Best security camera 2018: the wireless smart cameras that watch over your gran or pets and watch out for burglars. The best granny cams, home security cameras and pet cams for your peace of mind
Wireless home security cameras are the best way of keeping an eye on your house, even if they’re not a genuine replacement for a monitored security system with ear-piercing alarm.
Best security camera 2018: the wireless smart cameras that watch over
They’re significantly more affordable however, and can be incredibly useful if you’ve got an elderly relative or pet you want to know is safe, even if you’re at work, or away on holiday. At the tap of a button, smart cameras let you see what’s going on in your house.
What is the best smart home camera?
The Netgear Arlo remains our favourite camera range because of the fact it can be used wirelessly, indoors or out. There’s everything from the affordable and versatile Arlo to the Arlo Pro 2 and Arlo Q.
These latter cams aren’t a million miles away from a professional security camera setup, albeit one that you have to monitor, rather than having ADT or whoever do it for you.
We think the Logitech Circle 2 Wired is the best Wi-Fi camera you can get for indoor use – primarily as more of a gran cam than a security camera. It’s wired (although a battery pack is available), and as it’s weatherproof it can technically be used outdoors. Video quality is very good.
There are a number of other very good smart security camera options, but another one that stands out is the Hive View. Not for its features which, to be honest, are pretty basic but for the fact that it actually looks quite boldly stylish rather than just resembling a small CCTV camera or an eye on a plinth, as all its rivals do.
How to choose the best Wi-Fi camera for you
This selection of cameras has it all; from infrared, so you can detect any motion at night, to sensors for your windows and doors, so even if they aren’t on camera you can be alerted if someone’s trying to break in.
Netatmo Welcome, and Nest’s cameras, add facial recognition, so you’ll know as soon as a stranger walks in your home.
If you want to use these devices as proper security cameras, video quality and night vision become important – the camera you choose should have HD resolution, at least.
Although what you see streamed to your phone is dependent on the speed of connection, the footage stored in the cloud and/or on the device itself will be at the full quality.
Reliable alerts are arguably the most helpful function – if you’re inundated with warnings of potential intruders, it gets old fast. If you just want to watch your pets or be able to check in on elderly relatives, arguably image quality is less important.
Some cameras have two-way communication, which is very useful if you’re using it to keep an eye on kids (“Put my best wine glasses DOWN, Jeremy!”) or the elderly. Or even pets, if they’re unusually obedient.
It’s worth bearing in mind that most such cameras will not be all that useful in terms of either summoning help (given the current state of UK police funding) or even necessarily as evidence in court.
If the camera is indoors, there also won’t be a deterrent effect, and if it’s outdoors, legally speaking, you need to alert passers by to the fact they are on camera.
However, you may feel having a smart camera, without the high monthly cost of a proper anti-intrusion system, gives you peace of mind for not much cash.
If you want a cam solely for lifestyle purposes – to keep an eye on pets or kids or babysitters – a 900-decibel alarm probably isn’t necessary, but two-way audio and stylish design are – or at least unobtrusive and non-hideous design.
The 10 best security cameras you can buy today
1. Netgear Arlo
The best home security camera range with a solution for everyone
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Arlo (from Netgear) is not just a camera, it’s a rapidly-growing range that shares the same software platform. As well as choosing between the Arlo, Arlo Pro or Arlo Pro 2, there are other variants for those wanting a more serious security and surveillance solution. You can also choose between packs of one, two or more units, and accessories such as a Wi-Fi expander hub for outdoor use.
Even with the affordable Arlo Pro, everything is wireless and you should be able to get up and running in mere minutes. You then tap into your video feeds from anywhere using the supplied smartphone apps, and Arlo will alert you when it detects motion.
That is what all these cameras do, but what sets Arlo apart is that it works wirelessly and the cameras are waterproof, so can be placed anywhere, using a range of excellent mounts.
Night vision and motion detection are good, and though the app is not the most elegant thing are included but there’s no sound with these cameras and you are limited to 1GB of storage space in the cloud free of charge.
