What is a Doorbell Camera?
As the name suggests, a doorbell camera acts as a doorbell and a camera. Doorbell cameras, also called video doorbell cameras, have become a staple security measure for many homes across the country. That is, it monitors your entryway and delivers serious peace of mind for you and your family. (Most doorbell cameras are much more than just a camera, as we’ll soon find out.)
With a doorbell camera, your packages stay relatively safe, as the devices serve as a great first line of defense against ‘porch pirates’. They also protect against more nefarious crimes such as break-ins, burglaries, home invasions, and the like.
These doorbell cams come in both hardwired and wireless options. With a wireless (battery operated) doorbell camera, setup is a cinch and you’ll be up and running in less than 30 minutes.
Also, most doorbell cameras come with a companion app, so you can control the features and functions via your smartphone, tablet, or even desktop computer. And the capabilities are nothing short of impressive. With many doorbell cameras, you can do anything up to and including:
- Remotely monitor your front door, doorstep, or entryway
- Live-stream video and tap into the stream via companion app
- Record activity and store it either on the cloud, on the device itself, or on an SD card
- Detect would-be intruders even at night with night vision and HD image quality (some cameras have up to 1080p resolution)
- Pan and zoom technology to get the full picture
- Scare off would-be intruders or thieves with 2-way talk, featured on the camera’s companion app
- Withstand the most severe elements with weatherproof construction
- Seamlessly connect to third-party home-automation platforms
- Some cameras can even recognize family and friends!
When it’s tripped, the motion-detection feature on the doorbell camera triggers the recording. The duration of the activity is then recorded and stored accordingly. Other cameras offer continuous recording, day and night. If your budget allows for it, it’s best to upgrade to cloud video storage, which can offer virtually limitless storage, so long as you’re willing to pay for it.
Another great thing about doorbell cameras is that most will send a text alert when they sense activity. This way, you can open the app and see exactly who’s at your door, and of course, take any necessary action.
Like any security solution, doorbell cameras do have their faults. For instance, thieves have (ironically) learned to steal the very doorbell cameras themselves. Also, many of the cameras have limited range and/or panning functionality.
But all in all, the advantages of owning a video doorbell camera far outweigh the disadvantages.
Features Matter in a Doorbell Camera
After going over the reviews above, you will probably want to make a decision about which of the best doorbell cameras is right for you. However, to do that, you will need a little more information. You will also need to know the different features that come with doorbell cameras. Knowing and understanding those features will help you select the one that best suits your needs. Because there are some features you might not need and others you won’t want to go without.
All the features affect our rankings differently and we base our information on the ones consumers care about the most.
Here are the different available features for the best doorbell cameras on the market:
- Hardwired or DIY (battery-powered)
- DIY or professional installation
- Motion detection
- Waterproof and weatherproof
- Battery life
- On-demand video
- Cloud storage
- Two-way talk communication
- 24/7 video
- Night vision
- Smartphone alerts (person, sound, and motion)
- Intermittent or continuous video recording
- Quality camera (sharp resolution, well-balanced colors)
- Compatible with third-party apps and devices
- Cosmetically appealing (attractive styles, sizes, and finishes)
- Bank-level encryption
- Small and compact doorbell/camera device
- Self-monitoring or DIY monitoring
Next, let’s go over some of the questions you should ask yourself. Questions that will make it easier to determine which options and features you really need and which ones you don’t.
What Is the Right Fit for You and Your Family?
When buying a doorbell camera, there are several different factors you need to think about before making a final purchasing decision. The doorbell camera you choose should include the features and options that match your family’s specific needs. Therefore, reading reviews, pros and cons, and doorbell camera guides will give you all the general information you need. But until you know exactly what you need, you’re not quite ready to make any decisions just yet, because everyone’s situation is unique.
The following questions will help you narrow down your choices to match the best doorbell camera with your particular needs.
Will doorbell cameras work with my phone?
Most doorbell cameras come with a corresponding mobile app, as well as a desktop version of that app. Therefore, you will need to make sure the video doorbell camera you choose is compatible with your phone and/or the other mobile devices you have. Additionally, the desktop apps will also need to be compatible with that specific version of the app as well. Which means your Mac or PC will need to be the version of the app that is compatible with your computer. Another thing to keep in mind is that most doorbell cameras are generally not compatible with Blackberry devices.
Do doorbell cameras work with home automation devices?
There are a wide variety of doorbell cameras that work with home automation systems. If you have a home automation system in place or are thinking about getting one, you should look for a doorbell camera that is compatible with the equipment you have. Or one that is compatible with third-party equipment that covers your brand. Then buy the one that has what will work with what you have or with the system you anticipate purchasing.
What kind of internet do I need for a doorbell camera to work?
