The best floodlight camera to buy right now

Photo by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

These security cameras will shed some light on your smart home.

When something goes bump in the night in your backyard, you probably want to know about it. While security cameras with night vision can show you what’s out there, a floodlight camera can both show and tell that rascal or raccoon to get off your lawn, scaring them away with some powerful lumens and possibly a blaring siren.

While there’s mixed research on whether outdoor lighting is a significant crime deterrent or just potentially annoying for your neighbors, there are plenty of benefits to lighting up your property from both a safety and security perspective. With smart floodlight cameras, you get the added value of better lighting and a way to keep an eye on your home. Thanks to sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, smart floodlight cameras can be set only to light up when there’s someone there, instead of just when a gust of wind sends a plastic bag through your yard.

Our top pick is the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro, thanks to its excellent video quality, good digital zoom, and very bright but adjustable 2,000 lumens of light. I also like the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight for its excellent video quality, wide compatibility with smart home platforms (Ring only works with Ring and Amazon Alexa), and more svelte design, but you need to pay monthly for the best features.

For those on a budget, the Wyze Cam Floodlight is a solid choice with just a few concessions for a much lower price. Plus, it’s the only camera we tested that also lights up for any suspicious sound, not just motion. Read on to learn more, including which is the best option for a Google Home or Apple Home smart home. If you’re looking for advice on why you want a floodlight camera or how to install it, we’ve got you covered there, too.

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The best floodlight cameras for 2022

1. Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro

The best floodlight camera

Ring’s latest floodlight camera is essentially a Ring Pro 2 video doorbell camera mounted below high-powered, 2000-lumen adjustable lights. This is a good thing, as the Ring Pro 2 is arguably Ring’s best camera yet. And while the Bird’s Eye View and 3D Motion Detection features that come with the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro had limited value in my testing, the quality of the 1080p resolution camera and its horizontal and vertical field of view means you get a really good vantage over your property. It’s much better coverage than Ring’s previous floodlight camera, making this worth the $70 price premium.

Ring’s digital zoom is also excellent, and the bumped-up siren is the loudest one we tested (at 110 dB). You can’t trigger the siren on motion, but there is the unique-to-Ring option to add an audible motion warning that tells prowlers they’re on camera — less offensive to the neighbors than a motion-triggered siren. I also like that this camera can be powered by a wall plug or traditional junction box wiring (a separate plug-in version is offered for $20 more), but I would always recommend hardwiring if you can.

This floodlight cam is one of only two cameras we tested that has the option of 5 GHz Wi-Fi, and it comes in black if you prefer (as does the Arlo). There is no local storage, although Ring has said this camera will get compatibility with the Ring Alarm Pro that has a local storage option, But you need to pay for a Ring Protect Plus plan to use that. Paying for a Ring plan (starting at $3 a month) adds person detection (no other smart alerts) and recorded videos — without it, it’s livestream only.

While this is my top pick for Alexa users, because Ring as a whole integrates so well with its parent company’s smart home ecosystem, bizarrely, you can’t control the Ring’s floodlights through Alexa, either with voice or in Routines. You can view a live feed on Alexa-enabled displays, but you have to use the Ring app for all light control. Here, you can adjust three motion zones for the lights — handy so that your neighbor walking in his yard doesn’t turn them on. You can also put the lights on a schedule, adjust the brightness, and link Ring devices so that if a Ring camera on one side of the house detects motion it can turn on the floodlights on the other side.

If you use a different smart home system from Alexa, give the Ring a pass, as it only works with Alexa. However, if you are just starting on your smart home journey, the Ring app is fast becoming a smart home platform of its own, especially if you add a Ring Alarm or Ring Alarm Pro to your setup.

2. Arlo Pro 3

The best floodlight security camera for any smart home platform

If you want something with a motion-activated siren and better smart alerts, the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight camera ($250) is my next favorite pick. It has by far the best video quality of any camera I tested and offers HDR imaging with its 2K resolution. The 12x digital zoom lets you get up close and personal with that rascally raccoon, and it has the option to auto-track and zoom.

