Security cameras are an essential component of a comprehensive home security system. They allow you to monitor your property while you’re not there and can help you protect your loved ones.
There are so many cameras to choose from, with many features and price points. You might even find security cameras online or in stores like Walmart or Best Buy for well under $50. Some of these cameras even have high-tech features like night vision and full HD video quality.
But should you buy a cheap security camera? If you’re a budget-conscious consumer, this guide is for you. We’ll explore the pros and cons of getting cheap home security cameras and point out what you should look for when considering a security camera purchase.
How are cheap security cameras different from other options?
Cheap cameras typically claim to have the same features as their premium counterparts, but these claims are often misleading. For example, even if the camera claims to shoot video in 1080p HD (full HD) resolution, its video clips may still appear blurry if the camera doesn’t have high-caliber image sensors built in.
However, you may not need all the features that an ultra-premium camera might offer, and if you’re on a tight budget you don’t want to overpay for features you don’t need. For example, some expensive security cameras offer color night vision. While color night vision can be cool, it’s not vital because many cameras can shoot ultra-clear, black-and-white video recordings at night.
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Pros and cons of cheap home security cameras
When you’re in the market for a security camera, you want to get the best deal possible without sacrificing your home’s safety. In the next few sections, we’ll touch on some of the benefits and disadvantages of using cheap security cameras.
Pros of cheap home security cameras
Here are a few reasons some homeowners decide to use cheap security cameras.
Cheap security cameras can still help deter crime. Even cheap security cameras can help ward off potential burglars. Generally, criminals like to target homes that are unprotected.
Cheap security cameras save you money in the short term. Cheap cameras come with a smaller initial price tag and are typically designed for DIY setup, so you’ll save money with your initial purchase.
Cheap security cameras can have many of the same features as pricier ones. For example, many cheap cameras shoot video in 1080p HD and can connect with your phone through your Wi-Fi internet connection.
Cons of cheap home security cameras
Here are a few reasons cheap security cameras might not be for you.
Cheap security cameras can be unreliable. Bargain cameras are more likely to malfunction or simply not work. For example, your camera might drop the Wi-Fi signal while you’re live streaming footage of your home.
Cheap cameras aren’t built to last. Quality security cameras are built using top-grade metal or plastic. Cheap cameras are usually made from cheap plastics and other low-grade materials. A cheap outdoor camera that claims to be weatherproof may break down after rain leaks into its casing during a storm.
Cheap cameras have cheap video quality. Even if your cheap camera can shoot in 4K ultra HD, it likely won’t have the encoding (compression) power to provide 4K footage. For example, you may notice streaks or blurry spots on your indoor home security camera footage. These are called video compression artifacts.
Cheap security cameras normally require DIY installation. Cameras from reputable security companies often have installation experts who will set up your equipment for maximum efficiency.
Cheap security camera companies may not have quality support teams. If you have problems, it might be up to you to figure out what’s wrong and fix it. Most credible security companies have knowledgeable support staff to help you troubleshoot your camera if anything goes wrong.
Cheap security cameras can cost you money in the long run. While cheap cameras cost less upfront than premium ones, they’re more likely to malfunction or stop working entirely. If you don’t have the expertise to fix your camera, you might have to buy a new model.
Cheap cameras typically require self-monitoring. Well-known security companies often offer professional monitoring plans that will keep track of your house and automatically call emergency services when your home is in trouble.
Cheap cameras may not have cloud storage. Cloud storage options let you save your camera’s video clips online and access them remotely. With a top-of-the-line camera, you’ll likely be able to purchase a cloud storage plan. Your security retailer may even offer free cloud storage up to a certain point.
What should I look for in a security camera?
The camera features you want will depend on factors like your living situation and what you plan to monitor. For example, you may want an outdoor security camera with night vision to pick up suspicious activity in the dark.
Some cheaply manufactured cameras might have many of these features, but cheap cameras generally won’t be able to use them efficiently. For instance, a low-priced camera with night vision may provide blurry nighttime recordings.
Here are a few of the top features that security cameras can have.
Full HD resolution: A camera with 1080p HD resolution will give you a super-clear picture of everything that goes on around your property.
