Doorbell Camera Buying Guide

With the help of a smart doorbell cameras, you'll always know who is at your door, even when you're not home. Tell the delivery man where to leave a package, see when guests have arrived, and know when your kids have left and returned home. Smart doorbells have been around for nearly a decade, with lots of brands entering the market offering various features and at different price points. See the top smart doorbells available today, in our handy comparison grid below.

What to Look for in Smart Doorbells

If you don't think you need a video doorbell camera, keep reading!  Crimes happen every day. Yes, even in your neighborhood. So why not take a proactive step to protect your family. There's nothing more important than keeping your family, home, and property safe, whether you are there or not.

Here are a few things to consider that will help you make an educated decision about which video doorbell camera is right for you.

Resolution

Doorbell cameras max out at 1080p resolution currently, with some as low as 480p. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image, generally speaking. Some cameras may not adjust to varying light levels very well, making the resolution a moot point.

Night Vision

A lot can happen in the cover of night, especially during the winter months when night falls much earlier. Night vision capabilities will allow you to clearly see who is at your door even when it's dark out, giving you a bit more security 24/7.

Field of View

This is how wide the camera can see. 180° means the camera can see everything in front of it, and to the sides, while 90° means it can only see to the front, and a tiny bit to the sides. A wider field of view is preferred for nearly all scenarios.

Motion Detection

Doorbell cameras can have motion sensors in them, that will alert you when someone is approaching or leaving your front door. Some doorbell cameras have advanced features such as setting specific zones to be monitored, while ignoring all other areas. Perfect for houses near a busy street, to avoid getting motion alerts every time a neighbor drives by.

Source of Power

Doorbell cameras are either battery powered or hardwired into the existing wires of your regular doorbell. If you don't have a traditional doorbell on your house or condo, then be sure to only get a battery powered option.

Audio Features

One of the biggest benefits of doorbell cameras is being able to communicate through it. Two way audio allows you to speak with whoever is at the door, such as telling delivery men to leave a package somewhere specific.

Cloud Storage

For security purposes, having a cloud storage option can be helpful. You'll be able to store footage of any motion alerts for 30 days, so in the event of someone vandalizing or stealing from your property, you'll have some video evidence ready.

App Support

For most people, having app support is the biggest advantage of a video doorbell. You'll want to be sure the video doorbell you're buying has excellent app support so you can actually connect to it fast to see who is at your door, rather than having a shoddy app that doesn’t load till after the person at your door has left.


Best Smart Door Cameras Compared

Brand

Skybell HD Wi-Fi Video

DING Video

Vivint Camera

Ring Video

Zmodo Greet

Ring Video Pro

August Cam

Price

$194

/per

$180

/per

$199

/per

$179 /

$100

/per

$250

/per

$179

/per

Pros

Excellent video quality, free cloud storage for 7 days.

Ability to record a voice message to play whenever anyone rings the doorbell. Package includes a Wi-Fi extender up to 650ft and window/door sensor.

Very advanced doorbell camera with smart motion detection, it learns to ignore certain objects like cars driving by on the street and can learn the faces of family members, and pairs with the home automation features provided by Vivint.

Very easy to setup, free replacement if stolen.

Low cost, decent camera quality.

Very easy to setup. Excellent video quality and motion detection. Great app support.

Beautiful design, friendly customer service.

Cons

Reports of poor technical support and can be difficult to set up.

Limited viewing angle, panning feature can be slow to respond.

Not sold individually, you must have Vivint Security system installed.

App can be slow.

Reports of connectivity and reliability issues. Cloud storage is more expensive than other options.

Most expensive.

Poor video quality in low light and bright light. Push to talk functionality, so only one person can talk at a time. Several reports of connectivity issues, and takes up to 10 seconds to connect to the live video.

Resolution1080p720p1080p720p720p1080p960p
Night VisionYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Field Of View
Motion DetectionYesYesYesYes - with custom motion zonesYesYes - with advanced motion detection zonesYes
Source Of PowerHardwiredBatteryHardwiredBattery or HardwiredHardwiredHardwiredHardwired
Audio

Cloud Storage Cost

7 days of activity history stored for free.

Zmodo Cloud - motion clip alerts are saved for 36hrs for free. $4.99/mo or $49.99/yr for 7 day continuous recordings. $9.99/mo or $99.90/yr for 30 days of playback. Each additional camera cost 50% less to add to plan.

