Best DIY Home Security Camera System – My 2020 Recommendations

There used to be a time when a professionally installed home security camera system was the only option for most of us. But today we live in the golden age for DIY enthusiasts. Why pay a ‘professional’ when you can select, buy and build your own home security camera system for far less money like I did?

In my opinion, these are the best DIY home security camera systems without monthly fees:

BUDGET PICK
Reolink RLK4-410B4
4-channel 4MP NVR
Four 4MP IP cameras
Power over Ethernet

BEST VALUE
Lorex 4KHDIP84N
8-channel 4K NVR
Four 4K IP cameras
Power over Ethernet

PREMIUM PICK
Dahua N5168D124
16-channel 4K NVR
Twelve 4K IP cameras
Power over Ethernet


Best DIY Home Security Camera System: 2020 Recommendations List

I spent many hours researching home security camera kits and documenting what I learnt in this article. But I know such long articles are tiresome to navigate, so here’s a handy table of all the recommendations in this post. Just click on each kit to jump to why I think you should buy it.

AwardModelCameras & ResolutionStorage included
Best 4-Channel NVR Kits
Best Budget Reolink RLK4-410WB4 4x 4MP 1TB
Best Value Amcrest NV2104E-IP2M-852EB4 4x 2MP (1080p) None
Best 8-Channel NVR Kits
Best Budget Reolink RLK8-410B4 8x 5MP 2TB
Best Value Lorex 4KHDIP84N 4x 8MP 2TB
Best 16-Channel NVR Kits
Best Budget Reolink RLK16-410B8 8x 5MP 3TB
Best Value Lorex 4KHDIP1610 8x 8MP 3TB
Best High-end Dahua N5168D124 8x 8MP 4TB
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Methodology

As always, I have grouped my recommendations first by the number of cameras the NVR supports (channels), and then by the best budget kit, the kit offering the best value, and the best premium kit.

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Best 4-channel NVR Kits

Best Budget 4-ch Wired Security Camera System: Reolink 4MP NVR Kit (RLK4-410B4)

Reolink RLK4-410B4 Budget 4-ch NVR Kit - VueVille
Reolink RLK4-410B4 Budget 4-ch NVR Kit - VueVill
NVR Features (RLN4-410)

  • 4-channel recording @ 4MP supported
  • PoE-enabled
  • Hard drive not included, max 4TB HDD
  • Motion detection with email alerts & push notification
  • Remote smartphone access

4x B400 IP Camera - Features

  • 4MP CMOS image sensor (2560x1440p)
  • 80° viewing angle at 4mm focal length
  • 30m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • Built-in mic
  • RJ45 PoE ports
  • IP66 Weather-rated

PROS:
  • Great image quality with 4MP cameras
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) eliminates separate power cable
  • IR LEDs provide night vision capability
  • Excellent value for money
  • Free smartphone app is modern-looking and works well
  • USB Backup feature

CONS:
  • No advanced motion detection methods such as line crossing, intrusion or dwell detection
  • NVR doesn’t support ONVIF standard for automatically adding 3rd party IP cameras
  • No redundant storage due to single SATA interface
  • No scheduled USB backup option
  • No alarm in/out connections
  • Camera video bit-rate tops out at 3Mbps
  • No 2-way audio (voice chat)

Reolink has established itself as a reliable yet affordable home security camera brand. At the budget end of the market, you can be forgiven for expecting cost cutting to rear its ugly head. But it’s not as bad as you may think. Solid hardware and thoughtful software design makes the system a delight to use compared to similarly priced competition.

The included B400 IP cameras have PoE in case you can’t get power at the installation location. They do not have on-board storage so cannot function as standalone cameras. They are not ONVIF compliant either, so cannot be used with a 3rd-party ONVIF compliant NVR or DIY NAS system. Increasingly manufacturers are disabling ONVIF support on the budget models while retaining it for high end models, and Reolink is too.

The NVR itself doesn’t officially support the ONVIF standard anymore either. But can you still try and add 3rd party IP cameras to this NVR? Reolink doesn’t guarantee it but some users have been successful by changing their 3-rd party camera’s port to 9000 (the Reolink default camera port number) and playing around with the bit-rate and H.264 settings (try lower bit-rates).