Some doorbell cameras use your internet connection to function. Therefore, if you want to use a doorbell camera that connects to your internet, your internet will need to be Wi-Fi enabled. Additionally, if your Wi-Fi signal isn’t strong enough, then you might have to install a Wi-Fi network extender to improve your network’s range.
Are doorbell cameras weather resistant?
If you’ve never thought about whether or not doorbell cameras are weather resistant, don’t worry, you are not alone. However, any time you have outdoor equipment, you should research its durability. A video doorbell camera should be able to withstand a wide variety of environmental elements such as heavy rain, high winds, snow and ice accumulations, and be able to withstand temperatures that are sub-zero or remain below freezing for extended periods of time.
Should I have a wired or wireless doorbell camera?
There are two types of doorbell cameras, wired or wireless. First, you will need to ask yourself if you have the skills to install a wired (hardwired) doorbell camera. And, if the doorbell camera you are considering is compatible with your existing doorbell’s wiring (if applicable) and/or other home security equipment.
Wired Doorbell Cameras
Wired doorbell cameras are powered by connecting to the wires of your existing doorbell. So if you don’t have a doorbell, this could be a problem because you will have to have your new doorbell wired with new wiring which will probably require an electrician. So, unless you are familiar with how electrical wiring works, you should probably hire someone to install it for you. However, with that being said, many doorbell camera systems come with help videos and technical support that could guide you through the process if you feel like attempting it yourself. That is unless you don’t have an existing doorbell, in which case we recommend you hire an electrician.
Wireless Doorbell Cameras
Wireless doorbell cameras are powered by a battery. That means there is no wiring involved. Additionally, a wireless doorbell is portable so it can be moved around, which is great for renters or those who move frequently. And, some doorbell companies have a theft protection policy as well. So if your doorbell is ever stolen, they will replace it for free. Not all doorbell camera companies offer this though, so if that feature is something you think you might need, you will need to look for this option before making a purchase.
Am I comfortable with installing the doorbell on my own or do I need it professionally installed?
Whether or not you can install your new doorbell camera yourself will depend on several things. For example, if you buy a battery-operated doorbell camera, then, yes, you will easily be able to install that camera yourself with no tools necessary.
If you buy a wired doorbell camera, then you will need to determine if you have the tools necessary to install the type of doorbell camera you want to buy. Then you will need to determine if your existing doorbell wiring and/or home automation/security equipment are compatible with the doorbell camera you want to buy. Then, of course, you will need to review the installation instructions to see if you have the skills required for that particular installation. Most doorbell camera options come with help videos and technical support to help you with the installation if needed.
However, if you don’t have an existing doorbell and you want to buy a hardwired doorbell camera, you will probably need to hire an electrician to do the installation for you. Because if there is no existing doorbell wiring present, your new doorbell camera will need to be completed wired with new wiring. So unless you are an electrician, or have significant electrical skills, you probably should not attempt to do this type of installation yourself. Because not only could it be dangerous, it could also turn into a fire hazard if it is not done right. Electricity is not something you want to take any chances with.
Can I install a doorbell camera if I’m a renter?
If you are a renter or you move around a lot, then you should consider installing a wireless doorbell camera. But before you buy a doorbell camera, you will need to talk with your landlord first because of possible privacy issues. If he/she does not give you permission to install a wireless doorbell camera, you could explain all the reasons you feel you need one such as to keep you and your family safe from crime, because you feel threatened by your environment or circumstances in any way, etc. And if he/she gives you the OK, make sure you get their permission in writing.
Additionally, although you should probably stick with a wireless doorbell camera, if you want a wired doorbell camera and your landlord gives you his/her blessing which he/she might do if you have it professionally installed, it’s even more important that you not only get your landlords blessing, but that the written permission he/she gives you includes exactly what you can and can’t do as far as drilling holes in the walls, ceilings, etc. This will protect you from having to pay damages due to miscommunication when you move out. You will also need to realize that sometimes a landlord will give you permission to have a hardwired doorbell camera installed, but he/she might also require that you leave it with the rental when you move.
Is motion detection important to me?
Having a motion detection feature is extremely important and that is why most video camera doorbells have it. The motion detection feature will send you an alert if any motion is detected within the field of vision of your doorbell camera. This will enable you to take the appropriate action based on who is at your door. For example, if a potential thief approached your door, you would be sent an alert at which time you could tap the app to see who’s there. You could then contact the authorities, or, if your doorbell has a two-way talk feature, you could instruct them to leave…or else.
Do I need a two-way talk feature?
The two-way talk feature is important because it allows you to talk remotely with whoever is at your door. Most, but not all, doorbell cameras come with this feature. When the doorbell camera detects motion, it will send you an alert, at which time you can tap the app and pull up the live video feed of your front door. You can then talk to your visitor. Additionally, some doorbell cameras also offer other features such as a siren or prerecorded messages you can control using the app if a potential threat is observed.