You have to pay for zoom and track, however. In general, with Arlo, you need to subscribe to its Arlo Secure service (starting at $3 a month) to get any functionality out of its cameras. (I couldn’t even snooze motion alerts without a subscription plan.) But if you do pay, you get people, animal, vehicle, and package alerts, the option of continuous 24/7 recording (for an additional fee), and rich notifications.

The Arlo is also the least obtrusive-looking floodlight camera — I will not go so far as to say it looks nice — but it’s not as large nor as prominent-looking as the rest (with the exception of the Eve Outdoor Camera).

As the Arlo can be battery-powered, you can mount it anywhere you need to (and add a solar panel for $60 to keep it juiced). But that does away with one of my favorite features of floodlight cams: reliable, continuous power. Arlo has the option of continuous power, but you need a nearby outlet and an additional purchase of a power cord (for $50). It does not mount to a standard outdoor junction box and isn’t a great drop-in upgrade for an existing non-camera floodlight. I tested the Arlo for six months on battery power, and I had to charge it every two months. (It’s in a very busy location.) I would always opt for hardwired where possible.

Despite the camera’s smaller size, the light is very bright and more than enough to light up my entire back patio. It’s one of only two cameras I tested that has the option to pulse its light to scare off intruders, and you can set its 80dB siren to go off on motion. (Be careful with this feature if you don’t want your neighbors to come knocking.)

One issue I ran into in my testing was that some water got into the floodlight after a heavy rainstorm. I was able to dry it out, and it’s been working fine since then, but I would recommend installing this, and any floodlight camera, under an eave or some covering where possible to extend the life. The Arlo app also took too long to pull up a live view at times, despite the camera being situated just a few yards from my internet router. In comparison, I didn’t have the same issues with the Ring app — despite the camera being installed way out past my garage, hanging off the roof of my second story.

Unlike some Arlo cameras, the Pro 3 Floodlight Camera doesn’t require an Arlo Hub, but it can be used with one to help with range and extend battery life. If you want the HomeKit compatibility it offers (one of only two cameras we tested that does), you will need that Hub, which costs $100. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide HomeKit Secure Video or the option of local storage on the Hub. There is just no way around that Arlo subscription.

The Arlo Pro 3 does work with Google Home, and you can stream video in the app and on Nest smart displays. It also works with Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT, and you can control the light separately from the camera, which is handy.

3. Wyze Cam Floodlight

The best cheap floodlight security camera

Wyze has come storming out of the gates with a superb floodlight camera that’s under half the price of the competition. This 2600-lumen blaster lit up the side of my house like an airport runway (it’s a harsh white, however). Moreover, unlike all the competition, the Wyze Cam Floodlight offers sound detection (Nest has it but only for smoke and CO alarms), which is very useful to highlight anyone trying to creep through the bushes while potentially out of range of any motion sensors.

As with most of the cameras I tested, Wyze uses both a PIR and a camera-based motion sensor — which means the camera doesn’t have to be in the range of motion for the lights to turn on. Wyze offers 270 degrees of motion sensing, which, along with Ring, is the widest range of motion sensing on offer. The cherry on top is that Wyze built an extra USB port into the device, so you can power a second Wyze Cam v3 (sold separately) and put it around the corner for an additional angle.

Two cameras are better than one. With Wyze Floodlight Camera, you can connect a second Wyze Cam and leach off the power supply.

Despite the low price, you’ll want to factor in paying for a Wyze CamPlus subscription plan (from $2 a month), as that’s how you’ll get smart alerts for people, packages, vehicles, and animals. Although 12 seconds of motion-recorded clips are free, there’s a 5-minute cooldown period between them where the camera won’t record anything, so unless you pay up for the unlimited length clips and no cooldown included in CamPlus, you could miss some vital action.

