The best doorbell cameras allow you to protect your property while adding an extra watchful eye to the neighborhood as a whole. Whether you’re placing battery-powered wireless cameras at all angles or installing a wired model to replace an existing doorbell, the right tech tools protect that piece of mail and that peace of mind. Here are our selections for the best doorbell cameras featuring motion detection, affordable data subscriptions, and more innovative ways to secure a house or apartment.
The future of doorbell cameras can see the past
Knock-knock. Who’s there? You know. You know who? I sure do. With a WiFi doorbell camera, you can be alerted to porch pirates, annoying salespeople, trash pandas, and other unwanted guests before having to confront them physically. Easy to install, even easier to use, these smart doorbells let users remotely monitor blind spots and heavy-traffic areas and they have become even more valuable as home deliveries increase.
The best wired and wireless doorbell cameras detect motion and record HD video day or night. They are great security tools for spotting would-be thieves or capturing video of hilarious animal encounters. And the two-way speakers allow for safe interaction with strangers, or for scaring away furrier intruders. But how do you know which digital doorbell is the best?
The biggest differences between models are image quality, power source, and storage. Not all models are made equally and quality matters when it comes to home security. Grab one of the best doorbell camera systems from our list and see the world (or at least your neighborhood) from a whole new angle.
What if I have an existing doorbell?
The best doorbell cameras come in two varieties: wired and wireless (and the occasional oddball that can be both). Wired doorbell cameras draw power from the home’s existing doorbell wiring. You may need to drill a few holes and do some basic wiring, but installing a wired doorbell is not as difficult as it may seem. The benefit of a wired doorbell camera is the lack of battery. Wireless doorbells eat up battery power and—depending on use and outdoor temperature—can run out of juice every two months. A wired doorbell is always ready to defend your home. After all, if a smart doorbell is out of power, the doorbell isn’t so smart.
Wireless doorbell cameras are easier to install. With a charged battery and a few screws or some double-sided tape, you’ll be able to keep track of the neighborhood in no time … make that real-time. Wireless doorbell cameras are also easier to replace and upgrade. New features may come along that make your current model obsolete. The ability to swap out an old model for brand new technology can be a plus. If you don’t mind replacing and charging the battery every two to six months, a wireless doorbell camera is great. If you’d rather set it and forget it, a wired doorbell is worth the few extra minutes needed to wire.
Best wired: Google Nest Hello Smart Wi-Fi Video Doorbell
The Google Nest Hello gives one of the sharpest views of even the best doorbell cameras. With HDR video and a 4:3 aspect ratio (to reduce the chances of a face being cut off), the 2K sensor means you can clearly see who’s coming and going. It includes all the best features of smart doorbells: night vision, 24/7 streaming, sound alerts, and facial detection (some features require a Nest Aware subscription). You can ever deploy a prerecorded message to anyone at the door. The unit does need to be connected to the existing wiring, but the image quality and robust features make this a doorbell security camera worthy of having a permanent place on your home.
What if I need to know what happened before something happened?
The best doorbell camera systems come loaded with an assortment of features worthy of James Bond’s summer house. The modern video doorbell is much more than an electronic peephole and offers a wide variety of literal bells and digital whistles. While many doorbell cameras offer HD video, two-way speakers, and motion detection, new features give you even greater control of the front door. The almost magical pre-roll feature has a regularly refreshing recording buffer that allows you to see video from a few seconds before the visitor triggers the motion detection. This gives you a look at what happened before it happened, a nice feature for catching vandals and porch thieves.
Facial recognition will let you know if it’s someone you care about at the door, making it even easier to ignore another annoying solicitor. And night vision has come a long way from the days of grainy footage of green blobs. More elaborate features, such as smart locks and tilting cameras, come at a price and may not be worth the extra money. Dedicated smart locks are more dependable than a lock/doorbell combo. And tilting cameras seem like a great idea, but a well-placed fixed-angle camera with a 160-degree-wide field of view can see everything that’s important.
Best motion-detecting with pre-roll: Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus
For great all-around doorbell cameras, Amazon’s Ring doorbell camera has become an industry leader. The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus has all the features you’ll need (1080p HD video, a two-way speaker, etc.) accessible through an easy-to-use app. The “Plus” in the product name refers to the four seconds of black-and-white video added to the beginning of any motion-triggered recording, which comes in handy for getting the whole story. Programmable motion detection gives you fast alerts if someone, or something, is approaching. Plus, Alexa integration makes voice controls intuitive and you can use any Amazon Echo device around the house to talk with the person at the front door.
But what if I live in an apartment?
One of the most overlooked home surveillance products is a wireless doorbell camera for apartments. Designed to fit into and onto peepholes, these specific smart doorbells offer all the features of the other models, but with special mounting for apartment dwellers.
You will need to remove the existing peephole on your door, but most peephole cameras come with a tool to easily remove the old tiny telescope. Setup should be straightforward and online product videos can answer most of your installation questions.
As for features, you’ll want motion detection that is easy to customize. The point of view from an apartment’s front door can vary greatly from building to building. Knock detection is also great for visitors who can’t reach the high doorbell button or those who don’t even realize the door has a bell at all. While a smaller peephole camera can be cheaper than bigger models, you will still need to store all the video data somewhere, and that means monthly subscription fees. But having a peephole camera makes apartment living easier and safer.
