We’ll be honest: Full-feature security camera rigs aren’t necessary for all homes or even office spaces. They’re more frequently found in higher-end neighborhoods and sensitive commercial areas such as banks. However, you might just be concerned about an angry ex or devious neighbors, which is an understandable situation for the average Joe or Sally. In fact, it’s possibly the number-one reason most people end up investing in a camera system with a DVR — or, in the case of modern surveillance setups, NVR (network video recorder).
A “security camera system” employs multiple cameras on a CCTV network that’s attached in some way to a DVR or NVR terminal to store recordings for later viewing. In most cases, these terminals will offer the option to expand internal and external storage, save recordings to the cloud or overwrite old recordings with newer ones. You’ll invariably use the lattermost option sooner or later since the sheer size of the recordings can suck up terabytes of storage rather quickly, especially if you’re running multiple cameras concurrently in 1080p with audio to boot. If that doesn’t float your fancy, most camera systems also offer some form of motion-based recording to pare down the recording time strictly to moments of elevated risk when nearby activity is detected.
Software compatibility is often not an issue with camera systems since the NVR usually serves as its own reduced-functionality terminal that’s focused on reviewing and saving recordings, manipulating cameras or altering settings. However, it’s worth noting that not all camera systems will support mobile software for Android or iPhone, which is an easy deal-breaker for many. There’s no denying the ability to keep an eye on your home or office from a remote location with nothing but a smartphone and a cellular internet connection, and this has become an epic selling point for the contemporary surveillance setup. Don’t worry: We have plenty of those on our list today too.
Apart from app support, the main features that you’ll need to look out for include video resolution, audio recording, color or gray scale, infrared (night vision) and motion sensors. Keep in mind that most camera systems come in varying packages that include more or fewer cameras ranging from two or four all the way up to 12 or more. The media connections on the NVR are also important in case you want to connect multiple various monitors or computer systems to support your surveillance array. You should also keep the consistency and synchronicity of the cloud service, if any, in mind: They vary in bandwidth, storage and update frequencies.
You might be surprised to know that the most complex part comes down to the installation, which is uniform across most brand offerings. However, there’s no need to keep a hawk eye out for the ideal surveillance array; that’s what we’re here to work out for you. With that said, kick back, breathe easy and allow us to spy on the market’s offerings to reveal the best outdoor wireless security camera system with DVR for your personal space.
Table of Contents
Best Outdoor Wireless Security Camera System with DVR Comparison Table
|Product||Camera Resolution||Camera Channels||Motion Detection||Night Vision||Audio||Warranty|
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Best Outdoor Wireless Security Camera System with DVR Reviews
CamView 720p — Editor’s Choice
We have to admit that this is basically a tie with Firstrend’s camera system on this list due in large part to CamView’s UK roots, which restricts some of the services that are offered by the company. However, if you happen to live in that area, you’ll get the whole shebang: professional installation and an exceptional warranty in addition to better-than-those-other-guys hard- and software right out of the box.
“Well, what could possible go wrong with a company called ‘CamView’?” Indeed, cameras are their forte, but we’ll tell you right now why their offerings are a problem: They’re just so good that you might forget there are alternatives. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Seriously, these guys are great: With a clean-cut, no-nonsense website that tells you everything they do from top to bottom, you’ll not only find yourself deeply interested in their offerings, but you might even let their specialists install the goods while you’re at it. Oh, and did we mention they have genuine cloud support?
As far as hardware goes, it’s more of the same reliable tech that you’ll find in any security brand name. The one detail that might bother some folks is the 720p recording, which sounds like a rip, but with everything else you’re getting in this bundle, we’re going to just mention that anything over 720p is going to be compromised with issues like low frame rates and high storage consumption. You don’t really need anything better than 720 for capturing most close-quarters details in office spaces or around small premises such as simple parking lots or your front lawn.
There’s motion-based recording, a fairly standard infrared lamp setup that promises 20 meters of night-vision goodness, audio recording and a 1 TB drive out of the box to support it all for around 17 days before overwrites are needed. With 720p, that does seem a little short, but keep in mind that resolution isn’t the only metric of quality to consider in videos since bit rate, frame rate and color space are all contributing factors, and it sounds like CamView does these quite well with their offering here. There’s also an audio plug for the cameras to add voice to the recordings.
