We like to think of Amcrest as the smorgasbord of cameras. There’s literally something for everyone here; and they don’t stop at home security, either. In fact, home security cameras are just a small part of Amcrest’s vast lineup; we found dash cams, baby monitors, video doorbells, GPS trackers, drones, hunting cams, and even binoculars, too. First impression: This is definitely a gadget-forward company with lots of selection.
That ample variety is our favorite thing about Amcrest, a company headquartered in Houston, Texas.1 And beyond their virtually never-ending list of products, the cameras themselves come with loads of options and features – so many, in fact, that we found it all to be a bit overwhelming.
And don’t even try to nail down a price range on these cameras; we’ll just say that Amcrest has numerous affordable options, as well as some higher-end (read: pricey) equipment and multi-camera packages. As you can see, something for everyone.
That said, let’s dive into our hands-on review of Amcrest. For this, we snagged ourselves a pair of brand spankin’ new Amcrest cams: the 4-megapixel Wi-Fi bullet outdoor camera, and the ProHD 1080p Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi indoor camera. Join us!
One perk we always look for in an outdoor camera is ease of installation. For DIY home security products, this is supposed to be relatively easy; of course, that’s not to say some folks won’t find a few challenges as they go through installation and setup. We’ve found this process to vary widely according to the brand, camera type, and other factors.
We kept this top of mind as we unboxed our first camera: the 4mp HD Outdoor Bullet camera. First impressions were good; we thought the equipment looked solid and well-designed, and the fact that it comes with both plug-in and ethernet (PoE) ports is a nice plus, too. It’s also got an IP67 weather rating,2 which means we wouldn’t have to worry about keeping our camera out in the elements. (And, living in Ohio, we know “the elements” are coming.)
Since we’d installed bullet-style cameras like these before – many outdoor cameras are designed this way – we had no problem screwing in the base to the wall with our handy drill.
Not a bad look, right? We liked how our white outdoor cam blends in with our slightly worn (and slightly less white) porch trim. Also, since it’s got a wide-angle lens3 (Amcrest actually calls it a super wide angle lens, though we’re not quite sure what’s so super about it), we didn’t have to go to too much trouble to find an angle that would effectively cover our porch. It all came together pretty easily, which made us happy, but we also knew we had a bit more work to do.
FYI: For the most part, security cameras on the market today fall in one of three categories for image resolution: full HD 1080p, super HD 1440p (2K), or ultra HD 4K. Our Amcrest outdoor camera has a 4-megapixel image sensor, which can provide video resolution of 2560x1440p. So, to clear up any confusion: This is, indeed, a 2K camera.
Now, it was time to sync our camera to its accompanying mobile app, Amcrest Smart Home. This, friends, is where things got just a little sideways.
You see, Amcrest has several apps that connect to different cameras in their product lineup. Since Amcrest makes so many cameras, it wasn’t always easy for us to tell which app corresponds to which product. In fact, the other Amcrest camera we purchased for this review, the ProHD Pan/Tilt, uses a different app: Amcrest View Pro. We’ll expand on that more later, but in the meantime, don’t worry; it’s not quite as confusing as it looks.
For our outdoor camera, we learned from reading the included quick start guide that Amcrest Smart Home was the app we needed. At that point, we downloaded the app and proceeded to sync our camera to it.
To do this, we turned to the camera, where the QR code was conveniently located on a sticker at the bottom of the unit. We scanned it into our phone, which ushered in a series of prompts for creating an Amcrest account, linking our Wi-Fi network, and even giving the camera its own password.
This isn’t typically a long process – it took us no longer than 10 minutes – but keep in mind that you’ll want to be very careful when you type in all those passwords; getting them wrong will slow you down and force you to backtrack (don’t ask us how we know this).
It didn’t take long after that for us to be able to see our device dashboard, where we could manually record video, take snapshots, and see our live view in full screen mode, clear as day in 1080p. This was a good time to look at Amcrest’s cloud recording option, since we hadn’t actually decided how we were going to store our recordings. We also had the option to use a micro SD card for local storage, but for the time being, we chose the cloud.
Fortunately, Amcrest gave us a free one-year trial of their cloud storage plan, so we stuck with that.