Zoom on the 1080p resolution Wyze is nowhere near as good as the Arlo’s, but the starlight sensor-powered night vision is superb. This uses any available light to illuminate a dark scene in color, and I could see more in that mode than with the floodlights turned on. The Wyze cam also has a louder siren than the Arlo, but both cameras can pulse the lights to scare off anything creeping around. As a bonus, there’s the option of local storage by adding an SD card, which enables free, 24/7 continuous video recording — the only camera I tested that does this.

As with all Wyze gear, smart home integration outside the Wyze ecosystem is limited. You can stream footage to Google and Alexa smart displays and have Alexa announce if motion is detected, but you can’t control the lights with either voice assistant, and you don’t get individual control of the floodlights outside of the Wyze app.

4. Google Nest Cam with Floodlight

The best floodlight camera that works with Google Home

There is a lot to like about Google’s new Nest Cam with floodlight. It has built-in battery backup for when the power goes out, free on-device recording (up to three hours), free smart alerts for people, animals, and vehicles, and the option of 24/7 recording (for a fee).

It’s also got facial recognition on offer as part of Nest’s Familiar Faces feature, meaning you can get an alert that says, “‘Sarah the Gardener’ is in the backyard” rather than the scarier “There’s a person in the backyard.” You need to pay for Nest Secure subscription service for this, which starts at $6 a month.

All these features are part of the camera that magnetically attaches to the two floodlights (a Google Nest Cam that you can swap out if you like). But the lights also add some good options, including adjustable arms to angle your lighting, app and voice control in the Google Home app, ambient light activation, and the option to dim the beams.

But there is no built-in siren making it a poor choice for a dedicated security device. It does offer 5 GHz Wi-Fi, and the on-device machine learning makes for speedier notifications than most of the cameras we tested. Motion sensors in the floodlights provide a wide, 180-degree sensing range, ensuring the lights turn on when anything gets nearby.

The camera only works with the Google Home app (not the old Nest app), but it does work with Amazon Alexa thanks to an update. Bear in mind that it doesn’t fit well for an under-the-eave installation. I would only consider it if you can install it on the side of your house.

5. Eve Outdoor Cam

The best floodlight security camera that works with Apple HomeKit

For those with privacy in mind when it comes to installing cameras in and around their home, the new Eve Outdoor Cam is your best choice. It’s the only camera on our list that works with both Apple HomeKit and HomeKit Secure Video, which doesn’t send video to the cloud to be analyzed, instead doing it all locally on an Apple TV or HomePod Mini.

The Eve is compact and svelte — and the smallest camera I tested. It was so small it didn’t completely cover the electrical box for the light it was replacing. (It only mounts on a vertical wall, so you can’t put it under an eave or overhang.) It has a good solid feel and the housing is aluminum (most other models are all plastic). It also looks much less like a mall surveillance camera than many of the competition.

Its video quality is very good, especially during the day. Images were bright and clear and only a little pixelated when I zoomed in. At night, while the light on the image was a little muddy, I could make out faces clearly enough. The regular night vision was very good, though.

While HomeKit limits the Eve Cam to 1080p video, it adds a slew of smart alerts, including people, packages, animals, and vehicles. You can also grant access to your Apple Photos library and get alerts when it recognizes people. Facial recognition and package alerts, which aren’t offered together on any of the other cameras, make this a good camera to set up by your front door. It’s also not super bright, as in it won’t blind visitors. But it will light up the scene well enough to see what’s going on. There is a brightness boost mode that adds an extra bump for 30 seconds if you did want a stronger floodlight. It’s nothing compared to my top pick, though, which is like walking along an airport runway.

There is no built-in siren or 24/7 recording, and you have to pay for an iCloud Plus plan (starting at 99 cents per month) to view any captured clips. But there is two-way audio, which was very good, and you can use the light and motion sensor separately in HomeKit to trigger automations.

