Whether you want to keep an eye on your kids while you’re at work or, monitor your home security from anywhere in the world, smart cameras are the cheapest and, the best way to do it. If you have any other smart devices in your home (such as smart bulbs or smart plugs), a smart camera is going to significantly improve your overall smart home ecosystem.
How are plug-and-play cameras different from other cameras?
Smart cameras can be connected to your smart home ecosystem via Bluetooth or WiFi or simply connected directly to your phone via your home WiFi network. This means that you’re able to remotely access and monitor your home using your smart phone, tablet or laptop from just about anywhere.
Gone are the days when security concerned home owners have to spend thousands of Rands purchasing and installing complex CCTV systems on their properties. Not only have manufacturers come out with CCTV systems that are DIY friendly but, we now have smart security camera systems which can be set up in minutes.
The latest DIY security cameras have a long list of hi-tech features which vary from one product to another. These features include in-built passive motion detectors which trigger real time notifications on your smart phone, infra-red LED night vision capabilities, two-way audio features and pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities.
Forget about power tools, long cables and strange monitor setups – welcome to the future of video surveillance. Below I’ve reviewed 5 of the best selling DIY home security cameras available for purchase online and have included links to either Eco Depot or Egadget’s online stores for each.
What to look for when buying a wireless security camera
Resolution, 720P vs 1080P
For most wireless cameras, 720P is more than sufficient in terms of resolution and will enable you to clearly see a room in fail good detail. 720P is actually the lowest definition required to be considered HD and, as we all know
Pan, tilt and zoom functions
In terms of panning and tilting, this function may or may not be necessary depending on where you want to put the camera. I recommend that you get a camera that includes these functions only for large and open plan indoor areas where the camera angle will not cover the entire desired space. Some cameras offer remote zoom functions and some do not offer a zoom function at all, is this important to you?
User interface and Google Play or iOS App Store compatibility
It’s always a bonus if the security camera you buy is compatible with a range of mobile devices as it gives you more options. That said, all of the cameras reviewed here can be controlled and monitored via an app that you can download from your App Store or Google Play Store. You must also consider whether you want to connect the camera to an alarm or use an Ethernet cable to connect it to a DVR/NVR.
How much onboard storage is available
Onboard storage will be available on all cameras via a Micro SD card which you must purchase separately. Memory sizes of the onboard SD Micro Cards range from 32GB to 128GB. The more memory, the more it will store and, the less you’ll have to worry about running out of space and having to manage storage.
Two way audio
Plug and play cameras will either offer two way audio or will just have an onboard microphone. If there is only a microphone, you will not be able to speak but, this feature is generally dependent on the strength of the WiFi available. Poor WiFi will make this feature redundant.
This video, from the US, will show you exactly why you should install smart security cameras in your home:
Reviews of the leading plug-and-play home security cameras and systems
#1 Foscam Wireless IP Security Camera C1 720P HD Plug and Play
This camera is great for any indoor video monitoring need as it offers a range of great features and is very easy to install using the manufacturer’s 3-step process. In summary, it offers everything you could possibly want from a home security camera without going overboard and becoming too expensive. The only downside is the 32GD SD memory card, which is slightly on the lower side.
It has good resolution, offers two-way audio and PIR and is a plug-and-play option that anyone can set-up. I recommend this for anyone looking to buy their first indoor security camera, for anyone that’s not too tech savvy and for those that want a more advanced nanny cam.
I don’t recommend this camera for people that want to set up an elaborate video surveillance system with multiple cameras in their homes, but this is certainly one of the best plug-and-play security cameras on the market here in South Africa.
Features of the Foscam C1 Indoor HD Cam
- 1.0 megapixels and 720P, which is a good resolution (the minimum required to be considered HD)
- It is a wide angle camera (the lens has a short focal length), that is able to provide a 115 degree viewing angle (basically you will be able to see a greater angle of the room)
- Two-way audio allows you to hear and be heard (requires a really good WiFi connection)
- With night vision you can see up to 8m in the dark
- Motion detection alarm with a PIR allows you to receive notifications on your phone if any movement is detected
- You can store video recordings on the onboard 32G Micro SD card
- Live footage can be streamed on your smart phone, tablet or any internet browser from just about anywhere in the world and, can be accessed by multiple family members
- It is really easy to set up, all you need to do is either download the Foscam app by scanning the QR code or by searching for the app in your iStore or Playstore
- It comes with a charger cable and block
- It has 2 adjustment joints which let you tilt the camera (you cannot pan with this product)
- It has 2 mounting screws at the bottom
- There is an Ethernet cable connection slot at the back of the camera, if you want to set up a wired connection
Where to buy: the Foscam C1 HD Camera
#2 Foscam Wireless IP Security Camera C2, 1080P FHD Plug and Play
The Foscam C2 offers the same features as the Foscam C1 we just reviewed above but, it delivers full HD video with 1080P, panning and tilting, a 128GB onboard micro SD card and 120 degree view rather than the 115 degree view offered by the C1.