So, here’s where things get even awesomer. Yes, there’s the usual and expected remote viewing support for Android, iOS and PC environments that are on the same network, but you also have cloud support here, which means that anywhere you go with cellular internet is game for remote viewing wherever you happen to be. You’ll need a cloud account and the CamView cloud app to make it happen, and it all works so very well once you’re in the door with their service.
Another major plus here is the two-year warranty. Of course, there’s also lifetime free technical support on the side too.
SAFEVANT 960p — Affordable Choice
We’ll admit that the lack of an HDD probably goes a long way in making this camera system so affordable, but in reality, factoring in the cost of a 2 TB drive still puts this camera system well under the costs of other comparable offerings on the market. It’s a fully feature-packed setup too.
Specializing in a full array of monitors and CCTV cameras, SAFEVANT is a lesser-known company that covers all bases within its field. All of their offerings fall in the 720-1080p range, so if you were expecting to find a 4K entry on this list for some reason, we’re here to disappoint. However, don’t let that deter you from the fact that SAFEVANT makes an excellent product for all security purposes, and we’re about to see why.
It was always curious why cameras would come with 960p compatibility. Why 960p? Why not just 720p and 1080p like all the normal human beings in the rest of the world?
Functioning as an indoor or outdoor camera, there’s everything that one could hope for here: weatherproofing, 20m night vision, motion detection, auto-pairing to home base and four channels to cover all bases in a small-ish environment. No HDD is included, so be prepared to turn around and spend almost the same amount on hardware to save the videos too. Still, it’s not a bad offering.
Motion detection alerts and app support for remote viewing make up two standard but important features here. SAFEVANT makes the clear distinction that you don’t need to share the local network in order to tap into the drive storage, so there’s a trace of cloudy goodness at play here. Remote viewing extends into PC operating environments as well but with a different program.
Panasonic HomeHawk — Truly Wireless Nature
With only three cameras, a truly wireless experience that runs on rechargeable batteries and ultra-simple pairing, it’s hard to beat a brand name that you know when it comes to quick, easy and affordable outdoor and indoor surveillance.
Ah, Panasonic. Do we really need to run down who and what Panasonic is? You probably have a few appliances in your home already that bear the brand alongside Sony, Samsung and others. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that their array of camera systems will stand up to dedicated security firms such as ZOSI, there’s comfort in seeing a recognizable brand. Still, it’s worth noting that Panasonic has more or less garnered a reputation for being a cheaper alternative to other preferred options, so we’ll step into this one cautiously and see what their offering is worth.
We’ll give it to Panasonic: The Homehawk has some style. Not only are the cameras sleek and modern, but the NVR itself carries an almost futuristic look that— wait a minute, that’s another camera? Yep: It’s a 720p three-camera bundle with two “standard” cameras and a third “set top-style” type that we figure was intended for setting on a desk somewhere. The actual NVR blends in nicely with the rest of your entertainment or computer setups but isn’t much to look at. Sorry, folks; we know how badly you wanted to show off your surveillance mainframe to friends and family.
The cameras come packed with wide-angle lenses that cover everything inside a 172-degree arc in addition to color shooting in both regular and night-vision modes. There’s also a two-way talk function built into the camera modules themselves, which some camera systems on our list actually missed. We understand that it’s not the most important checkbox to tick off, but it’s nice to push a button and speak to the UPS guy through a surrogate.
The most impressive part of this offering, however, is the truly wireless nature of the whole shebang. There are literally no wires; the whole rig can be launched from Panasonic’s own rechargeable batteries, which are cited to be “long-lasting”. We’re not sure about that battery life, but if it supports microSD, that lends to the possibility that RISC computing tech is under the hood, which translates to efficiency. However, Panasonic’s specs page refers to 4 GB cards as a sort of benchmark for competent storage capacity on this system, which suggests that there’s probably a low ceiling on how much you can save. If that’s the case, then you’re looking at a tactical solution, not so much a strategic one.