From a Pro-DIY point of view, smart home connectivity is missing. There are no alarm in/out ports (preferred option), nor is there support for Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant etc.

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Best Value 4-ch System: Amcrest 4-ch 4K NVR Kit (NV2104E-IP2M-852EB4)

Amcrest AMNV20M4-4B-B Budget 4-ch NVR Kit - VueVille.com
Amcrest AMNV20M4-4B-B Budget 4-ch NVR Kit - Camera - VueVille.com

NVR Features

  • 4-channel recording @ 8MP supported
  • PoE-enabled
  • No hard drive included, max 6TB HDD
  • Motion detection with email alerts and push notification
  • Remote smartphone access
  • ONVIF support

IP Camera IP2M-852EB4 - Features

  • 3-axis black colour camera
  • 2MP CMOS image sensor (1080p)
  • Night vision with 30m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • RJ45 PoE ports
  • IP 67 Weather-rated

PROS:
  • Good image quality with 1080p cameras
  • Wide 3rd party camera support through ONVIF standard
  • IR LEDs provide night vision capability
  • Very good value for money
  • USB Backup feature
  • 2-way audio (voice chat) possible

CONS:
  • No advanced motion detection methods such as line crossing, intrusion detection
  • Free smartphone app could be better
  • No redundant storage due to single SATA interface
  • No scheduled USB backup option
  • No alarm in/out connections
  • No hard drive included


Amcrest is a constant presence in our recommended outdoor and indoor IP camera lists. These guys have quickly become a major player in the NVR market and have come up with some very high quality products. This NVR security camera kit is an entry-level model at a very budget-friendly price. Amcrest bundles their NVRs and cameras in a wide range of combinations, so you are sure to find a kit that matches your exact needs.

The NVR in this kit is a 4-channel affair which can record at up to 4K resolution (8MP). It can record all 4 channels simultaneously at up to 8MP (4K resolution). It can also do motion detection on all the channels and send email alerts. One thing I really like about Amcrest is that they do not try to lock down their products and trap you in their ecosystem. Since the NVR supports the ONVIF standard, you can add any 3rd party camera from manufacturers like Hikvision, Dahua, Sony, Vivotek, and even Foscam (Amcrest’s nemesis whom they had a falling out with and the reason for the Amcrest brand being created). See the full datasheet of this NVR here(opens in new tab).

The camera included in this kit appears to be the IP2M-842EB model, which can also be purchased separately. These are 1080p (2MP) IP cameras that ca do night vision and have a very good IP67 weather rating. They are also ONVIF compliant so can be used with ONVIF compliant NVRs or a DIY NAS NVR system if you have one.

Using the Amcrest smartphone app, you can login to the NVR at any time to see a live feed of all the cameras as well as recordings.

Just remember to buy a surveillance grade hard drive as this kit doesn’t include one, see our top recommendations here.

From a Pro-DIY point of view, smart home connectivity is missing. There are no alarm in/out ports (preferred option), nor is there support for Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant etc.

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Best 8-channel NVR Kits

Best Budget 8-ch NVR Kit: Reolink 5MP 8-channel NVR Kit with 4x4MP PoE cameras and 2TB HDD (Reolink RLK8-410B4)


Reolink RLK8-410B4 - Best Budget 8-ch NVR Kit - VueVille.com
Reolink RLK8-410B4 - Budget 8-ch NVR Kit - VueVille.com

NVR Features (RLN8-410)

  • 8-channel recording @ 5MP supported
  • PoE-enabled
  • 2TB hard drive included, max single 4TB HDD
  • Motion detection with email alerts and push notification
  • Remote smartphone access

IP Camera Features - RLC-410

  • 5MP CMOS image sensor (2560×1920)
  • 80° viewing angle at 4mm focal length
  • 30m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • RJ45 PoE ports
  • Built-in mic
  • IP66 Weather-rated

PROS:
  • Great image quality with 5MP IP cameras
  • Choice of Power over Ethernet
  • IR LEDs provide night vision capability
  • Excellent value for money
  • USB Backup feature
  • Free smartphone app is modern-looking and works well

