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Outdoor Security Camera Buyer’s Guide


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.

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.

outdoor surveillance camera

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.

home security camera system


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.

See Wired Security Cameras

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.

See Wireless Security Cameras

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.

See Wide Angle Lens Security Cameras


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.

See Bullet Security Cameras

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.

See Dome Security Cameras

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.

See Discreet Security Cameras

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.

See Infrared/Night Vision Cameras

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.

See Weather Resistant Security Cameras

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.

See Day/Night Security Cameras

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.

See Pan Tilt Zoom Security Cameras

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

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

video surveillance for your home

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.