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Guide to Choosing the Right Home Security Camera: Features to Look for

Smart Home

September 26, 2018

Whether you’re new to home security or looking to update an older system, the sheer variety of cameras available today can be dizzying. Analog, IP, wireless, indoor, outdoor, “smart,” and more – how do you navigate the options and choose the best features for your home? Here are the features to look for and factors to consider when choosing a home security camera.

Indoor/outdoor use
The big difference between indoor and outdoor cameras is not the performance — options for resolution and special features are typically the same for both types — but in their durability. Outdoor cameras require special considerations because they must hold up to the elements. Traditionally, the trade-off for outdoor cameras’ sturdier build and weather resistance was that they were typically bulkier and heavier than indoor security cameras. So, outdoor cameras used to require heavier-duty mountings.

However, today’s cameras are much more lightweight and sleek, while offering all the benefits of standing up to tough weather. Some cameras, like those offered by Xfinity Home, are made for both indoor and outdoor use.

Bottom line: Be mindful of weather resistance when choosing outdoor cameras. Look for cameras that are suited for both indoor and outdoor use for the most flexibility in your home security system.

Image quality
A security camera is only as good as the quality of the footage it captures. The higher the resolution, the clearer the image. “High definition” cameras are especially important in locations where you hope to get a crisp image for identification purposes. For example, in the case of an attempted break-in, an HD security camera can capture a clear image of a perpetrator’s face, to aid in identifying the culprit. HD simply means that the camera meets a certain resolution standard of at least 720 horizontal lines of pixels (commonly referred to as 720p resolution). Some HD cameras may offer resolution higher than that (up to 1080p and beyond).

Another key feature for producing good quality images is night vision, which uses infrared (IR) imaging to take quality images in the dark. Night-vision cameras are an ideal option inside and out: Outside, they can capture footage without the need for exterior lighting, and indoors, they can record footage of a crime in progress at night, when many break-ins occur.  

Bottom line: Get the highest-resolution cameras you can. And look for HD, night-vision-enabled cameras whenever possible. When it comes to using your recordings for surveillance, livestreaming, and suspect identification image quality is essential.

Remote access

Some modern cameras offer WiFi capability built right in, allowing the camera itself to connect to a network. A WiFi security camera not only records video for later review, but you can also access livestream footage from your smartphone or other device.

Livestreaming from the camera allows you an unprecedented level of security and control. These modern cameras allow you to not only keep an eye out for intruders, but also to monitor children, pets, or elderly relatives from afar in real time. You can even use a motion-detecting camera as a sort of digital peephole to identify who is at the door while you’re away – whether it’s an expected guest arriving early, a package delivery, or an intruder.

Coupled with other features of a smart home security system, a camera with remote access allows you to integrate “rules” to make your features work together: unlock smart locks when you see your child came home from school early, turn on the exterior lights when the camera detects motion, and more.

One final benefit of WiFi-enabled cameras is flexibility of installation. Because they don’t need to be connected to network cables, they can be placed in hard-to-reach locations where it may be difficult or expensive to run cable (such high above doorways). Simply install the mounting, configure the networking, and you’re ready to go.

Bottom line: WiFi-enabled cameras offer a host of desirable features that will expand the capabilities of any home security system and smart home. Choose these high-tech versions if you want to integrate your smart devices and want more flexibility with installation.

Recording and storage
Fortunately, recording and storage have gotten much simpler in recent years as technology has improved. There are two kinds of camera technology: analog and digital/IP. While both types store their recordings digitally, analog cameras require a DVR that converts the analog signal, while digital cameras produce a digital recording natively. IP cameras function better over long distances, as their native digital signal doesn’t degrade. They also have increased connectivity and smart abilities, making them better suited for livestreaming.

The other big technological advancement in recent years is cloud storage. Gone are the days of filling up hard drives (or worse yet, physical tapes) with hours of footage that you then have to store somewhere. Modern smart home security systems allow you to record and store your video in the cloud, simplifying storage and making your archive more flexible. Systems with cloud storage give you remote access not only to the live broadcast, but also to any video you’ve recorded and backed up (which can be especially valuable in the event that any physical copies are destroyed or lost).

Bottom line: Analog cameras may help save money for those on a budget, but modern digital cameras offer improvements in image quality and ease of storage and access. Digital was once seen as an upgrade but is quickly becoming the standard.

When paired with window and door sensors and professional monitoring, today’s security cameras offer a host of benefits and functionality. Choose a system of cameras with the features that will work best for you needs and your home. Learn more about how today’s cameras fit into a full home security system.