The speaker and microphone, which offer the 2-way audio, is also better than that offered by the C1. Another extra feature you’ll get is the 2x magic zoom and the 6x digital zoom.
Is the C2 worth the extra +/-700 more you’ll pay? If you’re looking to mount the camera in an awkward way which will require tilting and panning or, need the full HD quality, than yes. If you’re just looking for an affordable way to remotely monitor your home than the Foscam C1 offers you more than enough in terms of both quality and features.
Where you can buy: the Foscam C2 HD security camera
#3 Yale Home View 720P IP Camera
This is your basic entry level smart camera that offers 720P resolution, basic motion detection, 8m night vision and a built-in microphone. Honestly speaking, it offers half of the features that the Foscam C1 does and comes in at or, slightly higher in terms of price.
It doesn’t have any joints, so you can’t adjust the camera angle, it is not a wide angle camera so your view will be laterally limited and, you have to add an SD card for the Dropbox function to work.
I would not recommend this product, based on both its lack of features and higher price point but, if you’re a fan of Yale and want the most affordable option available, you’ve found yourself a winner.
Features of the Yale 720P IP Camera
- Offers 720P ( more than enough for any security application)
- Zoom in and out remotely from your smart phone or tablet
- Yale Home View App allows for seamless live streaming
- Add a micro SD card for video storage and use Dropbox
- It has a built-in microphone but no speaker (so you can hear but won’t be able to speak)
- Night vision with 8m distance view
- Motion detection
Where to buy: the Yale Home View 720P IP Camera
4. The Yale Home View 720P Pan Tilt and Zoom Camera
Yale is known for delivering high quality security products and, this 720P security camera is a solid product that you can rely on. This is an indoor security camera that offers HD resolution, remote control of its pan, tilt and zoom functions, wireless connectivity and remote monitoring from any device. Video can be stored on an onboard SD card of 32GB or, in the cloud. It has night vision and motion detection.
Apart from its ability to pan, tilt and zoom on command remotely from any device, it does not have any outstanding features that put it ahead of other products in its price range. This camera is ideal for open plan spaces and will function as an excellent nanny cam.
Features of the Yale PAN, Tilt and Zoom 720P Camera
- Offers 720P, which is a good for any security application
- Captures still images as needed
- You can pan, tilt and zoom remotely from your smart phone or tablet
- Takes an onboard SD micro card of no more than 32GB
- You can back up video footage to Dropbox
- You can connect the camera to any DVR via an Ethernet cable or, to your CCTV
- With motion detection enabled, you can receive important notifications to your phone
- You can connect it to your alarm
- You can view the live stream of footage from your smart phone or tablet
- Night vision for up to 8m
- Listen and speak with the two-way audio system (this means there’s both a microphone and a speaker)
- It is really easy to set up, all you need to do is either download the Yale Home View App from your iStore or Playstore
Where to buy: the Yale Home View 720P Camera
#5 Ultra Link Pan IP WiFi 720P Camera
Of all the options listed, this product comes in at the lowest price and is sold by Makro and Egadets (I’ve included a link to the second option only). It offers 1.0 megapixels and 720P, pan and tilt functionality and “baby cry” detection. With 10m night vision, it surpasses all 4 of the other reviewed options. It also has motion detection, two-way audio and can take a 120GB micro SD card.
While I have not personally tried any Ultra Link products (Ultra Link hook me up with one and I will review it), the features and comparatively low price of this camera warranted an inclusion on this leading home security camera list.
Features of the Ultra Link WiFi Camera
- 1.0 mega pixels and a 720 HD resolution which is sufficient for any home security camera
- Offers 355 degree of rotation and 120 degree tilt functionality
- It has a “baby cry” detection function
- Motion detection
- Night vision up to 10m, which is the best night vision of all listed security cameras so far
- Offers two way audio (microphone and speaker)
- Can take a 120GB Micro SD card
- Download the App from Google Play or App Store
- Monitor footage in real time from the app
View the Ultra Link Smart IP Camera promotional video:
Where to buy: Ultra Link Smart IP Camera
Please keep in mind that the lists of features above are not complete, I may have left some out. My aim was just to help you decide which plug-and-play camera will suit your needs and which offers the best value for money.