CONS:
  • No advanced motion detection methods such as line crossing, intrusion or dwell detection
  • NVR doesn’t support ONVIF standard for automatically adding 3rd party IP cameras
  • No redundant storage due to single SATA interface, cannot write to network
  • No scheduled USB backup option
  • No alarm in/out connections
  • No 2-way audio (voice chat)
  • Only 4 channels can be played back simultaneously (synchronous playback)

This is an 8 channel NVR that can record at up to 5MP. The included RLC-410 camera is a highly rated 5MP model that can record at up to 8Mbps. While I recommend 1080p (2MP) as a minimum resolution for security camera footage, 3MP is better for getting additional detail. This is especially useful if your cameras cover a large area like a yard. Every little bit of detail helps. That’s why 5MP is even better. While the cameras can do up to 8Mbps, you can adjust the bitrate to around 4-6Mbps to get more days of storage out of the included 2TB hard drive.

These cameras do not have on-board storage either and so cannot function as standalone cameras, but they can be used with any ONVIF compliant NVR or DIY NAS system.

The NVR is limited to playing back only 4 channels at 4MP resolution synchronized with each other.

From a Pro-DIY point of view, smart home connectivity is again missing. There are no alarm in/out ports (preferred option), nor is there support for Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant etc.

Best Value 8-ch NVR Kit: Lorex 8-channel 4K NVR Kit with 4x8MP PoE cameras and 2TB hard drive (Lorex 4KHDIP84N)

Lorex 4KHDIP84N - Best Value 8-ch NVR Kit - VueVille
Lorex 4KHDIP84N - Best Value 8-ch NVR Kit - Camera - VueVille

NR9082X NVR Features

  • 8-channel recording @ 8MP supported, H.265 encoding
  • Automatic drive mirroring
  • 4K HDMI Output (3840×2160)
  • 8 PoE-enabled RJ45 ports
  • Alarm in/out connections
  • 2TB hard drives included, max. 2x8TB HDD
  • Motion detection with email alerts and push notification
  • Remote smartphone access

LNB8921BW IP Camera Features

  • 8MP 1/2.5″ CMOS image sensor (3840×2160)
  • 112° Viewing angle, 4mm lens
  • Colour Night Vision, HDR, 100dB WDR
  • ONVIF compliant, PoE supported
  • Max 8Mbps bitrate
  • 60m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • RJ45 PoE ports
  • IP67 Weather-rated, Cold climate capability (-22°F / -30°C)

PROS:
  • Excellent image quality with 8MP cameras
  • IR LEDs provide night vision capability, colour night vision available
  • Redundant storage supported (drive mirroring)
  • 8-channel synchronous playback
  • Great value for money
  • Live USB Backup feature

CONS:
  • NVR doesn’t support ONVIF standard, accepts only Lorex cameras
  • No advanced motion detection methods such as line crossing, intrusion or dwell detection


Lorex has recently started opening up their IP cameras by supporting ONVIF. Yes, their NVRs still do not support 3rd-party IP cameras but they tick nearly every other box at a killer price point.

For example, the NVR in this kit can record 8MP on all channels simultaneously. And while doing this, you can also live-view or play back all 8 channels from the included 2TB hard drive. The NVR can also simultaneously perform true drive mirroring and backup while also managing remote viewing. Lorex calls this pentaplex operation.

The NVR supports basic motion detection, customizable motion zones, push notifications to your smartphone and email alerts with snapshot attachment. Since the NVR sports 4 alarm in and 2 alarm out ports, you can easily switch from easyDIY to ProDIY. Just hook up the alarm out port to a Z-Wave binary sensor and you have instant integration with your Home Automation system. You can even get the NVR to record on demand based on PIR motion sensors this way.

The four IP cameras included are 8MP PoE models and are surprisingly capable. Not only do they have HDR but true Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) also at 100dB. Unlike the Lorex NVRs, most Lorex IP cameras are now ONVIF compliant and support RTSP.