Note that the microSD card goes in the NVR, not the cameras themselves.
There’s very little information to go on here. There’s the HomeHawk app for your Android or iOS tablet or smartphone for remote viewing, which suggests that either some form of cloud service is at play or you can tap the recordings from a local network. It seems that the highly mobile setup of the camera system and its NVR implies that PC remote viewing wasn’t accounted for, but we can’t be sure.
You actually need to call Panasonic’s customer service centers to obtain a manufacturer’s warranty. We have no further information on that part, and it goes without saying that it’s not what we’d call a “benefit” when you look at what other companies are offering.
Firstrend 1080p — Camera System with Best Customer Support
Apart from offering an excellent product with a one-year warranty to boot, getting on the phone with Firstrend’s tech support and customer claims center is one of the nicest experiences you’ll have. If you value having an official support structure to back up your investment, roll with this company.
Some reviews, we start by discussing the camera features; others, we like to bring up the tired and outdated technology that’s often baked into the logic boards on the NVRs. Here, Firstrend doesn’t really make us think much about anything else than the uniformly 1080p recording capabilities with the huge antennas that stick up off the NVR itself. From the outset, we guessed that the Wi-Fi works just ducky on this sucker, and yep, that seems to be what users and Firstrend themselves indicate. We’re already off to a good start with that and the 2 TB drive that comes preinstalled, which is twice what other manufacturers include out of the box.
It’s worth noting that both 3.5- and 2.5-inch drives can be used with this NVR, adding a layer of versatility that other NVRs do not. The NVR supports eight channels, which is adequate for a small facility.
There’s nothing special to discuss with the software, but that’s not a bad thing: It’s more of the same that you expect and already know how to work with. With app-based access for iOS and Android in addition to remote casting for various popular PC platforms, it’s a standard setup that complies with all basic internet protocols. There’s perhaps one cool feature worth noting: email alerts with screenshots of suspicious or motion-detected activity.
SMONET 960p – Expandable System
SMONET — sometimes stylized as Smonet — is a surveillance technology manufacturer under Global Sources and is staffed with members who have prior experience under Microsoft, Huawei and Samsung. They’re a straightforward name in the business and aren’t the first term that comes to mind when one thinks of security solutions, but they offer solid, highly rated equipment for residential and commercial solutions alike. Their camera array offerings keep with traditions of well-rounded hardware combined with versatile software features to provide a complete security suite.
The hardware is a standard mixture of good-enough HD recording with a 1 TB drive out the box, which can be upgraded to a single 4 TB drive. Unfortunately, there’s only support for a single SATA connector in this fashion, so you won’t be using this rig with any sort of RAID. There’s also a single USB 2.0 port for comparatively slow data transfer to an external drive. The terminal itself is classified as an NVR, which serves as a network-attached alternative to standard NVR solutions. As such, it supports IP cameras, which are the golden standard for Internet-connected surveillance systems and form the spine of most contemporary camera systems on commercial premises today.
Put simply: While SMONET hasn’t given us the latest hardware to work with here, it has offered a dedicated solution for professional and personal settings alike.
The camera tech is fairly cut and clean, bringing a 1/4″ color CMOS sensor at 1,280 x 960. Out of the box, you may get either a 3.6 mm or 4 mm lens; SMONET themselves admit this is a lottery roll, but we don’t expect the difference to have a significant impact on the quality of your shipment. Night vision is built in with an infrared receiver that works effectively up to 20 meters, which is ample for small parking lots, storefronts and foyers without sacrificing considerable quality. There’s no illumination with the infrared activated, keeping the camera covert under nighttime cover. This all comes in an IP66 water- and dust-resistant package, but unfortunately, there’s no battery operation here.
With this product, basic functionality is met in graceful stature with the essential array of storage, backup and retrieval solutions between internal and external drives as well as — here’s the hugely important part — iOS and Android app support for mobile smart device access. You can tap the NVR itself directly for playback and USB backup if need be, but you can also cast the content remotely to a PC as needed. Since there’s no centralized cloud support, you’ll tap into the recordings through a shared Wi-Fi network, meaning you’ll need to be on the premises to see what the cameras see.
