Best Peephole Camera? No clear winner, but these models MIGHT work14 min read
I suspect if you’re here looking for a peephole camera, what you really want is a video doorbell. But…you live somewhere that doesn’t allow you to install a regular video doorbell.
Alternatively, a peephole camera, which can be installed without having to make any permanent alterations to the building, can potentially fill the role of a video doorbell.
When I started searching for the best peephole camera, I expected to find products from all the usual suspects, e.g. Nest, Ring, Eufy, etc. However, I was surprised to find very little from established brands.
I found out that Ring sold the Ring peephole cam for a couple years, but as of April 2021, it has been discontinued. Beyond that one example, none of the peephole cameras I found are from major brands.
Furthermore, the products I did find all come with limited features or limited battery life. For that reason, I’m reluctant to wholeheartedly recommend any of these peephole cameras.
That said, there are a few options that I would put in the “usable” category, as long as you’re aware of their limitations.
If a video doorbell is what you really want, the Brinno Duo SHC1000W does a decent imitation. It uses a motion sensor and a knock sensor to automatically capture and save photos of visitors that come to your front door. You can view your visitors directly from the screen mounted on the inside of the door. Or, you can use the app to view and talk to your visitors remotely.
However, it doesn’t record video, and the pictures it takes are only 480p resolution. Yet, the SHC1000W is listed at a price of nearly $200 – way more expensive than any if its peephole camera competitors.
What I like
- I did a little research and I was surprised to see that Brinno is NOT one of the ‘dime-a-dozen’ pseudo-brands that constantly appear and disappear on Amazon. It’s actually a reputable company that has been making award winning time-lapse photography equipment for years. Along with Brinno’s decent reputation, the Brinno Duo comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and a 1-year warranty.
- Instead of burning through batteries, you can get constant power to the SHC1000W using USB. The only drawback is that you’ll have a cord hanging from your door that needs to reach the nearest outlet.
- Unlike some other peephole cameras and nearly all video doorbells, there is no “doorbell” button on the outside of the door. Instead of a doorbell, it has a unique “knock detection” feature. When a visitor knocks, the Brinno will sense the visitor, snap a series of photos, and send you a visitor notification. Also, you can optionally have the knock sensor trigger the inside monitor to turn on, so that you can see your visitor on the screen.
- Although it is unable to record video, you are able to watch a live feed from the camera, through the use of a WiFi connection and an app that you install on your smartphone. The live feed also includes 2-way audio for talking to your visitor.
- If you don’t want visitors to know you have a camera installed in your peephole, you have the option to install only the peephole camera and go without the black plastic knocker that is normally visible on the outside of the door. However, the knocker also includes the PIR motion sensor. So, if you choose to go with “stealth mode”, you will also have to go without the motion detection feature.
What I don’t like
- The peephole camera takes pictures but doesn’t record video. It will save a series of snapshots when triggered by either motion detection, knock detection, or a manual trigger via the app.
- The images you capture will be in 480p resolution. This surprisingly low resolution reminds me of camera quality from 10+ years ago. However, Brinno claims that since most peephole cameras will be operating in low light conditions, using a higher resolution can actually degrade the image quality.
- Multiple users have reported a battery life of only 2-4 weeks (some report as low as a couple days), which is obviously terrible. I suspect most of these super-short battery life reports come from configuration issues related to the motion detection feature or WiFi connection. That said, even the good reports put battery life at 2 months. For that reason, I wouldn’t plan on buying it unless you plan on powering the device using the USB plug (see above).
- At a cost of nearly $200, the SHC1000W is more expensive than most full-featured video doorbells, and nearly double the price of its peephole camera competitors.
The SHC1000W is Brinno’s most expensive peephole camera. I’m not against paying a premium price if it gets me a premium product, but in this case it the product doesn’t seem very “premium”. The Brinno Duo doesn’t record video, and the pictures it takes are only 480p resolution. Furthermore, the onboard batteries are barely adequate, and consequently, the best way to power the unit is to run an unsightly cord from the door viewer to your nearest outlet.
NOTE: If you like the Brinno brand, but don’t want to pay for all the “smart” features, Brinno sells 3 other less expensive peephole camera models with more limited feature sets:
The most basic model is the SHC500. This model can only be operated manually (no app and no motion or knock detection). To use it, if someone knocks at your door, you walk up to the door and press the power button on the SHC500. The screen will turn on showing you an image of your visitor, and it will also save a timestamped snapshot of your visitor. Since it doesn’t have a WiFi connection, motion detection, or knock detection to maintain, you can expect a long battery life (up to 3000 activations).
The next step up is the SHC1000 which adds automatic snapshots triggered by motion detection and knock detection.
One more step up is the Brinno Duo SHC1000W which has all the features of the SHC1000 plus a WiFi connection which enables Live view and image playback on the app. The last model, the SHC1000W-S, is the same as the SHC1000W except it does not come with motion detection.
The JeaTone peephole camera gets close to having the ideal feature set for a peephole camera. It has a doorbell button, 2-way audio, 1080p video resolution, motion detection, night vision capabilities, remote notifications, and it’s listed at half the price of the Brinno.
