IP cameras, or home security cameras, are becoming increasingly popular. The cameras are so intelligent that they immediately send an alert to the homeowner's mobile phone if there is activity in the field of view. They provide protection for the indoor and outdoor areas of your home. With their high-resolution lenses, clear and detailed images can be recorded.
With the variety of IP Cameras on the market and their many technical details, it can be difficult to make a purchase decision. With our big IP camera test 2021 we want to make this decision easier for you. Therefore, we have summarised the advantages and disadvantages of different types of IP cameras and answered frequently asked questions.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Summary
- 3 The Best IP Camera: Our Choices
- 4 IP Cameras: Buying and evaluation criteria
- 5 IP Cameras: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
- 5.1 What is an IP Camera?
- 5.2 What types of IP cameras are there?
- 5.3 What does an IP Camera cost?
- 5.4 What are the alternatives to an IP camera?
- 5.5 How do I install my IP Camera?
- 5.6 How can I access my IP Camera via my mobile phone?
- 5.7 How do I set up my IP Camera correctly?
- 5.8 My IP Camera is not found in the network. What can I do?
- 5.9 My browser does not show a picture of my IP Camera. What can I do?
- 6 Conclusion
- IP cameras send their video signals to a closed network that can be accessed by anyone with authorisation. The recordings can be viewed via an IP Camera Viewer app on the smartphone or via the PC.
- There are basically four different types of IP cameras: Bullet, Dome, Turret and Cube. The models differ in particular in their shape and features.
- Bullet and Turret IP cameras are recommended for outdoor use because of their technical features. Dome and Cube IP cameras are particularly relevant for indoor use.
The Best IP Camera: Our Choices
IP Cameras: Buying and evaluation criteria
To avoid buying the wrong IP camera, it's a good idea to know a little more about the technical features. The following criteria may be of particular interest to you:
- Power supply
- Data transmission
- Storage option
- Image quality and night vision
- Angle of lens rotation
- Motion sensor
- Loudspeaker and microphone
In the following section, we briefly explain these criteria to make your purchase decision easier.
Of course, the IP camera must be supplied with power. This can be done in the classic wired way with a power cable or via PoE (Power over Ethernet).
With an integrated PoE module, the LAN cable also supplies the camera with power. An additional power cable is then no longer needed.
A wireless alternative are IP cameras with battery or rechargeable battery operation. With a battery IP camera, the camera can record for several weeks with a fully charged battery and power-saving settings.
Battery-operated IP cameras usually run on a 6000 mAh lithium battery. Here, too, the battery can last for several weeks with power-saving settings.
Especially for outdoor IP cameras, people often opt for a wireless IP camera with a rechargeable battery or batteries. The rechargeable battery or batteries are naturally charged by a solar panel. This way you don't have to worry about an empty battery and recording interruptions.
An IP camera is usually connected to a router via a network cable or alternatively via WLAN. The router must have Internet access. If the network camera is not supported by PoE, it is also supplied with power via a network component. E
poor signal can cause poor image quality or even interruption of recordings.
Basically, a distinction is made between IP cameras with local and digital storage. Some IP cameras also have both storage options.
In the case of an IP camera with a built-in card slot, the recordings are stored locally on an SD card (usually a micro SD card). When the SD card is full, the old data is automatically overwritten.
In case of frequent internet failures, local storage is often better because recordings remain accessible. In addition, you don't have to worry as much about a possible hacking attempt.
The other way to store your data is via a cloud. Some manufacturers often offer their own cloud for storage. Often there may be additional costs if a monthly subscription is required for cloud use.
Image quality and night vision
A surveillance camera does not bring you any added value if the recordings are blurred. Therefore, your IP camera should have the highest possible resolution. This is usually given by a sensor resolution of 3840x2160.
The 1080p Full HD resolution comes close to the characteristics of HDTV-capable devices. Here, a video resolution of 1920x1080 pixels at 20 fps (frames per second) is recorded.
For large properties, we recommend a high night vision range.
Since most burglaries occur at night, many cameras have multiple infrared LEDs for their night vision mode. This makes images clear and sharp even in low light conditions. New cameras even have colour night vision.
