial shade, it keeps the camera powered up.
One worry is that a thief could take this camera with the MicroSD card inside, though Reolink does offer free cloud storage as well. The lack of 2FA is also a security concern, so you’ll want to guard your login details and avoid using this camera indoors. On the other hand, some people will appreciate the ability to only use local storage without the need to upload anything to the cloud or even create a Reolink account.
Ultimately, the swifter performance and affordable price are why the Reolink makes the list over the Eufy Cam 2C, which you’ll find in what else we considered. But if security is a bigger concern for you, the Eufy will suit you better.
The best video doorbell camera
Smart alerts and reliable video calls make the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell the best way to watch your front door.
Pros: High-quality video, expansive field-of-view, no hub required, wired or rechargeable battery, clear two-way audio
Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage and smart features, bulky body
The Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell is easy to install and offers a truly expansive view of your front porch that shows visitors from head to toe. If you’re willing to wire in a smart doorbell and you have a compatible setup, then save some cash and opt for the wired version. The wireless model has a battery inside that makes it a bit chunkier.
Video quality is top-notch, leaving you in no doubt about who is at the door. The HDR support is vital if your door gets a lot of sun or has a shaded porch, as it maintains the detail you need in mixed lighting. There’s an infrared mode for when it’s dark, though you can stick with color footage if there’s enough light on your porch. The audio quality is better than other video doorbells I’ve tested. When people ring the bell, the footage comes through to your phone swiftly and reliably as a video call.
If the internet or power goes out, the Arlo Essential Wireless Video Doorbell reconnects quickly without issues. It’s fast to connect to the live feed through the app. There are lots of useful features, including multiple activity zones, smart alerts, subject recognition, and a loud siren. As with the Arlo Pro 4, the rich notifications on your phone or smartwatch are excellent and clear enough to save you from having to open the app much of the time. This is the fastest doorbell I’ve tested at bringing up a live feed on a smart display, and both my Amazon Echo and Nest Mini speakers announce when someone is at the door.
Stated battery life is up to six months, but that’s optimistic. (Mine is at 48 percent after six weeks.) It’s quite easy to pop off the bracket to recharge, and it warns you when the power is getting low. The need for a subscription to enable cloud recordings and smart features is the main drawback.
Every outdoor security camera we test goes through a series of checks for at least a week but usually much longer. We assess how easy it is to set up and install the camera, how well it performs in different scenarios, how good the motion detection and notification system are, how easy the app is to use, and how useful any additional features are.
We install cameras and live with them to compare how they perform. This involves asking several questions:
Video quality: How clear is the video that the camera records? How does it perform at different resolutions? Does it support HDR or other features to enhance clarity? Does it have night vision or a spotlight for the dark, and how does the resulting footage look?
Audio quality: How clear is the sound that the camera records? Can you have a two-way conversation through the camera in real time? Are there additional features, like a siren?
Connectivity: Does the camera connect directly to a Wi-Fi router or does it have a hub? How reliable is the connection? How quickly can I connect to a live feed and is there any lag? How quickly can I play back recorded videos from the cloud or local storage? Does the camera reconnect swiftly if the Wi-Fi router or hub is turned off and on again?
Battery life: How long does it last between charges? How do you charge it? Can you use replacement batteries? Can you connect a power source or solar panel? Does it warn you when power is low?
App: How quickly does the app load on average? Can you set activity zones? How easy is it to find the settings you want? Can you configure the motion-detection settings?
Notifications: How quickly do notifications come through when you’re at home or away? How clear are the notifications? How long does it take to tap through to the live feed or recorded video when a notification comes in? Are there any false positives? Does it ever fail to notify you about a motion event? Does it categorize events correctly?
Smart home: Can you connect to smart home systems and voice assistants? Do voice commands work correctly? Can you trigger cameras with other devices and vice versa? How long does it take to load video feeds on devices like smart displays?
What else we considered
Eufy Cam 2C: This camera wrestled with the Reolink in the best local storage category. It has to connect to a hub, where video is stored. This is both good and bad, as it makes it tougher for thieves to steal the footage but requires an outlet and a port on your router. It does have detection zones and a wider field of view and matches the two-way audio and spotlight, but the picture quality isn’t quite as good and the Reolink was faster to connect during testing.
Ring Stick Up Cam Battery: A solid option for the price, this camera delivers good quality 1080p footage at 15 frames-per-second and connects directly to your Wi-Fi router. You can set multiple motion zones, and notifications work well. There’s two-way audio, a siren, and reasonably good night vision. The app is feature-packed, and it works well with Alexa. On the downside, you need a subscription, and this is one of the slowest cameras to load the live feed. It’s also big and bulky.
Wyze Cam V3: Incredibly cheap but surprisingly good, the Wyze Cam V3 is IP65 rated, so it can serve as an outdoor camera. The big catch is that you have to plug it in, and you’ll end up spending more on a long cable than you did on the camera. It offers decent quality video, night vision, two-way audio, and detection zones. Read our full Wyze Cam V3 review to learn more.