ONWOTE 1080p – One More Nice Choice
Unlike SMONET, ONWOTE has a dedicated website that speaks lengths to their involvement in their line of business. Dedicated strictly to surveillance solutions, this manufacturer brings a rather impressive selection of distributed and all-in-one camera systems that covers pretty much every base imaginable on residential, commercial and industrial fronts. As expected of any dedicated camera company, there are several packages that range in the number of cameras supplied in addition to varying NVR hardware solutions.
Altogether, ONWOTE caters to low- and high-end markets alike and should be considered a leader in the industry.
ONWOTE delivers quite a reasonable punch hardware-wise. Bringing a night-vision array of IP66-secured 1080p cameras, their product is off on the right foot. That resolution drops to 960p for infrared recording, and the whole machine is advertised to write video at 15 fps, which is a little choppy but passable for the cost.
The NVR itself support only a single SATA with a USB 2.0 port. The 3.5-inch SATA port can handle up to 6 TB, which is modest for a multi-camera array at 960-1080p. Unfortunately, it ships without a drive out of the box, so you’ll need to either donate one from your PC or purchase it separately before you can record to an internal drive. Since the USB port is about 10 years outdated, don’t count on recording anything directly to an external drive in any appreciable capacity.
You’re getting fairly standard remote view support for Android, iOS or PC operating environments. There’s not a whole lot of information to work with here, but it’s safe to assume that being an NVR, all basic internet protocols are compatible with the hard- and software here. The usual functions of backing up data to external drives and allowing users to gain access to recordings through mobile apps on a local network are all available here.
Luowice 960p – Great Choice with 11-inch Monitor
We’re here to confirm that yes, Luowice is a legitimate company. They offer many other kinds of camera products aside from what we’re reviewing here today, and you have to commend them on one point: They really push the software downloads for those who buy their products unlike some companies (Dell for one) that prefer to stow away their drivers where you can never find them.
The NVR consists of a four-channel layout with room for one HDD up to 4 TB. They claim that a 1 TB HDD is able to hold 30 days of recording, which is actually better than average but not entirely surprising when you consider writing formats and the dedicated role that a surveillance NVR plays. Also keep in mind that a bare-bones operating environment is on board, which takes it easy on any drive space that might be used in the machine’s operation. With that said, you’re not getting the most brilliant CPU or RAM included, but that’s to be expected of a system that supports up to four cameras at HD+ resolutions and a slideshow-esque 15 fps.
As expected of the camera, you have the 960p HD video with audio pickup, motion-sensing, infrared and the whole nine to make the rig hum with every basic security feature that you could ask for. However, the NVR itself lacks an audio out, so while you can review the videos from it on the inbuilt 11-inch monitor, you’re not going to hear anything until you export the videos to another device. There’s solid Wi-Fi reception through the high-gain antennas on each camera, which is unusually good and should be considered a major benefit for larger facilities where Wi-Fi coverage is difficult. Adding to that is the “Repeater Mode”, which triples the reception clarity and distance through some technical sorcery that we’re not privy to explain in depth.
As you’d expect, there’s a minimalistic operating environment on board with basic functions for viewing, editing and exporting videos or adjust camera settings from a distance. You can fully expect support with both Windows and Mac PCs, but it’s unclear how the NVR will play with Linux.
ZOSI Camera System – Best 1080p Choice
As we say many times throughout this article, a manufacturer that has its own polished website makes the finest first impressions, and ZOSI is no exception to that. On the ZOSITECH website, you’ll find that they truly specialize in just security equipment, mainly camera systems that are packed with NVRs for CCTV recording. Glancing over their products, it appears that you’re getting great bang for your buck, but we’re going to pick apart their four-camera 1080p setup here to see if that holds up.
Do you like 1080p FHD videos that capture every little detail? How about 4K? Okay, relax — we’re kidding about the 4K; who has the drive space for that anyway? While you have the option to downscale to 720p to save space on your drives if needed, you can always stick to 1080p to ensure that the little things are made apparent when you review your recordings. Remember that 720p is considered a basic requirement since it strikes a finer balance between drive space, processing power and detail rendering, but as we approach the second decade of the millennium, it’s probably time to think about 1080p as the base option for recording systems.