The only downsides of this Lorex kit are the NVR’s lack of ONVIF support and the missing advanced motion detection methods. No ONVIF support means you are locked into buying additional cameras from Lorex only. Lorex is now owned by Dahua, so I still hold out hope that they will add advanced motion detection to Lorex NVRs soon.

From a Pro-DIY point of view, smart home connectivity is pretty good. There are alarm in/out ports (my preferred option), but no support for Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant etc.

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Also consider: 8-ch NVR Kit: Hikvision 8-channel NVR Kit with 6x4MP PoE cameras and 2TB hard drive (Hikvision EKI-Q82T46)


Hikvision EKI-Q82T46 - 8ch NVR Kit - VueVille
Hikvision ECI-T24F2 - VueVille

ERI-Q108-P8 NVR Features

  • 8-channel recording @ 4MP supported, H.265 encoding
  • 1080p HDMI output
  • 8 PoE-enabled RJ45 ports
  • 2TB hard drives included, max. possible is 1x6TB hard drives
  • Advanced motion detection with email alerts and push notification
  • Remote smartphone access

ECI-T22F2 IP Camera Features

  • 4MP 1/3″ CMOS image sensor (2560×1440)
  • 100° Viewing angle, 2.8mm f/2.0 lens
  • ONVIF compliant, PoE supported
  • Max 8Mbps bitrate
  • 30m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • RJ45 PoE ports
  • IP67 Weather-rated, Cold climate capability (-22°F / -30°C)

PROS:
  • Great image quality with 4MP cameras
  • EXIR LEDs provide night vision capability, colour night vision available
  • 6-channel synchronous playback
  • Great value for money
  • USB Backup feature
  • NVR supports ONVIF standard
  • Advanced motion detection methods such as line crossing and intrusion detection

CONS:
  • Redundant storage not supported (no drive mirroring)
  • No alarm in/out connections

Hikvision has now started selling their own branded security camera kits. And its not some EZVIZ stuff packaged and dumbed down for the retail market. The NVR supports most of the advanced features required of a high-end system: advanced motion detection methods like line crossing and intrusion detection. Then why have I not called it a high end system? Mainly because it lacks 4K video output and alarm in/out ports.

From a Pro-DIY point of view, smart home connectivity is missing. Surprisingly for Hikvision, there are no alarm in/out ports (my preferred option), nor is there support for Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant etc.

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Best 16-channel NVR Kits

Best Budget 16-ch NVR Kit: Reolink 5MP 16-ch NVR Kit with 3TB HDD (RLK16-410B8)

Reolink RLK16-410B8 - Budget 16-ch NVR Kit - VueVille.com
Reolink RLK16-410B8 - Budget 16-ch NVR Kit - Camera - VueVille.com
NVR Features (RLN16-410)

  • 16-channel recording @ 5MP supported
  • PoE-enabled
  • 3TB hard drive included, max. possible are 2x4TB hard drives
  • Motion detection with email alerts, push notifications
  • Remote smartphone access

8x RLC-410 IP Camera Features - Features

  • 5MP 1/2.7″ CMOS image sensor (2560×1920)
  • 80° Viewing angle, 4mm lens
  • 30m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • RJ45 PoE ports
  • Embedded mic
  • IP66 Weather-rated

Reolink is once again the budget option for 16 channel home security camera systems with their unbeatable price points. Support for 5MP cameras is impressive at this price level, but note that it cannot simultaneously play back more than 4 channels. The hardware is not powerful enough to simultaneously playback 16x5MP streams.

It is still a great option if you are on a budget but I would encourage you to look at our best value recommendation below.

From a Pro-DIY point of view, smart home connectivity is missing. There are no alarm in/out ports (my preferred option), nor is there support for Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant etc.

