Picture a CCTV camera. If we’d told you to do that a few years ago, you’d have all probably been thinking of roughly the same device. But that’s so not the case in 2018.
The home surveillance market has boomed in recent years, with new brands such as Nest, Blink and the $1 billion rated Ring joining more established names like the British manufacturer Swann in an increasingly diversified market.
To meet today’s industry standards, a home CCTV product will almost certainly require smart features that make it easier for the user to view the footage that may be relevant to them. Every camera featured in this article fits that bill.
For customers, the decision as to which product to buy will largely come down to which additional features are the most appealing. Do you want to remotely converse with people who call at your door? Or do you need a camera that can pan manually to hone in on different parts of the room? Ultimately these products are more than just CCTV cameras – they’re smart home devices designed to be useful on a daily basis, as well as in your hour of need.
There are also a few practical considerations for CCTV system shoppers to bear in mind. Most importantly, these products are all operated in-app, so you should ensure your smartphone/tablet operating system is compatible before purchasing. Some of the cameras require a more manual setup than others and finally, how will the camera fit in with your interior? As we’ll see, protecting your home does not need to ruin your aesthetic.
Here's our top picks for the best way to protect your home.
Blink XT – One-Camera System
Best for: Robust, affordable, outdoor and indoor surveillance
This camera was an absolute dream to set-up and use. All the most important features are clearly presented and available in the app, including live video streaming, motion capture, and a share button that links to your social apps – perfect for sending clips of your pets to friends and family.
The XT proved unfazed when left outside on a day that was not only rainy, but also bitterly cold (as its thermometer function attested). It’s well equipped for night-time too, thanks to infrared LED lighting which enables quality filming in the dark. All-in-all, this is a superb outdoor/indoor camera that comes highly recommended.
£149.99 | Amazon | Buy it now
time2 – IP Wireless Surveillance Camera
Best for: Value-for-money
Just look at the time2! It’s like a miniature Star Wars droid.
Don’t let its cute appearance fool you – this is a quality machine with serious crime-busting capabilities. Motion and sound detection are included as are day and night vision. Uniquely amongst the systems we’ve tested, it allows the user to pan the camera remotely via their desktop or mobile device (Smartphone or PC) through 120° vertically and 355° horizontally. That could make the difference between catching a burglar and letting them off the hook.
£45.99 | Amazon | Buy it now
Netatmo – Presence
Best for: Stylish outdoor security
If you need CCTV strictly for outdoor security purposes, the Netatmo Presence is the highest-quality and most feature-rich option available.
This smart-looking camera streams live to your smartphone at 1080p, and sends alerts when it senses movement. Particularly impressive is its ability to tell the difference between cars, animals and people – and you can select which of the three categories you want to trigger alerts.
Another novel feature of the Presence is its LED floodlight, which emits a comforting glow as you leave or enter the building (or from an intruder’s perspective, a highly discomforting glow).
You’ll need to wire the Presence in yourself – which is simple enough, but perhaps off-putting for those with an aversion to DIY.
£249 | Amazon | Buy it now
time2 – Wireless Bullet Camera
Best for: Securing business premises
Here’s another excellent time2 camera at a bargain price. The Wireless Bullet Cam looks smart and solid. It’s metal casing is durable and weatherproof. If you peer into the lens, you’ll get an interesting glimpse of the circuitry inside.
And those circuits are doing a fine job. The camera captures footage round-the-clock, and triggers an alert to your mobile/desktop whenever it senses motion. It uses infra-red lighting from a pair of in-built LEDs to keep filming after dark, with an advertised 15m viewing range that stood up to our testing. This camera comes with a bracket and screws that enable you to fit it to the wall – something we can imagine coming in handy for small business owners.
£49.99 | Amazon | Buy it now
Canary – All-in-one
Best for: Smart home features
As far as user experience is concerned, Canary’s sleek, straightforward all-in-one system is right up there with the best CCTV products on the market.
The slightly fish-eyed view provides good coverage of the room. Stand well clear if you plan on testing its siren out – it’s loud and shrill enough to give a burglar second thoughts. The Canary All-in-one has three modes, Away, Home and Night, which can be triggered automatically according to whether your connected phone or tablet is in wi-fi range.
But it’s more than just a security device, with other smart home functionalities including temperature, air quality and humidity measurement.
£159.99 | John Lewis | Buy it now
Netgear – Arlo Pro 2 – 2 Camera Security System
Best for: Exceptional performance
A user-friendly, superbly effective CCTV system and app, with such high video quality that we felt compelled to turn it down to conserve mobile data.
After a few software updates, we were ready to start streaming and reviewing video captured in the peerless Arlo app. The Arlo Pro 2’s cameras are tough little devices which can be used indoors or out.
This system is more expensive than its closest competitors for quality – but unlike the Nest Indoor IQ, there’s no requirement to pay a monthly subscription for its more advanced features. Over their lifetime, the two products may end up costing a similar amount. The benefit of having two cameras (with the option to add more) should be enough to persuade some buyers who take their security very seriously.
£545.82 | Amazon | Buy it now
Swann – Smart Security Camera
Best for: Accurate activity alerts
Swann has been in the DIY video surveillance business since the 1980s. The firm’s experience is clear to see in the excellent performance and construction of its Smart Security Camera, which records in 1080p, indoors or out. Perhaps its most interesting feature is “True Detect”, which triggers recording and alerts when the camera picks up on heat from a warm object. The benefit of this mechanism became clear when a greetings card fell off our mantelpiece during testing – the Swann Smart Security Camera ignored the false signal, whilst two competing cameras set up in the same room were triggered.
Another impressive feature of this camera is the ingenious way it attaches to its stand – using a powerfully magnetic ball and socket – which allows it to be positioned however you like, whether on a horizontal surface or a wall.
£169.99 | Swann | Buy it now
Ring – Video Doorbell 2
Best for: Managing deliveries to your home
Amazon acquired Ring for $1.1 billion a few weeks back, so we were naturally intrigued to see what all the fuss is about.
The reason, it seems, is that the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is uniquely useful. Attached to the front of your home like a regular doorbell, it sends a notification whenever someone comes near. Whilst this is undoubtedly a solid security measure, we found it most useful as a way of dealing with deliveries. Whenever a courier came to the door whilst we weren’t at home, the Ring app sent us a notification and allowed us to speak to them via the doorbell.
One thing we’re not too hot on is the Video Doorbell 2’s appearance. It comes with two choices of faceplate – neither of which is particularly easy-on-the-eye. This doesn’t detract a great deal from the fact that Ring’s doorbell does something new, extremely well.
£179 | Amazon | Buy it now
Nest – Cam IQ Indoor Security Camera
Best for: Keeping in touch
The first thing you’re may notice about the Nest Cam IQ is its looks. It’s an attractive object that announces its presence with a friendly ring of blue light.
It’s superbly functional, too. We were particularly impressed with the Voice function, which allows you to speak through the Nest IQ, using the Nest App. The sound quality was good and the lag short, with the camera’s in-built microphone allowing for two-way conversation.
We found it a little tricky to track through our recorded video clips using the Nest app – better to open up your Nest account on a computer instead. You’ll need to subscribe to Nest Aware (from £4/month) to use a full range of features including archived recording, familiar face recognition and clip-sharing.
£299 | John Lewis | Buy it now
All of the cameras we’ve featured are up to the task of capturing high quality footage, so the question you ask yourself is this: what do you need from your CCTV system? Our overall pick goes to the Blink XT based on ease of use, indoor/outdoor capabilities and linking to social apps.