Angle of lens rotation
To get the perfect view for you, it's clearly an advantage to be able to pan and tilt your IP camera. For maximum viewing range, the camera's tilt and swivel angle is important.
IP cameras generally allow a smooth pan and tilt of 360° in the horizontal range and 114° in the vertical range (for photos and videos).
If an IP camera with a motion sensor detects movement in the recording area, it sends a real-time notification to your mobile phone or email inbox.
Intelligent Motion Recording promises to record and store a short video (10 seconds). This way, you are always informed about events or possible dangers.
Loudspeaker and microphone
If you want to hear what is happening in your environment in addition to actually seeing it, you should buy an IP camera with audio function. For two-way audio communication, the IP Camera is perfect. You can speak at both ends via the built-in microphone and via the mobile phone microphone.
IP Cameras: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
When it comes to IP cameras, consumers often have the same questions. In the following paragraph we have answered the most frequently asked questions. These are topics before and after the purchase of an IP camera.
What is an IP Camera?
An IP Camera-Internet Protocol Camera, is a network camera. It is connected via a network and communicates with an Internet protocol. In most cases, it is used as a surveillance camera in this way.
Unlike analogue surveillance cameras, an IP Camera works without its own central technology and without its own surveillance monitor. You can simply access the camera with your smartphone or laptop. The clear advantage: you can view the recordings from anywhere.
The IP camera connects to a router and thus to the Internet either via a LAN cable or via WLAN. Each IP camera has its own IP address in the network. With this, the camera logs on to a fixed port on the router.
To leave the network, the signal must be routed through the router to a fixed output port. Behind this port is the Internet and in between is the firewall.
What types of IP cameras are there?
There is a selection of different surveillance cameras that vary in form and functions: Bullet, Dome, Turret and Cube IP Cameras. To help you choose the right camera, we have summarised the most important advantages and disadvantages here.
|Bullet camera||good manoeuvrability due to flexible neck, highly visible and deterrent to intruders, less light reflection, higher verified vandalism and weather protection||placement in relatively small areas or bottlenecks, non-replaceable lens|
|Dome IP Camera||available in various sizes, simple and unobtrusive design, lens protected by glass dome, larger area surveillance (car parks, backyards)||poor manoeuvrability due to fixed mounting, higher likelihood of infrared reflection, lower night vision image quality|
|Turret IP Cameras||compact, unobtrusive design, lower likelihood of infrared reflection||cannot be controlled, low protection of lens|
|Cube IP Camera||simple and versatile mounting, no mounting required due to stand, compact, unobtrusive design, versatile use||unstable when not mounted, less suitable for outdoor use|
A plus point of an IP bullet camera is the flexible neck of the housing. This allows the camera to be easily readjusted to optimally adjust the surveillance area. Due to their design, they act as a deterrent to potential burglars. Also with this camera, the problem of light reflection is rather minor.
A disadvantage, however, is the non-exchangeable lens, which is permanently integrated in the camera housing. Due to the high vandalism and weather protection, the IP bullet camera is often used for outdoor surveillance.
IP Dome Cameras are particularly popular because they blend in with the ceiling in a matching colour. Depending on the model, IP dome cameras can monitor a field of view of 180 or 360°. The glass dome protects the lens from the weather and vandalism.
However, the glass dome can cause infrared reflections. This makes night vision images unusable. Because the camera is fixed in one place, it is difficult to readjust the angle of orientation.
One advantage of an IP turret camera is its compact and unobtrusive design. In addition, the lack of a glass dome means that the problem of infrared reflection can be avoided. This makes it particularly suitable for night-time use.
Without the dome, however, the lens is no longer protected. A turret camera is not controllable, which means that the surveillance area must be defined manually.
A key advantage of an IP Cube camera is its easy and versatile placement. It can be permanently mounted, but also simply placed with its stand, for example on a shelf.
With its very compact and unobtrusive design, it is hardly noticeable. The IP Cube Camera is available in various sizes. Because of its often smaller shape, it is also called a mini IP camera.
What does an IP Camera cost?
