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The In-Depth Guide to Doorbell Cameras

Jan 14, 2021|

Have you ever had your doorbell ring when you're too busy to answer it? Or had a package mysteriously disappear from your front porch? In situations like that, it would be nice to know who came to your door.

With a doorbell camera, you can.

Half security camera, half doorbell, a doorbell camera lets you answer the door no matter where you are while keeping a recorded log of anyone who comes to your door.

Whether you're in the market for a doorbell camera or you just want to learn more about them, this guide will give you an in-depth look at everything you need to know.

vivint doorbell camera pro
Have questions about doorbell cameras? Keep reading this in-depth guide to learn more.

What is a doorbell camera? 

A doorbell camera (also called a video doorbell or camera doorbell) is a type of security camera that attaches to your front door, often replacing an existing doorbell, and allows you to see and communicate with people who come to your door. Doorbell cameras send notifications to your phone, allowing you to answer your door via an app on your smartphone. 

How do doorbell cameras work?

While all doorbell cameras differ somewhat based on brand and features, they all serve the same purpose and work in a similar way. The camera, which is either hard-wired or battery-powered, is mounted near your front door and typically replaces a current doorbell. Unlike a regular doorbell, it connects to the home’s WiFi. It has a motion sensor that detects movement, and then (depending on your settings) notifies you on your smartphone whenever someone comes to your door. 

Footage from the doorbell camera can either be viewed live via your device, or can be recorded and stored in the cloud so you can view it on-demand at a later time.

Doorbell camera benefits

An estimated 20 million people in the U.S. have doorbell cameras, making them one of the most popular smart home devices in the country. And it's easy to see why. Take a look at some of the benefits a doorbell camera provides.

  • Convenience. Whether you're getting ready to sit down to dinner or you just want to relax, answering the door for an unexpected visitor isn't always convenient. With a doorbell camera, answering the door is as simple as picking up your phone and seeing who's there.
  • Communicate with visitors. Many doorbell cameras feature two-way talk, allowing you to speak to the person on the other side of the door. This is convenient if you want to give instructions to a delivery person or tell a visitor to come by later.
  • Safety. If you have kids, you've probably made it clear that they shouldn't answer the front door when they're home alone. A doorbell camera adds an extra measure of safety, allowing you to answer the door and tell whoever is there to come back later—without them knowing you're not even there.
  • Deter package theft. If you've ever ordered anything online, there's a good chance you've experienced package theft. Nearly 40% of people have reported having a package stolen from their porch or doorstep. Potential thieves tend to think twice before swiping a package if they know they're being recorded.
  • See who's coming or going. Because your doorbell camera gives you a look at your front door whenever you want, you'll always know who's coming or going. This can put your mind at ease if you're waiting to see if your kids got home from school safely or your petsitter arrived to feed your dog on time.
  • Get notified when someone comes to your door. Doorbell cameras also send notifications to your smartphone whenever someone comes to the door. From there, you can view your camera in real-time and speak to your visitor, even if they don't ring the bell.

These are just a few of the many benefits a doorbell camera offers.

vivint doorbell camera pro
Convenience, security, and peace of mind are just a few of the many benefits of a doorbell camera.

What to look for in doorbell cameras

If you want to get the most out of your doorbell camera, there are basic functions your camera should have. Things to keep in mind as you shop include: 

  • Resolution. A doorbell camera that provides fuzzy, low-quality resolution won’t do you much good. Resolution can range from 480p all the way up to 1080p, and the higher the resolution, the clearer the image. 1080p HDR (high dynamic range) is the gold standard and will provide a superb, clear picture. If resolution is high on your priority list, look for a camera that provides 1080p HDR for the best picture quality. 
  • Night vision. Night vision is another must. With night vision, your camera will let you see what’s going on in the dark, even if your porch light is off. Most doorbell cameras offer infrared night vision, which provides nighttime footage in black and white. There are also color night vision cameras, which come with a higher price tag attached. 
  • Field of view. When it comes to your camera’s field of view, the bigger and wider (without distorting the image) the better. The Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro, for example, offers a 180-degree field of vision both vertically and horizontally, allowing you to see your entire front porch area. 
  • Motion detection. Doorbell cameras are often equipped with motion detection, which allows them to notify you and begin recording footage when someone comes to your door, even if they don’t ring the bell. Your doorbell camera should be advanced enough to pick up motion from the sidewalk or street and include settings that will only notify you if motion is detected at your door. 
  • Power source. Doorbell cameras can be either hard-wired into your existing doorbell or battery-powered. Battery-powered doorbells are good for renters or exteriors that don’t already have a doorbell installed. A battery-powered doorbell is easy to install but does require the added expense of periodically changing batteries. Hardwired cameras, on the other hand, tend to be more reliable since your connection is never lost.
  • Weather resistance. Because the doorbell camera lives on the exterior of your home, it will be exposed to elements like rain or snow as well as temperature fluctuations. With that in mind, make sure the doorbell camera you choose is durable enough to withstand your climate. The camera's specifications should have a range of temperatures it can tolerate.

This is a basic overview of things to consider as you shop for your doorbell camera. There are also a wide range of additional features available for those who want a more advanced camera.

Important doorbell camera features 

While all doorbell cameras provide the same basic function, the features typically vary with price. A doorbell camera on the lower end of the price spectrum may offer bare-bones functionality, while a higher-end camera will likely include more features and sleeker designs. 

Some of the most popular features in doorbell cameras include the following.

Package theft deterrent

The number of people who shop online has increased dramatically; in the past year alone, the number of online sales shot up by 18%. With that, however, comes a major increase in package theft—one US city saw package theft increase by over 70% in just one year.

