10 Best Surveillance Cameras: Reviews and Buying Guide

The quest for more security increases year by year. It is a natural need of every person to feel well and secure in their home. The technical progress finally makes a sophisticated surveillance technology available to a private user. Not only commercial properties and real estate, but also private land and houses can be monitored seamlessly by smart IP cameras. The brazen burglars have a hard time committing their misdeeds on video surveillance. If they are not deterred by the sight of a modern surveillance technique alone, they send a shrill alarm to flight. The surveillance camera records also help identify and convict the thieves.

Our product comparison portal introduces you to the best surveillance cameras, as well as helps to discover an IP or WLAN video camera that fully meets your requirements and optimally protects your property against intruders. Of course, you will find at the end of the guide an overview of the current, objective surveillance camera tests of the Stiftung Warentest and other well-known consumer organizations.

Top 10 Surveillance Cameras

What is a surveillance camera?

A state-of-the-art surveillance camera is a compact video camera specifically designed for video surveillance of residential or commercial real estate and properties. Each surveillance camera is equipped with a motion sensor. A video recording starts when an activity is detected by the motion detector, at the same time either an alarm signal is triggered and/or a corresponding notification is sent to the owner. A modern surveillance camera is always an Internet-enabled IP camera because this electronic device is assigned an IP address. Some cameras can both connect to a wireless router and transfer the data via mobile phone to a paired smartphone or tablet.

How is a surveillance camera set up?

In spite of their different optics and fields of application, the IP cameras are basically all similar and have several identical elements. Understandably, the core of any surveillance camera is a compact digital video camera, today typically equipped with a sensitive CMOS sensor (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) and a wide-angle lens. The video camera is mainly designed to take video recordings but can shoot photos if necessary. The models presented on STERN.de deliver HD-quality video recordings with a resolution of between 1,280 x 720 pixels and 1,920 x 1,080 pixels; the image resolution for still images starts at 2 MP upwards.

In addition to the miniature camera, another element, namely a WLAN interface, is of crucial importance. A surveillance camera can be connected to a wireless router wirelessly as well as through a cable. In addition, several high-end surveillance cameras have a radio interface to connect to the mobile network and transfer the data to a smartphone or similar mobile device. Such surveillance cameras do not need a wireless router to go to the Internet. Much of modern surveillance cameras have a slot for an SD card or a micro-SD card for recording local video recordings.

The third core element of a surveillance camera, which is essential to its equipment, is a motion detector. A motion sensor, or a passive infrared detector, uses very high-frequency electromagnetic waves to “scan” the environment. Only objects that themselves are a source of heat can be used as a trigger, including people, animals, but also vehicles. Several models are also equipped with a small electric motor and can be pivoted via remote control. The sensor technology is packed in a robust housing, which is dust and water resistant in outdoor surveillance cameras. Refer to the IP Camera Features section for more information about each feature and feature.

How can the surveillance cameras be classified?

There are hundreds of models and designs of IP cameras on the market that differ in many ways. However, the entire range can be divided into four large groups, some of which overlap.

  • Indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras. While most outdoor cameras are also suitable for use indoors, the indoor cameras cannot be installed outside due to the lack of weather protection. The two groups also differ in their construction, with the Indoorkameras come along more often with a swivel head and in an attractive design. These cameras are suitable for installation as well as for attachment to the wall or ceiling. The cameras for outdoor surveillance are purely functional and designed almost without exception for wall mounting. Among the outdoor surveillance cameras for the consumer sector, models with a motor are rather an exception, which is not design-related but has legal justifications. In the next section, we explain what to consider when using IP cameras.
  • Miniature cameras with power or battery power. Most surveillance cameras today have to be connected to the mains. This ensures stable operation and serves as a guarantee that the camera will not unexpectedly quit. A camera or monitoring module with battery operation, however, is more mobile and continues to film, because of a burglar, for example, the power cuts.

Where can a surveillance camera be used?

These digital video cameras are specially designed to monitor objects and people. The primary goal of such a camera is to provide usable data during a burglary to convict the thieves. Furthermore, a security camera to serve as a deterrent to uninvited guests. Namely, it is known that a large number of burglars only their “luck” tries where no adequate security precautions have been taken. Just the sight of a surveillance system and the shrill alarm signal deter most intruders and put them to flight.

Whether the video recordings are accepted by a court as evidence depends on the specific case. It must be clearly provable that the recordings actually come from the actual burglary or burglary attempt. In addition, enough details should be recognizable to identify the intruder, so a high resolution and a high frame rate from 20 fps are helpful.

What are the features and functions of a surveillance camera today?

Depending on the application area and purpose, the cameras carry different equipment on board. we explain which features are indispensable, which ones are desirable and which, in turn, represent a basically dispensable luxury.

