5 Best Weatherproof Outdoor Security Cameras

outdoor security cameraHere in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, I experience nearly every variety of extreme weather (barring hurricanes, I suppose): intense sun, high winds, downpours of rain, blizzards—you name it. A security camera—even one with the most futuristic software—isn’t going to hold up in these conditions without tough hardware. Below, I’ve compared and reviewed five of the best outdoor cameras available today—ones that perform no matter the forecast.

Our Rank#1#2#3#4#5
Product NameNest CamPhylinkArloBest VisionZosi
Product Image
View Product
Video quality1080p1080p720p1000 TVL*
(~720p)
1000 TVL*
(~720p)
Field of view130°85°110° 105°90°
Motion detectionYesYesYesDepends on DVRDepends on DVR
MonitoringAppAppAppDVRDVR
Power supplyWiredWiredWireless; CR123 lithium batteriesWired; not includedWired
WaterproofingIP65IP66IP65IP66IP66
Operating temperatures4–104°F4–122°F14–122°F 14–122°F-4–122°F
Our Rank #1
Product Name
Nest Cam
Product Image
View Product
Video quality
1080p
Field of view
130°
Motion detection
Yes
Monitoring
App
Power supply
Wired
Waterproofing
IP65
Operating temperatures
4–104°F
Our Rank #2
Product Name
Phylink
Product Image
View Product
Video quality
1080p
Field of view
85°
Motion detection
Yes
Monitoring
App
Power supply
Wired
Waterproofing
IP66
Operating temperatures
4–122°F
Our Rank #3
Product Name
Arlo
Product Image
View Product
Video quality
720p
Field of view
110°
Motion detection
Yes
Monitoring
App
Power supply
Wireless; CR123 lithium batteries
Waterproofing
IP65
Operating temperatures
14–122°F
Our Rank #4
Product Name
Best Vision
Product Image
View Product
Video quality
1000 TVL*
(~720p)
Field of view
105°
Motion detection
Depends on DVR
Monitoring
DVR
Power supply
Wired; not included
Waterproofing
IP66
Operating temperatures
14–122°F
Our Rank #5
Product Name
Zosi
Product Image
View Product
Video quality
1000 TVL*
(~720p)
Field of view
90°
Motion detection
Depends on DVR
Monitoring
DVR
Power supply
Wired
Waterproofing
IP66
Operating temperatures
-4–122°F

*TVL, or television lines, is a measurement of resolution for analog cameras. Because they’re different formats, analog and digital resolutions (measured in pixels, or “p”) are not directly translatable, but a 1000TVL analog camera will produce resolution similar to that of a 720p digital camera.

#1 Nest Cam Outdoor

Nest Cam Outdoor Security CameraNest products continue to blaze the trail in home security and automation, so it’s no surprise that its outdoor camera tops my list. The design is sleek and modern but also holds up against the elements, as does its insulated power cable. Silicone skins are available (view them here on Amazon) in a variety of colors from third-party manufacturers to further protect your Nest Cam and to help you camouflage the bright white device. The camera is already adequately weather resistant for most climates, but these skins can help shield the device against temperature extremes, debris, moisture, etc.

If you want to see how the 1080p video capture itself performs in varied environments and weather extremes, check out the Nest Cam livestream directory, where Nest Cam users have made their camera activity publicly available for your perusal. Don’t ask me how much time I spent watching this goat farm cam.

In addition to access to 24/7 live video, through the Nest app, you can receive activity alerts, share livestreams, and view photos of activity from the last three hours. The camera also features a built-in microphone and speaker, so you can hear and speak remotely via your Nest app, which is perhaps creepy for the passerby, but it means maximal security for you.

If you want to use the app to its fullest potential, Nest Aware is Nest’s subscription service that allows you to save your video to the cloud and grants you further control over your alerts. Each camera comes with a free trial of Nest Aware, but after that subscriptions start at $10 per month. If you’re already using other Nest products inside your home, this subscription may make sense for you, but the additional fees may deter some people.