Eufy 2K Video Doorbell: If you don’t want to sign up for a subscription, this is a great alternative smart doorbell. It connects to a hub, which doubles as a chime. The video quality is excellent, and there’s two-way audio, human detection, and customizable zones. It’s not as responsive as the Arlo and the app can be slow sometimes, but it’s an alternative worth considering. Read our Eufy 2K Video Doorbell review for more.
What we look forward to testing
Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: The smarter version of Google’s security camera has proper two-way audio and a higher quality image sensor, but it’s sold out ahead of a new launch that will presumably replace it. Whatever camera that turns out to be, we’ll get it in for testing to find out what improvements Google has in store.
Blink Outdoor: We were quite impressed by the camera quality for the low price in our Blink Mini review, but the subscription cost made it much less of a bargain. The Blink Outdoor looks interesting, offering decent-quality video in a compact, weather-proof form, with the alluring promise of two-year battery life. We plan to put it through its paces soon.
Ezviz C3X: We have not tested anything from this manufacturer yet, but the Ezviz C3X has an impressive spec sheet and an interesting design. It’s a dual-lens camera with antennas for better connectivity and boasts color night vision, a spotlight and siren, two-way audio, and configurable motion detection.
How to choose an outdoor security camera
How many cameras do I need, and what’s the optimal placement?
The number of cameras you need depends on what you want to monitor. An Arlo representative told us that the top five most common locations for outdoor security cameras are as follows:
1). Front Door: The front door is the main point of entry to a home. Placing a camera near the front door is great for monitoring package deliveries, visitors, and guests. Unfortunately, crimes like package theft frequently occur. By placing a camera in this area, homeowners have full visibility into who visits their home, night or day. Having a security device visible may deter would-be package thieves.
2). Near the driveway: Some people like to monitor this area of their property. To ensure more details are seen and able to be captured at night, homeowners can consider selecting a camera with an integrated spotlight.
3). In the backyard: Placing a camera in the backyard will give homeowners the ability to monitor the perimeter of their home. A backyard camera will help alert users if someone is trespassing onto your property, trying to jump the fence, or looking for another way to break and enter.
4). Side yard or near an outdoor fuse box: Angling a camera to capture the side yard or the area near an outdoor power fuse box can help alert homeowners if someone attempts to cut their power.
5). Aimed at the home – Aiming a camera at the home can provide a critical vantage point. Leveraging a tree or fence location to place a camera and point towards the home increases a homeowner’s chances of capturing a clear image of trespassers.
In terms of optimal camera placement, it’s important for homeowners to make sure their camera is within the range of their Wi-Fi router and spaced out from additional monitoring devices. Homeowners will also want to make sure their home security camera:
- Isn’t looking through glass or other transparent objects.
- Is positioned so the space they wish to monitor is within the camera’s field of view.
- Is mounted approximately seven feet above the ground and angled slightly downward.
- Is mounted so the motion-detection area is approximately five to 20 feet from the camera’s position.
What can I do about the risk of camera theft?
If you’re concerned about camera theft or vandalism, then you should also consider placing the camera out of reach of an intruder or buying a security camera cage to make it harder to access. Magnetic mounts may be convenient, but threaded mounts make it harder to remove security cameras.
Security camera manufacturers have various policies on camera theft and replacements, so look into them before you buy. Some subscription services include extra protections, but make sure you read the conditions. You will likely have to file a police report before you can claim on a camera theft.
One last thing to consider if you’re concerned about camera theft is to make sure you don’t pick a camera that records on the device itself. If videos are recorded on a hub in the home or in the cloud, you will at least have some footage of the thief.
Should I choose wired or wireless cameras?
Wireless solutions are ideal for simple installation. They provide added flexibility, allowing a camera to be placed anywhere around the property where the homeowner needs protection, and with no need to worry about a power source. Wired solutions are great for continuous power and may be ideal for locations that may be hard to reach when it comes time to replace/recharge the battery.
What kind of internet connection do I need?
For most security cameras, an internet connection on the 2.4Ghz frequency is a necessity for direct-to-Wi-Fi home router connectivity. Some systems come with their own hubs that typically plug into the back of your router with an ethernet cable. We are starting to see a few manufacturers add Wi-Fi connectivity on the 5Ghz frequency. While 5Ghz Wi-Fi is generally faster than 2.4Ghz, it’s not always ideal for security cameras because it has a shorter range.
Do I need a subscription?
While many outdoor security cameras offer local storage, either via a MicroSD card in the camera itself or in a hub in your home, some require a monthly subscription for cloud storage and smart features. Always check what you get without a subscription before you buy and factor in the ongoing cost if you decide it’s worth springing for.
What detection and notification features do I need?
Most camera systems offer some form of recognition, so they can tell the difference between a cat or a person, for example. This is vital if you don’t want to waste time reviewing videos of passing animals. Make sure that notifications can be configured, so you can dictate when alerts should come through to your phone. Notification systems that include a screenshot of the video are very useful in helping you decide quickly whether you need to open the app and check the live feed or review the video.
What about the risk of someone accessing my camera?
To reduce the risk of anyone hacking into your camera, look for two-factor authentication (2FA). Without 2FA, anyone with your username and password can log into your camera. It’s worth noting that you have to activate 2FA in your account with some camera systems.
What about privacy?