The Best Motion Detector Cameras

If you need a better sense of what’s going on in your home, check out our top motion-detecting security cameras.

The Best Motion Detector Cameras

Product Recommended
Nest IQ Best Overall
Zmodo Pivot Cloud Runner up
Reolink Best for Outdoor
Canary Most features
Tend Insight Lynx Budget pick

Tech spec comparison

ModelResolutionField of viewNight visionLearn more
Nest Cam IQ1080p130°Up to 20 ft.View price
Zmodo Pivot Cloud1080p120°Up to 30 ft.View price
Reolink1440p33°–98° (with zoom)Up to 100 ft.View price
Canary1080p147°Up to 20 ft.View price
Tend Insight Lynx1080p125°Up to 20 ft.View price

Whether you battle package-stealing porch pirates, have kids or pets to keep an eye on inside, or want to keep your lovely garden gnomes close to home, you may want to invest in a motion detector camera.

Most security cameras have motion activation technology that captures video when it detects movement—so what else is worth digging into in with motion-triggered security cameras?

As always, price is a major factor for us—we don’t like to pay twice as much for anything that does the same thing. We also need high resolution, night vision, and a wide field of view for the clearest picture of what’s happening at all times.

For more info on what matters in a motion-activated camera, check out our “what we looked for” section down below.

Nest Cam IQ — Best overall

Nest Cam remains one of our favorites, but it comes at a high price.

nest cam iq indoor

Features

  • Resolution: 1080p HD + 8 megapixel 4K sensor
  • Field of view: 130°
  • Night vision up to 20 feet
  • Two-way voice audio
  • Noise and echo suppression
  • Person alerts
  • 3-hour snapshot history
  • Wi-Fi frequency: 2.4GHz or 5GHz
  • Indoor only (or buy a Nest Cam IQ Outdoor)

What we like

Supersight

Perhaps the most useful feature of Nest Cam IQ is its ability not just to detect and track motion, but also to zoom in and follow a person using a 4K sensor. It’s important to note that Nest Cam IQ streams only in 1080p, but the higher-powered sensor helps with detection. It’s not perfect, especially with multiple users, but it is handy for details in most events.

Person tracking

Face recognition technology helps you distinguish between an object falling, a person coming in the door, or your kids coming home from school. This camera can also learn the difference between strangers and people who visit often.

Trust us—this feature will save you a lot of wondering, worry, and time spent sifting through dozens of clips where literally nothing of interest happens.

Two-way audio

Nest’s high-quality auto also features noise and echo suppression—which is great, since that was one of our least favorite aspects of both Canary and Pivot. You can get into a terrible-sounding echo chamber if the TV’s going and music is on.

What we don’t like

High price

If you’re after cheap home security with a single camera, you may want to look elsewhere. Nest costs two to four times as much as the average camera, which makes sense since it’s better than average. Still, with our expensive tastes, our poor little wallets will never get fat.

Nest Aware subscription cost

If paying $10 a month ($120 a year) for 30-day cloud video storage sounds like a bit much, then you may want to skip Nest. However, nearly all of our picks require a subscription for cloud storage of clips (except Reolink).

Camera only

Nest Cam is meant to be integrated into a fuller Nest System with Nest Protect, Nest Thermostat, and Nest Secure. With that in mind, it doesn’t have some of the cooler “whole-home” features of, say, Pivot or Canary. This isn’t necessarily a negative since we just need a camera, but we’d like to see some more bells and whistles for the high price.

Zmodo Pivot Cloud — Best motion detection

If you want full rotation and free access sensors, Zmodo Pivot is a great way to go.

Zmodo pivot camera with sensors for doors and windows

Features

  • Resolution: 1080p HD
  • Field of view: 120°
  • 350° rotation
  • Night vision up to 30 feet
  • Two-way voice audio
  • Built-in Bluetooth speaker
  • All-in-one Smart Home Hub
  • Cloud recording
  • Includes four door/window sensors
  • 2.4 GHz only

What we like

360° view

You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a Pivot, baby . . . anyway, we really appreciate the fact that the Zmodo Pivot detects motion and tracks it all the way around. The company technically lists it as 350° rotation, but you can still see the full spectrum.

Rotation control from your phone

While you’re in live-watching mode, you can easily move Pivot’s view left to right. While the movement isn’t fast, we honestly expected it to be a lot slower. You won’t be able to tell that the Zmodo Pivot has reached its “stop point” in the rotation until it quits moving, so be mindful of that if you’re wondering why it’s not working.

Environmental detection

Much like Canary, the Zmodo Pivot includes temperature and humidity sensors, but it does not have an air-quality detector—which we assume isn’t most people’s number-one requirement for a camera.

What we don’t like

Full rotation with limits

It’s important to realize that the base isn’t on a free rotation. In order to go a full 360°, it has a stop at the 0° position. So this means that if you’re looking at something that’s moving, and it travels from, say, the 270° position to the 10° position, the camera will follow it counter-clockwise instead of going what we might consider quicker route by crossing at 0°.

