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When you’re talking about security camera pricing, you’ll need to take into consideration that most manufacturers require a monthly subscription for video storage, additional features, or monitoring. That’s kind of a downer, considering you just spent a good chunk of change on the equipment. Now you have to spend more money each month for your cameras to work? That feels a bit like buying a new car and having to pay $10 a month to run the air conditioner.
That’s not the case with all manufacturers, though. We’ll run you through some of our favorite systems that require no monthly fee to operate. Right out of the box, you’re going to have access to all the features you paid for, no signing on any dotted line or setting up automatic payments required.
Before we get going, though, it’s worth noting that some camera systems, like Canary, Arlo, and the ever-popular Ring cameras, can be purchased and used without signing up for a subscription, but you’re going to miss out on some features like two-way talk or 4K cloud storage.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to be focused on cameras that don’t require a monthly subscription to use at their full capacity.
All set? Let’s jump in.
If you’re considering building out a network of security cameras to protect your property, we’d argue Lorex should definitely be on your shortlist of manufacturers to research. They’re one of the few companies that don’t require a subscription to get the most out of their equipment, and their equipment is some of the best in the industry. Let’s break it down.
When we compiled our favorite 4K cameras, Lorex topped the list, meaning they offer some of the best picture quality currently available for consumer-grade security cameras. They also provide customers with a wide variety of system options, including wireless, wired, and some of the best PoE cameras around. Their color night vision is among the best we’ve seen, and their equipment is extremely tough and built to last.
But that’s just on paper. What’s it like actually working with these cameras? We have to say, when we reviewed Lorex, we were surprised by how easy they were to install and how few hassles we had in day-to-day operation. Sure, Lorex wasn’t without its drawbacks like the occasional false notification or laggy live feed, but overall we were extremely pleased with the performance.
One thing we will say, though, is that by forgoing the monthly service fee, you’re not going to have access to the professional monitoring options offered by some camera manufacturers, and their storage app can be a little unwieldy. Their equipment can also get a little on the expensive side — more on that in our guide to Lorex’s services and costs.
At the end of the day, though, Lorex is still our number one pick for a subscription-free security camera system.
Lorex is one of our favorite camera manufacturers for a variety of reasons. Their equipment is well designed, robustly built, and jam-packed with industry-leading features.
If you’re more concerned with your bottom line than you are with high-tech bells and whistles when it comes to your security cameras, Zmodo might be the manufacturer for you. They offer no-frills equipment at rock-bottom prices, and since they don’t require a subscription, you don’t have to factor ongoing costs into the equation.
In our tests of Zmodo, we found their indoor and outdoor options both to be more than serviceable, even if they didn’t offer leading-edge features. Their 1080p resolution was more than enough to clearly see around our property both day and night, and their smart home integration — while taking a little bit of effort — was relatively seamless.
The big selling point, though, as we discuss in our analysis of Zmodo’s products and costs, is the price. The vast majority of the company’s cameras are all well under $100 apiece, meaning you can build out an entire network of solid equipment without breaking the bank.
Funny name aside, Zmodo offers high-quality cameras at an affordable price point. And with no monthly subscription, you’ll end up saving even more when you go with this manufacturer.
Wyze is another respectable manufacturer of powerful security cameras, and the company gets bonus points in our book for not requiring a subscription to fully unlock the potential of their equipment.
What potential are we talking about, exactly? In our review of Wyze, we found features, features, and more features. Wyze offers person detection, custom motion zones, two-way talk, and can even monitor your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. For the uninitiated, these aren’t necessarily unique functions, but they are features that are usually only accessible by paying for a monthly subscription service through most manufacturers. We have to say, it’s refreshing to see a company offer them right out of the box.
Wyze also has affordability on its side. While their equipment doesn’t feel as hefty as that of some competitors, the price point is tough to argue with. You can learn more about what we mean in our breakdown of Wyze’s products and prices.
If you’re looking to get some cutting-edge features without having to pay for them every month, Wyze might be for you.
Night Owl offers a wide array of indoor and outdoor cameras, making it easy to tailor your system to your specific needs; they also offer several equipment bundles if you’re looking to purchase your network in one go. Either way, you’re not going to have to pay anything beyond the initial cost, since Night Owl is not subscription-based.
In our Night Owl analysis, we found their higher-end cameras to be packed with high-tech features like person detection and facial recognition, and their more affordable options were solid choices for basic monitoring. Their package deals make protecting large areas easy, and their stand-alone equipment can supplement existing security measures.
They’re not the most affordable on the list, and their field of view isn’t the best — as you can see in our roundup of Night Owl’s products and costs. They do, however, offer pre-made systems that you’ll be 100 percent in control of in the form of DVR and NVR systems. That means on-site storage and no need to connect anything to a broader service provider. This is good news for folks who take their privacy seriously.
If you’re looking to purchase a system that’s completely in your control, Night Owl has some interesting packages available. No subscriptions, no monthly maintenance fees, no cloud storage. Just you and your cameras.
While some people might be okay paying a few bucks a month to access all of their security camera’s features or to have their feed professionally monitored, we certainly understand how that could be a turnoff for some consumers. Luckily there are some really solid security camera manufacturers out there that agree with this notion and have made their equipment fully functional without the need to continue paying for it.
Over the years we’ve analyzed hundreds of different cameras and dozens of manufacturers to develop a list of the best security camera systems of 2023. If you’re not convinced the manufacturers on this list are right for you, there’s sure to be something over there that’ll fit your needs and your budget.
What does a subscription to a security camera system get you?
Subscribing to a security camera service will usually get you video storage, additional features, professional monitoring, or some combination of the three.
Do I need a subscription to a security camera service?
Not necessarily. Some people prefer to be in complete control of their security camera network and want all of their equipment’s features to work right out of the box.
How much are security camera subscriptions?
It depends on the service and the manufacturer, but generally speaking, subscriptions cost between a few dollars to dozens of dollars per month.
Which security camera systems don’t require a subscription?
Our favorite security camera manufacturers that don’t require subscriptions include Lorex, Zmodo, Wyze, and Night Owl.
Are security cameras with subscriptions better than those without?
It depends on what you’re looking for, but in most cases, security cameras that require subscriptions will offer a few more features than those that don’t.