I’ve set up security cameras for a number of clients over the years (everything from just using a built in iMac camera to a multi-camera setup for businesses). Security cameras are kind of like having a computer backup—you don’t really appreciate it until you need it, and by then it may be too late (my most recent installation caught a shoplifter within two days of installation, but funnily enough they “never had shoplifters” before the cameras were installed).
Many people do research online themselves and end up choosing Hikvision because they read that they’re high quality, inexpensive, and configurable. My primary complaint is that there have been numerous stories of “backdoors” and other vulnerabilities that allow people to hack into them. Unless you don’t mind strangers seeing when you’re not home or watching you cruise around in your underwear, I would definitely pass on these and other inexpensive Chinese brands.
Out of all of the brands I’ve set up, there are two I’ve been happy with: Logitech Circle, and Unifi.
The Logitech Circle is a stand-alone camera that requires a subscription to store videos longer than 24 hours, or to add additional features such as “person detection.” Cost is moderate (around $200 per camera, and as low as $4 a month for a subscription).
The downsides are that without a subscription you can’t do much with the cameras other than get a live view (the free plan won’t allow you to configure motion alerts, for example). It also isn’t very configurable. For example, you can define an area to detect motion, but you can’t set a schedule, so you may get a lot of false alerts.
The Unifi system is around the same cost per camera, although there are more options. The biggest difference is that it doesn’t require a subscription. Instead, you purchase a separate standalone recorder (NVR) for around $350, or set up your own on a Windows or Linux computer for free. Once it’s set up you have complete control over all the recordings, and they never end up on the cloud. They are also extremely configurable, and the company frequently adds features for free. They are also very good about supporting old hardware, so you don’t have to worry about your system needing replacement every few years (time will tell with Logitech).
PEBMAC Final Thoughts: If you don’t mind paying a monthly fee and just need a basic system that may need upgrading every few years, the Logitech Circle is a good choice. If you want a more robust system that you have complete control over and don’t mind paying a bit more up front, the Unifi system is the one to get.