All these features are supported by excellent customer service and a proven commitment to continual improvement. Nest does a good job of listening to its customers and documenting concerns and suggestions. Personally, when I contacted Nest with some questions using their online chat support system, I received prompt, helpful answers, and the rep let me know he’d pass my feedback along to his superiors. To me, this is always a good sign with new technology manufacturers.

Pros

  • Two-way talk
  • Remote monitoring with Nest app (iOS or Android)
  • Cloud storage packages available
  • Shareable livestreams
  • Insulated weatherproof cable included
  • Additional weatherproofing skins available

Cons

  • Requires monthly subscription fee for full access to features
  • Cannot detach power cable for replacement

Tech specs

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Field of view: 130°
  • Digital zoom: 8x
  • Night vision: 8 infrared LEDs
  • Power cable: 25-foot total length, including a USB cable, an adapter, and a power cable
  • Waterproofing: IP65
  • Material: Carbon fiber
  • Warranty: 2-year limited

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#2 Phylink Outdoor Camera

PHYLINK 1080P Bullet Waterproof Outdoor IP network Camera, Wide Viewing Angle, Email Alerts, DVR Micro SD Card Internet Access, Free App for iPhone/iPad/Android, PC/Mac compatible, PLC-335PW 4mm LensMy second pick, the Phylink outdoor camera, has similar features to the Nest and Arlo cameras, such as app monitoring, but it looks more like a traditional CCTV bullet camera. Its rust-resistant metal body has an IP66 waterproof rating, meaning it’s more waterproof than the other app-enabled cameras on this list. It also includes a hood to help keep water droplets off the lens, and every camera comes with a metal waterproof box so that connections to a PoE injector or AC adaptor are kept safe from moisture.

This camera is uniquely flexible in its storage and monitoring options, earning it a number two position after the Nest Cam. You can monitor remotely via the app and store footage via Dropbox, FTP, NAS, NVR, or even locally onto a Micro SD card. Customers note that while the included software for this device is not very good, the camera works well with third-party software, so if you’re already using a monitoring app, these cameras should be compatible. If you go the third-party route, your setup will likely be more complicated than with other devices, but you will have more control, flexibility, and compatibility with other monitoring devices in the long run.

Phylink’s customer service is consistently positive, and it has made a lot of customer-prompted changes. My experience with customer service was consistent with other reviewers: I submitted a few questions through the online form, which were answered very thoroughly by email, complete with diagrams.

Despite its software shortcomings, which can be bypassed, Phylink’s superior waterproofing, storage and monitoring options, and customer service have earned it a solid second-place spot on this list.

Pros

  • Local storage on Micro SD available (sold separately)
  • Weatherproof junction box for waterproof cable connections
  • Customizable mobile alerts
  • Remote monitoring with smartphone apps (iOS or Android) or by PC

Cons

  • Subpar built-in software, but works well with third-party software

Tech Specs

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Field of view: 85°
  • Digital zoom: 2x
  • Night vision: Infrared LED; up to 30 feet
  • Power cable: Includes 10-foot power cord
  • Waterproofing: IP66
  • Material: Rust-resistant metal
  • Warranty: 2-year limited

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#3 Arlo Wire-Free Indoor/Outdoor HD Camera

Arlo Security System - 1 Wire-Free HD Camera, Indoor/Outdoor, Night Vision (VMS3130)The Arlo camera, our number-three pick, is also an app-monitored camera, which keeps it above our fourth and fifth choices, but its battery problems and lack of continuous recording keep it in third behind Nest and Phylink.

These palm-sized cameras from Arlo are entirely wireless and magnetic, which considerably simplifies their installation and makes it so you don’t have to worry about cords being damaged by temperature extremes. As with the Nest Cam, third-party companies have made silicone skins (see them on Amazon here) in a variety of colors to help camouflage and protect your device.The camera comes with a magnetic mount so you can easily adjust the camera’s location and angle, but Arlo also makes screw-in mounts (see them on Amazon here) for a little more permanence. This flexibility is great for renters who don’t want to run wires and want to take the cameras with them when they move.

