Even as we all return to leaving our houses more often, there’s not one of us who isn’t looking for more ways to keep our homes safe and secure. With smart home devices now becoming more affordable and commonplace, families are seeking more control over how they monitor comings and goings as well as any unwanted visitors who may come around.
This can easily be done with the best security cameras, whether they’re standalone, part of a larger system (for more on this check out our guide to the best home security systems) or even built-in to a smart video doorbell.
Huge improvements in the reliability of Wi-Fi as well as a near-universal adoption of smartphones mean that high-quality, app-controlled, noise and motion-sensitive wireless cameras can be set up at home with just a few clicks. Once up and running, these smart devices will remotely alert you to unusual activity inside and outside of the house – depending on where you have your camera or cameras set up.
They can also be linked to other smart products around the home including Alexa or Google Home speakers so that, for example, if motion is detected by the front door, connected lights or sirens can be activated automatically.
We’ve looked at some of the best security cameras on offer right now to help you choose the right one for your home. Scroll down to see what we thought, as well as for more advice on what to look out for.
The best security cameras 2021
1. Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus
Best security camera doorbell
Dimensions: 12.8 x 6.2 x 2.8cm
Reasons to buy: Multi-functional; easy to install
Reasons to avoid: Doesn’t come with a chime
Small, stylish and clever, the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus has A 1080p wide-angle, motion sensing camera with night vision that connects to your home Wi-Fi and alerts you – via smartphone app – if someone presses the bell or walks up to the house.
Installation is seamless, with screwdriver, drill bit, wall plugs and screws all included, plus simple instructions whether you’re wiring to the mains or using the built-in battery.
While slightly strange at first, being able to chat to the person at the door using two-way microphones is brilliantly useful if you’re not at home (no more missed parcels, as you can just ask the postman to deliver to next door). Image can still be grainy in the evening, but it’s more than good enough for everyday use.
Our only gripe: you will need a wireless plug-in Chime (£29 each) if you want to hear the doorbell inside without your phone.
Ideal Home rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Read next: the best video doorbells that will make sure you never miss a delivery again
2. Netatmo Welcome
Best indoor security camera
Dimensions: 4.5 x 4.5 x 15.5cm
Reasons to buy: Lovely design; local storage
Reasons to avoid: Tricky to find good placement
The standout feature on this cute cylindrical design is the ability to identify faces, not just react to noise and motion. As a result, you can be told precisely when the kids get in from school, whether they’ve come back with ‘new’ friends and even text you when the cleaner shows up. And unlike Nest, face recognition comes as standard.
The face detection technology isn’t flawless but it is reliable once it sees a face a few times; for instance, you would need to identify yourself with and without glasses via the app. You can set the camera to only record strange faces, so you don’t feel spied upon once you’re all home.
Full HD 1080p video quality is great even in low light and thanks to the 8GB MicroSD card included you can store a week’s worth of content without the need for cloud subscription.
It’s a reliable system with features unavailable elsewhere, and the design is stylish, but unless you have a shelf or sideboard in a very prominent position in the hallway or living room, finding the perfect location for it to track faces accurately is tricky. A wall mount would earn this camera a test-winning five stars.
Ideal Home rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
3. Nest Hello Video Doorbell
Best wired security camera doorbell
Dimensions: 2.6 x 4.3 x 11.7cm
Reasons to buy: Multi-functional; smaller than the Ring
Reasons to avoid: Requires wired installation
Like the excellent Ring Video Doorbell, Google’s new Nest Hello will help you avoid missed deliveries, deter unwanted visitors and give yourself a grace period if the doorbell goes while you’re otherwise engaged.
But unlike Ring, the Hello has constant 24-7 recording as well as face and object recognition, so it works as a full-on security camera, not just a doorbell.
It’s a beautifully designed product – as you approach the door the a light ring pulses willing you to press it, but installation requires wiring through an existing doorbell chime. It can be as simple as swapping a couple of cables and screwing in a backplate, but if you don’t have an existing wired doorbell you’ll need a chime and transformer installing that will need an electrician.
Nest offers installation (for £100 extra), but this doesn’t cover all eventualities, so check before you buy.
As with all Nest products the app is beautifully designed and easy to configure, so you’ll have no issues once the Hello is installed. When the doorbell does get pressed you can get an alert on your phone, via the chime or on a Google Home smart speaker.
I experienced some delays of up to 30-seconds between button press and phone alert, which is enough to put off a busy courier, but on the whole the experience was smooth, and I appreciated the ability to send a notification if was out or couldn’t answer, such as “We’ll be right there” or “No one can come to the door” or just talk through the built-in microphone.
Without the monthly subscription you can get a snapshot image from the camera when it is triggered, but upgrade to Nest Aware (£4 per month) and the camera streams continually to the Cloud so you can watch the whole day back in glorious HD. I warn you, it’s weirdly addictive watching your street’s daily activity in fast forward!