From there, we explored other settings on the app. You should know there are quite a few of these, some of which are helpful, and others that don’t even pertain to this camera. Like multi-view, for instance; since we only had one camera connected to this app, we certainly wouldn’t have any use for four camera views on our screen.
Unless we wanted to look at this every time we checked our app:
Frankly, seeing that there were features on the app that we couldn’t unlock soured the experience a bit. It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it did make the app feel somewhat generic, and we wondered what we were missing.
We felt similarly nonplussed as we navigated again through the Amcrest Smart Home app. It’s pretty barebones, which makes sense, knowing that this is a pretty basic outdoor camera without advanced features like person detection, facial recognition, or active-deterrence lighting.
We did enjoy the ability to schedule alerts, choose regions (zones) in our view to focus on, and adjust motion sensitivity. After all, we know that the more detail we can get from our cameras, the better chance we have at catching package thieves,4 wild animal cameos, and anything else unusual or suspicious. But again, these are standard features in security cameras, so it didn’t surprise us.
We’ve been testing security cameras for a long time, and there’s rarely a camera nowadays that doesn’t have some type of motion zoning function. With Amcrest’s custom zone feature, we can choose to color in zones on our screen where we want the camera to detect motion, and block out others.
This is especially helpful if you’re pointing the camera toward a busy street; we certainly don’t want constant notifications for benign things like headlights or road noise. It’s great for customization, but in our experience, the headlight issue wasn’t completely solved by adjusting our zones. We still received occasional false notifications when a headlight beamed onto our porch. So this is something to keep in mind.
Beyond all the bells and whistles, we really wanted to see our outdoor camera in action. We were especially eager to see its promised 4-megapixel (sometimes known as 2K) resolution do its work.
Ready, set …
OK. A bit grainy, but it was nighttime, after all. It’s also worth noting that we’d set the camera to standard definition (SD) instead of HD, mostly to save internet bandwidth. But even at the lower setting, we still got a decent picture, thanks to Amcrest’s infrared night vision.
Here’s a better daytime shot, brought to you by that powerful 4mp image sensor:
Pro Tip: Amcrest’s outdoor camera does not have two-way talk. You can only listen through the camera’s built-in mic, which can come in handy on many occasions. But several other models in Amcrest’s inventory do have two-way talk, including our Amcrest indoor pan-tilt.
The next morning, it felt to us like a good time to look at any alerts we’d gotten overnight, which is easy to do, thanks to the timeline scrolling across the bottom of our photo:
Those blue lines appearing at intervals across that ruler? Those were our motion recordings, and if we wanted to see them, we simply had to drag left or right.
And what did we see? Just a girl coming home after walking the dog. And, you know, other mundane but enjoyable family activities.
With Amcrest’s 1080p Wi-Fi pan-tilt camera, we transitioned from bullet style to dome, and from outside to inside. Inside the box, we found a sleek, round, and modern-looking camera, with a matte black finish that earned two thumbs up from the 11-year-old in the room (“It’s like a really cool 8-ball!”).
And, it made a nice first impression on us grownups when we realized how much we liked the way it looked in our home. Simple, pleasant, stylish, but with a solid construction that told us we’d have this camera for a pretty long time.
Since we knew this indoor camera wouldn’t need to be mounted or nailed down to a surface, we simply placed the camera on our office shelf, unwrapped our power cord, and plugged it into our wall. That’s two minutes well spent, don’t you agree?
Now, we’ve reached the stage of Amcrest ownership where we fumble around looking for the correct app to use with this particular camera.
From our trusty instruction guide, we learned we needed the Amcrest View Pro app, not the Amcrest Smart Home app we’d already downloaded for our outdoor camera. We downloaded it, opened it up, and found … another app we had to learn.
OK, we get it. Amcrest is a huge company with tons of cameras, and housing them all in one app is likely impossible. But we’re still over here slightly perturbed when we have to jump back and forth, in and out of two different apps to control two cameras from the same company. Not a huge deal, but it’s still a bit irritating.
So, into the app we went, which is always a bit awkward at first when you don’t know where you’re going. As we poked around, we encountered some things we consider unusual in security cameras. Let’s have a look at those findings.