  • Motion detector. This element can be found in any surveillance camera and is used to activate the recording function.
  • Night vision. Even with this feature are today all video surveillance cameras, whether for indoor or outdoor, equipped. To ensure surveillance even in the dark, all cameras are equipped with infrared light diodes. The infrared light sources are activated by the motion detector or via remote control and illuminate the environment. For the human eye, the infrared radiation is imperceptible, thanks to the digital technology, the camera provides useful recordings in black and white. A conventional surveillance camera for private use guarantees convincing picture quality at night even at distances of 8 – 12 m. In most cases, this radius of action is perfectly adequate.
  • Internet capability. An IP camera can be connected both wirelessly and via cable to an Internet router. In addition, some modern surveillance video cameras connect to the mobile networks to send the data directly to a paired smartphone or tablet.
  • SD slot. Almost all products from the selection have an interface for an SD or micro SD card. However, the maximum capacity of the card to be used varies and varies between 8 and 128 GB. This feature makes sense, but it is not recommended to record only on an internal memory card. If the thief takes the camera or destroys it, the records would be lost forever.
  • Remote control. All video surveillance cameras can be remotely controlled via compatible software, with settings made using the graphical user interface of a computer or smartphone. With swivel cameras, among other things, the motion mode can be adjusted, in addition, the video recording can be started and stopped at any time. Also, a photo can be taken on request. The zoom function, with most IP cameras on board, can also be controlled wirelessly via the app. Note: Most outdoor cameras cannot be panned so their position will not be changed and the stolen property or public roads will not be randomly filmed.
  • Continuous recording. If the data is recorded on a local storage medium (SD card, micro SD card), in most cases the surveillance camera automatically overwrites the old recordings as soon as the storage capacity is exhausted. Therefore, it makes sense to use a surveillance camera that accepts SD cards with the highest possible capacity.
  • Encrypted data transmission. All medium and high-end surveillance cameras transmit the data in encrypted form. This feature is used for security because unencrypted transmitted data can get into the hands of third parties and be abused. On the other hand, it can happen that criminals hack the surveillance camera and thus spy on the corresponding object that should actually be guarded. Among the most widely used encryption protocols is the HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), which enables secure communication between the server and the corresponding electronic device. Note: We recommend that you replace the usernames given by the manufacturer, such as “admin” and passwords such as “user1” or similar, with your own details and, if possible, use characters such as #, & or% for additional security.
  • IP protection factor. This feature is primarily relevant to outdoor surveillance cameras. The manufacturers most often provide the models that we present to our readers at with an IP65 or IP66 protection class. In general, the higher the protection class, the better a device is suitable for year-round outdoor use. The protection factor IP65 guarantees that a camera is reliably protected against mechanical influences, the ingress of dust and water jets. The protection factor IP66 means even higher water protection so that the camera remains watertight even during temporary flooding.
  • Wide angle lens. Each IP camera from the selection on STERN.de has a wide-angle lens to ensure the widest possible field of view. Depending on the model, the values vary between 70 ° and 120 °. The indoor cameras are characterized in most cases by a comparatively wide field of view, because these surveillance cameras are due to the limited space closer to the object to be monitored. In addition, a rotation angle and the pivoting of the lens on two axes, a 360 ° viewing angle is realized in these models. In the case of outdoor surveillance cameras with a field of view of 70 ° – 90 °, however, the correct position plays a decisive role.
  • Intercom. It’s mainly the indoor surveillance cameras that are equipped with a microphone and speakers. Thus, these models have a working intercom system with mostly convincing sound quality. The applications of the systems are quite different: it can be a warning to the uninvited visitors pronounce, but it can also be a baby or toddler consoled and calmed if it wakes up suddenly. This feature proves to be useful in every way and provides extra security.
  • Alarm function. Every surveillance camera has this feature because ultimately this device is not only intended to log a burglary, but also to expel the criminals if possible. A camera with a built-in speaker can – if this option is selected – sound a high-pitched audible alarm. In addition, with suspicious movements on request alarm emails, also with the picture, push messages or for example, SMS messages are sent. The user can thus quickly check whether it is a real danger or a false alarm. Tip: the sensitivity of the camera can be adjusted flexibly.
  • Face recognition and other high-end features. Only the upper-class surveillance video cameras have such smart features, such as face recognition. This feature allows the alarm to be automatically turned off when an authorized person enters the monitored area. Some cameras can also automatically distinguish between humans, animals, and vehicles and react accordingly.

We have only included the most significant features and functions in our list. we present you mainly high-quality mid-range surveillance cameras, where most of these features are included.

Buying guide – how to find your security camera

The range of IP cameras has grown tremendously in recent years, due to the increasing need for security of people. In addition, these devices have become affordable and can be installed without expertise. But how do you find a surveillance camera that best suits your needs? With our guide, we would like to help you with your purchase decision. Answer the following seven questions to find out which model suits you best:

  1. Do you need a surveillance camera for indoors or outdoors? As explained above, the two versions differ considerably. All in all, it is advisable to install several cameras on the premises and inside the house or another building for thorough, continuous monitoring.
  2. In the event of a break-in, would you like to have the video material recognized as evidence in court? In this case, the resolution plays an important role. Today’s IP cameras record the videos in a high-definition (720p format) HD quality or in even better Full HD (1080p format) quality. The higher the resolution, the more detailed the pictures, even in problematic lighting conditions. Please note the maximum radius of the night vision, this should not fall below 10 m for outdoor cameras, with the cameras for indoors, the value may be 3 – 5 m.
  3. Do you want to avoid unnecessary expenses and save your wallet? Then make sure that the manufacturer offers you free cloud storage. In addition, for security reasons, it is advisable to pay attention to the location or owner of the external server.
  4. Are you a techie or a layman? For technology-savvy people, the possible installation difficulties play no role. For laymen, it would make sense to pay special attention to the models with the simplest possible device. Although all manufacturers today promise that the installation will be uncomplicated, it makes sense to download the compatible app in advance and also to look at the instructions that are usually available on the internet. Screenshots of the installation process will help you determine how you can master setting up the camera.
  5. Is your safety very important to you? A surveillance camera only fulfills its purpose if the data transmission takes place on secure channels. We also recommend connecting a camera to the router via cable if possible. For wireless connection, make sure that the distance between the camera and the router does not exceed 5 meters. If this is not feasible, switch on a repeater for extra security.
  6. Would you like to use the camera to communicate with your child or pet? Then an intercom is a must. If the IP camera has a loudspeaker, burglars can also be distributed with an audible alarm signal.
  7. What is more important to you – the greatest possible mobility or reliable energy supply? Earlier we went into the plus and minus points of battery operation and power connection. predominantly the surveillance cameras are presented with the power supply because these are the most popular and successful models.
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