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The Best Home Security Cameras of 2018

The Best IP Cameras

One of the biggest benefits of a smart home[1] is being able to know what’s going on when you’re not actually there. Whether you’re checking in on your kids, pets, or an exotic jewel collection, a home security camera is a great tool for keeping an eye on things from afar. Although capabilities vary from device to device, security cameras allow you to monitor what’s going on in your home through live or recorded video.

But not all cameras are created equally. Some have alarms or can send you notifications when they detect activity, some offer two-way audio, some are meant to monitor your baby[2], and some even double as full-on home automation hubs[3]. We’ve tested lots of home surveillance cameras over the last few years, so we know what’s important to look for.

For instance, you want a camera that’s simple to set up and use. Additionally, one of the very first qualities we notice is an attractive–though discreet–design. It’s important that the camera looks like something you actually want in your home, but depending on your needs, you may not want it to stand out too much.

Device support is critical as well. Our favorite cameras allow you to check in from anywhere, whether it’s an app on your phone or a web browser. Additional features vary from camera to camera, and each of our top picks offer just enough variety to set them apart from the rest of the competition.

Here are some other important factors to consider when buying a home security cam:

Which Security Camera Has the Best Picture?

Even though 1080p is generally the standard resolution for cameras we’ve tested, there are benefits to cameras with higher resolution sensors. Few home security cameras have optical zoom lenses, but almost all have digital zoom, which crop and enlarge whatever the camera is recording. The more megapixels a camera sensor has, the more you can digitally zoom in and still be able to see things clearly.

Besides resolution, consider the field of view as well.

All security cameras have wide-angle lenses, but not all angles are created equal. Depending on the lens’ field of view, it can see between 100 and 180 degrees. That’s a big range in terms of the camera’s vision cone.

If you want to watch a large area, you should consider a camera with a very wide field of view. The ability to mechanically pan and tilt the camera is a great asset as well.

How Do Security Cameras Connect?

Most security cameras use Wi-Fi, but not all rely on it exclusively. Some add Bluetooth for local control and easier setup through your smartphone, while others incorporate separate home automation networking standards to interact with other devices, like Zigbee or Z-Wave.

For most cameras, all you need to do is follow instructions on an app to connect them to your home network. Once your camera is connected, you’ll almost certainly be able to access it through your smartphone or tablet. The vast majority of home security cameras today have mobile apps, and many focus entirely around those apps for doing everything.

Some have web portals as well, which add flexibility for accessing your videos and alerts from anywhere. Many new cameras include support for voice commands through Amazon Alexa and/or Google Assistant. Using Alexa, for instance, you can ask your camera to pull up a live video feed on your Echo Show[4].

A number of cameras support IFTTT[5] as well, letting you create applets so the camera works in conjunction with other compatible devices. For instance, you can have a smart light bulb[6] turn on whenever the camera detects motion.

Do You Need Cloud Storage?

The videos your camera records probably won’t be saved on the camera itself. Most home security cameras use cloud services to store and offer remote access to footage.

Some models have microSD card slots so you can physically pull the video from them when you want to review footage, but this is a rare feature.

Keep in mind that not all cloud services are alike, even for the same camera. Depending on the manufacturer, your home security camera will store different amounts of footage for different lengths of time. This service is often a paid subscription on top of the price of the camera itself, though some cameras offer free cloud storage to varying degrees.

Cloud storage service is usually offered in tiers, letting you choose between keeping footage for a week, a month, or more.

What Is Face Detection?

Most security cameras simply send you a notification when they detect any type of activity. Others can identify who–or what–is causing the commotion. The Nest Cam IQ and Nest Cam IQ Outdoor offer face-recognition technology, for instance.

They automatically zoom in on people who enter the field of view, and send alerts when a face is recognized (they also tell you when an unrecognized face is spotted). These technologies help eliminate needless alerts.

What’s the Best Outdoor Security Camera?

If you want to monitor the rooms of your home, there are plenty of options. If you want to keep an eye on your driveway, backyard, or front porch, you need to be more choosy.

Not all home security cameras are rugged enough to be mounted outdoors. You need a camera that’s waterproof and can stand up to rain, snow, and sun, and survive the extreme temperatures of summer and winter. Our current favorite camera for outdoor surveillance is the Netgear Arlo Pro 2.

The Ring Spotlight Cam, meanwhile, also works as a bright outdoor light. If your outdoor needs are limited to your front porch, or you simply want to be able to view who’s at the door, a video doorbell, like the Editors’ Choice Skybell HD[7], might be worth considering instead. For more, see our picks for the Best Video Doorbells[8].

How Much Should You Spend on a Security Camera?