For the first hour or so, we weren’t getting motion notifications from this camera to our phones even though the camera was up and running. We dove back into the app and discovered that the push notifications setting had to be enabled manually. The reason we thought this was strange was that in similar cameras from brands like Arlo and Lorex, that feature is already enabled. So, this was an easy adjustment on our Amcrest, but it caught us a little off-guard that having push notifications enabled wasn’t a default setting like those other brands.
FYI: While using our Amcrest View Pro app, it sometimes felt like we were swiping and scrolling through too many pages and drop-downs just to get to a simple control like push notifications. We came away from that thinking this app wasn’t going to be as intuitive as some others we’ve worked with. If you’re really into an intuitive app experience, we’ve found that Vivint or Ring are the way to go.
We also noticed – after watching some of our live view – that the timestamp at the upper right-hand corner of our display was initially set to 1-1-2000. Yes, that’s January 1, 2000.
Um, Happy New Year?
Again, not a huge deal, but it meant we had to go into the app and find a way to reset the date and time. That, we found after some searching, is in the app’s Configuration Center.
After climbing back from the depths of the Amcrest View Pro app, we really just wanted to see some cool pan-tilt action from this camera, as well as get a good look at the other features we might have missed in our first go-round.
We love pan-tilt cameras because they’re a great option for renters and apartment dwellers, especially those on a budget; we know we’re getting one camera that covers a whole lot of ground, with little else to worry about.
Bear in mind, though, that pan-tilt cameras are not unique to Amcrest. Numerous brands, including Reolink, D-Link, Lorex, Wyze, and Swann, carry their own versions of pan-tilt cameras. It’s always good to have options!
With that versatility in mind, we put our camera to work surveying the boundaries of our home office, watching the camera pan over its wide field of view, while we tapped arrows that appeared along the perimeter of our camera’s view on our phone. It felt a little like playing a video game, actually, especially with the Jetson’s-like buzzing sound it made when it moved.
For our purposes, this camera did a great job helping us keep an extra set of eyes on the kiddos as they completed their schoolwork.
What we felt was missing from this well-made, high-quality pan-tilt camera was automatic motion tracking. That feature – wherein the camera captures motion and automatically follows the activity – is available in other Amcrest models, but not this one.
If automatic motion tracking is a priority for you, you might want to consider a camera with advanced features. Google Nest IQ cams are known for being among the few cameras that include auto-tracking, though they’ll definitely cost you more than our Amcrest ProHD.
When we said this company sold loads of cameras, we weren’t kidding. Variety is clearly a virtue at Amcrest, and we love being able to buy these cameras directly from the website. But making sense of all of those products in Amcrest’s arsenal kind of bogged us down.
That’s at least in part due to the clunkiness of Amcrest’s website, and we’re not just saying that because it doesn’t look as smooth and hip as Wyze’s website, or even Ring’s. It’s just not a smooth, user-friendly experience, in our view. We also ran into an irritating pop-up chat feature. Wherever we went on that site, that pesky pop-up appeared, asking us if we have questions or we’re ready to purchase.
If that sort of disarray turns you off in security cameras, you might consider getting down to the real basics with a SimpliCam, which earned our praise for ease of use in our review of the camera.
We’ve come to the conclusion that our two Amcrest cameras were right where they should be in terms of price. On the whole, we’re seeing prices ranging from $50 to $150 for individual Amcrest cameras. But, since Amcrest makes so many cameras and sells them at so many different places, it’s also difficult to get a good feel for individual pricing.
FYI: If you’re into bundling, we think you’ll find a lot to like in Amcrest’s security camera packages. For instance, if you want four cameras to set up around your house, and you don’t want them all drawing down your Wi-Fi network, you can buy a four-camera system with a network video recorder, where you can control all of your cameras from a single app, and even display them on your TV or smart home device. All of this will cost you upwards of $300, making these cameras pretty affordable.
|4mp Outdoor Bullet Camera||HD video, IR night vision||$67.99|
|ProHD 1080p Pan/Tilt Indoor Camera||Wide field of view, two-way talk||Starting at $39.99|
We do think it’s worth restating that our two Amcrest cameras represent a very small picture of the company’s overall offerings. But all in all, Amcrest has always been an affordable brand, right in line with cameras from Ring, Wyze and other manufacturers. But we think it’s Amcrest’s vast selection of products that makes them a viable contender in the highly competitive security camera industry.
