Highly-customizable security camera system with no monthly fees
Night Owl has swooped right in as a fast-growing security company with lots of camera options. After taking a deep dive into their products’ features and tech, it was obvious that there’s something for everyone in Night Owl’s cameras. And the prices weren’t bad, either. Some of their basic add-on cameras start at $59.99, which is quite competitive. They also sell high-tech security camera systems with multiple cameras that have facial recognition for $1,000-plus for the whole package.
That said, there are things to consider about Night Owl before hopping on the “buy now” bandwagon. For instance, I couldn’t livestream video with their battery-powered cameras. And if you’re a smart home buff, your options are limited with Night Owl. Otherwise, this camera brand still holds its own against fierce competition. So let’s jump in to see if this service makes sense for your home and budget. I went ahead and tested an eight-camera system with wired and wireless outdoor cameras and a DVR.
Check out more recommendations from the SafeHome team:
Unlike many security companies that have their roots in China, Night Owl was founded in Naples, Florida. Of course, their hardware is manufactured abroad (you know, to cut costs), but their engineers, software designers, and servers are all located stateside. You may appreciate this, but it’s pretty standard for the industry.
The Night Owl brand has been in business since 2009,1 and they bill themselves as the fastest- growing manufacturer of security DVRs and cameras. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of info on the company to be found. But then again, Night Owl doesn’t have the same name recognition as the Ring, for example, or Google Nest’s super-high-tech cams. So I’ll give Night Owl the benefit of the doubt here.
I found that Night Owl did, in fact, grow since its cameras first hit the shelves. In 2009, they only had a few wired security camera options, but today, they also offer wireless (plugged in to power but uses Wi-Fi) and wire-free (battery-powered Wi-Fi) camera options. One thing has remained true, though: No matter which Night Owl camera you buy, you won’t have to pay a monthly cloud fee to store videos as they come with a local video recording device.
Before jumping into my experience with the cameras, here are a few key stats to know about Night Owl:
Night Owl’s presentation was clean. Holding the 1080p Indoor/Outdoor cameras in-hand, you’ll notice the devices look and feel like high-quality modern security cameras — almost like what you’d find in a government building. They’re also lightweight and compact. But one quick tip is to match the camera color to the color of your door trim. A black camera will stick out like a sore thumb on white trim, and vice versa.
I happen to like the looks of the cameras, but they may not be for everybody. If you’re looking for more stylish options, check out my Arlo review or my Reolink review. These brands offer more style-forward options, but keep in mind that they don’t offer the local video storage setup of Night Owl.
Thankfully, Night Owl security cameras were quick and painless to configure and install. But honestly, I’ve come to expect ultra-easy DIY installation. The company’s website has all the information you’ll need to install your cameras — eight devices in total — and connect them to the Night Owl Connect app in less than an hour.
Did You Know? It’s a race to the top for home security companies to see who can offer the fastest and easiest installation in the industry. Learn about more devices out there with hassle-free installation in our roundup of the best wireless cameras.
As far as setup goes, Night Owl wireless security cameras are simple, but you’ll want to follow their quick online setup guide just to be sure.
For the wireless cameras, all I had to do was plug in the power adapter to hear that the camera was in pairing mode. And adding the camera to your NVR is no sweat; its built-in Wi-Fi quickly found the new camera and added it to an empty channel since everything runs over Wi-Fi. Thanks to this, I didn’t have to crawl up into my attic to run up a wire to the NVR, unlike when I tested a system of wired Lorex cameras recently.
My experience wasn’t without a hitch, though. I didn’t hear two of the eight wireless cameras say they’re in pairing mode – something that happened with the other six after I plugged them in. Fortunately, I found a fix after a quick tech support call, which is to simply press the reset button until it says “resetting.” After doing that, the two cameras finally went into pairing mode.
The wired options are only slightly more complicated, which is why I didn’t go for them, but if you’re looking to install wired Night Owl cameras, the setup videos on their website will help. From what I could gather, the setup process for wired and wireless cameras are the same, only with wired cameras, you’ll use BNC (coaxial) cables to connect the cameras to the DVR instead of Wi-Fi. In my experience, the most time-consuming part of that setup is hiding the wires.