It’s a slick product that will only continue to get better, but the faff of installation, and added cost means many people will opt for the Ring Video Doorbell, just for the convenience.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
4. Netgear Arlo
Best security camera system
Dimensions: 21.6 x 5.7 x 16.5cm
Reasons to buy: Can be bought as 1, 2, 3 or 4 camera set
Reasons to avoid: Newer models available
Arlo is rare in being a completely wireless, battery powered system that can be used inside and outdoors, down to temperatures of -10°C. Each camera comes with a superb battery life of up to six months, but after that you will need to replace the batteries (4x Lithium CR12, around £8 each).
We reviewed the two-camera bundle, which comes with a hub that connects to you Wi-Fi and can manage up to five Arlo cameras (15 if you use cloud services) and you get seven days of recordings for free. Set up using the companion app (iOS, Android) is painless, as is camera installation, thanks to the magnetic mounting brackets that make it easy to cover tight angles.
At 110° the field of view isn’t vast, but you can pan and zoom via the app and, despite being only 720, image clarity was excellent. It also lacks the ability to choose ‘recording zones’ so the camera’s whole field of vision is used, but you can reduce the sensitivity to prevent alerts from pets.
There’s also no noise detection but, in our experience, this just reduces unnecessary alerts. Easy to expand, Netgear also offers the Arlo Pro (from £299), which includes a 100dB alarm, Arlo Baby monitor (£269) and various other smart cameras that can be linked to the same hub and app.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
5. Hive View
Most stylish security camera
Dimensions: 9 x 20 x 20cm
Reasons to buy: Available in silver or bronze; wireless
Reasons to avoid: Can be used with other smart security devices
Designed by the hugely respected Yves Behar, Hive View is a stylish little camera. You can choose from black and brushed copper or white and champagne gold – it doesn’t exactly scream CCTV!
It can be mounted just about anywhere and the dinky 56mm cube can even be removed and used remotely for up to an hour. I had no issues with set up and adjusting settings is straightforward. It took a while to get the sensitivity levels on the alerts right, but it’s worth persevering to avoid false alarms.
You can choose to ignore pets and just focus on people, and you get 24 hours of cloud recording for free, so you can look back over the day’s events without subscription. If however you have a particularly amusing pet you can upgrade for £3.99 per month and download any hilarious clips.
Likewise, you can also save clips of your house being burgled, or your partner stealing your chocolate, and they’re stored on the cloud for 30-days.
Since we last reviewed the Hive the app has had a complete overhaul. The camera is now compatible with the other products in the Hive range – you can improve home security by turning lights on in the house if the sensor is activated – and the app now comes with all the useful push alerts, motion notifications and sound detection we would expect.
Ideal Home rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Read next: home break-ins are on the rise – here’s how to protect your home if you are a renter
Are security cameras worth it?
From a security point of view, a app-controlled security camera means you can now catch an intruder and – thanks to high definition cameras with night vision – have evidence for the police, while also being able to call 999 instead of simply scaring the baddies off with an old-fashioned alarm.
Wireless security cameras are useful if you need to keep an eye on both the young or elderly. The smartest Wi-Fi cameras can now recognise faces and alert you when a specific person gets home – from school, for instance. Just being able to log on and check that an elderly relative is home safe, or that their carer has been in, can offer genuine peace of mind.
Doorbell cameras are also helping us to cope with our insatiable appetite for online shopping. Receiving an instant message when someone comes to the front door and being able to talk to the courier through your smartphone will diminish the need to waste time collecting parcels in the post office.
And then there’s Fido to think of, stuck at home all day with only the sofa to chew on. With a new Wi-Fi camera, you can watch your pets in action, and if you choose a model with a built-in microphone you can even yell at them to get off the sofa.
How much should I spend on a wireless security camera?
At the cheapest end of the market you’ll find plenty of Wi-Fi cameras costing around £70-100, but the flagship brands such as Nest, Hive and Logitech can cost between £150-300 per camera. These generally have the best image quality and most useful features.
Logitech, Netgear and Blink, to name just three, also sell multiple camera bundles which can help reduce costs, but if you want to cover your house – front and back doors, in the living room, office and nursery, maybe the garage – you will need to budget at least £600.
The great thing about smart home kits is that, unlike the old fashioned wired CCTV systems, being wireless means you can simply add on components as and when you like.
What are the key features of a wireless security camera?
- Motion sensors – If someone walks in front of your Wi-Fi camera it will instantly start recording and send an alert to your smartphone. With more advanced wireless security cameras you can choose where in a room (and how far from the lens) it senses motion
- Noise sensors – Like motion, these listen for extremes in sound before alerting you, such as breaking glass. This isn’t available on all wireless security cameras.
