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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, head-to-head, and dissect them in various categories to uncover the models that are perfect to watch over all of your outdoor outings this summer — in addition to protecting your home when you’re away or even inside.

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

Ring Floodlight Camera

What are we looking for?

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

Field of view

Field of view is the name for 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

Probably one of the biggest 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 have black and white video.

Spotlight

A spotlight addition is a smart choice. These lights are activated with motion or manually with the app. So, 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, but it may not wake up the entire neighborhood.

Detection zones

False alarms are annoying and a waste of time. Most security cameras have a feature that allows you to select exactly where you want your camera to monitor through the app. 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 AI 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 as IP65 rated on the packaging). When it comes to weatherproofing, you also need to be sure that a camera can withstand the most extreme temperatures you may encounter in your area. Most cameras can withstand around minus-4 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-20 to 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 that is in your backyard and gives you the ability to talk to them using the camera’s built-in mic 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.

outdoor security camera table comparison chart
Genevieve Poblano/Digital Trends

How things shaped up

When looked at side-by-side, most big brand outdoor cameras have similar specs. For example, all of them have the ability to set up detection zones and similar weatherproofing. One of the biggest differences is how the camera functions. Out of the six cameras we looked at, only two had at least a 140-degree field of view and color night vision. These were the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight and the Ring Floodlight Camera. The Eufy Smart Floodlight can also technically fit these requirements because when its floodlight is on it can record video as if it had night vision.

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

If you’re into multi-functionality like we are, a siren and floodlight is probably important, too. Most of the cameras we looked at had both, with the exception of the Blink XT2 and the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor. 2-Way audio is another useful multitasking feature that most the cameras included. The exceptions for this feature were the Eufy Smart Floodlight with Camera, the Netatmo Smart Outdoor Camera, and Lorex Smart Outdoor Camera.

The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor and Lorex Smart Outdoor Camera are the only ones to feature some sort of facial recognition detection. This may be because many are concerned that facial recognition technology has potential privacy issues and other problems. However, facial detection can also help with reducing false triggers — so that you only receive notifications when a face is recognized.

Which one should you buy?

While the Lorex Smart Outdoor Security Camera has checkmarks across the board, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the absolute best camera for your outdoor outings. Take, for example, its built-in spotlight, it’s nowhere as potent as the one found with each of the other cameras. Secondly, its video performance isn’t close to matching the quality out of the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight. Despite all of that, it’s notable to mention that Lorex’s camera does offer plenty of features in a camera that costs $140 — a price that’s less than its contemporaries here.

Meanwhile, the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight doesn’t mess around with its blinding light, super crisp video footage, and excellent night vision performance. It may be the most expensive one too in the list at $250, but it can be fastened to just about any wall or fixture in your outdoor because it’s completely battery-powered. The only downside here is that you’ll have to recharge its battery when it runs out.

Our final recommendation is the Ring Floodlight Camera, which is perfect if you’re already invested into Ring’s ecosystem. That means that you can leverage the Ring app to monitor your entire home with other Ring cameras — as well as controlling some of Ring’s outdoor and solar lighting solutions.

As for the rest? Don’t count them out either because they have their own unique features. Sure, it’s lacking some of the features we’re looking out for in our scorecard, but the Blink XT2 is incredibly compact in size, which allows it to be fastened to a tree or branch. On top of that, its battery life is outstanding because its two AA lithium batteries are rated for upward of two years.

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