We didn’t run into any real problems with this, but we can imagine a scenario in which quick action happens and the Pivot would take awhile to catch up to it or lose track of it altogether as it travels behind the camera’s eye.

Video glitches

Unfortunately, between Wi-Fi connections, cellular service, and technological constraints, a lot of cameras we reviewed were prone to glitches if there was too much going on, like having other apps running or trying multiple commands in a short period.

While these glitches occurred only during the livestreaming, we wish the stream were seamless. This problem wasn’t unique to Pivot, but it is worth pointing out that more movement usually causes more bandwidth to be used. We’d recommend using an Ethernet cable where possible.

2.4 GHz only

We had some connectivity problems, and we tried for a while to figure out what wasn’t working with our Wi-Fi connection, and it turns out that with this camera, you can’t use a 5 GHz connection. Fortunately, we had both at the house, but be aware if you have only the 5 GHz frequency.

Reolink RLC–1411S — Outdoor pick

The highest resolution of our tests, but it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.

Features

  • Resolution: 5 megapixels (3072 x 1728)
  • Field of view: 33°–98° (with zoom)
  • Night vision up to 100 feet
  • Ethernet cable also provides electric power (Power over Ethernet or “POE” configuration)
  • 4X optical zoom
  • 16 GB SD card (up to 400 events captured)
  • 24/7 recording with NVRs (Network Video Recorders)
  • 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz

What we like

Best picture

Out of all the cameras we reviewed, the Reolink definitely performs best in the visual quality. Even with the nice 1080p pictures of other camera, it was hard to distinguish license plate numbers from a distance—but not so with the Reolink. It has a 1782p resolution that allows you pick up features when zoomed in.

Clear night vision

Reolink definitely has the farthest night vision reach at 100 feet. Details were clear with the Reolink’s 24 pcs infrared LEDS. We could distinguish faces just fine—which, as far as security cameras go, means that it’s doing its job around the clock.

No additional storage fee

Reolink is one of the only brands that doesn’t charge for cloud storage because it uses a physical micro SD card. This isn’t a ton of storage, although Reolink says it stores up to 400 motion events. We’d recommend picking up a 64 GB or 128 GB micro SD card so you don’t have to worry about deleting recordings as often.

What we don’t like

No two-way audio

We really love the idea of being able to communicate through the camera itself for a variety of reasons. Any security risks can be dealt with verbally (“Get out of here, you flea-ridden raccoons!”). Unfortunately, the Reolink can only “see and hear” but not “speak.”

No cloud storage

While a physical SD card may be ideal for some people for ultimate privacy, 16 GB isn’t quite the same as unlimited cloud storage. You’ll either want to upgrade your memory card or stay on top of your event records—although it can store up to 400 events with the included card.

Canary — Most features

Keep track of your home’s climate, enjoy two-way audio access, and stay alert with Canary.

Features

  • Resolution: 1080p HD
  • Field of view: 147°
  • Night vision up to 20 feet
  • Two-way voice audio
  • Wired Ethernet
  • 2.4GHz only
  • Person alerts
  • All-in-One smart home hub
  • Indoor only (or buy a Canary Flex for outdoor use)

What we like

Two-way audio

You can speak in a call-and-response style from the Canary app to the Canary camera. Canary has a loud but pleasant chirp (like a real canary!) that signals audio activation.

For people looking to check in with their kids, or even give their pet some encouragement from afar, this is an easy tool to use. You can also greet someone who showed up 10 minutes early to your house or ask someone what groceries you should pick up at the store.

High resolution

Canary’s picture was a lot crisper than Pivot’s despite sharing the 1080p designation. Some cameras just look better due to lens quality and design, or even the quality of the streaming connection—but you may see things differently.

What we don’t like

Required broadband internet connection

Canary recommends an upload speed of at least 1 Mbps, meaning that unfortunately, dial-up or non-internet users can’t benefit from Canary’s features. Most of our readers likely have a high-speed internet provider, but if you don’t, check out our best internet providers page to find one.

Endless buffer

This also means that if you have a weak Wi-Fi connection, you won’t be able to view your stream. While writing this, we checked on the camera periodically from afar but couldn’t actually get the feed streaming until we went back home and did a power-cycle reset on Canary.

Info box icon Info box icon

Note

Note

Canary wasn’t the only camera we had connectivity and streaming problems with. Hi-tech security cameras aren’t new by any means, but if you’re using a Wi-Fi connection to send the video directly to your device in real-time, things can still be buggy. If you can use Ethernet without compromising security, we recommend using that as your default for reliability.

Tend Insight Lynx — Budget pick

Get motion tracking and facial recognition for less.

Tend secure lynx indoor camera

Features

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Field of view angle: 125°
  • Night vision up to 20 feet
  • Two-way voice audio
  • Free lifetime 7-day cloud storage
  • 2.4 GHz only

What we like

Inexpensive but capable

If you love the features of Nest but don’t want to shell out that kind of money, you can get the much cheaper Lynx indoor security camera. It still features zoom-in motion tracking to follow action and provide facial recognition, so you get fewer false alarms. For the budget-minded, it’s a no-brainer to go with Tends Insights Lynx Indoor camera.