The NVR comes packed with a 1 TB drive from the moment you boot it up, there’s the standard-issue 20m infrared lamp setup that enhances nighttime shooting, and you can customize the motion detection to work at specific sensitivities on certain cameras. The cameras are rated at 2.0 megapixels for snapping pictures, which is roughly double 1080p video in terms of resolution.
While other cameras on this list haven’t made it very clear how their internet services work, ZOSI makes it pretty obvious that you don’t need a local Wi-Fi connection that’s shared with the NVR to tap into your recordings. Rather, ZOSI’s servers identify your internet-connected NVR and allow you to tap into any network to reach said recordings from your home or office for retrieval. Some of the entries on our list may actually have this feature, unbeknownst to us at the time of researching them; to that, we refute the manufacturers who didn’t make it evident how their apps work. With that said, you know with confidence that this is how ZOSI works.
Concerning the rest of the software notes, we’d like to say that this is a pretty standard offering in every other regard: You have mobile apps and support for PC remote viewing, which spans across all popular operating environments on both hardware platforms. This software is what affords the aforementioned “anywhere access” cloud service, so we’d definitely recommend installing the app to make the most of your camera setup. There are also “smart notifications” that will notify you with a screenshot whenever motion is detected, and you have control over how this setting actually works.
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Best Outdoor Wireless Security Camera System with DVR Buyer’s Guide
How are security camera systems normally set up?
Typically, you’ll hook up the NVR (“mainframe” or “terminal”) to a mouse and monitor and use it as you would a regular PC. The cameras would be perched in various indoor or outdoor locations with power cables running to outlets and sometimes data cables running back to the mainframe, which stores the data and gives the user access to camera controls, playback, offloading and more. The exact nature of the setup is rather complicated to unravel blow by blow, but at its core, it’s straightforward and intuitive — just a tedious exercise in strategic line-running. Most of the real difficulty boils down to how your house or office is arranged, which will affect the path of the wires, but this isn’t an issue if you purchased a camera system that allows wireless conveyance instead.
Keep in mind that when you go for a wireless camera system, you’re not necessarily getting a product that’s truly wireless. All that’s meant by this is that your cameras, whether battery-powered or requiring power from an outlet, are able to connect to local Wi-Fi to write recordings to the NVR or the cloud, either of which you can access through a mobile app for most camera systems today. These mobile apps will vary by manufacturer, but they’ll typically support both iOS and Android smart devices. These apps are a simple matter of punching in credentials to log in and tap into your recordings remotely, which is possibly the niftiest little feature one could ask for since you can watch over your personal spaces remotely and sometimes even control the cameras.
What happens if the Wi-Fi goes out on my connected camera system?
It depends on the camera system soft- and hardware as well as the settings that you’ve cut out. All good camera systems will support memory cards, external drives and even internal drive swapping; failing adequate local storage, it’s possible to utilize a subscription to a cloud service that will store your videos instead. Not all NVRs will let you do this, but you can usually arrange the order in which data is saved to various connected drives under specific circumstances. This means that — you guessed it — a Wi-Fi outage just causes the NVR to revert to local recording until the internet connection is restored.
Now, understand that some NVRs might stream directly to a cloud service, but it’s not beyond any manufacturer to be frugal with their networking and set up your box to store the data locally until it can be written to the cloud. In these cases, the data is already on local storage; it’s just awaiting a connection so it can synchronize locally saved data once more. In the case that you have no local drives attached to your camera system, however, you’ll either lose some of your older local data or the system will quit recording altogether. Long and short: If you’re going to spend a little green on a surveillance array, go the extra mile and get a 2-8 TB external drive to be safe. It might just save you a great deal of legal or financial trouble down the road — or should we say in your driveway.
