How to buy wireless IP security cameras

Everything you need to know if you want to set up a security camera system in your home.

Security camera on brick wall.

Professional security camera systems usually come at a hefty price. If your home security budget is limited, a DIY approach using wireless IP (internet protocol) cameras might suit you.

A downside is that these cameras aren’t likely to lower your home insurance premiums, as most insurers require a security system to be professionally installed and monitored. Many IP cameras also require you to subscribe to a paid cloud storage service where your footage is stored.

Connection types

Wireless IP cameras connect to your home WiFi network or through Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT), a radio technology which cordless phones often use. Some can also be physically connected by ethernet cable.

How do they work?

IP cameras are the evolution of CCTV (closed-circuit television). Where CCTV operates on a closed network with cameras wired directly to monitors, IP cameras use WiFi to transfer video and photos to cloud storage. Most can also store recordings locally on a microSD card.

Security camera monitor in building and hand holding a smart phone.

When the camera detects motion, it alerts you by email or a notification sent to your smartphone. You can view a live feed from an app on an Android or iOS device, and most also provide access through a website. Some let you remotely pan and tilt the camera.

Wireless IP cameras can be bought individually or in a kit. Kits vary in content, so make sure the one you buy has everything you want. They’ll usually have multiple cameras, window and door sensors, separate motion detectors and a control hub.

Features to look for

  • Indoor or outdoor — the main difference is that outdoor cameras have weatherproofing. Check the IP (ingress protection) rating of an outdoor camera to see how well it resists dust and water.
  • Motion detection & alerts — when a camera detects motion within its field of vision it sends an alert, such as an email or smartphone push notification. If you’ve installed an alarm, it’ll automatically sound that too.
  • Resolution — high-definition cameras are the norm, with resolutions starting at 1280x720. The higher the resolution, the more detail you’ll be able to make out, such as facial features. However, lower resolutions make viewing the live feed faster and less data intensive.
  • Pan, tilt and zoom — being able to change a camera’s viewing angle through the app by panning (horizontal) and tilting (vertical) allows greater flexibility. Like digital cameras, optical zoom retains image clarity while digital zoom can leave images pixelated.
  • Night vision — nearly all cameras have night vision, meaning they can record in low light using infrared. When using night vision, the camera can’t see as far.
  • Storage (cloud or SD) — IP cameras usually store images through cloud storage, allowing you to access footage remotely, or on a microSD card via a slot on the camera or hub.
  • Microphone and speaker — many cameras have a microphone so you can hear what’s going on in the video. Some include a speaker so you can dissuade would-be intruders.
  • Adding more cameras — most cameras can be connected into a group. Check to see what kits the manufacturer offers, and which cameras are compatible with which.

Install and setup

Most of the time, all you need to install a wireless IP camera is a wireless router, a ladder and a drill.

  • Most wireless IP cameras need mains power, so if you don’t have a power point near where you plan on mounting it, you’ll need to get one installed. Models that use batteries can be easily repositioned.
  • Setting up remote access is easy. The camera will have instructions on how to connect it to your home WiFi. The connection process isn’t too technical – in many cases it can be done with your smartphone.
  • Cameras with cloud storage require you to sign up for an account, and most have ongoing subscription costs.

Tip: Try using the app and web access before you mount the camera. It’s much easier to fix problems when the camera isn’t two metres up the wall.

Security

Since you’re sending images of your home over the internet, it’s important to ensure everything is as secure as possible.

  • Enable all security settings possible on the camera (and hub, if included). Check the manual or manufacturer’s website for instructions.
  • Look for cameras that encrypt footage, which means transferred data is “coded” and can only be decrypted by devices that know the code.
  • Make sure your home WiFi is protected, as well as any devices you use to view the live feed.

For more information on keeping your data and devices safe, check out our article about online privacy.

Member comments

Get access to comment