Talk to me about home security cameras.
March 15, 2016 1:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in getting a home security camera. Please advise.

There have been several break-ins on my street in the past year. I'm interested in getting cameras that would show if anyone was at my house when I'm not home, and would film bad guys if they tried to break in or stole a package off the porch. Any suggestions?

I'm not interested in recording sound. I have cats. I think I'm more interested in outdoor cameras than inside ones, as I work from home and don't want it recorded that I spend five hours a day on the sofa reading Facebook.

Stuff I have to work with: a landline, okay-but-not-great wifi, assorted Macs and iPhones of various ages, a Nest thermostat.
posted by The corpse in the library to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I took the DIY route, and have deployed the same configuration for a couple of relatives.

I've had great success with generic-ish Foscam IP cameras, with BlueIris running as a DVR.

Unless one happens to run a servers at home/knows their way around a hypervisor, BlueIris is best off deployed on a standalone Windows PC. The PC doesn't need to be super beefy, but should have a relatively modern processor (i.e., i3 or better), 4+ GB of RAM, and perhaps a couple hundred GB of free disk space (enough to give you many, many weeks of motion-triggered recordings). Ideally, the computer should live somewhere slightly less-than-obvious, to reduce the chances that it disappears in a smash-and-grab. Hence a laptop or slim form-factor (maintained in a 'headless' configuration - administer it with MS Remote Desktop, TeamViewer, etc.) PC is ideal.

For simple external access, you'll want to open up ports on your router to enable the BlueIris web service to be reached via browser or smartphone app from the outside world.
posted by BrandonW at 2:22 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

We had a recent previously too, if that's helpful.
posted by jamaro at 2:24 PM on March 15, 2016

FWIW, I just installed an Amcrest 1080p motion detecting camera at my folks' house last weekend, and picked up two more to install at our house. The price is right ($99 at Amazon), nice feature set, highly configurable but still fairly straightforward to set up, easy remote viewing and cloud support, etc. There may be better units out there, to be sure, but this one seems pretty good and seems to bring a lot of value for a low price. The ones we got are all indoor models, but they make outdoor versions as well. for more info.
posted by mosk at 2:46 PM on March 15, 2016

I love my Nest camera. It records in high-quality, and it is perfect for watching my ridiculous cat while I'm out of town. It's a bit expensive, requires a subscription to save video (but that can be cancelled and reactivated easily) but I did not want to have to mess with anything DIY. I highly recommend it. The Wirecutter recommends it, and they had some other good recommendations as well.

I am a bit paranoid, so when I'm not using it I unplug it and put it away in its box, which I covered in foil (sort of a makeshift faraday cage). I'm not sure if this would work for you, but the idea that it can record audio and video even if I think it's off and maybe even if it's not plugged in really scares me. This is the case with all wireless IP cameras, but like I said, I'm a bit paranoid. I do the same thing with my cellphone.
posted by sockermom at 4:01 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

We also used the same Amcrest camera mosk mentions (managed to snag it for $70 on sale at Home Depot's website). The software and interface is somewhat subpar by my standards (I still can't figure out how to get night vision going manually and their website uses the accursed flash, which is worthless for watching recorded videos from your phone), but it can be configured to email you or text you when it detects motion, as well as record snippets of video when it does so.

As an aside, if you want deterrence, you could also rig up a lamp with a timed switch to make the lights go on when you're not around.
posted by Strudel at 6:05 PM on March 15, 2016

I asked this question a few months ago, and as a result I did purchase a set of Netgear Arlo cameras and have been really happy with them. While my primary purpose was as a trail cam, they also serve perfectly well as security cameras.

They are 100% wireless, and initial setup literally consisted of 60 seconds of connecting the base unit to my WiFi, 30 seconds to pair the 3 cameras to the base unit, and I was all set, left only with the decision of where to put them. They are fully capable of standard permanent mounts which can be had cheaply, but the mounts included are magnetic, so you can easily move and relocate them with little effort. They have good night vision capabilities. The units themselves are very small, and very easy to hide or place inconspicuously.

There is no fee for online viewing of up to 5 (I think) cameras; the available cloud storage only lasts for 7 days on the free plan, but you can always permanently download any recorded video (before it expires) to your local machine anytime you want. I get a text message within seconds of any camera detecting motion, and the video is available as soon as it is done recording whatever length of time you've configured it for. While I haven't had much luck viewing live feeds from a PC for some reason, the iPhone app works great.

Very configurable; you can create different 'modes' where you might have two outdoor cameras record on motion but the one inside disabled when you're home, or any other configuration, and you can create schedules of the various modes. You can even do things like record video on camera A whenever camera B detects motion. Night vision is pretty good, crisp and clear. They were a little beyond my initial budget but I'm very pleased with the result.
posted by SquidLips at 7:29 PM on March 15, 2016

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