As you can see from our picks, many of the top-rated home security cameras on the market are roughly in the £200 range, and some of them also require an additional fee to store recorded video in the cloud. We break down any extra fees in our reviews, so it’s worth taking a look at each to find out which one fits your budget. The good news is that prices are coming down, and you can get a quality model for around £20!

Then again, you can’t really put a price on peace of mind. If you need better peace of mind than a single connected camera can offer, check out our picks for The Best Smart Home Security Systems[9].

Best Home Security Cameras Featured in This Roundup:

  1. Pros: Excellent-quality 1080p video. Weatherproof.

    Rechargeable batteries. Supports IFTTT and Alexa voice commands. Pre-buffered video recording.

    Continuous recording capabilities. Free and subscription-based cloud storage.

    Cons: Expensive. Requires hub (included).

    Many features are only available when plugged in.

    Bottom Line: Netgear’s Arlo Pro 2 outdoor security camera system is completely wireless, works well with other smart home devices, and offers stunning 1080p video with free cloud and local storage options for event-triggered video.

    Read Review[10]

  2. Pros: Sharp 1080p video. Free cloud storage. Local storage.

    Motion and sound detection. Supports Alexa and Google voice commands and IFTTT integrations.

    Cons: Minor barrel distortion.

    Bottom Line: The D-Link Full HD Wi-Fi Camera DCS-8300LH is a relatively affordable home security camera packed with features including local storage, free cloud recording, motion and sound alerts, and integration with other connected devices.

    Read Review[11]

  3. Pros: Sharp image quality. Motion tracking.

    Mechanical pan & tilt. Free cloud and local storage. Time-lapse.

    Works with IFTTT and iSmartAlarm security system.

    Cons: Pricey. Pan and tilt is a little sluggish.

    Bottom Line: The iSmartAlarm iCamera Keep Pro is a feature-packed home security camera that offers motion tracking, mechanical pan and tilt, time-lapse recording, free cloud storage, IFTTT integration, and sharp 1080 video.

    Read Review[12]

  4. Pros: Affordable. Easy to install.

    Sharp 1080p video. Face recognition. Motion detection.

    Free cloud storage. Two-way audio.

    Cons: Need to be close to camera for face recognition. No integration with other smart home devices.

    Bottom Line: The Tend Secure Lynx Indoor is an affordable home surveillance camera that is small in stature but big in terms of features, performance, and value.

    Read Review[13]

  5. Pros: Inexpensive.

    Small, flexible form factor. Sharp 1080p video. Motion- and sound-triggered recordings.

    Free cloud storage. Local storage. Time-lapse recording and motion tracking.

    Cons: Doesn’t integrate directly with other smart home devices or support IFTTT.

    Bottom Line: The WyzeCam V2 is an inexpensive 1080p home security camera that is small in stature but big on features.

    Read Review[14]

  6. Pros: Excellent face recognition and two-way audio.

    Sharp 1080p video. Motion and sound detection. Easy to install.

    Works with other smart home devices.

    Cons: Expensive. Many features require Nest Aware subscription.

    Bottom Line: The Nest Cam IQ is a 1080p home surveillance camera that offers facial recognition, automatic zoom tracking, motion- and sound-triggered alerts, and interoperability with many other smart devices.

    Read Review[15]

  7. Pros: Elegant design.

    24/7 live video with 4K sensor, HDR, and close-up tracking. Weatherproof with IP66 rating.

    Two-way audio. Person alerts.

    Cons: Expensive. Facial recognition feature requires extra subscription.

    Bottom Line: The Nest Cam IQ Outdoor is an intelligent security camera meant to act as the first line of defense in your Nest home security setup.

    Read Review[16]

  8. Pros: Completely wireless.

    Sharp 720p video. Cloud and local storage. Motion and sound detection.

    Works with other smart devices. Supports IFTTT.

    Cons: Expensive. Requires a cellular service plan.

    Bottom Line: The Netgear Arlo Go is a completely wireless outdoor surveillance camera that uses cellular communication to deliver live and recorded video to your phone from anywhere.

    Read Review[17]

  9. Pros: Affordable.

    Sharp 1080p video. Completely wireless. Weatherproof.

    Local storage.

    Cons: Doesn’t integrate with other smart home devices. SD card not included. Siren isn’t loud.

    Bottom Line: The versatile Reolink Argus 2 is a weatherproof indoor/outdoor security camera that doesn’t require any wires and is powered by a rechargeable battery pack.

    Read Review[18]

  10. Pros: Easy to install.

    Completely wireless. Motion-triggered recording. Sharp video quality.

    Loud siren.

    Works with Alexa and IFTTT.

    Cons: Requires subscription to view recorded video.

    No pre-buffering.