PROS:
  • Great image quality with 5MP cameras
  • IR LEDs provide night vision capability
  • Excellent value for money
  • USB Backup feature

CONS:
  • No advanced motion detection methods such as line crossing, intrusion or dwell detection
  • NVR doesn’t support ONVIF standard for automatically adding 3rd party IP cameras
  • Can playback only 4 channels simultaneously (synchronous playback)
  • No redundant storage support
  • No remote control

Best Value 16-ch NVR Kit: Lorex 16-channel 4K NVR Kit with 8x8MP PoE cameras and 2TB hard drive (Lorex 4KHDIP1610)

Lorex 4KHDIP1610 Best 16-ch NVR Kit - VueVille
Lorex E861AB - Best DIY Home Security Camera System - VueVille



NR900X NVR Features

  • 16-channel recording @ 8MP supported, H.265 encoding
  • Automatic drive mirroring
  • 4K HDMI Output (3840×2160)
  • 16 PoE-enabled RJ45 ports
  • 4 Alarm in / 2 ALARM out connections
  • 3TB hard drives included, max. possible is 2x8TB hard drives
  • Person & vehicle motion detection with email alerts and push notification
  • Remote smartphone access

E861AB IP Camera Features

  • 8MP 1/2.5″ CMOS image sensor (3840×2160)
  • 111° Viewing angle, 4mm lens
  • Colour Night Vision, HDR, 100dB WDR
  • ONVIF compliant, PoE supported
  • Max 8Mbps bitrate
  • 40m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • 16x RJ45 PoE ports
  • IP67 Weather-rated, Cold climate capability (-40°F / -20°C)

Just like the 8-ch kit featured earlier, this 16-channel NVR can also record all channels simultaneously at 8MP. The pentaplex operation capability is retained even at the higher workload of 16 channels.

The NVR supports basic motion detection, customizable motion zones, push notifications to your smartphone and email alerts with snapshot attachment. But with this kit, you also get smart cameras that can perform smart motion motion detection. Its smart in that the cameras can distinguish between a person, a vehicle and anything else like trees moving in the wind. This should help reduce false motion detection alerts massively.

Since the NVR sports 4 alarm in and 2 alarm out ports, you can easily switch from easyDIY to ProDIY. Just hook up the alarm out port to a Z-Wave binary sensor and you have instant integration with your Home Automation system. You can even get the NVR to record on demand based on PIR motion sensors this way.

The IP cameras included are 8MP PoE models and are surprisingly capable. Not only do they have HDR but true Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) also at 100dB. Unlike the Lorex NVRs, most Lorex IP cameras are now ONVIF compliant and support RTSP.

The only downsides of this Lorex kit are the lack of ONVIF support and the missing advanced motion detection methods. No ONVIF support means you are locked into buying additional cameras from Lorex only. Lorex is now owned by Dahua, so I still hold out hope that they will add advanced motion detection to Lorex NVRs soon.

From a Pro-DIY point of view, smart home connectivity is pretty good. There are alarm in/out ports (my preferred option), but no support for Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant etc.

PROS:
  • Excellent image quality with 8MP cameras
  • IR LEDs provide night vision capability, colour night vision available
  • Redundant storage supported (drive mirroring)
  • 8-channel synchronous playback
  • Great value for money
  • Live USB Backup feature
  • Smart motion detection supported

CONS:
  • NVR doesn’t support ONVIF standard, accepts only Lorex cameras

Check Price on Amazon

Best High-end 16-ch NVR Kit: Dahua 16-channel 4K NVR Kit with 8x4MP cameras, 4x8MP PoE IP Cameras & 4TB HDD (Dahua N5168D124)


Dahua N5168D124 - Best High-end 16-ch NVR Kit - VueVille
Dahua N84CL52 - Best DIY Home Security Camera System - VueVille

N52B3P4 4K NVR Features

  • 16-channel recording @ 12MP supported, H.265 encoding
  • Automatic drive mirroring
  • 4K HDMI Output (3840×2160)
  • 16 PoE-enabled RJ45 ports
  • 4 in/2 out alarm connections
  • 4TB hard drive included, max. possible is 2x10TB hard drives
  • Advanced motion detection with email alerts and push notification
  • Remote smartphone access

E861AB IP Camera Features

  • 8MP 1/2.5″ STARVIS CMOS image sensor (3840×2160)
  • 112° Viewing angle, 4mm lens
  • True 120dB WDR, built-in heater
  • ONVIF compliant, PoE supported
  • Max 10Mbps bitrate
  • 30m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • IP67 Weather-rated, Cold climate capability (-22°F / -30°C)

