Being Big Brother: The 5 Best Security Cameras
We don’t live in a world where we can leave our doors unlocked when we leave home or trust our neighbors to keep a spare key to our house. We live in a time where you’re a fool if you don’t have a deadbolt for every door of your home, bars on your windows, a gun under your pillow, and anti-personnel land mines laid around your property. All right, that might be a little extreme, but you should still take extra measures to keep your home safe. One such measure is adding security cameras to your house.
The advantage of these cameras isn’t just to catch thieves and assassins who creep in during the dead of night. They are useful for helping ensure that your home is protected from many kinds of disasters. Insurance companies are much more likely to pay if you have evidence of a break-in or can show them on film how damage was caused. They aren’t for the paranoid but merely for those who wish to have a little peace of mind. To help you we’ve found the 5 best security cameras for every budget and use.
Samsung SmartCam HD Pro
What’s to Love: The feature-filled app.
What’s to Hate: No cloud video storage.
Basic Surveillance: This is the most basic entry-level camera you can buy. The white body blends in nicely with white walls and is fairly unobtrusive, though still clearly a camera. It has full 1080p resolution and the wide-angle lens covers a 128 degrees making it better for corner mounting. It can store data locally on an SD card, though does not automatically save to the cloud so if the camera is disabled you can kiss your sweet footage goodbye. It can mount either on a wall or stand on its own base.
This camera is only for indoor use and mostly geared toward helping you protect your home from natural disasters rather than catching thieves red handed. It has a two-way microphone that allows you to converse with people from afar like a Bond villain. Where it shines is with app functionality. You can control the night vision, the speaker volume, or reduce glare by using the Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) feature. For just keeping an eye on your house from your smartphone or tablet, the HD Pro is an easy choice. [Purchase: $189]
What’s to Love: Extremely high resolution at low cost.
What’s to Hate: No local video storage.
High-Res, Low Price: Dropcam became a crowdfunding sensation on IndieGoGo and they have delivered in a big bad way with the Dropcam Pro. For a basic option it has excellent resolution with crystal clear 1080p. It covers 130 degrees of space with equally good video capture at the edge of its vision as at the center. It has a small 5.7-ounce body that can be mounted on a wall or stuck into its stand. The smaller size gives it increased subtlety and it is dark for easy concealment. You can monitor the camera for free or you can pay a monthly charge for cloud storage of the videos it records.
There are two primary issues with the Dropcam Pro. While it is a great camera the interface through your phone or tablet is very basic. You have talk features and the ability to see the live feed but that is about all. It lacks any local storage device and you’ll need to pay to get information stored anywhere. Great is you want to check in on your home from time to time but for catching criminals in the act or keeping track of damage done to your home or office you’ll pay many times the cost of the camera over years of use. [Purchase: $200]
What’s to Love: Automatically syncs with PC.
What’s to Hate: Only works with Windows.
Spy Cam: For surveillance that is a little more discreet, the WiLife is a security camera that falls more closely in the “nanny cam” variety. Whether you want to see if your housekeeper is stealing or just hoping to catch the Swedish nanny practicing her pole dancing the 1024 by 768 pixel resolution will help you capture every second. Like many concealed cameras this is hidden inside an alarm clock which inhibits the number of places you can put it. For storage it syncs to your PC for transmitting and storing data. Even if the camera is discovered, the evidence is already saved on a separate hard-drive.
You can access the camera at any time to be viewed over any properly configured computer, smartphone, or mobile device. The viewing angle is only 80 degrees so make sure you point it where the action is. The 16 zone motion detectors ensure that the camera only snaps on when something is happening rather than filling up your drive with hours of nothing like a Paranormal Activity film. The software that comes with the WiLife is easy to install, but seems to only work with Windows computers. [Purchase: $180]
Sharx Security SCNC3605N
What’s to Love: Automatic off-site uploading.
What’s to Hate: Weak recording security.
Neighborhood Watch: Outdoor security cameras face many more problems than those that only need to work inside the home. They must be able to keep their resolution during adverse weather, unusual lighting conditions, and cover a much larger area without sacrificing clarity. Sharx has created a line of cameras that can accomplish all of these feats and more. This model offers the ability to record for 2 to 7 days depending on whether or not you incorporate an SD card. It automatically syncs to your Wi-Fi network so long as you have either WEP, WPA, or WPA2 encryption. You can also use it with smartphones and tablets from almost any manufacturer.
The camera is waterproof and includes several infrared LED sensors that will give you vision even in total darkness. In addition to the on-board storage it can be setup to automatically upload via FTP (file transfer protocol) to a server, a cloud, or a home computer. The 4mm lens gives you visibility as good or better than most digital cameras. While the camera itself is relatively safe, the files it stores both externally and internally can be easily accessed without any additional encoding or security measures. Wherever you choose to store the video files, make sure they are securely protected. [Purchase: $350]
What’s to Love: Facial and license plate recognition.
What’s to Hate: No off-site storage.
Recognition Software Enhanced: This model straddles the line between what would be needed for a home and what might be required for a business. It has 1080p resolution recording which can be moderately blurry and would be better for garages or indoor areas than trying to discern details outside. It syncs to your mobile devices and will give you alerts and updates whenever motion is detected. The LED sensors give you infrared night vision as far away as 45 feet.
The real reason most people will be attracted to this model is the automated scanning feature that tells it to recognize and record faces and licenses plates. It can be configured to work with Wi-Fi and uses an on-board recording system, but it lacks the capacity to upload footage to the cloud or to a computer via FTP. If the camera is damaged, destroyed, or removed, all data goes with it. [Purchase: $318]
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