Outdoor security cameras make great additions to any home security system. A camera equipped with motion detectors — especially one that includes a floodlight — can watch over your driveway, the side of your house, a back door or any part of your property that’s tough to keep an eye on, providing peace of mind whenever you’re away.
To find the right camera for your needs, we spent a month living with a dozen wired and wireless outdoor security cameras. We dealt with thousands of motion alerts, watched countless live streams and rushed to check out what was happening whenever floodlights illuminated our backyard at all hours of the night. We picked out four great cameras that should suit anyone’s needs, whatever sort of smart home setup or security system you currently own, whatever platform you use and regardless of whether you prefer the dependability of a wired connection or the simple setup of battery-powered units.
Best wired outdoor security camera overall Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Plus
$199.99 at Amazon
Ring’s Floodlight Cam Wired Plus gives you wired dependability along with a complete package of smart security features. Setup is simple, and with a bright floodlight, solid video and audio quality and motion alerts that keep you in the loop with what’s going on around your home, it’s the all-around best wired outdoor security camera we tested.
The Floodlight Cam Wired Plus is designed to replace an existing exterior flood light or porch light. Installation requires some basic electrical knowledge, as you’ll need to remove the old fixture and wire in the Floodlight Cam Wired Plus. If you’re the DIY type, it’s simple enough — the camera comes with all of the tools you’ll need and the Ring app walks you through the entire installation process. If you’d prefer to leave the installation to a professional, Ring has partnered with OnTech to send someone out to your home to complete the installation for you for a fee.
Once the Cam Plus is up and running, the Ring app gives you complete control over the camera and its settings. You can set activity zones for the camera to monitor for motion and adjust the motion sensitivity if you’re getting too many errant alerts, or enable Smart Alerts to only ping your phone when a person is detected, instead of getting an alert for every leaf blowing in the wind. (Regardless of the alert settings, you can still have the camera record all motion events.)
Using the Live View option, you can watch a live stream of the camera, and if needed, use the two-way talk feature to converse with whoever you’ve noticed in its field of view — or, if you need to, you can trigger the 105-decibel siren that’s built into the camera’s housing to draw attention to your home and scare off your unwanted visitors.
The camera records 1080p video that looks clear and crisp day and night, even though it lacks the HDR functionality that the slightly more expensive Ring Floodlight Cam Pro model offers. That said, once you adjust the floodlights and camera to ensure the device is illuminating and viewing the entire area you want to keep an eye on, you shouldn’t have any issues missing anything potentially hiding in the dark.
As an Amazon-owned company, Ring products integrate with the company’s Alexa ecosystem of smart home products. That means you can view video feeds and alerts created by the camera on your Echo Show devices. If you’re not using Alexa services, you can connect your Ring account to Google Assistant and view the feed on demand using a Nest Hub smart display.
Ring’s Protect plans range in price from $39.99 a year all the way up to $200 a year, depending on the number of cameras you’re using and whether or not you have a Ring Alarm system. For a single camera on the Basic plan, you’ll pay $39.99 a year (or $3.99 a month) to get video history for up to 180 days, sharing or saving video capability, snapshot capture throughout the day, person alerts and a 10% discount on future Ring orders. The Plus plan costs $100 a year or $10 a month for all of those same features, but for an unlimited number of cameras and it extends the warranty of your Ring hardware.
That pricing is roughly competitive with the likes of Arlo, which starts at a cheaper $9.99 a month but only stores video for up to 30 days. Subscribing to the Arlo Secure Plan, however, enables alerts for a person, package, vehicle and animal detection whereas Ring’s Floodlight Cam Wired Plus doesn’t offer detection for anything other than motion or people, one of the only notable downsides to the unit.
Between the seamless setup and installation, wide support of Ring products across multiple smart home platforms, reliable motion detection and high-quality video, the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Plus earned the top pick as the best overall outdoor security camera.
Best wireless outdoor security camera: Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera
$129.99 $88.99 at Amazon
Arlo’s Essential Spotlight Camera is one of the most capable outdoor security cameras we tested, especially impressive given the low price. It’s also one of the few cameras we tested that supports HomeKit, Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Arlo Essential has a built-in spotlight that’s bright enough to light up the general area in front of it. It’s enough to alert an intruder that there’s a camera there, but it’s not bright enough to illuminate a wide area. It was easy to set up, and because it’s battery-powered, I didn’t have to fuss with any electrical wiring at all. Simply charge the built-in battery and then attach it to the included mount.
The Arlo app is full of options for controlling the camera, including activity zones and options to enable advanced alerts such as package detection or smart alerts for objects like people, vehicles and animals.
While it’s great that Arlo’s Secure Plan subscription offers package alerts, If you have multiple Arlo cameras installed around your home, you’re only allowed to receive package alerts from one camera. This may make sense if you have a dedicated doorbell camera (or secondary security camera) monitoring your porch, but it’d be nice to have the option to enable multiple cameras to monitor for packages that might be left at other points around your home — especially if delivery drivers leave packages behind a gate on the side of your house.