The biggest complaint I’ve seen about this device is its battery life, and because temperature is so important to the lifespan of a battery, I can’t give an estimate of how long your batteries will last—you’ll have to figure that one out by trial and error. There is a low-battery indicator, but some users say they’ve gotten false low-battery reports when temperatures dip below freezing. The best way around these issues is to invest in high-quality batteries (rechargeable, even) and to set up an alert on your phone to remind you to check the batteries every few months.

This camera only records when it detects motion or sound; it cannot livestream or continuously record. This is mainly for the sake of conserving battery power for when it’s really needed—imagine how quickly the batteries would drain if the camera were running 24/7. The motion and sound detection sensitivity is adjustable, and you can set up rules to customize your app alerts so you’re not getting pinged every time the wind blows. The camera comes with seven days of cloud recordings (up to 1 GB) for free, but if you’d like additional storage and support, similar to Nest Cam, service plans start at $10 per month.

Arlo offers this fairly comprehensive community-driven support website in addition to options to contact the company directly.

Pros

  • Wire-free for flexibility
  • Free cloud storage (up to 1 GB) for up to 7 days
  • Remote monitoring with Arlo app (iOS, Android)

Cons

  • No livestream or continuous recording option
  • Batteries require regular charging/changing
  • False low-battery reports when temperature drops below freezing

Tech Specs

  • Resolution: 720p
  • Field of view: 110°
  • Digital pan and zoom
  • Night vision: Infrared LEDs
  • Power: 4 CR123 lithium batteries
  • Waterproofing: IP65
  • Warranty: 2-year limited

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#4 Best Vision Outdoor Camera

Best Vision BV-IR140-HD 1000TVL Bullet Security Camera White - Outdoor - Night/Day - 2.8-12mm LensUnlike the first three cameras on this list, Best Vision’s outdoor camera is monitored more traditionally with a DVR rather than remotely through an app. Despite its great picture quality, this need to purchase equipment in addition to the camera earns it a fourth-place ranking.

I also want to emphasize that when you buy this product, you only get the camera and mount—no cables of any kind. It could be a money saver for you if you already have the correct cables, but inconvenient if you don’t. You’ll need a BNC cable, a one-amp power supply, and a DVR with a video capture card to operate the camera.

The aluminum camera body itself has a respectable IP66 waterproofing rating, but you’ll definitely want to consider the weather-resistance of any cables you choose to pair with it. Be sure to get cords that are insulated against temperature extremes and take steps to protect the cord-camera connection point (electrical tape works well). The camera is also quite large, at 10.5 inches long, and therefore more difficult to conceal. As can be expected with a more traditional system, adjustments in zoom and focus have to be made manually, using knobs on the back of the camera.

Users rave about this camera’s superior picture quality, which performs well in both high and low light. One complaint I see with a lot of cameras is that they don’t deal well with uneven light, such as bright sun and dark shade in the same frame, but not so with this camera. Its backlight compensation adjusts to offer a clear picture under any conditions.

Best Vision has a lot of different security-related products, so its website doesn’t offer the same level of comprehensive support as the first three companies on this list, but emails to the support team at [email protected] got me quick and thorough responses to my questions.

Pros

  • Excellent night vision and contrast balance
  • Hood help keeps water droplets off lens

Cons

  • Requires additional equipment
  • Zoom and focus have to be adjusted manually
  • Larger than most cameras

Tech Specs

  • Camera: ⅓ inch 1000 TVL image sensor and 2.8–12mm lens
  • Field of view: 105°
  • Zoom: 4x
  • Night vision: Infrared LED; up to 164 feet
  • Power cable: not included
  • Waterproofing: IP66
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Warranty: 1 year

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#5 Zosi Weatherproof Camera

If you’re looking for analog surveillance on a budget, Zosi’s weatherproof camera is the way to go. Its aluminum housing has an IP66 rating and is a few inches smaller than the Best Vision above. It comes with short power and video output cords, which are concealed inside its three-axis mounting bracket, keeping them safe from moisture and tampering. You would need to drill a hole where you’re mounting the camera in order to run these cords inside, and then you would likely need video and power extensions in order to reach a DVR and power outlet.