Do I need night vision?
Night vision is extremely important when it comes to a doorbell camera. The night vision feature is what enables you to easily see who is at your door at night, when it is cloudy outside, in extremely shady areas, etc. Night vision works using infrared technology to make the video appear as if it was daylight. The higher the resolution of your doorbell camera the better your night vision, and everything else will be.
Is the doorbell camera’s video quality important?
Yes, the video quality, or resolution, of any home security camera is important. The video quality will give you crisper, clearer images, and will provide you with truer colors both of which are important when it comes to properly identifying a criminal or what ultimately transpired at any given time of the day or night. Doorbell cameras have anywhere from 480p up to a 1080p resolution. So try to get the highest resolution you can for better images.
What about a doorbell camera’s field of vision?
A doorbell camera’s field of vision is how wide of an area the camera can see. A 90° angle means the doorbell camera can only see the area in front of the camera. A 180° angle means the doorbell camera can see the area in front and to the sides of it. So obviously, the wider the field of vision, the better. This is important because many thieves will try to avoid detection by staying outside of a cameras field of vision.
Do I need a live video feed?
Yes, you do need a live video feed; otherwise, what is the point of having a camera at all. With the live video feed option, your doorbell camera will give you real-time access to what is happening at your home at all times. When your doorbell camera detects motion, it will send you an alert at which time you can tap the app to see what triggered the alert. Then you can respond accordingly by using the two-way talk feature, contacting the authorities, or whatever action you deem necessary.
How do the doorbell camera recordings work?
Most doorbell cameras come with either a continuous recording feature or an intermittent recording feature that only records when it detects activity. The continuous video recording feature will record everything 24/7. The intermittent recording feature will only record when it senses activity. That means if you want to be able to see what’s happening at your door at any given time, you will need to purchase a doorbell camera that has the continuous recording feature.
Do video doorbell cameras record audio as well?
A few other things you might want to inquire about are whether your chosen doorbell camera has a video recording feature and that it is also capable of recording audio as well. However, with that being said, you need to be careful when using the audio feature because in some states you cannot record audio without having the other person’s consent. But if your chosen camera does come with an audio feature and you do not want to use it, you might be able to disable the audio recording feature, depending on the brand.
Should I opt for local video storage or cloud video storage?
A cloud video storage feature is good to have if you can afford it. There is also a local video storage option that has internal storage capabilities or you can store your video using a microSD card neither of which require you to pay for storage other than the price of the microSD card. However, once the storage is full, the camera will record over the pre-existing video, which could present a problem if you ever need to access the recorded history of your doorbell camera. That is where cloud storage has the advantage because you can store as many hours of video recordings as you are willing to pay for.
Why Should I Invest in a Doorbell Camera?
If you are not sure about whether or not you should invest in a doorbell camera, it is best to consider what it would mean to have one. For example, having a doorbell camera is like having an extra layer of security and the peace of mind that comes with it. Additionally, a doorbell camera is highly visible, which means just the fact that you have one could stop a crime before it even begins.
There are a multitude of reasons that having a video doorbell camera is the right way to go. Aside from making you and your family feel more secure, the doorbell camera will give you the opportunity to see who is outside your door and in the vicinity before you open the door to go outside. It will also enable you to see who is at your door and communicate with them without having to open the door. Additionally, if you have latch-key kids, it will enable them to deal with people at your door without having to open it while there is no adult supervision present.
Then there are the other features of having a doorbell camera such as being able to see if a package has arrived, to make sure your kids arrived home from school safely. It is also great to see who is coming and going while you are not there, especially if you have teenagers who think they are adults and are testing their boundaries. Other reasons a video doorbell camera could come in handy is if your neighborhood has been experiencing car or home break-ins, to help locate a child or senior that goes missing, and finding lost pets, etc. The reasons for having a video doorbell camera are almost endless!
Are Doorbell Cameras Worth the Price?
YES! Yes, they are! Ask anyone who has a doorbell camera if it is worth the price and they will probably give you an emphatic YES! If you are still unsure, just ask yourself what your family’s safety worth to you and we bet you will have your answer. Crime happens everywhere, it could happen to you, even if you live in the best neighborhood in the country.
OK, that all makes sense, but what if you do not have the money for a doorbell camera? The answer is…even the cheapest doorbell camera is better than not having one at all. And, having a doorbell camera and being able to prevent a crime rather than being a victim of crime would ultimately be cheaper than having to pay insurance deductibles, paying to replace stolen items, or worse…having to pay for medical bills, etc.
We have lots of great affordable options on our list that, when it really gets down to it, are something you could afford for less than a cup of coffee a day. So skip that cup of coffee for the next few months and you will have easily paid for that doorbell camera without much extra effort on your part.