Another useful feature is that 7 days of video is backed up to the cloud without the need for a subscription. Video recording is only triggered by you logging in for a look, or by activity alerts, so although this backup is actually capped at 1GB it should be sufficient.
To break it down as simply as we can, Arlo shoots in basic but acceptable 720p and takes those weird batteries that are like an AA sawn in half.
• Arlo Pro adds a more convenient, rechargeable battery, a wider viewing angle, 2-way conversation and a 100db siren which you can trigger to send Hamburglar scurrying on his way (it does need you to fire it off though, unlike a proper burglar alarm).
• Arlo Pro 2 is the same as Pro but shoots in 1080p, works with Amazon Alexa, IFTTT & Stringify and allows for both local storage of video via a USB port on its hub, or 24/7 surveillance via an additional subscription plan.
2. Logi Circle 2 Wired
The best home camera for indoor use
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
No current smart home camera is as fun to use as the Logi Circle 2. Rather than treating it as a friendlier sort of CCTV, Logitech has done its best to make this gadget the home monitoring equivalent of a Fitbit.
For example, it preps “day brief” videos that show a sped-up version of all the action of the day. You don’t have to sift through bitty clips of the slightest moment of motion. It’s great if you want to keep an eye on your dog while at work, rather than scan for burglars. There’s two-way talking too, making Logi Circle 2 an ideal gran cam.
This is one of the most responsive smart cameras going, with only a second or so of lag in the live feed and quick, reliable responses to any commands you make in the app. Zooming in and out of the video feed in particular is the fastest we’ve seen, and you can easily switch the field of view from the default 180 degrees to something narrower.
As well as an app that’s slicker than most, the Circle 2 can also be controlled by Amazon Echo (Alexa), Apple Home or one of Logitech’s Pop smart home buttons.
Its design is quite pleasant too, with a free-swivelling mount that makes altering its angle a doddle. The Circle 2 doesn’t hide that it’s a camera, but a big flattened face and curvy sides give it a little hit of Pixar-flavour cuteness.
There are some negatives, of course. You only get 24 hours of cloud storage for free. For longer-term access, you have to pay: £2.99 a month snags you 14-day Cloud access, or £7.99 a month for 31 days.
What’s more galling is you’ll also need to pay that if you want to use custom motion zones and the person detection feature, which flags clips in which people feature. Obviously. These features are pretty much obligatory if you want to use this as more of a security camera.
You can buy a rechargeable battery base but as the camera is weatherproof you’ll then be able to put the Circle 2 anywhere in Wi-Fi range. It’ll last up to three months off a charge, although realistically you will get a lot less than that if you choose to live stream from it, or it’s an area which regularly triggers alerts.
The Logi Circle 2 also comes in a fully wireless incarnation but confusingly, this is a different shape to the wired version and a different range of accessories. Like the wired Circle 2 on a battery base, the wireless is version is widely regarded as not fit for purpose as an outdoor cam, due to poor connectivity and a dodgy wall mount.
We wouldn’t really recommend Circle 2 as a security camera, although the wired version will serve that purpose adequately indoors. However, as a smart home camera/gran-cam/pet-cam you’ll actually enjoy using, the wired version of Circle 2 is hard to beat.
The Nest Cam IQ is one of the most intelligent Wi-Fi cameras on the market, with facial recognition, a 4K image sensor, and person tracking. Our biggest complaint was that it wasn’t waterproof.
Now the Google-owned company is fixing that with the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor, which features a redesigned exterior and IP65 weatherproofing. That means it’ll stay recording whatever the British weather throws at it. In fact, it’ll withstand a lot more than that, with operating temperatures from -40°C to 45°C.
Picture quality is excellent both during the day and night, and the motion tracking, which zooms in on motion and follows it around the garden, and facial recognition, which only alerts you to unknown faces, are incredibly useful features which actually work.