Best wireless for apartments: Ring Peephole Cam
Once again, Amazon’s Ring line proves to be a winner with a great doorbell camera for apartments. Installation is a snap thanks to the included tool use for peephole removal. Knock detection is responsive and accurate. Video quality is fantastic. And you can program and optimize the doorbell camera for your specific apartment. For instance, set the light detection level high if the apartment faces out into a hallway as opposed to facing direct sunlight. Standard storage rates apply, with a $3/month subscription.
Does the doorbell camera have ongoing monthly fees?
Some of the best doorbell camera systems are more expensive than you think. Shoppers may be hit with a wave of sticker shock to learn the new gadget requires monthly fees. A doorbell camera can capture hours and hours of HD video, and all the video data has to live somewhere. Cloud-based storage isn’t free, so many smart doorbell makers charge ongoing fees to cover the cost of storage and data security. Subscription prices start from $3/month for basic 30-day storage and increase based on how much storage you need or how many cameras are being used. The good news: There are designs that don’t rely on the cloud, and have no ongoing fees.
These video doorbells have limited internal memory, but if you’re good at data management, it’s no problem—pick a model with expandable storage and swap SD cards regularly. Depending on image resolution, the internal memory may only hold a few hours or a few weeks’ worths of video. While the possibility that someone will steal the camera, and all recorded evidence with it, a cloud storage breach remains an equal or even greater threat. For those who want optimum data security, and an optimized budget, internal storage is a smart option.
Best no-subscription: eufy Security, WiFi Video Doorbell
The eufy doorbell camera is wired and may take some effort to install, but it has two things that make it worth the hassle of installation: great features and no storage fees. Customizable motion detection, high-quality videos, three seconds of video recorded before anyone presses the button—the eufy does it all. Videos and alerts are sent to a smartphone, but all the data is stored in the camera’s 4GB internal memory. Depending on the resolution, that’s enough memory for a few weeks’ worth of video. Most doorbell cameras require monthly subscriptions and cloud storage fees, whereas the eufy is truly a one-and-done purchase.
What can I get for less than $50?
Not everyone needs a home surveillance doorbell camera that does it all. If you’re only looking for decent-quality video on a simple doorbell, you can find inexpensive models that work well enough. For budget-minded shoppers, look to spend about $50-$100. Anything cheaper than $40 and the doorbell is a doornail. Most doorbell cameras under $100 will need to be connected to existing doorbell wires. If you don’t mind a little wire cutting and twisting, you can find a great camera that will last longer than a year or two.
The lower cost may also mean the user experience suffers. A slow connection between your smartphone and the camera can be the result of poorly designed UX or the result of a doorbell camera that struggles to detect your WiFi router. Cheaper doorbell cameras will be a bit harder to install, slower to respond, and are more likely to have glitches. Those can be serious issues when your security is concerned, so don’t use a model if the brand name isn’t well known or if the product looks too good to be true.
On the plus side, there are plenty of doorbell cameras that keep costs low and video resolution high. HD cameras are not as expensive as they once were, so even low-end doorbell cameras can capture nice video. If you’re willing to install it yourself and don’t mind slogging through less intuitive apps, there are economic options available.
Best budget: The Energizer Connect Smart 1080p Security Doorbell
Do you want a doorbell camera and nothing more? This is it. If you’re shopping for a $50 doorbell camera, you probably don’t want to be burdened with monthly data storage fees. The Energizer Connect Smart doesn’t require cloud storage thanks to a MicroSD slot—just keep an eye on your storage limits and you should be fine. The doorbell camera has motion detection, night vision, and a two-way speaker. The downside is you need to install it into existing doorbell wiring. The nicest feature besides the price is the 1080p video. This is a basic doorbell camera and a great introductory unit for a new homeowner.
Best doorbell cameras FAQ:
What field of view is best for a doorbell camera?
The best doorbell camera lens needs a wide field of view. A blind spot or bad angle can render a camera useless. If you have a front yard and driveway and want to see as much as possible, look for a field of view width as close to 180 degrees as possible. At 180 degrees, the camera can see everything in front of it. That said, anything over 160 degrees is enough to get a great view of the area. Wider widths may distort the image into a fisheye look.
Is there a monthly charge for the Ring doorbells?
Yes, there is a monthly charge for Amazon’s Ring doorbells, and most doorbell cameras in general. The fee pays for data storage and data security. While you can use any doorbell camera without a subscription, the video won’t be saved unless you pay for cloud storage. A Ring doorbell without a subscription means you can only see live video. For a Ring doorbell, $3/month gets you basic storage for one device—enough to save video for 60 days. And $10/month covers multiple devices and offers 24/7 professional monitoring. Annual subscriptions are a few dollars cheaper than paying month-to-month.
Do all doorbell cameras need WiFi?
Technically, not all doorbell cameras need to be connected to a WiFi router. However, you’ll have a hard time finding one that doesn’t. The most popular doorbell cameras rely on a constant WiFi signal to push notifications and video to your phone. A model without WiFi connectivity will need some sort of cellular data to get the info to your phone. A high-end, industrial doorbell camera like the DoorBird won’t need WiFi signal, but they cost upwards of $1,000. It’s doable to go without WiFi, but it’s not recommended.
The final word on the best doorbell cameras
Outside of a well-trained attack dog or well-armed butler, the best home surveillance is a simple doorbell camera. A wired doorbell camera can be tougher to install, but easier to maintain. And a wireless doorbell camera is as simple as doorbells can get. Find a camera with excellent image quality and simple controls. Integrating the doorbell camera with your virtual assistant (Google Home or Amazon Alexa) is a huge plus. And, most importantly, use a doorbell camera with the best motion detection. With the right camera, you can say hi to the pizza guy and goodbye to some of your worries.