3 Outdoor Cameras Better Than Nest

Dave Zatz —  July 14, 2016

nest-cam-outdoorAfter months of corporate drama, Nest attempts to reboot the conversation with their latest innovation — a $200 weatherproof, outdoor camera that the company expects to ship this fall.

While it’s not entirely fair to pass judgement on a product that hasn’t yet been released, there’s no way I’ll be purchasing one. And, no, it’s not the $10 monthly fee for continuous recording and supposedly smart alerts. It’s the 25′ of power cable you need to screw into your siding. I do recognize Nest’s approach is designed to accommodate a large percent of households unwilling or unable to hardwire and their technical implementation isn’t exactly battery-friendly. Regardless, it just doesn’t work for me.

With that in mind, here are some similarly priced alternatives that solve this problem with a more sophisticated approach:

Kuna
Kuna replaces an entrance light (in three different styles) and cleverly integrates a positional camera into the casing.

Ring
Ring replaces or augments a doorbell and can be either hardwired or rely on a rechargable USB-powered battery.

Arlo
My personal favorite is Netgear’s battery-powered, magnetically mounted camera. Unlike Ring, there is an added expense in replacing the cells every few months. However, the generous free tier of service largely makes up for it.

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19 responses to 3 Outdoor Cameras Better Than Nest

  1. Maybe I’m missing something, but wouldn’t the magnetic mounts on Arlo make them super easy to steal? Walk up, grab it, walk away. Oh, and wear a mask :)

  2. Mine can’t be reached without a ladder or a pole to knock it off – assuming the bad guys know it can be knocked down. Possibly a little more effort than unplugging Nest. ;) None of these are foolproof or sufficient for security by themselves. They’re more of a nice-to-have — I usually benefit by knowing when FedEx or UPS has arrived and catching the trespassing wildlife. https://twitter.com/davezatz/status/706166050627330048

  3. Bored SysAdmin July 14, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Agreed with general idea. Nest’s subscription NVR is show stopper for me.
    There are also plenty of 3Mp Outdoor POE cameras in $100 range, but requires vendor install or a bit or knowledge.

  4. I’ll wait to see reviews but if the outdoor Nest works OK I might be interested. Arlo is not for me as my placement plans are already laid and I’m not dragging out a ladder to replace batteries every few months. Especially when some reviews I see say the battery run time can be much shorter.
    In contrast Nest is recording 24/7. There is some benefit to that I think. Some down sides too. Certainly your ISP has to be happy with the 140GB of additional uploads a month.
    I’m not thrilled about paying out $100/year for cloud storage but like that the images go right off site. I would be very happy if they’d offer a 1 day storage plan for $1/month. I really don’t need more than 24 hour backup as it’s really only about emergencies. Hopefully I’d know if I had been robbed or killed within 24 hours.

  5. Never saw Kuna before. Thanks!

  6. Yeah, the Kuna looks good. I saw during Apple’s WWDC last month, that Kuna and Ring are part of Homekit. I’m considering purchasing two Kunas for the front and back entrances and/or maybe a Ring for Ring Pro video doorbell for the front door. Both devices have off-site recording with no option for you to record on-site to a NAS.

  7. Kuna looked good until I read the fact it doesn’t support other NVRs so you are locked into their service if you want recorded video. Also it doesn’t look like you have the option to wire it.

    Ring won’t work for me based off the placement of my doorbell, but Kuna would have been great. Does anyone else make one similar that supports wired and NVRs? I still have spare licenses on my Synology NAS.

  8. Yeah, none of these solutions are really designed for folks who want to locally manage their own content with something like Blue Iris and/or a NAS. Regarding POE, several years ago I ran some Logitech cameras that were quite nice (at the time) but also had cabling to deal with. But a different sort of scenario as Bored alluded to.

    brennok, can you leave, cover, or remove your existing doorbell and add Ring in a different location? I’ve been contemplating that scenario for their first gen/lower-end model since my wife may want us to move next spring and I’d rather not mess with swapping the doorbell twice.

  9. Check out Blink. Love mine. Battery life is great, supposedly lasts a year. Much cheaper than Arlo and no monthly fee.

  10. And if you get the Ring Stickup Cam you can also get a Ring solar panel that keeps it charged. I have this set up on our Front porch where the Stickup Cam is at the far end and the solar panel is on the outside of the porch catching rays.

    Though the motion detection on Ring has a lot to be desired. We also have the Ring video doorbell and while it is good if someone presses the doorbell to ring it will capture folks. But if it is a delivery and they just drop off the package I usually only see the person as they are walking away. And I have it on full blown as far as it can detect motion and still don’t catch people until they are leaving.

    And you still have to pay for service to have the recordings.

  11. Correction on what I said in an earlier post: I just heard from a Ring representative commenting on a YouTube video that only the Ring Pro video doorbell will be HomeKit compatible this fall. Not the regular Ring video doorbell.