Best outdoor security camera without subscription: Eufy Floodlight Camera 2
$219.99 $149.99 at Amazon
The Eufy Floodlight Camera 2 gives you solid lighting, a full suite of alerts and onboard storage that means you don’t need to sign up for a subscription plan to capture, store or review video (though you give up some object recognition accuracy in comparison with the subscription-based cameras).
The Eufy Floodlight Camera has a 130-degree field of view that includes smart alerts for people detection, and best of all, the camera has 4GB of built-in storage that eliminates the need to sign up for any sort of subscription plan. When the storage fills up, you can manually delete all of the stored clips or allow Eufy to automatically delete the oldest videos to make room for new ones, avoiding the need for you to manage storage.
The amount of history the camera will store depends on how often it’s triggered, but after nearly a month of testing, the Floodlight Camera 2 still has 700 megabytes of free storage.
The Eufy Security app isn’t as intuitive to use as others we tested. Figuring out where particular settings are located and then adjusting them isn’t always a clear process.
Object detection, while good, wasn’t as accurate as it was on the Arlo Essential camera. On a few occasions, it mistakenly labeled my English Bulldog as a human. And while I’m sure he’s happy with that label, he looks nothing like a human. Another small issue I have with Eufy’s object detection is that I can’t turn on each category individually. The options in the app give me “human only,” or everything — that means humans, vehicles, pets and anything else that moves, like a flag or tree branch in the wind.
Best HomeKit-compatible outdoor security camera: Eve Outdoor Cam
$249.95 at Amazon
Apple’s HomeKit platform continues to mature and get better with each major iOS update. And the Eve Outdoor Cam is the first outdoor security camera with a floodlight that supports HomeKit. The Outdoor Cam takes advantage of HomeKit’s ability to provide full object detection and activity zones that let you block off areas within the camera’s field of view (a busy street or window with a bird feeder, for example) to cut down on extraneous alerts.
What’s more, the Eve Outdoor Cam integrates with Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video (HKSV) platform for those with an iCloud storage subscription. Recorded video is encrypted and stored in your iCloud account, but doesn’t count against your iCloud Storage allotment. You get direct access to live video, as well as any alerts and recorded clips, on all of your Apple devices.
Not every HomeKit-compatible security camera supports Apple’s HKSV feature. For example, you can buy a $100 Arlo Base Station to connect the Pro 4 or Essential cameras to HomeKit, but all that does is provide access to the camera feeds and automation tools in the Home app on your iPhone. If you want to view any recorded video footage, you’ll need to sign up for an Arlo subscription.
The 157-degree field of view captures crisp 1080p video during the day and at night. The unique vertical floodlight does a good job at lighting up the area directly in front of the camera, but doesn’t cast as wide of a beam as the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Plus, for instance.
One hiccup you may run into with the Eve Outdoor Cam is how it’s mounted against the outside of your home. The camera is designed to be mounted flush to a flat surface instead of to an electrical junction box like the other wired cameras we tested. According to Eve, you might need to purchase a flush mount light fixture mounting bracket if your existing junction box doesn’t have the required screw hole spacing.
How we tested
In order to set a level testing field for the various cameras involved, and to avoid drilling countless holes into the side of my home, I built a testing rig that allowed me to mount and power 11 different cameras. This provided each outdoor security camera with the same basic field of view, allowing each one to identify the same motion triggers. The area the cameras overlooked is a medium-traffic area of my backyard, where there are plenty of chances for kids, dogs and even a rabbit or stray cat to trigger motion alerts.
After getting the cameras wired and the rig hung, I went through every companion app, connecting the camera to my home’s Wi-Fi network. I then went through the settings section for each camera, ensuring that the settings matched as closely as possible across the different models and brands. For instance, if there was an option to create an activity zone for the camera to monitor, I’d make the zone the full field of view.
The cameras were installed and running for roughly a month, while I monitored which cameras identified the same motion events and how soon an alert arrived. I also tested the quality of two-way talk on both ends of the conversation, as well as how bright the spotlight (when applicable) was for lighting up the area at night.
Lastly, I also took into account the various subscription models for storing video clips, along with the overall warranty.
What you need to know about outdoor security cameras
When shopping for an outdoor security camera, the first thing you should take into account is where you plan on installing it. The easiest approach is to replace an existing, dumb floodlight. The electrical wiring and mounting hardware are already in place, and installation at that point is a straightforward process.
Floodlights are beneficial due to the fact that they draw attention to your home, letting you, would-be prowlers and your neighbors know that something in that specific area triggered the camera. Additionally, the video captured from an area that’s lit up is typically, but not always, better than night video modes on outdoor security cameras without floodlights.
If you don’t have access to a nearby outlet or an existing exterior light, or you’re not allowed to make any changes to the exterior of a rental property (such as changing a lighting fixture), you can install a wireless security camera that’s powered by a rechargeable battery.
Most security camera makers offer some sort of solar panel that you can attach to the camera and keep the battery charged, or you can monitor the camera’s app for low battery notifications and recharge the battery using a standard wall adapter and USB cable. The battery life of a wireless camera will depend on how heavily trafficked the area is and how aggressively you set the motion alerts and recording settings.