PROS:
  • Excellent image quality with 8MP cameras
  • IR LEDs provide night vision capability
  • Redundant storage supported (drive mirroring)
  • 8-channel synchronous playback
  • Great value for money
  • Live USB Backup feature
  • NVR supports ONVIF standard
  • Advanced motion detection methods such as line crossing, intrusion detection, missing object, people counting, face detection

CONS:
  • No redundant storage support

Just like Hikvision, Dahua has also started packaging their NVRs and IP cameras together in ready-to-install kits. This is great news for DIY enthusiasts who want the latest and greatest features and are willing to pay for it.

For example, the NVR in this Dahua kit can record up to 16 channels at 12 MP resolution. Moreover, it can perform advanced motion detection such as tripwire (line crossing), intrusion detection, missing or abandoned objects. Add cameras with face detection or people counting and the NVR can capture that data too. This is a very powerful system that can do pretty much anything you can think of.

The bundled 8MP IP cameras have built-in heaters that allow for operation down to -22°F / -30°C.

From a Pro-DIY point of view, smart home connectivity is pretty good. There are alarm in/out ports (my preferred option), but no support for Alexa, IFTTT, Google Assistant etc.

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Other popular NVR Kits

Too many compromises: Zmodo 1080p 4-channel NVR Kit with 4 1080p PoE cameras and 1TB hard drive


Zmodo ZM-SS88B9B4-S-1TB - Best Budget 4-ch NVR Kit - VueVille.com

Zmodo ZM-SS88B9B4-S-1TB Budget 4-ch NVR Kit - Camera - VueVille.com

NVR Features

  • 4-channel recording @ 1080p supported
  • PoE but with proprietary cables
  • 1TB hard drive included, max. possible is a single 4TB hard drive
  • Motion detection with email alerts
  • Remote smartphone access

IP Camera Features

  • 3-axis black colour camera
  • 2MP CMOS image sensor (1080p)
  • 2.8mm lens
  • 10m IR range, true IR-cut filter
  • USB-to-RJ45 connector
  • Weather-proof


The Zmodo really has the potential to be the budget-king, and challenge Reolink’s dominance at the entry-level. Where do I begin? Bizarre design choices such as using a micro-USB cable and camera connections instead of regular old network cables and RJ45 ports, and deceptive marketing which then calls this a “network cable” which it is anything but! I have never ever seen a “network cable” that has one RJ-45 end and a USB connector at the other end.

A frustrating smartphone app experience rounds off the overall lack of finesse. These kits may look great value but its false economy. Even purchasing additional cameras can be a nightmare. Save yourself the hassle and just stick with any of our recommendations above instead of these Zmodo kits.

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Why go DIY instead of a monitored CCTV service?

Going the DIY route means you get flexibility – you can choose the features you think you need to start off, then upgrade as you learn more. You also save money by not paying a monthly fee. Yes you will still get alerts on your phone and you can live-view the cameras any time from anywhere. If anything, the problem is choice. There are different types of technologies to choose from and then there are dozens of brands across the price spectrum.

The first decision you need to make is: do you want to spec each component in your system (I call this Pro-DIY) OR get a ready-to-use packaged kit that has all the equipment you need along with installation instructions (I call this Easy-DIY)? This article explores the various ready-to-use kits that fall under the Easy-DIY category.

If you know you need an Easy-DIY kit, you will find a summary of my Easy-DIY recommendations above in a handy table. If you are unsure, I will help you decide below.

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Which DIY route – Easy-DIY or Pro-DIY?