  12. I’m glad I’m able to just stick my cameras in the Windows to see who is at the door and outside all the windows. I use twelve IP cameras with a PC running Blue Iris. And with POE I only need one cable going to the cameras. I have been using mostly Hikvision 2048 x 1536 cameras which have worked well. And as long as I press the camera up on the glass, the IR functions will still work. Otherwise if not pressed up on the glass the camera will see the IR reflection and you can’t see anything.

  13. I really don’t get why companies design cameras that require cords for power but don’t offer support for Ethernet via PoE. WiFi is OK for a couple of cameras, but it gets unwieldy at larger scales. Call me old-fashioned, I guess, but I would rather have the throughput, security, and reliability of a wired connection.

    For that reason, I’m with you on the 3 you mentioned, either go completely wireless or leverage power that’s in the area. That’s the only time WiFi makes sense to me.

  14. Might have to add this on to my Nest system … thanks for bringing this to my attention!

  15. Love the idea of IoT, hate the idea of paying a monthly subscription for everything in my house.

    Aside: for monitoring deliveries, if you have an old iPhone/iPad/tablet you can rig it up with an app that streams video to you if it detects movement. I keep mine by the window for that very reason, since delivery will never ring the d*mn bell…

  16. Nest Cam also says that it can detect if movement is detected by a person or something else (like leaves blowing). Kuna can’t do this. If leaves in a tree are blowing in the wind, or the sun is shining through leaves and casts a shadow in from on the camera, then the camera will detect this as motion. I have a few Kunas and they have a lot of false positives. If the Nest Cam can pull off this feat of knowing whether motion is detected by a person or not, then Kuna is not a better choice over the Nest Cam. Currently, Kuna does not have a fix for this. Maybe in the future they will, but not right now.

  17. Also, in terms of their subscription service, Kuna is very expensive.

  18. Richard, Arlo also is usually also able to detect “real” motion versus the shadows of trees and such. It’s soooo much better than a D-Link camera I used to run that triggered dozens of alerts a day as the sun moved across the sky.

    Does the Kuna allow you to specify a motion sensing threshold – as in: can you dial it down, make it less sensitive to ultimately improve performance for your location given its approach?

  19. Yes, there is a sensitivity button, but it really does not work. Even if you lower it, you will still get notifications of leaves blowing or shadows moving across it detected as motion. If you lower it too much, then no motion is detected at all. So that functionality does not work. On the same note, Kuna has a little button that you can press to tell it that the motion is “Not a Person”, but that functionality also does not appear work as well. It looks like it’s supposed to be some artificial intelligence learning function, but enabling it does not help reduce the false detection. So, right now, between the hours of 10 AM and 1 PM, I get a ton of notifications of motion caused by light shining through trees, that casts a shadow in front of the camera. When I say a lot, I mean a ton. I get a notifications every second as the sun moves across my lawn. You can disable the notifications for a certain amount of time, and then it will automatically come back online, but in this case, that defeats the whole purpose of the system.

    The strange thing is, if the mailman walks past the camera, then it only picks up his motion 50% of the time. But it will detect false motion 100% of the time.

    The other issue with Kuna is that they do not have night vision, so you need to keep the light on, or set the system to turn on the light when it detects motion at night. That wouldn’t’ be a big deal, except that they placed the camera right under the light fixture, so the video is washed out at night, as there is light entering directly into the camera. They tried to fix this by placing a small plate to block the light right above the camera, but that also does not work very well. Therefore, the photo of the Kuna you see, on their website, and everywhere else, does not actually depict the actual product will be delivered to your house. They don’s show the small plate under the light. If the comment section allowed photos to be uploaded, I would upload a photo of the actual Kuna at my house, so you can se how the plate is attached.

    When I asked why they didn’t put IR into the camera, they claimed it would have made the system too big. Which seems like a lame answer, as there are tons of cameras with this functionality that is still has a small form factor.

    Kuna also, in the free tier, Kuna deletes the recoded video after 2 hours. So, if you missed the notification, for any reason you won’t have a chance to see the video. If two people, that has access to the camera, is viewing the live video, one person will see the video, and the other person will get “camera busy”, or something crazy error like that. This is what happens when my wife and I try to look at the video together on our phones.

    The issue with these types of systems is that people are so infatuated that you can they can see live video and hear audio, from their mobile devices, that they forget that these systems are suppose to be security systems and give them 5 stars all over the place just because they can see live video and audio from a mobile device. These systems need to held to hire standard that that of a standard web camera. Kuna is great idea that has a flawed execution. They will be Apple Homekit enabled in the next few months. However, if they don’t fix the issues I stated above, then Kuna is just a camera and microphone hidden in a standard outdoor light.

    On a good note, the audio is crisp, and the video is very smooth.