If you are looking to bolster your home security system with surveillance cameras, or just want to check in on your pets from time to time, then wireless (Wi-Fi) Netowrk IP security cameras are for you. A basic home monitoring system can be set up in a few hours at a very affordable price (exponentially less than the CCTV systems of yesteryear). No more running cables through your home or setting up a complicated monitoring system; these new Wi-Fi cameras connect through your home’s router to the internet so you can view your camera feeds and even get notifications when motion is detected, from anywhere you have internet access. The market is flooded with hundreds of different types of cameras and picking the right one can be tricky, so we’ll try and break down the most important features you should be looking for when selecting the best camera for your application.
Choosing the right thermostat will require a few different decisions on your part based on your application and preferences. Take a look at our list of Features below to see what the most important things are to you. Once you have decided what you are looking for, review our list of Recommended cameras to make your final decision. We have also provided some Other Considerations that you may want to consider when looking for a Wi-Fi camera.
Just like any other handheld camera, the picture quality is determined by the resolution of the camera sensor. The higher the quality of the sensor, the better picture quality you will see. These will typically be listed as a pixel resolution, e.g. 1024x768 pixels, or listed by megapixel quality. Megapixel means “million pixel”, so to compare megapixel to pixel resolution, simply multiply the resolution to get the megapixel size. In this instance, 1024x768 would be 786,432, or 0.8 megapixel.
Low-Level Light Performance
Wi-Fi Cameras use Infrared (IR) LEDs to illuminate the area with light that can be detected by the IR sensor in the camera while keeping the area dark to the human eye. Most cameras will have their low-level light performance listed as the number of IR LEDs the camera has or the length in feet the camera is able to “see” without an external light source. Ambient light will usually be described in lux (where 0.8 lux is the light of a full moon on a clear night). Lux can affect how well the camera captures video in the dark. Some cameras have the ability to capture full-color night vision in the right lux settings.
Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ)
This is the ability for the camera to be able to move about an axis to scan a location and the ability to zoom the image. Most modern Wi-Fi cameras can be controlled from a smartphone or tablet, allowing you to scan around your room and zoom in on interesting spots. Look for ranges in degrees for Pan (left and right movement) and Tilt (up and down movement) that will tell you how much of a viewing area you will be able to cover with your camera.
Hearing what is going on can be just as important as seeing sometimes. If so, you’ll want to consider a camera that has built-in audio. Many cameras today even feature two-way communication, so you can speak, as well as listen. This is great for talking to pets when they misbehave on camera!
Indoor / Outdoor
Most Wi-Fi cameras on the market are designed for indoor use meaning that they are not protected against the elements. Outdoor Wi-Fi cameras have a housing that prevents rain and dust from ruining the internal components. The drawback to this however, is that many outdoor Wi-Fi cameras do not have PTZ ability and have a fixed surveillance area.
If you want to view or control your camera remotely from your smartphone, tablet or work PC, then you will want remote access. Setting up remote access can get a little tricky, especially while configuring your router to allow you to access your cameras remotely- with our Port Forwarding Guide, you should have little difficulty setting it up.
Connectivity to Other Devices
Want your camera to turn on the lights when it detects motion? Looking to integrate a camera into your current home automation or security system, or simply want to control your cameras from an existing home control app? If so, you’ll want a camera that can interact and communicate with these devices. You can purchase a Wi-Fi camera that was specifically designed to work with your current or planned system such as the INSTEON Wireless IP Security Camera, or, going the DIY route; you can use the I/O terminals on a camera such as the Smarthome SELECT Vstarcam Wireless HD IP Security Camera to send signals to your home automation or security system.
Below are our recommended choices for Network IP Cameras.
Insteon Wireless Security IP Camera with Pan, Tilt and Night Vision
Foscam Wireless Security IP Camera with Night Vision
Belkin NetCam HD Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision
See.ing Dome Style Wi-Fi PTZ Controlled Smart Camera
Why spend $250 for a baby or nanny cam when you can pay a fraction of the price and get a full-function camera that can also be used to watch your home when you aren't there? You get the same ability to watch and hear what is going on, but instead of using a silly monitor, you can use your web-enabled cell phone, iPad or laptop to check in on the little ones.
With the average lifespan continuing to increase, senior citizens are now living more of their lives alone. How can you be sure they are ok? Seniors certainly want to maintain their independence, so an IP camera is a subtle measure so you get an alert every time there is movement in their home. Just set up the camera in an area of their home that is not invasive but is used every day (like close to a refrigerator or kitchen sink). Every time the camera senses motion, it will send you an email with photos of what it is seeing. Elderly monitoring has never been easier!
Is your cat jumping up on the counter tops again? How often is Rover eating your potted plants? We are all invested in our pets and try to take care of them as best we can, however if you are at your office 8+ hours a day, how can you know if they are in trouble? An IP camera focused on their favorite sleeping spot or food dish can give you peace of mind that your furry friend is OK.
Pet owners are not the only people worried about animals. Farmers and ranchers can also keep a close eye on their cattle and livestock with IP cameras. We recommend an outdoor IP camera if you are exposing the product to the elements, however if there is a commotion in the barn at night in the middle of winter, would you rather get dressed and go out and see what's happening or look at your phone from the comfort of your home?
Your home...one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime. Once you own it, you spend thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to keep unwanted visitors out. The easiest way for a burglar to case and mark your house is to walk up to the front door and either knock or ring the doorbell. If no one answers or they don't hear anything, it signals a green light to go forward. Want to scare the heck out of them? Add an IP camera at your door that has two-way communication. When you get an email alert that someone is at your door, speak into your phone (or microphone on your computer) and ask them "how can I help you?" An IP camera with two-way communication allows you to hear through the camera's microphone and speak through the camera's speaker!
The best application for an indoor IP camera is to have one and every entry door to your home (or office, garage, etc.). Every time motion is sensed, you would receive an email, not only alerting you to intruders, but giving you a digital record of when the kids get home from school and who is with them, what time your teenager is home from a date, etc.
Whether you have a small retail store or a 100,000 square foot warehouse, IP cameras are a great low cost investment for business owners. Since they are easy to install, you don't need to hire an installer. Since they all work independently, you don't need to spend a lot of money on a complete system. You can scale your system, based on your needs and your budget.
Use outdoor IP cameras to watch the perimeters of your building. Use indoor IP cameras to watch employees or customers. Add multiple outdoor IP cameras to adequately monitor your parking area or fenced in yard.
Some IP cameras require an extra level of router programming called 'Port Forwarding' - refer to this document on Port Forwarding Basics to guide you through this process.