- HD Camera – The vast majority of Wi-Fi security cameras offer 720p HD resolution, which is perfectly acceptable for most needs, but cameras with 1080p HD will have sharper images and smoother video.
- Lens – Look for the widest possible lens angle to ensure your security camera covers as much of the room as possible. Most are around 120-150° but some 180° models are available. By the end of the year we expect to see 360° cameras that can view an entire rom from one point.
- Outdoor use – The majority of Wi-Fi cameras are designed for indoor use, but brands have started to develop all-weather designs with long lasting batteries that can be mounted on the outside of buildings and offer another layer of home security. As with traditional security systems, just having a camera can be deterrent enough to the opportunistic burglar.
- Night Vision – An essential if you’re using the camera outside, with infrared LEDs they can pick out surprising levels of detail, even in (almost) pitch black.
- 2-Way Communication – With built-in microphone and speakers these wireless security cameras allow you to talk – or shout – via your smartphone. Essential if you’re installing it by the front door and want to chat with any visitors.
- Smartphone App – All ‘smart’ gadgets come with an app that gives you total control and quick access to the live camera and alerts. The best brands also offer compatibility with other devices – Nest, for instance, has thermostats, smoke alarms and other cameras, plus cross-brand compatibility with smart lighting and locks.
- Power – Mains powered wireless security cameras can often have more sophisticated features as battery life isn’t an issue, but you will have to hide more cables. Battery operated cameras are increasingly popular as you can install them anywhere. Some can last for years, but it’s more typical for them to last a few weeks, so you’ll need to remember to charge them (the app will warn you when it’s time).
What other questions do I need to ask about Wi-Fi cameras?
- Do I need voice-control? Some Wi-Fi security cameras now work using voice-control systems, so you can simply say “set the alarm” or “is the front door locked?” If you’ve invested in Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant enabled products, it’s a nice feature that will only improve as time goes on.
- Do security cameras need Wi-Fi? If you have a large house your security cameras may struggle to connect to the Wi-Fi, especially if mounted outside. If you suffer from regular drop-outs in coverage it might be wise to buy a Wi-Fi extender from a brand like TP-Link.
- How many wireless security cameras do I need? To cover every inch of your home you’ll need at least four cameras, but that’s not always necessary. A single well-located camera in the hallway will capture everyone coming in the front door.
- Do security cameras deter crime? If synched to a siren your wireless security camera will definitely spook unwanted visitors, but being mainly silent they’re better at catching intruders in the act. Outdoor and doorbell cameras are especially good at identifying opportunistic villains before they act.
- Should I stick to one brand of smart home kit? Sadly, there’s still not one universal language allowing smart lights, cameras, thermostats and fridges to all work happily together, which makes the argument for choosing one brand stronger, particularly as they can all be controlled using just one app. Apple users might want to look for HomeKit compatible products that, regardless of brand, can all be accessed through the Home app on their iPhone.
- Are security cameras an invasion of privacy? There have been stories in the news about computer hackers being able to access your smart home products, and watch you through your cameras, but in reality, as with anything involving the internet, if you choose a decent password, have anti-virus software and use common sense when opening attachments on e-mail you shouldn’t be at risk. If you or your family are concerned about being recorded at home you can set up many smart Wi-Fi cameras to turn off at those times you’re at home, some come with lens covers to guarantee nobody can record you, while others use your phone’s GPS to track your locations and turn off when you get home.
- What about wireless security camera subscription services? Although all the Wi-Fi security cameras we’ve tested come with some free features – and a certain amount of memory for video and pictures, either saved on SD cards or in the cloud – to get the best features you generally have to pay extra. Costing from £2.99 to £7.99 per month, these subscription services allow you to save between 14 and 31 days’ worth of video, meaning you never miss an important alert. Subscriptions can also upgrade the camera, adding extra features such as face recognition, as well as offering discounts on other ‘smart’ product. Paying extra might be a good investment if you’re creating a dedicated home security system, but for casual use you might be better to stick with the standard features or choosing a brand like Blink or Netatmo who don’t charge extra.
What is the best security camera?
We rate the Ring Video Doorbell as the best security camera to buy right now. The Netatmo Welcome is our top pick for those with children and teens at home.
How we test our security cameras
Chris Haslam is one of the leading technology journalists in the UK, with two decades of experience. He has installed all of the leading wireless security cameras in his own home, and tested them out over weeks and months, getting the whole family involved – including the dog! This is key, as many cameras have pet modes, so he’s been able to give them a truly thorough reviews.
Chris has set up hundreds of smart home products over the years, so he is an excellent judge of how easy – or tricky – these products are to install. And as a former Ideal Home staff member, he knows which cameras will truly work for you, day to day.