Other outdoor security cameras we tested
$34.99 at Amazon
The least expensive camera in the testing group was the Abode Cam 2. The Cam 2 is small and weatherproof, records 1080p video at 20 frames per second and can be mounted inside or out, as long as there’s a power outlet nearby.
Motion and object detection alerts were timely, but ultimately the lower frame rate (which can translate to choppy video) and the lack of a louder external speaker were its biggest drawbacks.
Abode sells a complete home security system with all of the typical sensors, complete with 24/7 monitoring.
$199 $163.99 at Amazon
The Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Cam adds 2K HDR video quality and a convenient magnetic mount to the Essential Camera. You’ll still need to install the mounting bracket to your wall, but the Pro 4 itself attaches to the mount with magnets, making it easy to take inside to charge when the battery runs out.
Despite an estimated 6 months of battery life, the Arlo Pro 4 started sending alerts that its battery level was getting low around 3 weeks into testing. Granted, there had been plenty of motion during the test period to trigger the Pro 4, but its battery life fell far short of Arlo’s estimates. This was, however, no worse than Ring’s wireless Spotlight Cam, which also fell short of the manufacturer’s estimates under our testing conditions.
$139.98 at Amazon
The inexpensive Blink Floodlight Cam is a combination of the standard Blink Outdoor Camera and a separate Blink Floodlight device. Four D-cell batteries power the floodlight section, and two AA batteries are used in the camera itself. Blink claims the batteries can last up to two years, though of course, that’s dependent on your settings, weather conditions and how often the camera and lights are triggered. The Blink Floodlight Cam’s video and picture quality are good, but not great.
Blink offers two different storage models. You can connect an external drive to the required sync module and use local storage, or you can sign up for a storage plan that costs either $30 a year or $100 a year, based on the number of cameras you own.
$199.99 at Amazon
Ring’s battery-powered Spotlight Camera is easier to install than the dedicated Floodlight cameras in its lineup simply because it’s wireless. Mount it to your home’s exterior and you’re good to go, save for having to charge the battery.
The Spotlight Camera offers a lot of the same features as the Floodlight Cam Wired Plus, including custom activity zones and motion adjustment settings. But the Floodlight Cam Wired Plus won out over the Spotlight Camera for two reasons: The Floodlight Cam Wired Plus has two dedicated lights to brighten up any area, and because it’s hardwired you’ll never have to worry about charging batteries. Given the simplicity of the installation, it makes sense to go with the wired unit.
The Spotlight Camera is, however, a fantastic camera for someone who can’t or doesn’t want to replace existing fixtures or isn’t comfortable with electrical work.
$249.99 at Amazon
Take everything nice I said about the Floodlight Cam Wired Plus, and it applies to the Floodlight Cam Wired Pro. On top of that, the Cam Pro adds better motion tracking capabilities, thanks to its 3D motion detection technology that can map out the path a person (or animal) took to get within the camera’s current field of view. It also brings color night vision to the mix, giving it a slight bump in overall video quality over the Floodlight Cam Wired Plus. But at $249.99, the Floodlight Cam Pro is expensive given that these features are mostly of interest to tech enthusiasts.
$279.99 $266.99 at Amazon
Google’s Nest Cam lineup has some impressive features, such as object detection and offline recording for when the internet goes out at home. It records 1080p video with HDR for improved color and clarity, including at night. Without a Nest Aware subscription, you’ll get three hours of event history. With a $6 per month subscription, you’ll get 30 days of history. For $12 per month, you’ll get 60 days of event-only history and 10 days of 24/7 video history.
The Nest Cam With Floodlight is a capable floodlight camera, but it’s deeply integrated with other products in the Nest ecosystem and makes sense primarily for those already heavily invested in Google’s smart home products. Otherwise, you can find better options for less money.
$299.99 at Amazon
The Eufy Floodlight Cam 2 Pro is unique among the group in that its camera — which is topped by three light panels — can rotate 360 degrees. That’s right, the camera rotates so you can see all around wherever it’s mounted. The camera can be set to lock onto and follow a moving object to keep it in the shot.
The lights are plenty bright and the 2K video quality looks great, but this sort of camera felt like overkill for a standard floodlight installation. That said, if you are looking to mount a camera on a corner of your home and monitor two sides with it, then this is the camera for you. Added bonus: The Floodlight Cam 2 Pro has just over 7GB of internal storage for all of your video clips, sans a subscription.
$159.99 at Amazon
Logitech’s Circle View camera is built specifically for use with Apple’s HomeKit smart home platform, including full support of Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video feature. It’s primarily designed for indoor use, as indicated by the attached power cord and wall adapter. However, you can use it outdoors if you have an outlet that’s handy.
The Circle View will withstand the outdoor elements, including extreme cold and rain or snow showers. Its small footprint makes it easy to install, with a simple mounting plate that goes below the base of the stand.
The Circle View records crisp 1080p video during the day, but leaves something to be desired at night due to the lack of a floodlight or enhanced night recording.