Must have Vivint Security Plan which starts at $49.99/mo. Records continuously for 30 days.

One month free - then $3/mo or $30/yr with up to 6 months of activity recorded

Zmodo Cloud - motion clip alerts are saved for 36hrs for free. $4.99/mo or $49.99/yr for 7 day continuous recordings. $9.99/mo or $99.90/yr for 30 days of playback. Each additional camera cost 50% less to add to plan.

One month free - then $3/mo or $30/yr with up to 6 months of activity recorded

Yes - $4.99/mo or $49.99/yr for 30 day playback

App SupportYes - live view with audio, motion alertsYes - live view with audio and motion alerts, remote panningYes - live view with audio and motion alertsYes - live view with audio and motion alertsYes - live view with audio and motion alertsYes - live view with audio and motion alertsYes - live view with audio, motion alerts
Amazon Rating

3.5/5 - > 70 reviews

4/5 - > 100 reviews

Not on Amazon

4/5 - >25,000 reviews

4/5 - > 1,000 reviews

4/5 - > 8,000 reviews

3/5 - > 400 reviews

Best For

Techies wanting excellent video quality.

Large households as the WiFi extender will ensure your doorbell camera connects to your network properly, and strengthens the connectivity of other devices.

Single Family Homes that are planning or already have the Vivint Security system.

Families and elderly. Ring doorbells are easy to set lup, with excellent app support that is very responsive.

Budget conscious individuals. The doorbell is functional and will meet the needs of most people.

Anyone wanting a bit better video quality, and highly customizable motion detection zones.

Anyone who wants the clean aesthetic of the August doorbell cam, or already has other products from August.

Want a Doorbell Camera for Your Home? Read This Guide First

Doorbell cameras are a relative newcomer to the home security industry; however, they have quickly gained popularity and are now a common “must have” among home security features. But with so many new doorbell camera options hitting the market at what seems like daily, it’s getting harder and harder to research and compare which ones actually perform optimally and which ones are a bit lacking.

So how do you go about choosing the right doorbell camera for your particular situation?

The best thing to do is start with learning the basics. Once you understand the basics and know how a doorbell camera is supposed to work, you will be able to make an educated decision about which one is right for you and how to buy the best one that will fit within your budget.

This guide was written and designed to provide you with everything you need to know about doorbell cameras and to help you narrow down which brands, options, and features you really need and don’t need.

In addition, this guide can also be used as a checklist for what to look for and what you should avoid when buying a doorbell camera, as well as everything you need to know for each step of the decision-making process so you can find the one that’s right for you.

Home Ownership

Part of the responsibility of owning a home is caring for and protecting that home and the surrounding property, not to mention your family and your pets. There are several ways to do that and the obvious one is a security system. However, there are a wide variety of home security systems available, including those that include a doorbell camera as part of their equipment package. There are also stand-alone video doorbell cameras as well. Where you live and the type of home you live in will determine which doorbell camera system will best suit your needs.

So the first thing you will need to consider before deciding on a doorbell camera is the type of home you live in. Are you a homeowner or a renter?

If You Own Your Home

If you own your home, your options are pretty much limitless when it comes to doorbell cameras. Therefore, all you have to do is decide which options you want and what it is you want your doorbell camera to do. Doorbell cameras come as either wired or wireless (we will talk about that in a moment). And since you own your home, you won’t have to worry about drilling holes in walls or anything else for that matter. It all comes down to features, options, and equipment quality.

If You Are a Renter

If you are a renter, your options are pretty much limited to a wireless doorbell camera unless you obtain your landlord’s blessing to have a wired doorbell camera installed. Just make sure you get that permission in writing. Sometimes, you can ask your landlord to purchase and install a wired doorbell camera for you as an incentive to remain in that home for another term or if you live in a high crime area and feel threatened. Otherwise, you will probably want to buy a wireless doorbell camera (we will talk about that in a  moment). Because wireless equipment won’t require you to drill holes in the walls, etc. that could ultimately cause you to have to pay for perceived damages when you move.

Compatibility

Before you run out willy-nilly and buy a new video doorbell camera, you will have to research whether or not that doorbell camera is going to be compatible with your home. Do you need a wired or wireless doorbell camera and is the system you are considering going to work with any other home security equipment you might have or plan to get.

