These are the 3 best home security cameras you can use without a subscription

Eufy Tapo and Wyze security cameras lined up on a table
(Image credit: Future)

Many of the best security camera manufacturers like Arlo and Ring require you to sign up for a subscription to use all the features of their cameras. Their logic is simple — rather than spending money on their products just once, they have a recurring revenue stream from their customers. That traps you into sticking with a single brand's hardware over time and leaves you at their mercy when they decide to raise subscription prices.

That's why I've started branching out into new products from Eufy, Tapo, and Wyze. These companies support local storage, so functionality as basic as recording and viewing events on demand isn't locked behind a monthly fee. Better yet, the latest models offer advanced AI detection, color night vision, and motion sensing automation features reserved to premium cameras at a fraction of their price. Some picks like the Tapo and Wyze models feature weatherproof construction to withstand water and dust to double as an outdoor security camera.

Below are the three of the best subscription-free security cameras  I've tested.

Security camera image comparisons

Wyze Cam v4

Wyze Cam v4: now $35 @ Amazon

Wyze Cam v4: now $35 @ Amazon
This 2K resolution hybrid camera is IP65 rated to work indoors or out with crisp color night vision, smoke alarm detection, and local storage via a MicroSD card slot.

The $35 Wyze Cam v4 is the best security camera for most people because of its features for the price. Its sharp 2K resolution captures important identifying details like text on a shirt, box, or tattoo. You can either place the Wyze Cam on a flat surface using the included stand or easily stick to magnetic surfaces to get the ideal angle. This also makes it easy to quickly move it between rooms or into your yard since it's completely weatherproof to work outside. However, it does need to be plugged in to an outlet to work.

In terms of picture quality, this camera punches above its weight class to create a colorful image on a par with professional units from Arlo and Ring triple the price. Although its interface is painfully simple and I occasionally have to wait a few seconds for the live feed to load, this camera consistently delivers great footage. Plus it even comes equipped with a siren and bright spotlight for color night vision. One of its most underrated features is its built-in smart smoke & CO alarm which can send you a push notification if it detects the standard T3 or T4 sound.

Eufy S350

Eufy S350 Indoor Security Camera: was $129 now $99 @ Amazon

Eufy S350 Indoor Security Camera: was $129 now $99 @ Amazon
Get full 360-degree coverage of a large open space with this pan and tilt camera. You can direct it with touch controls like a drone using the app on your phone or let it automatically follow subjects as they move throughout your space.

Eufy S350 camera follows person in living room

(Image credit: Future)

If you want the highest quality picture and only plan to use your camera indoors, then the Eufy S350 is a serious step up from the Wyze Cam above. Eufy's indoor-only camera boasts a sharper 4K resolution and uses AI to track a moving subject. The motorized head can then physically swivel 360 degrees along its base so it's ideal placement is in the center of a large open living space. 

This AI also provides smart detections free of charge to identify events in its notifications and app timeline. You can filter by animal, person, or package. Wyze not only charges for this feature but also has a five-minute cooldown period between notifications. Although Eufy's camera lacks color night vision, its sharp infrared mode easily outlines text and shapes so you can actually get more detail in certain events.

Tapo C120

TP-Link Tapo C120 Security Camera: was $40 now $29 @ Amazon

TP-Link Tapo C120 Security Camera: was $40 now $29 @ Amazon
Easily place the Tapo C120 indoors or outside while still getting all of the rich AI notifications free of charge. 

Tapo's C120 shares the magnetic base and outdoor capabilities of the Wyze Cam while also including the free AI smart detection (pets, people, and vehicles) of the Eufy above. It has a sharp 2K picture but I find the colors to be a bit oversaturated and sometimes facial features can be a bit smoothed over compared to the Wyze Cam. With that said, it's a better pet or baby camera for its sound detection of cries, barks, meows, and breaking glass. Plus Tapo has yet to have had security breaches experienced by both Eufy and Wyze in the past.

It excels in smart home routines and ties in nicely with TP-Link Kasa or Tapo vacuums, smart plugs, and lights. You can get as deep as customizing what sound to play in the event of a motion trigger. It also supports RTSP functionality so you can easily integrate the camera's live feed into more advanced smart home platforms like the Home Assistant ecosystem.

More from Tom's Guide

Hunter Fenollol
Senior Editor, Smart Home

Hunter Fenollol is a Senior Editor for Tom’s Guide. He specializes in smart home gadgets and appliances. Prior to joining the team, Hunter reviewed computers, wearables, and mixed reality gear for publications that include CNN Underscored, Popular Mechanics, and Laptop Magazine. When he’s not testing out the latest cooking gadgets, you can likely find him playing a round of golf or out with friends feeding his paycheck to a QuickHit slot machine. Hunter started his career as an intern at Tom’s Guide back in 2019 while in college. He graduated from Long Island University Post with a degree in Communications and minor in Advertising. He has been vlogging ever since the iPhone 4 took front-facing cameras mainstream.

  • pcumming
    perhaps I missed it but with the Wyze version four like previous models you only get 12 seconds of video and then you have a cool down period of five minutes without a subscription. Also, without a subscription, you do not get smart alerts, such as whether it’s a person , vehicle, pet or package. So in essence the Wyze, while I have four of my own with subscription, are pretty much useless without a subscription unless you put it on continual recording..