Depending on the features and design, the IP Camera types differ in price. They can range from 30 euros to 600 euros. Since IP cameras offer a clear added value through the security of your monitored object, we consider the prices to be reasonable.
|IP Bullet Cameras||approx. 14 to 280 euros|
|IP Dome Cameras||approx. 60 to 600 euros|
|IP Turret Cameras||approx. 50 to 250 euros|
|IP Cube Cameras||approx. 25 to 180 euros|
You can get a Bullet IP Camera for as little as 14 euros. However, cameras in this price range are usually made of cheap material (plastic) and offer a low camera resolution. Bullet IP cameras in the higher price segment often have colour night vision.
You can get a dome IP camera for as little as 60 euros. It is recommended that it be installed indoors. IP dome cameras costing up to 600 euros are more suitable for outdoor use. They have WDR technology, which effectively counteracts dazzling backlight or incident daylight.
PoE and WLAN Turret IP Cameras are available for as little as 50 euros. They need to be connected to a power source and often a new cable needs to be installed. You can get a battery-powered Turret IP Camera for up to 250 euros because it does not require installation.
A single IP Cube Camera can be purchased for as little as €25. In most cases, this comes with a cloud, for which an additional monthly fee is charged. Cube cameras in the higher price segment often have a more stable base and wider viewing angles.
What are the alternatives to an IP camera?
The majority of surveillance cameras today process their signals via Internet Protocol. A tried and tested alternative is analogue data transmission. The well-known action cameras from GoPro are also an alternative option for surveillance. In the following section, we will give you a brief overview of these alternatives.
|Analogue cameras||With analogue cameras, signals are sent analogue to a terminal device via a coaxial cable. The terminal then converts the signal to digital. In this way, the signal can be stored on a medium and played back later|
|Go Pro Camera||Go Pro Camera is a small, waterproof and robust video camera. It is mainly used as an action camera in the sports sector. All GoPro devices (from 2015) have video stabilisation and voice control. If two cameras are connected to each other, 3D recordings are possible|
Whether IP, Go Pro Camera or analogue camera, each of them fulfils the purpose of video surveillance. However, the anloge camera and Go Pro Camera do not have real-time notification of anything unusual in the surveillance area. If a break-in does occur, you are better protected with the IP Camera.
How do I install my IP Camera?
In this section we explain how to successfully install your IP Camera:
- Connecting to your router: First you have to connect your IP camera to a power source. To do this, simply plug in the camera's network connector. If you have an IP camera with PoE, you can also supply the camera with power via the LAN cable. Now you can connect your new camera to your router, e.g. your FritzBox, via the LAN cable or via WLAN.
- Connecting to the home network: First you have to enter the attached link in the address bar of your Internet browser. See the operating instructions for this. After entering the link, follow the on-screen instructions. At this point you will be asked to install the manufacturer's IP Camera Search Tool. Download the tool for your operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux) to find the camera in the network.
- Login with username and password: After you have found the camera, you have to log in with the provided username and password. Now you can follow the instructions to complete the installation.
Note: Your IP Camera and your PC must be connected to the same network.
How can I access my IP Camera via my mobile phone?
In addition to your IP Camera Viewer via your internet browser, most cameras also have an app. This way you can also check what is happening around or in your house on your mobile device. The following section explains how you can access your IP camera with your mobile phone:
- Install the software: First you have to connect your smartphone to the IP Camera. Here you can scan a QR code to find the software in the corresponding App Store. Alternatively, you can simply type in the name of the software in the store and then install it. You can find the IP Camera QR code and the name of the app in the operating instructions.
- Register: To be able to use the app, you must first register with your e-mail address and a secure password.
- Add device: In this step you have to add your IP Camera. To do this, first connect your mobile phone to the network of the IP Camera. Simply go to the WLAN settings of your smartphone and connect to the camera here. If you now go back to the IP Camera app, your camera should be displayed. Now you just have to enter the password of your IP Camera. Follow the further steps in the app and enter the Unique ID (UID) of the IP Camera and the password.
The app should now restart itself and you should now see and hear the picture and audio.
How do I set up my IP Camera correctly?
In this section we will help you set up your IP Camera correctly, step by step.