So the second thing you will need to consider before buying a doorbell camera is the compatibility of that system with your existing home security and automation equipment, as well as what you are trying to achieve.

There are two types of doorbell camera systems which are wireless and hardwired systems.

Wireless Doorbell Cameras

Wi-Fi doorbell security cameras are wireless and usually powered by a battery which means there’s no wiring to deal with and they are portable so they can be easily moved to another location if need be. Wireless doorbell cameras are the easiest to install and often come with a variety of chime options, a siren, two-way talk, video recording, night vision, and more.

Hardwired Doorbell Cameras

Hardwired doorbell cameras are a little more complicated because they are powered by connecting the wires to your existing doorbell. And if you don’t have a doorbell, that could present an even more complicated problem. Also, unless you are familiar with electrical wiring and are handy with your tools, you might have to hire a professional to have your wired doorbell camera installed. However, wired doorbell cameras are usually pretty consistent which is extremely important.

Home Automation

Home automation has made our lives infinitely more convenient than in days gone by. Many doorbell cameras also have the capability of being connected and synced with your existing home security and home automation equipment.

So the third thing you will need to consider before buying a doorbell camera is whether or not you want and/or need it to connect to your existing home automation equipment.

There are plenty of home automation equipment options that are compatible with a variety of doorbell cameras. So you might want to think about buying a home security system that includes a doorbell camera, as well as some home automation features such as remote door locks, lights, garage door functions, thermostat controls, etc. But each brand is different and each will only work with some or a few different brands of home automation equipment. For example, one doorbell camera might work with an Apple HomeKit, Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Nest, etc, whereas another might not. Therefore, if you want your new doorbell camera to be compatible with your existing home automation equipment, you will need to confirm the compatibility requirements for both before you buy it.

Costs

The cost of a doorbell camera will depend on the type of camera you choose and what features and options come with it. There will be included features and paid features such as cloud storage for example.

So the fourth thing you will need to consider before buying a doorbell camera system is the cost.

How much do you want to spend, what features do you want and how much are you willing to pay for the extras. Do you want a wired system or wireless system? Do you really need cloud storage (we will talk about that in a moment)? If so, do you want to pay to store an unlimited amount of video storage or not?

The costs, just like anything else, will vary greatly depending on how extravagant you want to get. However, a doorbell camera system will generally cost somewhere in the $100-$250 range give or take.

Features

Doorbell cameras come with an abundance of helpful features and options and knowing which ones are important to you and how they work is the first step in determining which one best suits your needs. A little research will go a long way when it comes to making an educated decision about which doorbell camera system best fits your needs and budget.

So the fifth thing you will need to consider when buying a doorbell camera is what features you need and which ones you don’t.

Here are the most popular doorbell camera system features that are included with most doorbell cameras on the market. The differences will be in the range of quality you get for each price point.

High Resolution

The resolution feature for most doorbell cameras ranges from 480p to 1080p. The higher the resolution, the better quality picture you will get day and night. In addition, some cameras are better at adjusting to varying light levels than others so make sure you pay attention to those camera capabilities as well.

Mobile Alerts

Most doorbell cameras come with an accompanying mobile app so you can remotely access, monitor, and control its features. Video doorbell cameras detect motion and will send you an alert to let you know that some type of activity has been detected. The app is what gives you immediate real-time access to your system for viewing your camera when you receive an alert. Then you can proactively respond in an appropriate manner. It’s important to research this feature because you don’t want a mobile app that doesn’t function the way it is supposed to or doesn’t load until after the event has happened rendering the whole thing useless.

Warranties

There are a wide variety of video doorbell cameras on the market with a varying degree of warranties. But for the most part, doorbell camera systems carry a one-, two-, or three-year limited warranty. Others also have a customer satisfaction and a replacement guarantee if your equipment is stolen. And some even come with a limited-lifetime warranty. Therefore, when comparing video doorbell camera systems, don’t forget to check the warranty before making any final decisions.

Night Vision

Night vision is one of the most important features to consider when buying a video doorbell camera. Night vision doesn’t just enable you to clearly see what’s going on at night, but it also enables you to see clearly when it’s cloudy, under the cover of thick trees, and when there is any other type of shade present. And the higher the resolution, the better you will be able to see in any circumstance. Another feature you might consider is whether your doorbell camera with night vision can be easily integrated with your other smart home features such as a timed lighting system, etc.

