Buying Guides for Security Cameras

How to choose the right security camera for your needs.

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Ask any security professional what the most effective way to protect your home from burglars and trespassers is, and most will answer “security cameras and dogs” without hesitation.

That said, the category of “security cameras” covers a lot of ground. There are hundreds of manufacturers out there — thousands of camera models — and sifting through the bad to find the good can be daunting.

While cameras themselves are getting easier to use, wading through the countless features, options, and pricing plans can be overwhelming when you try to make the right choice. We cover everything there is to know about this ultra-competitive industry, and you’ll walk away with a much better understanding of how to protect your home and your family.

Brands We Test

These days, many different home security cameras are popping up in the market. But you can’t trust your home protection to just any fly-by-night brand. With this in mind, see below for a roundup of some great security camera options that we’ve personally tested and vetted. You’ll recognize many of the names, but there should be some new brands to explore as well.

Home Security Quiz & Checklist

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What to Know About Pricing

With so many choices in this market, we’ve found that we pay widely different prices for equipment and monthly monitoring depending on which camera or brand we choose. Here are a few pointers to help you demystify the somewhat confusing world of security camera prices:

Upfront Costs vs. Monthly

When choosing equipment, it might feel like you’re balancing on a seesaw. Do you want to pay one price upfront for the equipment, or break it down into a monthly subscription for storage and usage? Do you want to pay a lot now and a little later, or a little now and a little more later, or nothing now and everything later? Don’t worry… we’ll break this down.

Each brand has its own unique model for pricing, and again, it all comes down to preference. We, personally, like using a micro SD card in our cameras and storing our footage there, the way Lorex’s cameras do, so we’d ideally want a camera that gives us this option.

Reolink Argus 3 MicroSD Slot

Reolink Argus 3 MicroSD Slot

Of course, using local storage gets us out of any monthly subscription fees the camera might offer as an add-on. This way, we don’t have to sign up for a cloud subscription, which in most cases is pretty inexpensive per month but can surely add up over time.

Pro Tip: Want to get the full scoop on security camera costs? If so, head over to our in-depth guide to home security camera pricing.

Micro SD cards are also pretty inexpensive and widely available; a few brands have even added pre-inserted cards to their cameras in recent years. Wyze, a brand of super-affordable, no-frills cams, allowed us to add Wyze-branded SD cards to our purchase. And we were especially pleased to find we could use those cards to store data from other devices, too.

Wyze SD Cards

Wyze SD Cards

Beyond these options, we’ve also seen a lot of attractive combination packages that charge one price for monitoring and equipment all together. Canary cameras, for instance, give you the option to sign up for their comprehensive service plan for $9.99 per month and they’ll toss in the equipment — in this case, the Canary View — for no extra cost. The downside? You’ll have to sign a long-term contract.

Canary Packaging

Canary Packaging

We regularly see bundles similar to this across more traditional brands, too, like Lorex, with its emphasis on local storage and no monthly fees. We’ve long recommended Lorex as an affordable way to buy multiple cameras at once, with low-cost options starting at $35. But beware, if you are someone easily overwhelmed by an enormous menu of choices, Lorex may not be your best bet. Still, we think Lorex is a great option for many, especially bargain hunters. Check out our hands-on Lorex camera review to learn more.

Do You Need Professional Monitoring?

Though we’ve seen professional monitoring (for cameras) offered less and less these days, it’s still a worthwhile consideration in your camera search. Here, the question comes down to whether you want to pay for a third-party monitoring service that will alert authorities to any relevant threats in your home, or you prefer to monitor your system yourself.

To many of us, cost is the determining factor here. But no matter what your budget is, the No. 1 factor we focus on in cameras with professional monitoring is whether the service actually works.

In a recent review, one of our team members put a Cove system of cameras, sensors, and an alarm to the test, and came away with one very important takeaway: The police do, actually, show up. If that isn’t a testament to the effectiveness of home security equipment, we’re not sure what is.

Police Officer checking up on us thanks to Cove Monitoring

Police Officer checking up on us thanks to Cove Monitoring

For more on that interesting experience, head over to our hands-on Cove security system review. But in the meantime, we’ll say this: Cove happens to have one of the least expensive monthly monitoring fees in this biz. So if you are interested in professional monitoring, a Cove kit might be the way to go. Clearly, it does work! Other great options for whole home security include Ring Alarm, SimpliSafe, and Frontpoint.

Our Final Thoughts

Blink Outdoor Camera

Blink Outdoor Camera

We hope that in this ultimate guide to home security cameras we’ve given you a lot to think about when you’re considering surveillance for your home. Taking the time to assess the features and tech that sets these cameras apart, and using our hands-on experiences as a guide, should help you make a smarter, more economical decision about your home security needs.

We always look forward to exploring what new tech and features our favorite camera brands will release each year. Our team feels that the future of home security will be how well they integrate overall into a smart, connected home. People want more control, more integrations, more convenience, but above all else, more peace of mind.

Beyond our guidance here, we’ve published plenty of resources for even more help in the camera buying process. We suggest you start by checking out some of our best motion sensor cameras.

Citations only uses high-quality sources to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. C+R Research. (2020). 2019 Package Theft Statistics Report.

  2. Blickenstaff, B. (2017, June 14). The PTSD of Home Burglary. Pacific Standard.

  3. Statt, N. and Dieter, B. (2019, May 7). Google Nest: Why Google Finally Embraced Nest as its Smart Home Brand. The Verge.

  4. Shulevitz, J. (2018 November). Alexa, Should We Trust You? The Atlantic.

  5. Morrison, S. (2020, August 24). Contracts, Hacks, and Google: What to Consider Before You Get a Home Security System. Vox.

Written By
Jaime Fraze
Security Camera Expert

Jaime Fraze has 16 years of writing and editing experience, with seven years spent writing about emerging technologies. As our home security camera expert, she has hand-tested and reviewed every major security camera brand and has written more than 300 articles on the topic. Previously, Jaime has contributed to award-winning media outlets such as the Rocky Mount Telegram and the Daytona Beach News-Journal. As a homeowner and mother of two, Jaime is constantly looking for ways to keep her home and family safe. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English/Journalism from the University of Delaware.