Recommendations For Outdoor Home Cameras?

I'm looking to install 3 outdoor cameras at the front of my house, and could use some advice in choosing the best camera to meet my needs. I’ve been reading other forums (reddit & cocoontech), but there’s such a strong favoritism towards Dropcam & Nest, that I came here hoping for some solid professional advice.

I started my research back in 2011 when the house was built so that I'd know how to prewire it. At the time, I was leaning towards Vivotek cameras & they advised me to run one cat5 & two 18 AWG to each drop. I was originally drawn to Vivotek for their supreme night visibility (not sure how much of that was marketing vs reputation), but I was impressed with their tech support. I’m now ready to purchase some cameras & I’m trying to study up on the technological developments in the past few years, but there are so many variables that I’m getting lost in the detail.

My setup & wishlist:

- The front of the house faces west & is 35’ deep & 900’ wide, the camera drops are equally space.

- No street lights so I was planning on purchasing IR flood lights to compliment whatever system I end up going with.

- The wires are coming out of the wall near the roofline

- I’d also like a NVR, motion detection/alarm, etc.

Thank you in advance for your help & guidance.


Christy, thanks for sharing and welcome!

Can you clarify how far and wide an area you want to cover? It impact resolution choice, IR range, etc.

Also, is the whole system 3 cameras or are there more inside? And anything in particular you are monitoring or want to do?

I'd say definitely not Dropcam / Nestcam. Those are best for small indoor areas. Given the relative low resolution / high compression and pitiful IR range plus your need for multiple cameras, there are definitely better options out there.

Also, gut feel is to use integrated IR cameras rather than adding in IR flood lights. They will likely perform better, look better and cost less.

Provide us feedback on the questions above and we can provide more feedback.

Thanks for the warm welcome! I was worried I was trespassing on pro-only territory.

I'd like to start with 3 cameras at the front, but have intention to add 1-2 more in the backyard. I don't intend to add any cameras inside the house.

My overall purpose is to be alerted to any suspicious activity, have enough detail to catch the criminals & ideally use the video footage as evidence. Some neighbors a couple houses down were burglarized & they have Dropcams. The footage is so poor that it will only serve as a memory of what happened. I don't want that to be me.

The total area is 50' deep & 900' wide, so a width of approximately 300'-350' per camera assuming some overlap. At night the area is in total darkness. It would be my preference to have IR integrated cameras & not use the IR floods, but don't mind adding them if necessary.

"I was worried I was trespassing on pro-only territory."

Of course not, IPVM is for anyone who is serious about doing video surveillance well.

"Some neighbors a couple houses down were burglarized & they have Dropcams. The footage is so poor that it will only serve as a memory of what happened. I don't want that to be me."

Sad but true!

"The total area is 50' deep & 900' wide, so a width of approximately 300'-350' per camera assuming some overlap."

That's not very far, but it is very very wide.

Here's an idea of what that looks like using our Calculator:

A single camera over that area (specifically 300' wide) is going to deliver very poor image detail.

This is what roughly it will look like (night may be better with the right IR):

Your dimensions really demand more cameras if you want to get any reasonable detail (instead of 3 in the back, 6 or 9). The good news is that there are many low cost, high quality outdoor cameras to choose from with integrated IR (in the $150 range per).

Let me know what you think. I will email this out to members and I am sure they will have advice as well.

Sounds like a good application for 180 (or better yet adjustable angle) multi-imager panoramics. Maybe even the 4K Panasonic fisheye?

Though external illuminators would be needed in these cases, adding to the price.

John does not need any help, and he is correct Mrs. Lawrence, welcome. Think of the area you are asking each camera to cover as a football field, because the dimensions you offer equal that almost exactly. Also keep in mind that video is very much a two dimensional view. If you have any trees or other landmarks that block the view, you will not see "around" them. Depending on your budget, you have some tough decisions to make, but at a minimum, I would consider something that covers my driveway/garage area if you have one.

If you have a good interior security system, that is a positive. If not, consider using the cameras to "watch" your windows or places of ground entry, closer to your home. You might have to forego something for now. Feel free to come back anytime.

Ok. I'm an idiot & misread the prints. I have no doubt I proved most of the end-user stereotypes right in my first few minutes... sorry about that. The total width is 107' feet.

Christy, no worries and that is good to hear that it is narrower. So the total width is 107' per camera or for the entire perimeter?

Either way, this is now quite simple to handle. Even at 107' max width per camera and 50' distance, this is quite doable with regular equipment.

Take a look at this list of smaller outdoor cameras with 25m+ IR range under $300. It's mostly Dahua and Hikvision as it generally is for this price point. You could certainly buy a Vivotek but it's likely to be notably more expensive and larger (see this list). That said, if you are comfortable with Vivotek's support that is certainly a plus factor.

Thanks for the list!! I was curious how the list would change with a budget of $1000 per camera, and I was surprised that were only 4 cameras between $301-$1000, with all your other parameters the same. I was also surprised that no 5MP cameras were listed. Are they not worth the investment? Is the day/night support also more hype than substance?

The main limitation is that those higher resolution cameras tend to be physically larger. I had initially filtered out larger cameras assuming you wanted smaller, less obvious cameras mounted on your house.

That said, including any size camera, there are 13 matches. The lowest cost, smallest option is the new 4MP cameras (e.g., see our The 4MP Shootout - Dahua vs Hikvision). Those have excellent WDR and are under $200. On the other hand, if you want to go real high end, probably the best is the Avigilon 5MP integrated IR (which has very smooth even night time images) and Avigilon has very good VMS software (though it's relatively expensive and requires a dealer).

Net / net - Dahua or Hik 4MP for low cost / basic functions, Avigilon for high cost / better performance. Arecont is on the list of matches but save yourself pain and avoid them.

Is the day/night support also more hype than substance?

No, it's actually a feature that's tangible, and that you don't want to do without. It means that during daylight hours a mechanical, optical IR filter is inserted between the lens and imager, cutting out most IR.

At night the filter retracts to allow the IR reflected from the LED's to hit the sensor.

Without it, the mixture of IR and visible light would make it impossible to focus the image to its sharpest because of the slightly different wavelengths of light between the two.

@John, nice Box-out of ADI in search results.

For a user, there is literally no point in buying ADI, when Hikvision is available with newer, more secure firmware.

Slightly off topic, but how did ADI get in the DB as an OEM? For price?

ADI is a big company so we believe people will be interested.

Also, it is a lil' bit irony / reminder to the 'other' manufacturers.

The Flir FX

Record to SD card or use cloud recording with it. Flir uses Briefcam for the cloud. The FX also comes with a nifty outdoor cover.

FLIR FX has an IR range of just 10m and tested even worse for range. See: FLIR FX Tested. It's a neat camera but not sure that it's right for a larger outdoor area.