Motion Detection

Motion detection is very important when it comes to doorbell cameras because the motion detection feature is what starts the process for everything else. For example, when your video doorbell camera detects motion, it will send you an alert so you can see who is at your door and respond accordingly.

Some video doorbell camera systems also come with advanced features such as being able to set it to pre-designated zones for monitoring. This feature is helpful because it will prevent you from receiving continual alerts from passing cars or people walking up and down the sidewalk, etc.

In addition, some of the more advanced doorbell camera systems can also distinguish between people, pets, and objects so, again, you won’t receive continual alerts when your family goes in and out of the house, or when your pets are active.

Weather Resistance

This feature is usually the one people don’t even think about until after they’ve purchased their system. However, it’s extremely important that you purchase a video doorbell camera that’s able to withstand the environment where you live. A quality video doorbell camera should be able to withstand driving rains, heavy snow, freezing rain and ice accumulations, high winds, and extended below freezing temperatures. In addition, you should also make sure the hardware you buy or the hardware that’s included with your new camera to install your system can handle the same severe climate requirements as the camera can.

Live View

The live view or real-time video recording feature is, again, another very important part of your system. Most doorbell cameras on the market today come with a live view, real-time video recording option. When the doorbell camera detects motion, it will send you an alert. Then it will enable you to see who is at your door in real-time, so you can react appropriately whether that be using the two-way talk feature, press the siren, or contact the authorities. In addition, most of today’s video doorbell cameras will also record that video and store it for you as well, but we will talk about video storage feature in a minute.

2-Way Audio

When motion is detected by your video doorbell camera, you will be sent an alert via the included app for your system. Once you receive an alert, you can tap the app and go to the live view recording of your camera and use the two-way talk feature that comes with most video doorbell cameras. This is also what will allow you to talk to whoever is at your door. Most doorbell cameras also include a siren that when alerted you can tap the app to assess what’s going on then hit the siren if you observe a potential threat.

Some doorbell cameras also come with prerecorded messages that you can instruct to play for any given scenario. This will empower you to instruct the intruder to get off your property or whatever verbiage is appropriate for the situation.

Picture Capabilities

The picture capabilities or field of vision is also important when buying a video doorbell camera because the field of vision is how wide of an angle the camera can monitor. For example, a doorbell camera with a 90° angle can only see what’s in front of it which means an intruder could easily avoid being seen by the camera by entering your property or porch from a different direction without being detected. A doorbell camera with a 180° field of vision can not only see what is in front of it, but it can also monitor the sides as well. Therefore, you should consider buying a video doorbell camera that has the widest field of vision possible if you want the best possible results. Criminals are likely to know the capabilities of a wide variety of cameras, so don’t think for a minute that they won’t know what field of vision accompanies your brand of doorbell camera.

Recording

Some video doorbell camera systems offer a continuous video recording (CVR) option and others only record when activity is detected. And, there are a few doorbell cameras on the market that will record over previously recorded video clips. It would be a good idea to also inquire about whether or not your chosen doorbell camera’s recording system only records video, or if it will record video and audio as well.

The continuous video recording option is the best if you can afford it because recording and saving your video clips from a continuous recording camera will enable you to access and review the actions and activities leading up to and following an event, or string of events, past and present. If you don’t have a recording of exactly what happened from start to finish, it might inhibit you and/or the authorities from ever resolving anything at all. Keep in mind though that video recording storage will generally cost you money, but we will talk about that in a minute.

Storage

Most doorbell cameras come with some type of storage; however, how much is stored and how it is stored are some of the details you need to understand, if you want to find one that best suits your needs. There are two types of doorbell camera storage options for the video clips it records and they are local storage and cloud storage, both of which are very different.

However, before we talk about the storage, please remember that the video doorbell cameras on the market record differently as we discussed above. Some video doorbell cameras offer a continuous recording feature, others only record when motion is detected, and then there are some that will record over the existing video clips when it reaches a certain point.

Some doorbell cameras will offer a limited amount of free cloud storage; however, most of them charge an additional fee for that service. So you will need to determine how long you want to keep your recordings, then you can find a cloud storage plan that fits that need so you don’t overpay by paying for something you don’t need.

