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Outdoor security camera scorecard: Favorite cameras compared

Smart outdoor security cameras add an extra layer of protection to your home. These cameras connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network and can be controlled with an app on your phone. They often include built-in floodlights and alarms so you can double up on security features in one device. Some even have advanced features like facial recognition.

With all of the different cameras on the market, choosing the right one can be confusing. We took a look at some notable cameras to see how their features stack up against one another, and touncover the models that are perfect to watch over all of your outdoor outings this summer — as well as protect your home when you’re away or not outside.

If you’re looking for a camera inside of the home that respects your privacy, then check out our other scorecard.

What are we looking for?

There are two different categories that we focused on. We looked at features that pertain directly to the camera. If a camera isn’t providing clear, quality video, then it’s not worth purchasing. Included in this category is how well the camera stands up to outdoor elements because an outdoor camera is useless without weatherproofing. Next, we examined “extra” features that don’t typically affect the video quality but still add extra safety to your home. Here’s a breakdown of each feature.

Field of view

Field of view refers to how much the camera can “see” through its lens. Of course, when it comes to security, the more your camera sees, the better. Typically, most security cameras have around a 100- to 160-degree field of view. The higher the number, the more the camera can see. A good rule is to look for a camera that has at least a 140-degree field of view. That should be sufficient to cover the entirety of outdoor spaces from edge to edge.

Night vision

One of the main reasons why someone would want an outdoor camera is for nighttime security, so it makes sense that these cameras should have the ability to see at night. Some have a built-in feature that allows them to record at night, while others rely on their spotlights to illuminate an area so the camera can record. Most cameras record in color, but there are some that use black-and-white video.

Spotlight

A spotlight addition is a smart choice. These lights are activated by motion or manually wvia the app. You can add light to your outdoor camera when you need it, or the light can scare away a potential intruder trying to sneak up on your home and alert you that someone is on your property.

Siren

Supplementing a spotlight, a siren is another feature that can be used to alert you to danger and scare off potential criminals. For it to be effective, though, it needs to be loud. Around 100 decibels (dB) is ideal because it is loud enough to wake you up.

Detection zones

False alarms are annoying and a waste of time. Most security cameras have a feature that allows you to select via the app exactly where you want your camera to monitor. For example, you can make sure that the camera focuses on just your yard and not on the alley behind your home. In this scenario, the camera would only detect and alert you to the activity you care about and not every car that drives by.

Facial recognition

It isn’t a common feature for outdoor cameras, but it can be useful. Basically, the A.I. in the camera learns the faces of people who frequent your home. When the feature is turned on, the camera will avoid sending motion detection notifications when the familiar faces are detected.

Operating temperature range

As a general rule, all outdoor cameras are waterproof and dustproof (often noted by an IP65 rating on the packaging). When it comes to weatherproofing, you also need to be sure that a camera can handle the most extreme temperatures you may encounter in your area. Most cameras can withstand temperatures between -4 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 and 50 degrees Celsius).

Two-way audio

While this feature is common on many indoor and doorbell cameras, it’s also featured on many outdoor cameras. Two-way audio allows you to hear someone who is in your backyard and gives you the ability to talk to them using the camera’s built-in microphone and speakers. This feature can be handy if you are, say, having a barbecue in your backyard. If you’re in the kitchen, you can ask your guests in the backyard if they would like anything from the fridge while you’re there. It can also be used to inform intruders that you’re calling the police.

backyard security camera sccorecard
Genevieve Poblano/Digital Trends Graphic

How things shaped up

In this latest update, we take a few of the most popular outdoor cameras and stack them against some new competition in the space. The three most popular cameras are the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, Google Nest Cam Outdoor IQ, and Ring Spotlight Cam. Meanwhile, the new kids on the block are the EZVIZ C3X, EufyCam 2 Pro, Vivint Smart Outdoor Camera Pro, Netatmo Outdoor Camera with Siren, and Wyze Cam Outdoor. They run the gamut in terms of features, specs, and price points, so there’s a camera for everybody.

When it comes to covering the most space, the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight eclipses the field with its wide 160-degree field of view. In contrast, the EZVIZ C3X, Netatmo Outdoor Camera with Siren, and Vivint Outdoor Smart Outdoor Camera Pro have narrower field of views, which means that you’ll need to be more mindful of their placements because they won’t cover as much ground. Thankfully, though, the rest are near that sweet spot of 140 degrees.

Arlo Pro 3 Flood Light on white house
Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight

If you’re into multifunctionality like we are, a siren and floodlight are important. Most of the cameras we looked at had both, with the exception of the Google Nest Cam Outdoor IQ and Wyze Cam Outdoor. These two features are valuable when it comes to deterring crime. The Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight is especially blinding, as is the Netatmo — so they’ll stop people in their tracks when the light’s on them. Sirens are also useful when it comes to drawing attention. In fact, the Ring Spotlight Cam rings at a boisterous 108 decibels, while the Netatmo Outdoor Camera isn’t too far behind at 105 dB.

All of the cameras offer night vision and two-way audio, features that are synonymous with today’s outdoor security cameras. When it comes to advanced features, such as detection zones and facial recognition, there are only two in our scorecard that have them both — the Google Nest Cam Outdoor IQ and EufyCam 2 Pro. Google’s implementation is noteworthy because the Nest Cam Outdoor IQ can be programmed to turn on or off when it recognizes specific faces.

Which one should you buy?

First and foremost, there’s not a single outdoor security camera in our scorecard that hits all the marks. The three that come close are the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, EufyCam 2 Pro, and Ring Spotlight Cam. All three are superb when it comes to keeping an eye out on your home, but they all have their unique strengths. For example, the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight delivers the best resolution and a blinding floodlight. The EufyCam 2 Pro is the priciest of the three, but the purchase comes with two cameras — rather than just one. And finally, Ring’s Spotlight Cam is a great addition if you’re already invested in the Ring ecosystem. As with many things, though, pricing can influence a purchase.

If cost isn’t a problem, the Google Nest Cam Outdoor IQ and Vivint Outdoor Camera Pro have advanced security features that enhance privacy. Take for example Sentry Mode on Vivint’s camera, which will activate a red ring light around the camera whenever someone lingers around for too long. Google’s Nest Cam Outdoor IQ has impeccable night vision, crisp detail thanks to its 4K sensor, and the smarts to recognize familiar faces.

Wyze Cam Outdoor in hand
John Velasco / Digital Trends

Over on the other end of the spectrum, there are the budget options — the EZVIZ C3X and Wyze Cam Outdoor. The former leverages a dual-camera setup for improved color night vision. The EVVIZ C3X also offers local storage and customized voice alerts to either greet or deter people. As for Wyze’s new camera, it’s chock-full of neat features that you wouldn’t expect to find in an outdoor camera. In fact, it’s quite versatile because it works just about anywhere (indoors too). What makes it unique is its ability to record videos offline to a microSD card, all in an impressive $50 package.

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