With that in mind, doorbell cameras that offer package theft deterrent, like the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro, are a hot commodity. This feature not only alerts you when a package has been delivered, but also helps deter theft by playing a warning tone when a potential porch pirate comes into view, letting them know they’ve been spotted.

vivint doorbell camera pro package thief
One of the most popular reasons to get a doorbell camera? Protecting your package deliveries.


Picture capabilities

Like all security cameras, a doorbell camera is only as good as the picture it provides. Doorbell camera picture quality ranges from lower resolution or black and white picture to HD-quality, color video that allows you to easily identify features. Night vision is also an important component to a doorbell camera. 

Motion sensing technology

All doorbell cameras worth buying are equipped with motion sensors to let you know when someone comes to your door. But depending on your settings and the sensitivity of your camera, you might get notifications with each passing car, cat, or even tree branch.

Cameras that feature face recognition technology to differentiate between objects and people are a feature you’ll definitely want to look for. 

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Doorbell cameras provide a live feed view of your front door, and most also offer the ability to record footage that you can view later. For most people, recording is an important feature because it allows you to save footage to review when it's convenient. It’s also necessary if you want to replay footage or share it. 

When it comes to recording, there are several different ways footage is recorded. Your camera might offer continuous recording, meaning it saves all doorbell camera footage, or it may only start recording when it picks up motion. This depends on your camera's settings and available cloud storage for footage.

Cloud storage

Video doorbells do not store recorded video. Instead, the recorded footage is saved in the cloud for you to access within a specified period of time. You’ll have to pay a nominal fee each month for this storage (similar to the fee you'd pay to increase the storage size on your phone or email account’s cloud provider). 

Two-way audio

This is a must-have feature for many people, as it allows you to actually answer your door remotely. With two-way audio, you can speak to the person at your door (via the camera’s app or your smart home’s hub) and they can respond. 

vivint doorbell camera pro mailman
Speak with front door visitors no matter where you are with the Vivint Doorbell Camera Pro.

Up-to-date application

All doorbell camera footage is accessed via an app, so this is an important feature. You’ll want to find a camera that offers an app that has a user-friendly interface, regular updates for bug fixes and app improvements, and security features. 

Your doorbell camera app should also feature mobile alerts and notifications. This feature will let you know whenever someone approaches your door, so it’s important to find a camera that offers reliable mobile notifications that can also be customized. For example, you may only want to be notified if your camera senses a person at the door. Or, you may want notifications whenever any motion is detected. 

Doorbell sound

Some doorbell cameras have the ability to customize the doorbell chime, so you can change up the sound that plays when someone rings your doorbell. Depending on the camera, you can download new doorbell sounds online or change them right from the camera's app.

Doorbell camera installation

One of the first questions people have when looking for the perfect video doorbell is, “Is it easy to install a doorbell camera?” The answer to that is, “It depends.” 

DIY vs. professional installation 

It’s true that one of the reasons doorbell cameras are so popular is because most of them are fairly simple to install. However, there are a few things that could complicate the matter, making professional installation a better option than DIY. 

There are a number of things you’ll need to take into consideration as you decide whether to do it yourself or whether to have the camera professionally installed, including: 

  • Homeownership. If you own your home, your options are limitless. If you rent, however, you’ll need to check your lease and make sure it’s OK to install a doorbell camera. Even doorbell cameras can be considered a modification, and many lease agreements don’t allow such modifications without permission from the landlord. In this case, a wireless doorbell that you can remove when you leave is your best option.
  • Type of doorbell. You don’t necessarily need to know how to install a doorbell camera in order to do it yourself. Battery-powered doorbells are among the easiest to install since there is no hard-wiring to contend with, making them fairly simple for most people. A hard-wired camera doorbell, on the other hand, requires specific tools and knowledge of wiring in order to safely and properly install a doorbell. 
  • Smart home integration. If you want your doorbell camera to be part of a comprehensive smart home, you’ll need to know how to connect the camera to the various smart home devices within your network. In this case, professional installation is the best bet to ensure your camera doorbell works properly. 
vivint doorbell camera pro installation
Make sure your doorbell camera works perfectly with professional installation from Vivint.

Home automation & home security integration

Most people get a doorbell camera for security purposes—they want to be able to see who comes to their front door, even if they’re not home. 

With that in mind, it only makes sense to integrate a doorbell camera with a smart home security system. 

Doorbell cameras and home automation 

If you have a smart home system or are considering installing smart devices to your home in the future, you’ll want to make sure your doorbell camera is compatible with any existing devices you have or would like to add. 

Doorbell cameras are well-suited to home automation and integrate with various components around your home. For example, if a delivery driver comes to your door and you’re not home, you could unlock the smart lock on your front door via your smart home app, and then use your doorbell camera’s two-way talk feature to ask them to place your package inside. 

Doorbell cameras and home security 

Considering 34% of burglars enter through the front door, doorbell cameras are an essential part of a home security system. While outdoor surveillance cameras may miss an intruder, a doorbell camera provides an up-close look at a package thief or intruder’s face, providing important evidence for law enforcement. 

What’s more, doorbell cameras also act as deterrents to would-be intruders or thieves looking to make a quick getaway with your package. Vivint’s Doorbell Camera Pro in particular is an effective deterrent thanks to its Smart Deter feature which lets lurkers on your porch know they’ve been spotted and are being recorded. 

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Doorbell cameras: the bottom line

Whether you want to increase the security around your front door or you just want increased visibility into who's coming and going, a doorbell camera is one of the smartest choices you can make.

Find out how a doorbell camera can make your home safer and more convenient with a free consultation with a Vivint Pro. Give us a call at 800.646.1469 today.

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Qualifying system purchase requires minimum $599.99 expenditure on equipment after all discounts have been applied, professional installation, and execution of Vivint monitoring 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.

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