This big update over Nest’s other outdoor model (aside from the software) is that the fixing leaves no exterior cables. This makes it more secure, as the cable can’t simply be cut by a potential intruder.
That does mean that it could be difficult to install, especially if you’re a DIY novice.
This camera is expensive though, not only is the initial outlay is steep, but to get the most out of the camera you also need to take out a subscription to Nest Aware. This costs between £4 and £24 per month.
4. Nest Cam
An intelligent, well-designed indoor camera
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
A rather mature part of the Nest family of products (along with the Learning Thermostat and Protect smoke alarm), the Nest Cam is still on sale despite the arrival of the superior Nest Cam Outdoor and Nest Cam IQ.
Nest Cam streams acceptably sharp 720p video from inside your home to your computer, phone, or tablet. It will alert you if it senses motion or sound so you can tune in to see and hear what’s going on, and with 8x zoom and a 130-degree lens you won’t miss a trick.
It has a speaker and mic so you can talk to anyone in the house, and eight infra-red sensors give you fairly clear night time shots. It integrates seamlessly with other Nest products through a shared app, with the most useful feature being the ability to tap into the Thermostat’s geolocation abilities, arming the camera when you leave the house and vice versa.
One irksome issue here – although Nest is by no means the worst offender – is that to get person and face recognition (which can distinguish between a human and a pet, or a shadow moving, or the wind blowing an object past the window), you’ll have to pay an £8 monthly fee for Nest Aware. You also get 10 days of cloud storage for your video. You can also pay £24 and get a month’s storage, if you like.
If you don’t wish to be inundated with alerts, Nest Aware is pretty much obligatory, which rankles somewhat.
However, with a very good app, and ongoing support from Nest despite its age, this is in the top tier of home cameras.
• The Nest Outdoor is exactly what its name suggests: a version of this for external fitting. This does have a rather flawed design in that it is wired for power (plus points: no need to charge batteries; minus points: you have to run a cable through your wall or get an external plug socket, and a more adventurous intruder could simply snip the wire) but not wired for data, which seems like a missed opportunity.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with its Wi-Fi connectivity, but wired is always less hassle, and if you’re having to run a cable to it anyway…
We wouldn’t recommend Hive View as a ‘proper’ security camera per se but if you want an attractive camera for monitoring pets and relatives that can also alert you to felons, it’s really good.
Primarily that’s because it looks very striking, rather than just resembling a tarted up webcam or shrunken CCTV camera. It’s also got an unusually cheap monthly subscription, although the flip side to that is you only get one day’s worth of video stored for free.
Features-wise View is decidedly limited at present but Hive products have a tendency to get better with age, and I’m fairly confident it’ll add Alexa support (as it has for its other smart home devices) and two-way chat (there’s a mic and speaker built in) in due course.
The basic mount and wall mount make it easy to setup at an angle to your liking – the 130º field of vision helps – and there’s the option to remove it from the mount and use it wirelessly, albeit only for an hour. That could be useful for baby bedtime duties, although we struggle to think of many other applications.
At present you can’t download and share videos, but motion detection alerts work fine and image quality is decent, with a choice of 720p or 1080p maximum resolution depending on your signal strength.
6. Nest Cam IQ
Much more premium update of the Nest Cam
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
This upgraded version of the Nest Cam actually shoots in 4K, albeit rather compressed.
Although it then downgrades to full HD to stream to your phone, the footage is still a cut above rivals, and you can download the full UHD footage if required, if it captures your kids doing something magical, or you require a clear image of that burglar to show the police.
Because of the increased resolution you can also zoom footage very effectively, and the app will even do a neat little auto-zoom to focus on that mystery person roaming your house.
Unlike Nest Cam, person recognition is built in to the IQ without the need for a subscription, which does cut the number of pointless alerts you’ll receive, at least if it’s used inside the house. If it’s pointing out of a window, there are more likely to be numerous people going past, but it can’t do much about that.
