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Differences Between Indoor and Outdoor Security Cameras

When shopping around for security cameras, you undoubtedly face the decision between indoor or outdoor cameras. What might seem like useless branding can often communicate an important distinction between what camera models meet your security needs. Put simply, it’s important to take notice before buying your camera.

Indoor and outdoor security cameras differ mainly in durability. Outdoor cameras are made of more durable, and oftentimes more expensive, materials, and typically have higher resolutions. Indoor cameras will typically be less expensive.

Making an honest assessment of your security needs can be a great way to figure out what type of cameras you might need. Take stock of all the areas you might want to monitor and ask yourself which camera would be better suited for that area. Both outdoor and indoor cameras can play specific roles in your overall security system (and both can be connected to a monitor as well – our guide) 

What Sets Outdoor Cameras Apart?

Observation Camera Monitoring Preview

It might seem like an obvious distinction, but outdoor cameras are better suited for outdoor use which means they can hold up to the rain and heat and also last for years in these conditions. But what might not be as obvious are the other factors that set outdoor cameras apart from their indoor counterparts, like their higher resolution and the things that allows. First, let’s cover the durability:


Outdoor cameras are usually designed with several durable features that allow for continued outdoor use. For a camera to exist out there in the elements, it needs to be:

  • Waterproof – Everyone knows electronics and water don’t mix; that is why cameras designed for outdoor use need to be airtight to keep functioning outside. This means engineering in a watertight form factor around the camera’s components. It also might mean additional features like rubber gaskets to seal up the camera housing.
  • Heat-Resistant – In the summer months, your cameras can be baking in full direct sunlight for hours. To function in this extreme environment means implementing features like heat shielding and heat resistant materials to keep the camera functioning at optimal levels. Without heat resistance, your camera won’t be able to last. The optical sensor also has to be able to work even with the glare of sunlight.
  • Freeze Ready – Just like the extremes of heat, outdoor cameras are also tasked with performing in frigid temperatures. This means ice and snow, sometimes for months at a time. You need an outdoor camera that’s specifically designed to handle this type of environment, otherwise the camera won’t last.

All of the aforementioned factors play a role in the durability of an outdoor camera, and when it comes to security and safety, reliability is incredibly important because you can’t trust a faulty product. That’s why it’s so crucial to choose the right tool for the job, because, while a working camera is a security asset, a camera you think you can trust but which may fail at any time is the worst kind of liability.

Outdoor cameras need to be able to last in extreme weather, and they also have to be able to record videos for years and years and still be as reliable as when they were first installed. Reliability and durability are some of the defining features of an outdoor camera because they can last under strenuous conditions. This is no small feat and takes quality engineering and craftsmanship.


With the extra attention to detail and the enhanced durability functions, it’s no surprise that outdoor cameras usually come with a heftier price tag. In order to ensure an outdoor camera is ready to face the elements and reliably do what it’s supposed to do, more durable materials and additional product testing are required.

This testing makes sure that the camera you are buying is battle-ready. All the waterproofing, heat proofing, and freeze safety measures take time to produce and even more time to test, and time is money. The more testing that’s done to the camera means the more time that’s been put into your unit to make sure it performs.

If you are really in the market for an excellent outdoor camera, then you know that you can’t skimp on features like this. When it comes to tools like cameras, you get what you pay for. The extra price up front may be more than you were expecting, but buying a quality camera now means not having to replace it too soon in the future. 

Let’s take a look at two of the most popular cameras out there:

  • The Nest Indoor Camera (on Amazon) can make a great addition to any system. But just by looking at the product, you can tell it is not meant to handle the outdoors. Indoor cameras can get away using cheaper materials like plastic for their housing or limit the lens’s amount of protection. This is reflected in the price.
  • Contrast this to one of the most popular outdoor cameras, the Nest Outdoor, which is a more durable version of Nest’s indoor camera. This camera is designed with a more rugged housing and extra features which make it perfect for using outside. However, notice the price on Amazon, which is around 40% more expensive.

Just by glancing at the product photos and you can spot the differences in not only the durability and product build but also the price. While it may seem like a big jump, this difference in price and design can play a huge role in whether the camera lasts just one year or the following decade. Keep this in mind when shopping around.


While the above Nest cameras both support 1080p resolution, this isn’t a universal feature among all brands. One of the most common concerns when it comes to outdoor cameras is their resolution, which depends a lot on what the user intends on using the camera for, like parking garages, or a backyard.

Indoor cameras are designed to monitor a smaller area which means they can get away with using a lower resolution. Whether it’s a hallway or a stockroom, a smaller area in the frame means that you don’t need a super high resolution to see detail. 

When using a camera outdoors, it is usually the case that you will need more resolution because of the larger area to cover. A higher resolution means being able to take long shots that get everything in the frame while at the same time being able to focus in on small details. 

Think about if you were monitoring an outdoor space like the exterior of a college campus. You’d need to see everything from the cars driving down the streets to the students’ faces as they walk by and this is where that extra resolution comes in handy. Some outdoor cameras can support very high resolutions like 4k or 8mp. When it comes to security cameras, it’s worth noting that the most popular brand out there, Nest, is kind of an outlier.

Their business model is more concerned with consumer purchases which means they design their products for use by residences and small businesses. Their cameras need to monitor close up things like your front or back porch and larger spaces, so all of their cameras have a good resolution. 

Indoor vs. Outdoor Camera Uses

Security Camera on Old Building - Smaller

Location may seem like what separates the two types of cameras, but the reality is that each camera is designed to perform in a certain way. Indoor cameras are useful if you want to keep an eye out for pets or children. They make a great addition to your home and help you monitor what is going on when you’re not around. These types of cameras aren’t meant so much for crime prevention or security; they’re mostly used for monitoring.

Outdoor cameras are designed with security and crime preventing in mind, which means these cameras can catch a burglar in the act or even prevent break-ins from occurring. One of the primary deterrents against property crimes for home burglary is having cameras in view for the would-be crooks to see.

Outdoor surveillance cameras need a higher resolution because they’re typically scanning a much larger area which necessitates a higher resolution for the sake of things like properly identifying a face, or catching the license plate of a car. This is one of the main reasons why these cameras tend to have a much better image quality.

The Right Tool for the Job

Each camera serves its purpose, and both indoor and outdoor options may be a part of your security system. Assessing your camera needs based on your home environment is a great way to determine what types of cameras you might require. 

Think about what the camera is going to be used for. If it is something like general surveillance of the home’s exterior, you already know which camera to choose: an outdoor one. Is it just a small hallway that needs some monitoring? If so, then spending the extra dough on a fancy high-resolution outdoor camera might not be the right choice for the job. Smaller spaces can get away with a lower resolution. 

What is going to be in the frame? Make sure you are imagining what the camera might be seeing. Will you need the extra resolution to make out what’s on screen? Larger areas require a better resolution to be viewed clearly. It is also worth noting that you can be strategic with your camera placement.

Suppose you can angle a camera towards a window from the inside. In that case, it might mean you can get access to outdoor viewing without needing the extra durability of an outdoor camera. This is an excellent strategy if you have a window beside your front door. Just point the camera towards the porch, and you can watch the door for guests or packages. Also, assess how secure your home already is.

If you are reasonably sure that the exterior of your house doesn’t need extra security, then you might be able to get away with just a doorbell camera to watch the door. Consider the goals of your system before buying. Finding the right tool for the job doesn’t just mean shelling out the extra money when you need to; it also means saving money on equipment by having a real understanding of your needs.