We covered Amcrest’s options for video storage a bit earlier in this review, but what stood out to us as we perused the company’s cloud storage plans was how pricey they were. Whereas most brands charge between $3 and $5 per month for standard cloud recording plans, Amcrest is still charging $6 per month to store seven days of video history. And keep in mind, that price is per camera.
Luckily, you don’t have to buy one of the below cloud subscription plans to use Amcrest cameras. Both of our cams came with the option to use a micro SD card for local storage. But we also could have purchased our own NVR or DVR to store video. It’s all about choices with Amcrest, and we’re fine with that!
Here’s a breakdown of Amcrest’s cloud recording plans, keeping in mind that the company is currently offering a one-year free trial of basic cloud storage. We don’t know how long that offer will stand, but we were glad to take advantage of it this time!
|Plans||Motion Recording||Continuous Recording|
|7-Day Video History||$6 per camera||$9 per camera|
|14-Day Video History||$10 per camera||$15 per camera|
|30-Day Video History||$15 per camera||$20 per camera|
|60-Day Video History||$23 per camera||$27.50 per camera|
|90-Day Video History||$27.50 per camera||$35 per camera|
Now that we’ve walked you through all the things we liked and disliked about the two Amcrest cameras we purchased for this review, we’d like you to pause for a moment.
Now, think about what kind of camera user you are. Are you the type who likes to tinker and play around throughout the day with all of the camera’s settings and features, making lots of detailed adjustments and familiarizing yourself with the technology in order to customize the camera to your home? Or are you more of a plug-and-play type of user, where you can sit back and let the camera do most of the work without much interference or interaction with the technology?
Depending on which kind of camera owner you are, you might have vastly different experiences from one Amcrest camera to another. As we like to say: Not all Amcrest cameras are created equal.
Pro Tip: Before choosing a security camera and pulling out your credit card, it’s important to think about the type of camera user you are. If you like technology to be plug-and-play simple, then there might be better options out there.
In general terms, these are not “easy” cameras to use, in our view. Between having to use a different app for each camera and dealing with intermittent video and connection glitches, we’d really like to see Amcrest make some improvements to their network and upload speeds, as well as streamline their apps so users like us don’t have to download two apps for the same brand.
All told, we were still pleased with Amcrest’s video quality and motion detection. After learning to use and tinkering at length with their many settings – on two different apps, to boot – we appreciate our Amcrest cameras for what they are: sensible, well-made cameras. We loved being able to adjust video resolution to save bandwidth5 (a huge help for homeowners with standard Wi-Fi!), and despite their disorganized website, we still think it’s great that Amcrest offers such a broad range of cameras and accessories.
For the tinkerer types among us, we think you’ll find Amcrest gives you lots of material to work with; but if you’d prefer security cameras that don’t need a lot of hand-holding, you might want to look past Amcrest and further into brands like Ring, Arlo, or another one of our top home security camera brands. The choice is yours!
Yes, you can buy Amcrest cameras directly from the company, but keep in mind that you might find the same cameras for sale at other retailers at lower prices.
With all the measurements and technical specifications on security cameras relating to video resolution, it can be hard to make sense of it all. Keep in mind that 1080p resolution is the standard in most markets and still the most popular version of security cameras sold today. But more and more, we’re seeing brands releasing cameras with increasingly higher resolutions, such as 1440p – but throughout the industry, this is usually branded as 2K.
All of those brands make a relatively large variety of cameras. The difference we saw is that Zmodo, Ezviz, and D-Link display their products in a more organized way on their sites, whereas Amcrest’s website makes it difficult to find individual cameras and compare pricing, as well as get a firm idea of how many cameras we have to choose from.
Most do, but some only have a built-in microphone. For those, you’ll be able to listen to any noise within your camera’s view, but you won’t be able to talk back.
Since Amcrest doesn’t require contracts with monthly fees, you usually only have to worry about the equipment costs. Some of Amcrest’s individual cameras are quite affordable, and with that huge selection, we think even the most budget-conscious consumers can find something in their price range.
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