If you’re intimidated by DIY projects, you’ll like Night Owl’s wireless cameras better than their wired ones. While the cameras aren’t as easy to install as Blink’s wire-free cameras, in my experience, it was easy enough.
FYI: Note that with Night Owl’s wired cameras, I didn’t take the time to hide all the wires. Surely you can probably do a better job, but a handyman can likely get the job done in half the time. Just something to consider.
Some of Night Owl’s higher-end cameras come stacked with cutting-edge features like person detection and facial recognition. These high-tech devices, in some ways, are similar to the popular Nest Cam security camera options with person detection and Familiar Face alerts, among other AI-powered smart features.
As far as the plug-and-play sub-$100 cameras go, I initially didn’t think they had enough punching power in the features department. I’m happy to report, however, that after a few days of testing the cameras, they offered just enough features for the price. Just don’t expect 24/7 perfection.
One of the standout features in Night Owl’s popular 1080p Indoor/Outdoor camera was the night vision that views up to 100 feet. The cameras picked up fairly decent details of my garden at about 40 feet out, better than the 20- to 30-feet range I got from my Ring Stick Up Cams (another budget camera option). So burglar or package-theft detection should be no problem.
Unfortunately, beyond that, the resolution wasn’t so great. At about 40-45 feet out, details start to get blurry, so reading license plates and recognizing faces is practically impossible at that range.
Another feature that could be improved is the field of view. Night Owl advertises this camera with “wide-angle viewing,” but the viewing angle is only 100 degrees, which pales in comparison to many pan-tilt-zoom cameras and quite a few of the Reolink cameras I’ve tested. All in all, you’re going to want a device that offers at least a 120- to a 160-degree field of view; that way you can monitor more of your home without needing to purchase additional cameras.
FYI: If you’re into smart home technology with non-Google platforms, this might not be the brand for you, but I urge you to visit our home automation guide for more ways to use cameras in your smart home.
The multichannel DVR and NVR kits worked well, too. When it comes to feeling safe and secure in your castle, it definitely helps to know that video is constantly being recorded. Overall, Night Owl might lack some bells and whistles compared to top-rated cameras like the Arlo Pro 3 cameras I analyzed, but I’d still recommend Night Owl’s wireless cams if you’re looking for do-it-yourself home surveillance. But again, don’t expect much in the features department.
FYI: A lot of people are intimidated by the more expensive DVR and NVR systems. But in many ways, they function similarly to lower-end systems — and as a benefit you’ll generally have access to more advanced features.
The Night Owl website provides plenty of resources, including troubleshooting guides, if you need help with their products. And their YouTube channel is frequently updated with videos for their equipment.
But sometimes there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned phone call. Conveniently, Night Owl’s technical support is offered in English, Spanish, and French. And they also have a 24/7 chat line. This around-the-clock access to support is a really nice touch, and something I rarely see in the industry. Most security companies have online resources, but Night Owl provides more than enough help to solve technical matters on your own.
Their customer support line came in handy during the installation process because, as detailed above, two of the cameras I tested didn’t immediately pair with the NVR. I could have browsed their online resources, but I found the over-the-phone support to be a quicker way to get answers.
I prefer Night Owl’s DVR over their NVR since you can still access remote live viewing when you plug in the Ethernet cable. The NVR can deliver 4K Ultra HD playback, but be warned, it’s a lot more expensive. Also, the DVR’s 1080p HD video was clear enough to make out details when angled just right.
Night Owl cameras can capture audio, but you can also use certain models as an intercom of sorts. For instance, you can give a delivery driver instructions on where to leave your packages, and even tell a would-be burglar to scram. It’s always important to have a good two-way talk feature.
Google Assistant is designed to make your life easier. And thankfully, Night Owl’s compatibility with Google Assistant allows you to see what the cameras are seeing on pretty much any screen. Voice control is a nice feature; it would be nice if Night Owl also worked with Amazon Alexa and other automation platforms like IFTTT, though.
Since local storage is the way to go with Night Owl these days, you can simply use the 1 TB hard drive in the NVR to store your recordings. Some devices use micro SD for storage, which can be changed out as you wish.