- Manually aligning the IP Camera: To put the IP Camera in the right light, you can first manually align the camera head. To help you, simply take your mobile phone with the app already installed. With a little trial and error, you can find the right angle and the best field of view.
- Setting the privacy area: Many cameras allow you to set a privacy area in their own software. This tool allows you to mask the areas of the image that you don't want to see in your shot.
- Adjusting the volume of the microphone: Simply record yourself and hear how loud the recording comes across. Adjust the intensity of the microphone in the tool so that it sounds comfortable.
- Set notifications: You can also manually set in the IP Camera software what should happen when activities are recorded in your surveillance area. For example, you can receive email or push notifications or set an audio alarm. You can also set how the IP Camera recording should be saved. Whether in your cloud, on your SD card or in the FTP server. It's up to you.
Important: Make sure that only your property is visible in the surveillance area. Filming public streets or neighbouring properties is prohibited in Germany.
My IP Camera is not found in the network. What can I do?
If your IP Camera is not found in the network, this can have various causes. In this section we present possible solutions to the network problem:
- Checking the power connection: A very trivial problem, but one that happens too often. Check again if the power plug is plugged into the socket as well as into the IP camera. If the power supply is via PoE, check the LAN cable again.
- Check the IP camera address: In order for the IP camera to be able to transmit its recordings via the Internet, it needs a unique IP address. This is assigned by the router itself. However, it can happen that two devices are assigned the same IP address. In this case, reset the IP Camera to get a new IP address.
- Update the IP Camera firmware: Check whether you have installed the latest IP Camera firmware. The newer versions fix common bugs. You can find and download the update on the manufacturer's website.
- Signal interference: A common problem when the IP Camera is not found in the network is an interference in the signal transmission to the router. If you have connected your camera via a LAN cable, check whether the cable is perhaps too loose in the router or in the camera. With a wireless IP camera, the distance from the router to the camera may be too far, which weakens the WLAN signal. In this case, think again about whether you can place the camera in a position closer to the router. For a connection to the router via PoE, it is best to use a Cat 5 or Cat 6 Ethernet cable, as the network speed is higher here.
We recommend that you check for a firmware update when you installed your IP Camera and download it. This way you are directly up to date.
My browser does not show a picture of my IP Camera. What can I do?
Suddenly there is no image? In many cases, this is often a simple error that can be easily corrected. In the following, we explain possible sources of error and how you can fix them:
- Install a Flash plugin: To view the camera image, you need an Adobe Flash Player. If you do not have one installed on your PC, you will need to download it. It is free of charge and available online.
- Check the network: Even if you have image problems, a malfunction in the network connection could be the cause. Also make sure that your PC and your IP camera are connected to the same network.
- Using a different browser: It is possible that the browser you are using does not work with your IP Camera. Just switch browsers and see if this is the problem.
- Resetting the IP Camera: It is often helpful to reset the IP Camera settings to the factory defaults. On some cameras you will find a reset button that you can simply press. Check your user manual to find out how to reset your IP camera.
- Inform yourself in the forum: For other possible sources of error and solutions, just have a look at the forum for your IP camera model. Here you will find numerous tips from other IP Camera users. Of course, you can also make a contribution yourself.
- Contact support: If all else fails, don't hesitate to send an email to the manufacturer's support team and ask for help. To avoid a long email exchange, you should explain your problem and your attempts to solve it in detail.
With a good IP camera, you get clear images of the activities around or in your house. Unlike the analogue surveillance cameras, the observation is no longer location-bound. Using your IP Camera Viewer app, you can live stream what's happening via your smartphone. You can also view stored footage from your SD card or the cloud.
Depending on the area of the house you want to keep a close eye on, you can choose between four IP Camera types. Bullet, Dome, Turret and Cube IP Cameras all have their own advantages and disadvantages. Bullet IP cameras deter burglars and are easily adjustable.
With a good dome IP camera, you get an almost 360° viewing angle and the lens can be controlled very well with the app. Turret IP cameras are very similar to dome IP cameras and are well suited for outdoor use.
The Cube IP Camera with its compact and simple design is hardly noticeable in the house and is perfect for indoor surveillance. It is often used as a baby or pet monitor.
Image source: Popov / 123rf