In the same way that some folks are ditching cable for contract-free subscription services like Netflix and video streaming viewers like , security firms like ADT are being forced to share the market with an increasing number of do-it-yourself devices - and standalone cameras represent a significant portion of that growing sub-category.
While the shift toward DIY security gives consumers many more options, it also complicates the purchasing decision a bit. That's why we're here. We'll address a bunch of topics and potential questions in this buying guide so you can figure out exactly what today's DIY home security cameras offer. And, we'll take a look at the innovative tech that's likely to define the future of the industry. (Please note this buying guide deals mainly with indoor DIY home security cameras.)
Old-school security cameras
Internet Protocol, or IP cameras are the precursor to modern-day smart-home-style security cameras. Technically, these little numbers were the DIY competition for the ADT's and Vivint's of the world long before today's smart home was even a thing.
Here's the problem: just like their clunky name suggests, IP cameras weren't designed with simplicity in mind. And some of these so-called DIY devices are still kicking around today, masquerading as competitors to smart home security cameras like , and others.
(model number FI9826P) is one example. I reviewed this IP camera last year and its Web interface was ridiculously convoluted. Check it out for yourself:
Foscam's Web interface. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET
Sure, a relatively tech-savvy person could probably make sense of this, but today's DIY (which began when smart home products that emphasize seamless, smartly-designed Web and mobile apps, like the , emerged on the tech scene), is going for a more universal accessibility.
That puts more pressure on companies to create cameras that are truly simple to set up, but it's good news for consumers - and the mass market as a whole - since there are more buying options than ever before.
Taking matters into our own hands
Before getting bogged down by the specifics, think about what you hope to get out of a security camera. Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you want to look in on a mischievous pet while you're at work or are you more interested in protecting your property 24/7?
- Will your camera stay in one spot or would you like to be able to move it around with ease (including outside)?
- What about the app? Do you want to have access to your camera on your computer as well as on your phone?
- Is a high-resolution video feed necessary or is it OK if the camera captures a simple standard-def clip or photo of a security event?
- If you're interested in saving video footage, would you rather use cloud storage or access your video locally (via a microSD card or a USB drive)?
- How much are you willing to spend on a security camera?
- Do you want your camera to work with other devices?
DIY security offers you the freedom to select from a bunch of different features, prices and styles. But, staring at a sea of options can be really confusing if you haven't already sorted through what matters to you and what doesn't.