Why buy a floodlight security camera

Anyone considering installing security cameras outside their home should look at a floodlight camera first. These devices combine lights, a camera, and (in most cases) continuous power in one easy package. The motion-activated lights also provide a valuable safety feature, helping make sure you don’t trip on that package left in your driveway. Plus, most have built-in sirens you can activate as a deterrent to anyone creeping around your property.

Floodlight security cameras are predominantly wired, which means they are hardwired to your electrical system, like a light fixture. They still operate wirelessly to transmit video using your home’s Wi-Fi. Some have a backup battery built-in, and one I tested (the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight camera) can be completely wireless, working just off battery.

The advantage of the hardwired option is there are no battery-charging woes. And, unlike with a plug-in camera, you don’t need to worry about drilling through your walls to access an indoor plug or putting the camera near an outdoor receptacle while snaking wiring down the side of your house. If you already have some sort of outdoor lighting, it’s a relatively easy swap to get a hardwired, always-on security camera plus light set up on the side of your house.

Floodlight cameras cost between $99 and $300 and, in general, come with the same camera technology as standard outdoor cameras. The Google Nest Cam with Floodlight, the Wyze Cam Floodlight, the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, and the Ring Floodlight Cam Pro all essentially take the companies’ flagship cameras and stick 2,000 to 3,000 lumens of motion-activated light on them. The camera is controlled in the same way and with the same features as the regular outdoor camera, but you get the added option of light control, which is what makes this an excellent upgrade to standard motion-activated lighting.

That lighting control includes adjusting the brightness (handy if you have sensitive neighbors), length of time the lights stay on, what activates them, the option to have lights come on automatically at sunset and turn off at sunrise, and even integrate into smart home routines. Some models have lights that can be controlled individually with voice assistants such as Alexa, Google, and Siri, using their respective platforms.

Why not to buy a floodlight security camera

The downside to floodlight cameras is they’re significantly more expensive than their non-shiny siblings, generally $100 or so more. They’re also more limited in where you can place them; most need to be up high and where there is existing wiring for lighting (unless you are ready to spend a few extra hundred dollars on an electrician’s services). But that wiring provides continuous power, so once they’re up, you don’t have to mess with them. The same can’t always be said for battery-powered options.

Another consideration is that most floodlight cameras use non-replaceable LED lighting, so if the lights go bad, you’re left with a camera in the dark. A couple of models — Nest and Wyze have removable cameras — so if the lights do go out, you still have a camera you can use elsewhere. All of the models we tested have lights that should last between 50,000 and over 100,000 hours of use.

How to install a floodlight security camera

Wiring for a floodlight camera is similar to any lighting fixture, with the addition of an outdoor junction box in some cases. I highly recommend employing an electrician, especially if you are at all uncomfortable fiddling with wiring anything while on the top of a ladder.

Installing a floodlight camera involves wiring and a ladder. While it can be a DIY project, it’s likely best suited to a licensed electrician.

The ideal place to install a floodlight camera is facing a yard, path, or driveway, placed up high — at least 6 to 10 feet — so the lights cover an ample space, and the camera has a good view. Make sure you have decent Wi-Fi in the area you want to install; if not, consider extending your Wi-Fi or upgrading to a mesh router.

Before installing, download the manufacturer’s app and check the instructions. Some cameras must be paired to the app before mounting them, which helps avoid too many trips up a ladder.

Another thing to be aware of is which light switch in your home controls the camera. If you install it where there was previously a light, it will be controlled by a switch somewhere in your home. Handily, Wyze provides a bright purple sticker with its camera that you can affix to the switch, warning people not to turn it off. I wouldn’t recommend covering it with a flat plate or disabling it because it’s a helpful troubleshooting tool if you do run into any issues.

Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge

Update, Thursday, December 1st, 2022, 5:45 PM: We removed the Eufy Floodlight Cam 2 Pro from this guide following reports of serious security and privacy concerns with its cameras.

Source: The Verge The best floodlight camera to buy right now