Free storage

You’ll get lifetime access to the secure cloud server, which stores your footage for up to seven days. And of course you can download it, but only within that window. While that seven-day window might not allow you to solve a mystery from two months ago, it will let you catch today’s package thief, or help you remember where you put your keys after you got home.

Two-way audio

Like we mentioned in the Canary section, we really like two-way audio for a lot of reasons beyond simple security. And while the audio from Lynx wasn’t as high quality as Canary, it’s still one of our favorite features.

What we don’t like

Lacking 5 GHZ support

Like the Pivot, we found that default Wi-Fi band wouldn’t work, so we had to switch to our 2.4 GHz for this camera to work.

No option for longer storage

Unfortunately, there is no option to upgrade to a longer storage length like the 30 days you get with Nest, Zmodo, or Canary. Nor does this camera have a physical memory card slot. If you’re vacationing for seven days or longer, you won’t get to toss your phone aside if you want to stay up on alerts.

Recap

  • Nest Cam IQ is the industry gold standard, but it’s pricey, and you can get similar features from the other cameras.
  • Pivot gives you a complete picture, has environmental sensors, and rotates 350°.
  • Canary’s air quality sensor is unique, and Canary also has the widest field of view.
  • Reolink has the highest resolution and farthest night vision, but doesn’t have two-way audio or environmental storage.
  • If you need a cheap alternative, the Tend Insights Lynx is a solid choice.

Which home security systems have cameras?

If you’re still not satisfied with our picks, you may want to look into a full-blown security system with cameras. Usually, you’ll have to subscribe to a top-tier service plan that includes other security equipment like window and door sensors, motion detectors, and more. This sort of service usually run $50–$70 per month. While this isn’t exactly cheap, it is the fullest (and generally safest) coverage for you and your family.

What we look for in a motion detector camera

While most cameras have motion detection, for our purposes we wanted to focus on what would make that motion detection worth the purchase. We wanted high resolution, a wide field of view, night vision, good storage, and preferably motion tracking that doesn’t alert us to every leaf twitching, but rather just to potential hazards.

Resolution

The standard for security cameras these days is 1080p. You should be able to get a good impression of any activity inside or outside your home with that. But if you need really specific details, you may want to opt for our highest-resolution pick, the Reolink RLC-411S—which has a 1728p resolution and 100-foot HD night vision.

Field of view

A wider angle means that you’ll see more in a single frame. On the low end, we have a 33° view angle (when zoomed in) with the Reolink, and on the higher end, we have a 147° angle with Canary (which doesn’t have pivoting). As always, placement is key, but a huge field of view certainly helps.

Night vision

All of our picks have night vision, but some do it better. In particular, we found the Reolink’s 100-foot reach a lot more impressive than the others, which were closer to 20 feet or 30 feet in the dark.

Two-way audio

We like being able to hear and speak to whoever’s on the other end of the camera. Out of all our picks, Reolink is the only one that doesn’t allow you to speak through the camera.

Connection

Wi-Fi or Ethernet, or maybe even Bluetooth? We always suggest using Ethernet where available.

Most of the time, you won’t have to worry about this, but you may have trouble running some of these with a 5 GHz connection, but you should be able to connect with your same router using the 2.4 GHz connection instead.

Storage

Does the camera have a local SD card or cloud storage? How long does the cloud service store your clips for, and how much do you have to pay for it? And can you download your clips if needed?

Some of our picks, like the Tend Insights Lynx, feature free cloud storage for up to seven days. Others, like the Reolink, have a physical SD card, which means limited storage, but also completely private storage that’s easily downloaded.

Subscription

If you don’t want to get a subscription, you should go with the Reolink, which uses a micro SD card, or Tends Insights Lynx, which has free lifetime storage. Aside from that, the Zmodo pivot has a great offer with 12 months of cloud storage for free, then after that, its prices are cheaper than Nest or Canary.

Remember: A free plan usually isn’t as robust as a paid plan.

Other considerations

While these weren’t major factors for our indoor purposes, you may want to think about a few additional details:

  • How is the camera powered?
    • If it’s socket powered, you won’t have to buy batteries, but you’ll be anchored to an outlet.
  • Can you use it indoors and outdoors?
    • Some cameras just can’t handle extreme temperatures or rainfall. Reolink was our only camera that works indoor and out without buying a different version. If you’re looking more specifically for an outdoor camera and the Reolink doesn’t fit, check out our Best Outdoor Cameras article.
  • What type of connection is required?
    • Don’t run cables where criminals could cut them. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are mostly reliable, but not as reliable as Ethernet or cable. Note: More motion causes the camera to use more bandwidth.
  • What kind of installation is required?
    • Some people want to unpack the box and call it good, but some cameras may require drilling to place them where you want them. Do you need to run a wire to the outside to use it?