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Product overview

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Wireless IP cameras

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Keep tabs on your home no matter where you are.

Professional security camera systems often come at a hefty price. Why not set up your own wireless IP (internet protocol) camera system and monitor it yourself? Receive email or smartphone alerts when they detect motion or view a live feed online. Here’s what to look for when buying an IP camera and tips for getting properly set up.

From our test

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Professional security or DIY?

Professional security camera systems often come with cameras, door and window sensors, motion detectors, an alarm and professional monitoring — but all that protection usually comes at a hefty price.

If your home security budget is limited or you just want to confirm it’s the neighbour’s dog that’s messing up your lawn, then the DIY approach with wireless IP (internet protocol) cameras could be ideal.

The idea is that you monitor the camera. Most have motion detection that alerts you if the camera senses anything. Many wireless IP cameras require you to subscribe to a paid cloud storage service (generally, this is where most of your footage will be stored). A downside is these types of cameras aren’t likely to lower your home insurance premiums, as most insurers require a security system to be professionally installed and monitored.

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, wireless IP cameras use WiFi to transfer video and photos to cloud storage. Most can also store recordings locally on a microSD card.

When the camera detects motion, it alerts you by email or a notification sent to your smartphone. Most let you view a live feed from an app or through the internet. Some let you remotely pan and tilt the camera. All of the 16 wireless IP cameras we tested could be remotely viewed using Android and iOS devices while 12 could be accessed through a website.

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

Features to look for

Here’s what to look for when buying an IP camera:

  • Indoor or outdoor — the main difference between the two is outdoor cameras have weatherproofing. All outdoor cameras in our test have a rating of IP55 (ingress protection) or higher, meaning they are resistant to dust and water.
  • Motion detection & alerts — most wireless IP cameras include motion detection. When the camera detects motion within its field of vision it then sends an alert, such as an email (with or without photos) or a smartphone push notification if using the mobile app, or sounds an alarm if part of a kit with an alarm.
  • Resolution — high-definition cameras are the norm, with resolutions starting at 1280x720. Lower resolutions mean it will be faster and use less data to view a live feed of the camera. The higher the resolution, the more detail you will be able to make out, such as facial features.
  • Pan, tilt and zoom — being able to change a camera’s viewing angle by panning (horizontal) and tilting (vertical) allows greater flexibility for positioning the camera. Like digital cameras, optical zoom retains image clarity while digital zoom can reduce it, often leaving it pixelated. These actions can often be done remotely through the camera app or internet.
  • Night vision — all the cameras in our test have night vision, which means they can record in low light using infrared technology. When night vision is used, the distance the camera can see is reduced. We note manufacturers’ claimed distance.
  • Storage, cloud, SD — Wireless IP cameras usually store photos and images through cloud storage, which means you can access footage remotely, or on a microSD card via a memory card slot on the camera or kit hub.
  • Connecting — most wireless IP cameras connect to your home router through a 2.4GHz network, and the majority have an ethernet port for wired connection. But the two Panasonic models in our test connect to the kit’s hub via DECT, a radio technology.
  • Microphone and speaker — some cameras have a microphone which lets you hear what’s going on in the video, and a speaker so you can shout at the kids climbing through your garden.
  • Adding more cameras — many cameras can be connected to other cameras or a kit. Check with the manufacturer to see what kits it offers and which cameras are compatible with which.

Install and setup

If you’re installing a wireless IP camera, most of the time all you need is a wireless router, 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. One model in our test uses batteries, so it can be easily repositioned.
  • Setting up remote access was easy for all cameras. The camera will have instructions on what type of connection you need to connect it for the first time and directions on connecting to your home WiFi. We didn’t find connecting the cameras to WiFi too technical and many could be done directly through a smartphone.
  • All the tested cameras with cloud storage required signing up for an account and most had an ongoing subscription cost.

Tip: Try 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.

Once everything’s working, accessing the camera is easy. Just open the app or website to start viewing your camera.

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 your camera’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for instructions on doing this.
  • Often cameras will encrypt footage, which means any transferred data is “coded” and can only be viewed by devices also using that code.
  • Make sure your home WiFi and devices you view the camera on are protected.

For more information on keeping your data and devices safe, check out Keeping safe on the internet.

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