That Nest Aware sub is still necessary if you want more than 3 hours of saved footage, but it’s less essential than on Nest Connect. That said, given that this model is almost double the cost, it’d be nice if you then didn’t have to hand over a further £8 per month at all.
Regardless of its value for money, however, with upgraded speaker, mic, night vision (it’s clearer and the IR bulbs used are less visible to intruders) the Nest Cam IQ is a seriously impressive bit of hardware.
7. Netatmo Welcome
Monitor your house using facial recognition
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Netatmo’s Welcome was quite ahead of its time when it appeared several years ago, and it’s still a very viable product.
The Welcome, like the rest on this list, is a Wi-Fi-connected camera that begins recording when it senses movement. The clever bit is that the camera not only spots that people have entered its 130º field of vision, but it will also have a stab at recognising them, sending a notification to your smartphone that P Diddy, for example, has just entered the house to borrow a cup of sugar and do some hoovering.
Perhaps more usefully, although hopefully you won’t have to find out, if someone passes who the camera doesn’t recognise, you’ll get a notification telling you that an ‘Unkown Face’ has been detected. If you recognise the person, you can tell the system who it is, and next time it should automatically know.
The camera can record video in up to 1080p, and it looks perfectly good on a smartphone screen. Netatmo allows you to fine tune the settings for each individual user, for example, don’t record Abbie, but do record Ben.
Perhaps the most pleasing feature is that no monthly subscription is required to store more than a day’s worth of footage. Here, video is stored on the Welcome’s MicroSD card and/or remotely on your Dropbox folder.
8. Canary Smart Security Camera
Good all-in-one home camera with a very loud alarm
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Canary arrived a few years ago, from America, and at launch here it was pretty much useless, due to some rather deep software issues. However, if you tried it then and were put off ever going back, you might by now be missing out.
Canary now not only records in crisp 1080p video – using a wide-angle, 147-degree lens, night vision and motion-activated recording – with clear audio; it is actually able to put functioning alerts and video streams on your mobile device. What makes Canary more of a serious security camera than some of the cameras here is it’s 90+ decibel siren. What makes not all that serious is that you have to manually trigger said alarm yourself – ie: when you catch an intruder on cam.
Canary also lets you ‘speed dial’ the emergency services from the app. Given it is unlikely that anything life-changing is going to happen in the time it takes you to manually dial ‘999’, maybe that’s not incredibly useful.
The camera is also useful when you are home, with sensors tracking the air quality, temperature and humidity in your home – or at least the area immediately around the camera – helping you create a pleasant and healthy atmosphere to live in.
One thing that does not add to a pleasant atmosphere, however, is that you now need to pay extra in order to use the camera’s handy night mode (with video on but notifications off) and various other bits of functionality that might just as easily be free.
For your £7.99 per month or £79 per year, you also get up to a month of video recordings, unlimited downloads to your phone, two-way chat (!) and the option to view the camera on a desktop web browser.
9. Somfy Protect system
Camera with additional alarm triggered by break-in attempts
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Designed to stop intruders before they’ve even made it through the front door, this platform from Somfy (formerly known as Myfox) is built around a surprisingly good camera, intrusion sensors for your doors and windows and an alarm that is bloody loud.
As well as 720p streaming and the usual movement alerts, the Somfy features a physical door which can be open or closed in front of the lens, to put those concerned about their privacy at ease.
Door sensors are stuck onto the door or window, and sense vibrations synonymous with a break in – ie: proper drilling or hammering, not your neighbour knocking on the door, or you putting your key in the lock. If one is tripped a hideous, 100dB racket ensues.
An intelligent keyfob – personalised to you – or smartphone app lets you arm or disarm the alarm. If it goes off accidentally in your vicinity, you’ll want to disarm it rather briskly.
This system is a pain to setup and maintain and you MUST pay for a monthly subscription for any cloud video storage at all, as well as additional sensors for windows (one is included in the basic pack). It’s also quite ugly. However, for actual security purposes, as opposed to just monitoring your pets, Somfy is a bit of a cut above.