    Bottom Line: The Ring Spotlight Cam Battery is a completely wireless outdoor security camera with a bright spotlight, motion detection, and triggered recording.

    Read Review[19]

References

  1. ^ smart home (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ monitor your baby (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ home automation hubs (uk.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ Echo Show (uk.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ IFTTT (uk.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ smart light bulb (uk.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ Skybell HD (uk.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ Best Video Doorbells (uk.pcmag.com)
  9. ^ The Best Smart Home Security Systems (uk.pcmag.com)
  10. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  11. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  12. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  13. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  14. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  15. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  16. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  17. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  18. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)
  19. ^ Read Review (uk.pcmag.com)

Trying to Conceive? 8 High-Tech Fertility Monitors to Try

For at least the length of recorded history, humans have been attempting to plan and prevent pregnancy. From the practice of drinking lead in hopes of preventing pregnancy in ancient China, to dumping water on women to boost fertility in Hungary, there’s always some wives’ tale circulating about how women can harness their reproductive cycle. Lucky for us, this age of technology has ushered in new and tested ways for us to understand our bodies and fertility like never before.

A far cry from the rhythm method that likely resulted in your parents being born, these fertility monitors use science and your vital signs to pinpoint–with surprising accuracy–your date of ovulation. Understanding the signs that indicate approaching ovulation allows couples to plan intercourse if trying to conceive, or abstain/withdraw/use barrier methods in order to avoid pregnancy. When it comes to fertility, knowledge is absolutely power.

I’ve rounded up some of the most interesting fertility monitors available right now (and even tested a few myself). Here’s the low-down. (For a comprehensive look at the how and why of fertility, check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility[1] by Toni Weschler.)

This article originally appeared[2] on PCMag.com[3].

References

  1. ^ Taking Charge of Your Fertility (r.zdbb.net)
  2. ^ originally appeared (www.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ PCMag.com (www.pcmag.com)

10 Quick Tips to Fix Your Bad Photos

Digital photography has democratized the medium. More people are taking more photos than ever before, and they’re sharing them online with friends and family in record numbers. It’s easy to place the blame on the camera (or your smartphone) if your images aren’t as nice as some others you see online, but by following a few guidelines you can improve the quality of your snapshots–without having to shell out big bucks for a new camera.

Keep these 10 easy tips in mind next time you head out to capture the world around you. And if you have any tips that have helped you take better pictures, please share them in the comments section.

1. Get Basic Composition Down

The heart of a photograph is its composition–the position of different elements in a frame.

The easiest rule of thumb to learn and remember is the Rule of Thirds[1]. Basically, you’ll want to break your frame into nine squares of roughly equal size. Try and align the subject of your photo along these lines and intersections and imagine the main image divided over these nine boxes.

This gives you a more dramatic, visually interesting shot than one where you subject is located dead center. Many cameras and smartphones have a rule of thirds grid overlay that you can activate when shooting.

2. Adjust Exposure Compensation

As long as you aren’t shooting in full manual mode, your digital camera is making decisions that determine the exposure of a photo–in English, how light or dark the shot appears.

Generally speaking, a camera looks at a scene and tries to determine the appropriate exposure based on the correct lighting of a gray card, which is why there are special scene modes for snow–without them, the camera would try to make the white snow gray. If a photo is too light or dark you can either delve through the dozens of scene modes that are available in modern point-and-shoot cameras, or simply dial in a bit of exposure compensation. Many cameras have a physical button or dial for this, identified by a +/- symbol.

If your photo is too dark, move the scale up above zero; if too light, move it down a bit.

3. Choose the Right Mode

Your camera is likely to have scores of shooting modes, ranging from fully automatic operation to very specific scene modes. If you’re shooting fast action you can put the camera into Shutter Priority (“S”) mode and increase the speed at which a photo is taken–setting it to 1/125 second or faster will help to freeze action, and for really quick subjects (like the hummingbird below), use as short a speed as possible to freeze motion, or a longer one to add motion blur to the flapping wings.

In lower light you can use Aperture Priority (“A”) mode to make sure as much light is entering the lens as possible, or if you’re shooting landscapes on a tripod you can close the lens’s iris to increase depth of field, keeping everything in sharp focus from the foreground to the horizon.

If you’re a DSLR shooter, you’re more likely to use the A or S modes, while point-and-shoot cameras will often feature more specific modes that cater to activities like sports, low-light use, or landscape shooting.

4. Think About Lighting

Pay attention to how much light you have and where it’s coming from when taking your photos. If you’re shooting outdoors, be careful not to take photos of a person when the sun is at their back, unless you want to make a portrait with some dramatic flare (make sure to dial in positive EV adjustment if you do).