A home security camera system consists of the following essential parts:

  • The heart of the system, the Network Video Recorder (NVR)
    • Before the advent of network cameras, the equivalent of the NVR would have been called a DVR which works only with analogue security cameras. An NVR works only with network-based cameras. So remember a DVR works with analogue cameras. and an NVR works with network cameras only. In this article, I will be looking only at NVR based systems.
    • This is because DVR-based analogue systems are on their way out, they simply cannot compete with the quality and convenience of network cameras and NVRs.
  • Cameras – Network cameras (a.k.a IP cameras) are fully digital – the image is sent digitally to the NVR through a network cable instead of an analogue BNC cable as in a DVR-based system. This enables resolution higher than 1080p(2MP), and currently you can go up to 4MP.
  • The hard drive that will store the recorded video and images – read my detailed guide to selecting the right hard drive.
  • The Ethernet cables needed to connect the cameras to the NVR
  • The power adaptors for the cameras (read on to see how you can avoid these)

If you don’t want to deal with different brands for home security and cameras, you should go with Easy-DIY and just get an all-in-one kit. Otherwise there are two ways of choosing the different parts above for your dream DIY home security camera kit – what I call going Pro-DIY.

Pro-DIY – A fully custom solution where you pick NVR and cameras separately

This is what I have done – I built my DIY NAS-based NVR system, the benefits being maximum flexibility, power and economy. The downside is having to read up on the essentials and ensuring compatibility between all the different bits (but that’s why I am writing this blog: to help you make sense of it all).

A huge advantage of going Pro-DIY is that you can also set up a home automation system that can fully integrate with your CCTV setup (like my QNAP NAS and HomeSeer HS3 integration)!

Easy-DIY – A pre-packaged solution where cameras are bundled with the NVR system

You leave the tough work of building the CCTV kit to somebody else but you pay for the convenience. This is recommended for novices or even experts if you don’t have the time or inclination to do the research. Just pick a brand you are comfortable with, look for the options you want and push the button.

Any NVR kit from a decent manufacturer will use the Power over Ethernet standard. If you are looking for the best PoE security camera system, all the kits I recommend below are PoE-enabled. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, bear in mind that there are varying levels of smart home integration features. For example Reolink NVRs are for price-sensitive customers and so don’t have any smart home integration at all. On the other hand, Lorex, Hikvision and Dahua have alarm in/out ports that you can hook up to a home automation hub.

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How to choose your Easy-DIY home security camera system

So you have chosen to go the Easy-DIY Home CCTV route. That’s a great choice if you want to get started right away and don’t want the hassle of researching and understanding how to put a home CCTV system together.

First off, lets get the confusion about names out of the way. Home Security Camera System, Home Surveillance System, NVR Surveillance System, NVR Security System, NVR kit, IP Camera Surveillance Kit – these all typically mean the same, a complete kit that includes everything you need to get up and running.

Choosing your digital network-based home security system depends on the following:

  • How many cameras do you need?
    Security camera systems are commonly specified by the number of separate channels they support. This simply indicates how many separate camera video streams they can record. They start from single channel devices going all the way up to 32.
  • What level of video quality or resolution do you need?
    My usual recommendation of at least 1080p (2 Megapixels) applies. There are tons of substandard 720p (HD-Ready) systems you can get, but none of them will have the resolution needed to allow law enforcement positive identification of an intruder.
  • Do you want the ability to use wireless cameras as well?
    While I generally do not recommend using wireless for critical home systems such as security, there are some situations where a wireless camera makes sense. Now you don’t need a WiFi enabled NVR to use a Wi-Fi camera – this is a common misconception. A Wi-Fi camera can simply connect to your Wi-Fi router and thus be connected to the NVR.
  • Do you intend to upgrade by adding more cameras later on?
    If you think you need only 2 cameras now, get a 4-channel system. If you think you need just 4 cameras right now, go for the 8-channel. Once you start enjoying the security provided by your spanking new CCTV system, you will enjoy the option to add more cameras. But if you want that luxury, plan ahead.
  • Do you want automatic redundant storage?
    Most NVRs can record only to one hard disk. This means data storage is not redundant – a hard disk failure or theft of the NVR would mean that you lose all your recorded footage. USB backup is supported on most NVRs to mitigate against this risk but ideally the NVR should have at least 2 hard disk bays and automatically write a copy of the footage to the second hard drive. The other option to explore is whether the NVR can write the footage to a remote network location such as a NAS. To learn more about surveillance hard drives, check my latest guide.

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I am passionate about making it easy to get into DIY smart homes and security cameras!