Night Owl security cameras shoot in full color during the day and switch to night mode effortlessly. You can watch footage of the darkest corner of your yard, and you should be able to see up to 40 feet out without a problem. The company claims that you can see up to 100 feet at night with select cameras.
Dual motion and heat sensors add a little pizzazz to Night Owl’s motion detection. You might notice that the dual sensors can get triggered by bugs flying into the camera lenses, but otherwise, it’s nice to have dual heat and motion sensors in one. Also, on some cameras, you can customize motion zones to reduce false alarms (from trees swaying, cars passing by, etc.).
See below for Night Owl’s most popular equipment and cameras. Although this is not an exhaustive list of their 50-plus camera options and surveillance kits, it should give you an idea of what to expect from Night Owl.
This camera works as either an add-on or stand-alone device. The 1080p image quality was crisp and clear during the day, and the night vision worked as expected. But I do think the 100-degree field of view could be improved.
This package gives you an NVR with a 1 TB hard drive and four 1080p wireless cameras. You can connect up to eight wireless cameras and enjoy remote viewing using the Night Owl app. The cameras are good for indoor/outdoor use, covering every angle of a single-family home with little trouble.
If you have a 4K Ultra HD TV or monitor, this package is worth considering. It’s more expensive than lower resolution models (as it should be), but the 4K video is crystal clear. Night Owl’s 4K Ultra HD cameras are wired, which take longer to install, but offer a better signal compared to the wireless cams.
Night Owl’s Hybrid Security DVR can connect to wired and wireless cameras. This comes with four 4K Ultra HD Indoor/Outdoor cameras and two Indoor 1080p HD cameras.
This kit is similar to DVRs and NVRs, but note that gateways don’t connect to a screen as DVRs and NVRs do. Otherwise, they have all the same features.
The Night Owl Smart Doorbell, like most of their equipment, handles remote viewing, two-way audio, and integration with Google Assistant very well. This device is cheaper than many 1080p HD doorbell cameras on the market, and it offers many of the same features. This one won’t blow you away overall, though; I urge you to check out more of the industry’s top-rated video doorbells like Ring or Arlo before making your choice.
If you’re looking for affordable indoor cameras with the option to add more later, we think this is a good starter package. Night Owl’s Wireless Gateway and wireless cameras take the least amount of time to set up compared to the rest of their equipment. You’ll also pay less purchasing this package than buying the equipment separately.
Since they’re mostly sold as NVR/DVR kits,2 Night Owl cameras tend to be on the pricey side. But you do get solid equipment, and their individual cameras aren’t terribly expensive in case you need to add more in the future. All told, this is a brand worth considering if you’re on a budget.
You’ll likely pay more with Night Owl, compared to, say, a system of low-cost Swann NVR cameras; however, note that while Swann is considered an affordable brand, it has less sturdy equipment. Just something to keep in mind.
For more buying options and pricing, head over to my Night Owl pricing guide. In the meantime, here’s the latest breakdown of Night Owl cams:
Snapshot of Night Owl Costs
|Indoor/Outdoor Wireless 1080p AC Powered Camera
|Add-On/Standalone 1080p AC Powered Wireless Indoor Panoramic Camera
|8-Channel Wireless Smart Security Hub
|8-Channel 4K Ultra HD Wired Smart Security DVR (2 TB Hard Drive)
|6-Channel 4K W2 Fusion Hybrid Security DVR (1 TB Local Storage)
|4-Channel HD Wireless Gateway with 16GB MicroSD Card
|4-Channel HD Wireless Gateway with 2 AC Powered Indoor Wireless Cameras
|1080p Smart Doorbell
Note that Night Owl offers 12 different add-on cameras. These options are listed in the “Add-Ons and Accessories” section below. Also, keep in mind that Night Owl offers dozens of different DVR and NVR kits, along with stand-alone DVRs and NVRs. The chart above represents a sample of their products and prices.
Across the industry, cloud storage is becoming hugely popular as a way to manage and monitor footage from your cameras. It’s also relatively inexpensive, and I recommend it often if you don’t have another storage option.
Night Owl recently discontinued their cloud service, so for now, storing footage in the cloud isn’t in the cards. They do include a micro SD port with most of their DVR and NVR-based kits, so that appears to be the best way to store footage with Night Owl.