If you’re grabbing a photo in front of a monument or landmark and you want to make sure it’s not overexposed, use some fill flash instead to make your backlit subject as bright as the background. You may have to manually activate the flash, as there’s a good chance that the camera will think that it’s unnecessary on a bright day.

5. Use Your Flash Wisely

Many a photo has been foiled by a flash firing too close to a subject.

If your friends and family look like Casper the Friendly Ghost when you photograph them, chances are that you’re too close when snapping your photos. If you need to activate the flash, back up a bit and zoom in to get the proper framing. If things are still too bright–or too dark–check and see if flash compensation is an option.

Many cameras allow you to adjust the power of the flash, which can help to add better balance to your flash-assisted photos. Adding just a little bit of light makes it possible to fill in shadows, resulting in a more natural-looking photo.

6. Change Your Perspective

Most snapshooters and beginners will stand on two legs and snap shots from eye level.

While this is fine for many images, it’s not always ideal. If you’ve got a camera with a tilting screen you can more easily shoot from a low or high angle to get a different perspective on your subject.

If you don’t have a tilting LCD, think about getting down low to the ground to get the best shots of pets and toddlers–you’ll want the camera at their eye level to get an image that stands out. You don’t have to pay for every shot with a digital camera, so play around with different angles and camera positions until you’ve found one that captures a moment and stands out from the crowd.

7.

Watch Your White Balance

Your camera will try and set white balance automatically based on the type of light in which you’re shooting. Different light casts different types of color–sunlight is very blue, tungsten lighting is yellow, and fluorescent is a bit green. In many cases, the camera will automatically detect what type of lighting you’re under and adjust the color in photos so that they look natural.

But when White Balance isn’t right, you can get results like you see above–the image on the left is correctly balanced, and the one on the right is way off.

If you’re shooting under mixed lighting, or if the camera is just having a hard time figuring things out, you can set the white balance manually. On most point and shoots you’ll have to dive into the shooting menu to adjust this, but many DSLRs have a dedicated White Balance button, often labeled “WB.” You can correct color in the included Mac or Windows photo editing apps later on, but you’ll get better-looking photos if you get the white balance right in the first place.

8. Use a Tripod or Monopod

Sometimes, the best way to get your shot perfect is to take some extra time.

Using a tripod will allow you to set up framing, and can come in handy–along with your camera’s self-timer–for getting that shot of you and the kids in front of Mount Rushmore. You can get away with an inexpensive tripod if you’re a point-and-shoot user, although spending a bit more on a brand like Manfrotto[2] or MeFoto[3] will result in much less frustration than with the bargain brands that you’ll find at the local five and dime. DSLR users should definitely put care into selecting a tripod, as a set of legs and a head that are sturdy enough to hold the camera are paramount.

If you’re more of a run-and-gun shooter, a monopod–which is just like it sounds, a tripod with two of its legs missing–will help you stabilize your shots. Great for use at zoos and sporting events, a monopod is supplemented by your two legs in order to add stability to your camera–without the sometimes-cumbersome setup and breakdown required with a good tripod.

9. Be Selective

It’s easy to take hundreds of photos in a few hours when shooting digitally.

But don’t just dump your memory card and upload all of the images to Facebook. You should spend some time going through your photos so you can eliminate redundant shots and discard photos that may be out of focus or poorly composed. It’s better to post a few dozen great photos by themselves rather than the same good photos hiding among hundreds of not-so-good ones.

10.

Don’t Forget to Post-Process

Consider using software to organize and edit your photos. Apple Photos and Microsoft Photos support basic organization, as well as a number of editing tools. If you’re more of a phone editor, check out VSCO or Snapseed.

Performing some very basic editing on a photo can help improve its quality drastically. Cropping a bit can help with composition, and you can also rotate a photo so that horizon lines are straight. Getting perfect photos in-camera is a lofty goal; there’s no harm in a bit of retouching.

When you’re ready to do even more with your photos, read our 10 Beyond-Basic Photography Tips[4].

We also have explainers to help you capture images of lightning[5] and fireworks[6].

If you’re in the market for a new camera, check out our Digital Cameras Product Guide[7] for the latest reviews, and The 10 Best Digital Cameras[8] for the top cameras we’ve tested.

References

  1. ^ Rule of Thirds (en.wikipedia.org)
  2. ^ Manfrotto (www.manfrotto.us)
  3. ^ MeFoto (www.mefoto.com)
  4. ^ 10 Beyond-Basic Photography Tips (uk.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ lightning (uk.pcmag.com)
  6. ^ fireworks (uk.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ Digital Cameras Product Guide (uk.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ The 10 Best Digital Cameras (uk.pcmag.com)

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