Home security cameras have come a long way in recent years, particularly in terms of indoor security cameras.
Indoor surveillance cameras became mainstream in the 1970s, when banks began installing them to protect against theft. It took a little longer for them to catch on for home use. Because they were so expensive and required additional equipment to operate, it used to be that indoor security cameras were a luxury reserved for the rich or famous. Then, in 1992, the first “nanny cam” —a small, hidden surveillance camera marketed to working parents—became available, and indoor cameras grew in popularity.
Today, home security cameras and more advanced, affordable, and accessible than ever. An estimated 20% of homes in the US have some type of security camera, and more and more are sold every day.
If you’re in the market for a home security camera, this guide will help you learn about the different options available.
Types of Indoor Cameras
As you shop for home security cameras, you’ll probably notice a few different names—nanny cam, pet cam, hidden camera, and so forth.
While they may have slightly different features, at the end of the day, they’re all basically indoor security cameras. With that in mind, you can quickly narrow indoor security cameras down into two basic types:
Wireless security cameras
Wireless security cameras run on batteries, making it easy to move and place wherever you want without having to take outlets into consideration. While this offers more flexibility in terms of placement, it also means you’ll be changing batteries on a fairly regular basis. A wireless camera may be a good option if you want to put your camera in a discrete location or putting it in places that don’t have a lot of outlets.
Wired security cameras
A wired camera will get its power from an AC cord you plug into the wall. While it will still be portable, you’ll be limited in placement to areas with an outlet nearby.
This type of camera is a good option if you don’t want to deal with batteries or plan to keep your camera in a specific location most of the time. Additionally, if you want to mount your indoor security camera on a wall, a wired camera makes the most sense.
Indoor Camera features
You’ll have no shortage of features to look for in an indoor security camera. Depending on your budget and needs, these are a few of the features to consider as you shop.
Resolution refers to the number of pixels that make up your camera’s image. In layman’s terms, it’s the overall quality of the camera’s image. Indoor cameras have similar resolution ranges as a television, so you’ll probably recognize numbers like 720p, 1080p, and even 4k.
The higher the resolution, the better your image will be. As the resolution increases, so does the price, so keep that in mind. For most purposes, a 1080p camera will give you the best bang for your buck. It provides a clear, detailed image, which will be important if you plan on viewing footage from your phone or other smaller screen.
Night vision a must for any indoor camera. If you want to check on your sleeping baby or investigate a crash you heard downstairs in the middle of the night, you’ll need to be able to see in the dark. Look for an indoor camera that has infrared night vision, and be sure to check out the camera’s night vision range, too, to make sure it meets your needs. This will also affect your placement of the camera.
Live viewing capabilities
Another must when it comes to indoor cameras, you should be able to view your camera’s footage in real-time from anywhere. This feature wasn’t always available in older security cameras, meaning you’d have to go back and review the camera’s recorded footage. Most home use security cameras today, however, allow you to log into an app and view your footage whenever you want. This means you can check on your kids, an elderly relative, or pets at any point and from any location.
This is a cool feature not all indoor cameras have, but definitely come in handy. Two-way audio allows you to listen as well speak to people (or pets!) in your camera’s range through your camera itself. For example, if you log into your camera’s app and see your kids watching TV, you can ask them if they’re finished with their homework, and they can answer right through the camera.
How to set the camera up is a big consideration for most people and comes down to power and pairing with your phone. Indoor cameras are either battery-powered or wired, and each has its own pros and cons in terms of set-up.
You’ll also need to pair your camera with your home’s Wi-Fi connection. Wi-Fi connected cameras can be both wireless or wired. Look for one that has good step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting for pairing your phone in case you run into technical problems.
Viewing capabilities – Pan, Tilt, and Zoom
You’ll also want to consider your indoor camera’s viewing capabilities. Pan and tilt means you can move the camera up and down and side-to-side to get a better view. Zoom allows you to zoom in on a specific area. Pan and tilt features may not be as necessary if you have a camera with a wide-angle lens. (Look for one with a 155° lens for the best range of viewing) Zoom, on the other hand, is a good feature to have and lets you zoom in right from your phone for a better look into the room.
Motion detection is another must-have for home security cameras. A motion-activated camera will alert you (depending on your settings) if motion is detected in a room. This is helpful if you have an off-limits area, or you want to know if a child gets out of bed in the middle of the night. Some cameras will also automatically record footage when motion is detected, so you can review it later. This is helpful because, realistically, you will not always be available (or awake) to view live camera footage. It also helps you save on storage space, so you know your camera is only recording when something or someone is in its view.
You’ll also want to consider how your security cameras store their footage. Most home security cameras have two options for storage:
An SD card is a tiny memory card that fits into a small slot on the camera. When the camera is recording, it stores footage directly to the SD card. If you want to view this footage later, you can download it to your computer and view it locally.
There are a few advantages of an SD card. Since the footage is stored on a physical card, there is no risk of hackers getting your footage unless they have your card. It also continues to store footage even if your Wi-Fi goes out.
On the flip side, SD cards have limited storage capabilities, so if you run out of storage, it either stops recording altogether or overwrites previously-recorded footage, which means you might miss or delete important things. Additionally, SD cards aren’t exactly recent technology, so you will need an SD card reader or adapter for your computer.
Cloud storage, on the other hand, uploads your footage from your camera onto a secure remote server. You will need an Internet connection to upload and access your footage.
Cloud storage is convenient because it allows you to access your camera’s recorded footage from any location right through your phone. It also provides greater storage space, so you typically don’t have to worry about running out of room.
On the other hand, most cameras only offer a limited amount of free storage space; after that, you’ll need to pay a monthly or yearly fee for additional storage.