36 Comments
  1. Than you for all this information. However I am confused on at least 2 matters:

    1. Your system reviews show all Reolink NVRs as with ONVIF support, whereas the Reolink web site on its only NVRs says in red letters “The Reolink NVRs are designed for Reolink security cameras ONLY”

    2. Whatever CCTV system one chooses it will always need cameras, so a camera is a no brainer first purchase, assuming that one would opt for a ONVIF compliant system. One can then test this using Blue Iris or similar and a spare PC. However, in order to choose an appropriate camera one needs to understand how motion detection works. Is it done by the NVR or by the camera, or a combination of both? For example, a camera could have a PIR built in, whereas the NVR can only “see” the image. In this connection, I recall that somewhere in your articles you said that your system did not support advanced motion detection, whereas in your packaged systems review you put this as a con.

    When is advanced motion detection necessary or even desirable?

    Unfortunately none of the systems reviewed seem to be still available – according to the links. If you wish to earn from clicks it would be fruitful to update the equipment and links accordingly.

    The other issue is that I am in the United Kingdom, and although I can order direct from the USA there are very bad reviews for all of the featured ONVIF makes such as Hikvision and Amcrest with regard to customer support. LaView is not found in the UK at all.

    I expect that others starting to put together a security system are having the same questions and we would all welcome and appreciate the benefit of your experience.

    • Hi there. I have checked all the links and they are all working if you are from the US. My blog is US focused as most of the readers are from the US. For UK readers, the blog tries to find the closest match on the Amazon UK page but some products like the LaView do not exist on the Amazon UK site unfortunately.

      Reolink NVRs used to be advertised with ONVIF support, apparently they cannot guarantee or support with non-Reolink cameras but the still work with non-Reolink cameras. Note the word ‘designed’ – they don’t say it wont work.

      Advanced motion detection is typically a camera feature that only NVRs of the same brand as the camera can detect. They are often called Advanced Video Analytics or VCA events. The advanced motion detection methods such as line crossing, intrusion detection are very useful for reducing false alerts as detailed in this blog post.

      Yes at the moment, my NAS based NVR cannot detect the advance motion detection alerts coming from my Hikvision cameras for example.

  2. Just an FYI: according to the EZViz website, EZViz is the consumer/residential subsidiary of Hikvision. I can confirm that with the current firmware upgrade, Hikvision cameras are plug-and-play, which does seem to support the claim. (Dahua ONVIF cameras take some tweaking to get full functionality.)

    We installed three 8-channel systems in our church in Dec 2016, and they’ve been trouble-free. With motion capture enabled, we’re able to record about 19 months of video (2TB drives) before the drive fills and it starts overwriting the oldest files.

    Haven’t tried other NVR-based systems so don’t know how that compares, but we have no complaints.

  3. Thank you for this great article. Looking for a complete new security solutions, I’m looking at the DIY solution (NVR + mix different cameras brands), but having read bunch of articles, I’m still confused about the legitimity/quality of some brands (like Reolink). I’m in favor of buying a Hikvision NVR and maybe their cameras as well. Do you have feedback, review, technical advices about Hikvision products (for NVR as well as cameras)? Thank you soo much.

  4. Thanks for the nice reviews. I will try a LaView for my next NVR. Yep, zmodo is crap. I bought two systems from zmodo trying to get one working system. In the end, they all went to the dump, worthless. Bad software, bad hardware, bad tech support. Never again.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your research, learning, and your setup. I’ve been researching PoE security systems and I always come back to your site. I know how much time I’ve spent researching and am happy you’re so willing to share.

    Based on your analysis, I’d narrowed my choices down to the Hikvison, DaHua, and Reolink when I read about Ubiquiti’s line of security cameras. They seem relatively new to security cameras. But I love their home network products so much because of the quality and thoughtful engineeing that I am seriously considering them. Do you have any thoughts on Ubiquiti?

    • You’re welcome! I covered Ubiquiti security cameras in my IP camera round-up last year. They are great devices, especially for those who already have a Ubiquiti system set up. I excluded them from my 2018 roundup because they didn’t support RTSP at the time of publishing, but thanks to your comment I checked again and they recently added RTSP streaming support to their cameras! The downside is the price, they are expensive!

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