  • Local – With a video doorbell camera, the local storage, depending on the camera you choose and the options that come with it, will have an internal storage feature in which case you would need to see how many gigabytes of internal storage is included and how long of a period of time those gigabytes will cover.There are also some cameras that only offer local storage via a microSD card which can usually accommodate anywhere from 16GB to 128GB cards. Sometimes the microSD cards are included with your purchase and sometimes they are not. With this storage method, you simply insert the microSD card into the camera, then set your app preferences. Those preferences generally will either be event-based recording, which is when the camera will only record when motion or sound is detected, or continuous recording, which will record everything 24/7. Then when the card is full you will have to record over the previous video. Both of these options are popular, especially for those who don’t want to pay endless cloud storage fees. And for those who are concerned about privacy because local storage keeps everything completely under your control.A few other things you might want to consider in order to decide which route is best for you is, of course, how much storage that camera has, whether or not the doorbell camera has two-way talk, and is the two-way talk audio stored also.
  • Cloud – Cloud storage is another option for storing your doorbell’s video recordings. However, cloud storage usually comes with a monthly storage fee and depending on how much money you are willing to spend every month will determine just how much storage you get in return.With cloud storage, you can record using an event-based or continuous recording option. Cloud storage is much easier and more convenient than using a microSD card; however, you lose some control and potentially some privacy because your video clips are stored on remote servers and could quite possibly be accessed by others.

Installation

We touched on video doorbell installation briefly a moment ago. But let’s go into a little more detail about the different installation options available to you and exactly what each of them entails. There are two installation options available for video doorbell cameras and they are a DIY installation and installation of the equipment that is performed by a professional.

So the sixth thing you will need to consider before buying a video doorbell camera is the installation.

DIY Installation

There are a wide variety of DIY installation video doorbell camera options available. Most DIY doorbell cameras are powered by a battery and, therefore, don’t have any wires to install. That means they are pretty much a plug and play installation so to speak.

However, with that being said, there are some DIY video doorbell cameras that are hardwired and will require some connecting by wiring them into your existing doorbell system. Most manufacturers of those doorbell cameras will provide you with step-by-step installation instructions and some even go as far as to provide you with an installation video as well.

If you have performed other electrical DIY projects and you have the proper tools to do the job safely and properly, then, by all means, go for it. However, if you don’t, you might be better suited to hire a professional to do the installation for you.

The last thing you want to happen is that you buy a great DIY video doorbell camera system then were not able to use it because you couldn’t complete the installation properly. Or worse, you ruin your new doorbell camera because you missed a step, didn’t follow the instructions, or didn’t install it properly and shorted it out.

Professional Installation

Some video doorbell camera brands include professional installation with your purchase, but most don’t. So this is where you will have to decide whether to buy a DIY video doorbell camera or find one that includes professional installation, or at least has a professional installation option available for purchase.

Another option, if the video doorbell camera you chose doesn’t include professional installation, is to use a third-party installation service such as Handy.com to perform the installation for you. So if you find a video camera that meets all your wants and needs, but doesn’t have the installation option you want, don’t let that stop you. Find a local professional to do the installation for you or contact Handy.com for assistance.

Just remember to check for any warranty requirements before hiring a third-party professional to do the installation for you because there might be a clause that voids the warranty if you don’t use an approved vendor or other similar verbiage.

What’s Next?

You can buy a video doorbell camera as part of a home security package or as a stand-alone system. The one thing you will need to keep in mind if you buy a complete home security system that has a video doorbell camera included is that some of those security companies will require you to sign a long-term contract for monitoring and other possible requirements as well. And some security companies will offer you free equipment and installation, etc. in exchange for signing a long-term monitoring contract. Either way, you will have to decide if signing a long-term contract is right for you. And ultimately, it might not be if you are a renter or don’t anticipate staying in your current home for a long period of time.

However, we think you will find that buying a video doorbell camera system, whether it is part of a package or a stand-alone doorbell camera, will end up being one of the best purchases you have ever made. In fact, you will probably wonder how you ever lived without it!

If you have any questions about the information or equipment included in this Video Doorbell Camera Guide, please feel free to contact us. We would be more than happy to answer all your questions and help you find the doorbell camera that best suits your wants and needs.

There’s nothing better than knowing you have done everything possible to protect your home, family, and property from harm. Nothing!

Conclusion


Once you add a smart doorbell camera to your household, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without one. Our comparison guide above will help you find the best one that meets your needs and fits your budget.