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Is there any reason I can’t or shouldn’t use outdoor security cameras inside my house
There’s no reason you can’t use outdoor cameras inside a building, but whether you should is a different question. Bear in mind that outdoor surveillance solutions typically include water- and dust-proofing (IP certification) in addition to sensor suites that are arranged to maximize on outdoor recording through various weather conditions. However, these features will do just fine inside your home or office; the question is just a matter of whether you want to spend extra on cameras that are good in both environments or if you’d rather save a dime and stick to the more fragile indoor varieties.
It’s worth noting that companies and individual people do commonly use outdoor camera systems for indoor environments, so if you opt to go this route, we’re not going to stop you.
What video resolution is recommended for a security camera system?
Ah, the old resolution debate. Most people should know by now that 1080p (full HD or FHD) isn’t necessary in the majority of the places where you’d perch cameras since the space that’s watched by any given camera will usually be small and contained enough for 720p (high definition or HD) to pick up the relevant details. Since 1080p is double the resolution of 720p, you’ll fill your drives twice as quickly, so you should stick to 720p except in highly sensitive cases or areas where you expect to pay more attention to small details in the recording.
With some cameras offering a maximum of 720p to 960p, it’s not hard to see that even manufacturers themselves aren’t particularly bothered with gaming or movie resolutions on surveillance rigs. That, we think, speaks for itself.
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Is there anything specific I should carefully look for?
It really comes down to the conditions of wherever you’re setting up said cameras. If you’re aiming for an outdoor solution, then IP certification for water- and dust-resistance is all-important in addition to motion sensors for conservative recording and infrared for nighttime detection. Beyond those three, your biggest concern will be wireless support and whether or not there’s a mobile app that allows you to reliably access your recordings on the fly. As long as you have those five options, the rest ultimately boils down to your specific needs and preferences.
Indoor camera setups are typically simpler since the conditions are more forgiving. You can usually stick to lower resolutions more consistently and forgo the fancy sensors, but since indoor environments are also fraught with motion, motion-sensitive recording probably won’t be as effective in most places such as an office or bathroom — okay, we’re kidding about the bathroom. In all seriousness, indoor recording will be more depending on cloud storage solutions or larger local drive arrays; the rest of the soft- and hardware involved is a matter of convenience at that point.
Is there any reason to leave the cameras recording all the time?
In sensitive settings where money or valuables are involved — think jewelry store, bank or Brinks trucks — sure, there the risk of motion-based recording is too conservative to be called “safe”. While you can stick to motion-sensitive recording in general commercial settings as well, you likely won’t benefit much from it since constant motion could keep the cameras in a steady recording state, but there’s nothing wrong with implementing motion sensors here on the occasion that nothing of interest is happening. Generally speaking, motion-based recording is ideal for individuals who are just trying to protect their homes or a general space where nonspecific problems could arise.
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It’s been a long article, but it’s hard to be so informative in few words. With eight surveillance arrays reviewed in-depth, we think we’ve given you the means to set off on your own and seek out the solution that’s right for you, whatever you’re trying to protect. Even if the apple of your eye wasn’t on this list today, that’s okay: We’ve given you the basis to find similar such technology elsewhere, and you now have the wherewithal to confidently shop for the right product. Hey, we wouldn’t just research these topics and rock these huge articles if we thought the paint on the walls was the only thing reading them; some folks just don’t know where to start when they begin their investigation into home surveillance and professional camera arrays.
Normally, we’d talk about the future of camera technology right about now, but in truth, it’s hard to see it going anywhere productive any time soon. There are implications with virtual reality (VR) that are no doubt in the works, but don’t expect to see these revealed in any meaningful capacity in the coming five years. For the large part, cameras are in a comfortable spot right now with the advent of smartphones allowing just about everyone to have access to the recordings from just about everywhere. Just think: There was once a time when people would have to hope nothing happened while they were on the road and would only find peace when they returned to their office or home setting to check the DVR.
Nope, those days are long behind us now.
When you think about it, today’s take on surveillance cameras is adequate for nearly all applications with even spy cameras being a hot topic for indoor surveillance. Say what you will about Big Brother and invasions of privacy; we write these articles in good faith that you aren’t abusing any of this technology to nefarious ends. For those with genuine intentions, we’re here to help you find your way to the most efficient solutions, and we hope this article has served its purpose to those ends.