Motion sensors: Some cameras have sensors that use heat-sensing or ultra-audio technology to detect movement. A smart security camera like those offered by Vivint can even send notifications to your phone when it senses suspicious activity.
Facial recognition: A camera with facial recognition uses artificial intelligence (AI) to differentiate between humans, animals, and any other moving objects. This helps reduce false alarms or motion alerts caused by pets running by your sensors.
Security add-ons: Some cameras have add-ons, like an alarm or a floodlight, that activate when there’s suspicious activity. Loud sounds or bright lights can sometimes be enough to scare off intruders. For example, Vivint’s Doorbell Camera Pro uses Smart Deter technology that activates an LED ring and a 65-dB speaker when someone tries to take a package.
Night vision: Some cameras use heat-detecting technology to provide clear images at night.
Wire-free: Wireless security cameras aren’t always wire-free (battery-powered). A wire-free camera can use a rechargeable battery or replaceable ones. If your camera isn’t wire-free, a battery backup function will allow it to work in a power outage. If you have a wire-free setup, you’ll need to pay attention to its battery life.
Cloud storage: Some retailers will offer a video storage plan. With cloud storage, you can access footage from your smartphone or another mobile device, and your clips are automatically backed up. However, be aware that some companies may only hang on to your clips for seven days or so before deleting them to make room for more.
MicroSD card slot: If you don’t want to shell out a monthly fee for cloud storage, consider getting a camera that uses a microSD card for local storage.
Professional monitoring: A security company that offers professional monitoring will keep an eye on your camera footage and contact the authorities when there’s an emergency at your home.
Two-way audio: Two-way audio lets you talk to people on the other side of the camera. It’s common in video doorbells, but other types of cameras can also have it. It lets you do things like have conversations with people at your home or confront potential intruders using your voice.
Wide field of view: This feature will help your camera monitor a wide space in your living room or front yard. For instance, if you have a large home, your indoor cam might have a large field of view of 130 degrees or more.
Durability: Durability is especially important for an outdoor security camera. A camera designed for outdoor use needs to be weather-resistant to stand up to the elements and still function.
Smart features: If you want your security camera to be part of a greater security system, it will need to have connectivity with your other smart devices, like smart locks and smart lights. Some smart security cameras even have compatibility with systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
What is the best home security camera?
The best home security cameras look different for different households. The right choice for your home will depend on your specific security needs, preferences, and budget.
For instance, if you live in a big house with a big yard, you might have an intricate security camera system with both indoor and outdoor cameras. If you live in a small condo, your surveillance system might only be a doorbell camera to track Amazon packages.
The most important thing is that your camera works when needed. That’s why it might not be a great idea to trust a bargain camera with your home’s safety. While you may spend a little more on a camera from a reliable security company, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that it’s made of high-quality, dependable components.
If you’re looking for affordable, trustworthy cameras to bring your home security to the next level, consider the models offered by Vivint. Our smart home security cameras come with features like motion detection, two-way talk, and night vision.
Our security cameras are also part of the wider smart home setup. In an interconnected smart home system, you can control all your devices from a central base station, remotely using a mobile app, or with your voice using a tool like Google Assistant.
Are you curious about what smart home automation can do for you? Call 855.822.1220 to talk to one of our helpful experts to find out. They’ll be able to teach you about the best smart home devices that can add value and security to your home.
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Qualifying system purchase requires minimum $599.99 equipment purchase, professional installation and applicable services agreement. Click here for monthly service plan prices. DIY system purchases and reactivations of previously-installed systems not eligible for offer. Offer not available in all states or provinces. Equipment purchase may be financed separately subject to an agreement with one of Vivint’s third-party financing partners. Monthly $1.48 cellular network maintenance fee applies. Taxes and local permit fees may apply. New Vivint Customers only.
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System supports up to six cameras subject to sufficient WiFi speeds. Without a Vivint services plan, product and system functionality is limited (including loss of remote connectivity). Speak to a Vivint representative at the phone number in this offer for complete equipment, services, and package details, including pricing and financing details. Products and services in Louisiana provided by Vivint Louisiana Commercial Certificate #58280. See Vivint license numbers here.