Some reviewers complain about the low-quality screws that come with this camera, so you may need to replace them with something of higher quality. Overall though, customers regularly remark that this camera exceeds their expectations given the low price. The image contrast balance doesn’t quite match Best Vision’s, but otherwise the image quality is good enough for a low-cost DIY security system.

Pros

  • 3-axis mounting bracket
  • Protected wiring
  • Protective hood that keeps water droplets off lens

Cons

  • Requires additional equipment
  • Doesn’t deal well with high contrast

Tech Specs

  • Camera: ⅓ inch 1000 TVL image sensor and 3.6mm lens
  • Field of view: 90°
  • Zoom: none (fixed lens)
  • Night vision: 42 infrared LEDs; up to 120 feet
  • Power cable: not included
  • Waterproofing: IP66
  • Materials: Aluminum
  • Warranty: 1 year

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A note on the rankings

The best camera for you will depend on your personal needs, your existing security system (if any), and how much time you want to put into customizing your home security. My top three recommendations are “plug and play” devices that you monitor via a smartphone app. They don’t require additional equipment, such as a DVR or a TV. I’ve prioritized app-compatible devices because they’re beginner friendly and all-inclusive, and they work with smart home devices.

The second type I’ve recommended are more traditional DVR-compatible cameras. They’re lower priced than the app cameras but require additional equipment, which you may or may not already have. There are ways to build an app-monitored system through some DVRs, but that will require additional steps. There are several apps for this out there, and setting up a system like this will depend on the app you choose. If you’re looking to replace existing cameras in your DVR-monitored system, pay attention to recommendations #4 and #5. If you’re looking to start from scratch and want a mobile app-monitored system, pay attention to recommendations #1, #2, and #3.

What to look for in an outdoor security camera

Beyond general video performance, there are several things to consider before purchasing a security camera for the outdoors. These are the features that will keep the inside of your camera dry and ensure it’ll continue to operate even in extreme cold or heat:

  • IP Code, or Ingress Protection, is determined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It rates the device’s degree of protection against dust, water, and prying fingers. An IP rating is marked by “IP” followed by two numerals; for example, “IP67.” The first numeral rates the level of protection against solids (dust, fingers) from zero to six, with zero being no protection and six being dust-tight. The second rates the level of protection against liquids, from zero to eight, with zero being no protection and eight meaning the product is approved for continuous immersion. All the products listed here have at least an IP65 rating, meaning that they’re both dust tight and protected against jets of water.
  • Don’t forget about all-weather protection for the wires as well. The areas where wires connect to the device should be covered and sealed against moisture, and any wiring that will be outside should be insulated against temperature extremes. Even if the camera has wire and connection protection built into the design, a little extra electrical tape around connection points can’t hurt. If you want to conceal wiring, you may have to drill holes to run the wires inside. Keeping as much of the wiring indoors as possible will make your camera less conspicuous, and therefore more effective against trespassers.
  • The operating temperature range tells you the temperature extremes at which your device will continue to function. If you live in a place that is prone to either very hot or very cold temperatures, you’ll want to take extra measures to protect your device and be prepared with a backup security method in case your primary cameras fail. For example, you may not be able to get as good a view, but you can position a camera to look through a window so it can be housed inside during extreme temperatures.
  • Though not essential, a hood over the lens will help keep water droplets and snowflakes off of the lens.

Reliable outside hardware is your first line of defense

Compared to indoor cameras, choosing an outdoor camera requires more attention to the device’s hardware, but fortunately there are handful of options with high-performance internal components as well. Even if your camera is highly weatherproof, it’s a good idea to position it so that it’s somewhat protected from wind and rain, such as under the eaves of a roof. Don’t forget to make doubly sure that connections are also protected, and even consider wrapping them in electrical tape just in case. After weatherproofing, your secondary consideration is how you want to monitor your camera, either remotely by app or more traditionally by recording to a DVR. Finally, think about the features that are most important to you, whether that’s continuous monitoring, video quality, or something else. No matter your situation, one of these five cameras will provide from the outside a first line of defense so you don’t have to worry about trouble on the inside.

Have you used any of these cameras? What do you think of them? How have they held up to the weather where you live?