Similar to a set of Lorex cams I reviewed previously, Night Owl keeps the focus more on equipment and less on storage. So the loss of cloud storage with Night Owl isn’t much of a surprise; it just gives you something to consider as you choose the right security setup for you and your family.
Night Owl isn’t a perfect camera system, but one draw of the brand is how expandable their systems are. You can start slow and build out a comprehensive security camera system over time. Compared to most other security camera brands, Night Owl has far more add-ons to choose from. Check them out below.
|Add On Cameras
|1080p HD Wired Cameras (2-pack)
|4K Ultra HD Wired Cameras With Built-in Spotlights (2-pack)
|1080p AC Powered Wireless Indoor Panoramic Camera
|4K Ultra HD Wired IP Cameras With Ethernet Cables (2-pack)
|5MP HD Wired Cameras With Built-in Spotlights (4-pack)
|Hybrid Wireless 1080p Cameras (2-pack)
|4K (8MP) Ultra HD Wired Security Cameras (2-pack)
|Wired 4K UHD IP Bullet Camera w/ Audio
|1080p HD AC Powered Wireless Camera With 2-Way Audio
|1080p Wired HD Analog Security Camera With Heat-Based Motion Detection
|1080p HD Wired Security Bullet Cameras (4-pack)
|1080p HD Wired Security Bullet Camera
|1080p HD Smart Video Doorbell
|$49.99 (was $79.99)
|Decoy Dome Camera With Flashing Light
|Decoy PTZ Camera With Flashing Light
|12-Pack BNC-BNC Cable Connectors
|Camera Power Adapter With 4-Way Power Splitter
|Combo DVR/Camera Power Adapter With 9-Way Power Splitter
|2-Pack of In-Wall Rated Video and Power Extension Cables
|16 GB micro SD Card
|32 GB micro SD Card
|Wi-Fi Enabled Smart Safe™ with Integrated Cloud Connectivity
|Reflective Yard sign
Night Owl’s one-year limited warranty leaves a bit to be desired. It only covers manufacturing defects and excludes key components like the spotlight bulbs, LEDs, and batteries. There are enough brands out there offering multiyear warranties — and sometimes lifetime warranties — so it’s definitely possible for Night Owl to improve here. Fortunately, stores like Walmart and Costco offer extended warranties. So I recommend looking into those options.
After getting plenty of hands-on experience with their products, it’s clear that Night Owl is a serious contender (it’s on our top 10 list, after all!). I welcome the simplicity of their devices, as well as the extensive camera options — in fact, the possibilities are nearly endless with Night Owl.
However, Night Owl’s lack of home automation features and integrations (other than Google Assistant) was a minor sore spot. Also, I wouldn’t mind seeing the 1080p Indoor/Outdoor camera’s 100-degree field of view improved to at least 120 degrees or more.
At this point, if you’re easily overwhelmed by too many options (which believe it or not, can actually cause anxiety3), then Night Owl probably isn’t right for you.
Overall, if you’re on the market for a complete, multichannel DVR or NVR setup, then this company might have the goods you’re looking for. But if you’re just searching for a stand-alone camera (or two or three), then you may be better off checking out the full Ring camera suite I tested instead.
No. Night Owl cameras pair with the Google Assistant for smart home integrations, but no other platforms. So when you try to pair a Night Owl camera with an Alexa device, you’ll probably get “Sorry, there was a problem. Please try again later.”
No. One of the brand’s selling points is that beyond the initial equipment costs, there are no monthly fees with Night Owl.
Not anymore. The brand discontinued their cloud service for video monitoring, but it’s still easy to monitor Night Owl cameras yourself using the NVR or DVR. You can also connect the system to your TV and use micro SD cards to store footage.
Most Night Owl cameras are made for the outdoors, with ratings of IP65 and up. This weather rating doesn’t mean the camera is waterproof, but it does protect against wind and dust.
In our tests, Night Owl cameras gave us some decent coverage in the dark, with good, not great, detail.
Night Owl: About Us. (2023). Security Camera Provider.
Swann Security. (2018, June 13). NVR Vs. DVR – What’s The Difference?
Caltech. (2018 October 1). Scientists Uncover Why You Can't Decide What to Order for Lunch.