Ask The Wirecutter: Was That an Intruder or a Pet? The Security Cams That Can Tell

Ask The Wirecutter: Was That an Intruder or a Pet? The Security Cams That Can Tell

- in Technology

This spot gets a lot of action. Sometimes it’s too much action, and some cameras will catch every car that drives by. I’ve tested cameras that have sent me over 100 notifications a day. That’s why it’s important to look for a camera that has a way to adjust the camera’s sensitivity.

I’ve also put them in the back of my house and have found that my backyard is quite the late-night hotbed for stray cats and rabbits.

Did the neighbors get worried when they saw all those cameras going up?

I have them in a spot where you can’t really notice until you get up close. But I’m pretty sure some of the neighborhood kids thought I was a drug dealer or something.

The Nest Cam Outdoor features 24/7 recording.


The frequent notifications can be annoying. Are any of the cameras good at recognizing what are people and what are raccoons?

This is one of the reasons I love the $170 Nest Cam Outdoor. The Nest Aware feature can tell the difference between people and pets. Also, like everything else in the Nest family, this camera is always learning. It will actually start to recognize people in your family. Again, that type of service starts at $10 a month for one camera, which includes 10 days of video history. If you don’t want to pay for that, the Netatmo Presence has a feature that will alert you to people or animals. That one is good, but not as versatile or easy as the Nest.

Any tips on where to put them and where to point them?

Viewing angle, Wi-Fi strength and whether the camera is wired or wireless may determine how close or far away you can get. If the camera has a wide viewing angle and a clear image, you may be able to cover the entire front of a house with one or two cameras. Entry points are the No. 1 thing to consider, such as the front and back door. The SkyBellHD can combine a camera and a doorbell to see who’s approaching. But some people may want to cover a shed, a boat or the driveway.

I like to have the front door covered so I can see who’s coming and going. I keep the camera close so I can get a nice clear image. I prefer to point it at the front door, but that typically covers my front porch as well.

The milkman doesn’t mind?

He doesn’t seem to. I’m sure barking dogs are way more startling than the cameras. He’s pretty quick, though.

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