However, just because it HAS all the nice features doesn’t mean they all work like they should. The Amazon reviews are filled with complaints of angry customers trying to get basic features to work. Even if you do get everything to work like it should, you still have to deal with a poor battery life, because the rechargeable internal battery is designed to last for only 30 days at best.
What I like
- To store video clips, there’s a slot for an SD card. You can also choose to record to your smartphone using the Tuya Smart Life app.
- The JeaTone includes a motion sensor which can trigger video recording and remote notifications. The motion sensor sensitivity is adjustable.
- The inside screen is a generous 4.3” LCD screen, which is excellent for those who might struggle with viewing footage on a smaller screen.
- Includes infrared light for night vision. The camera will automatically switch between daytime and night vision.
- You can speak to your visitors using 2-way audio through the app.
- Although I suspect most people won’t see it or care to use it, there is a “Doorbell” button right beneath the peephole camera.
What I don’t like
- The JeaTone is powered through a rechargeable battery that is stored internally, which means you don’t have the annoying task of replacing batteries. However, the battery will only last around 30 days (sometimes much less) before requiring a recharge.
- Poor documentation and support. If you have a problem with the product, don’t expect much help solving it. For this reason, I don’t recommend buying this product unless you are comfortable tinkering and troubleshooting products like this.
If monthly recharging doesn’t seem like a problem to you…and you’re okay with some tinkering and troubleshooting, then the JeaTone Peephole Viewer is probably the best value option for a WiFi connected peephole camera that you’ll find. But if you’re like me, and hate the idea of buying gadgets that require such frequent maintenance, you might think twice before committing to this peephole camera.
The Digitharbor door camera is a simpler and less costly option.There are a bunch of very similar door viewer models like this in the $40-$50 range. I chose the Digitharbor model because it has been around for a few years and has racked up a couple hundred decent reviews on Amazon.
The Digitharbor camera does not come with any WiFi connectivity, so there’s no app and no remote viewing. There’s no motion detection and there’s no knock detection.
The only way it does anything is if you press the button from the inside or your visitor presses the doorbell button on the outside. When either button is pressed, the inside LCD screen turns on to show the live view, and a snapshot image is saved. After a few seconds, the screen turns off and returns to standby mode.
What I like
- Battery life on this camera is excellent, with user reports suggesting that it is able to last anywhere 6 months to even a year. Since it doesn’t have to maintain a WiFi connection and it isn’t constantly recording or scanning for motion, it uses very little power when in standby mode. Therefore, battery life should depend on how frequently it gets activated.
- Comes with IR night vision.
- The limited feature set means you can pick this up for pretty cheap. Additionally, the lack of any complex features means very little can go wrong.
What I don’t like
- The internal storage is capable of only storing up to 75 photos. Unfortunately, this storage is unable to be replaced or expanded.
If you simply want to document the people that show up at your door, then the Digitharbor Door Camera is a decent option. But keep in mind, it won’t do anything unless a button is pressed.
Although not a traditional peephole camera, the Remo+ DoorCam 2 has many of the features you’d want from a traditional WiFi peephole camera. But, instead of fitting into the peephole, it simply hangs on top of the door.
The outside part of the camera is obviously visible. You can clearly see two motion sensors and a camera lens, which would hopefully convince most thieves to pick an easier target. The inside part of the DoorCam 2 houses the brains of the unit, which includes the WiFi antenna and battery box.
The Doorcam 2 is smarter than any of the competing peephole cameras. It comes with motion detection, instant motion alerts via the Remo+ app, clear 2-way audio, and it integrates with your smart home.
What I like
- You can connect the app to your Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT, to enable smart home integration. None of the other peephole cameras can do this.
- You can also use the app to communicate directly with your visitors in high-quality full-duplex audio and 1080p video resolution.
- Because of the camera’s positioning over the door and the 160-degree field of view, you get a full view of your doorway area, which means that you should have no problem seeing visitors, package deliveries, or suspicious activity.
- The DoorCam 2 can be powered with batteries (3 D-cell batteries which are included will last up to 4 months), or you can plug it in using a micro USB cable.
- If you are using USB power, you can use video motion detection instead of the PIR motion sensors. This allows you to specify a custom motion zone so that you don’t get constant motion notifications when people are simply passing by.
What I don’t like
- It’s expensive. At nearly $200, it’s at the same level as the Brinno Duo. However, the DoorCam price is a little more justified since it provides 1080p video, full night vision, and integration with smart home voice assistants.
- The weather resistance is only rated at an IPX rating of 4, which is low, and means that your door camera will only stand up to condensation, mist, and very light rain. In other words, you don’t want to install this on a door that is exposed to the elements.
- The two infrared motion sensors can be overly sensitive, especially in a busy apartment building. If you’re running the camera on batteries, those frequent motion events will drain the power in a matter of days. In that case, disabling the motion sensors and using the video motion detection (see above) is probably a better choice.
- This door camera doesn’t actually feature a screen on the inside unit like nearly every peephole camera. Instead, it requires you to download the Remo+ app in order for you to view what the camera sees. This doesn’t bother me too much since I don’t think I would use the door screen anyway. However, I know some people want a peephole camera specifically for the screen feature. Obviously, if that’s you, the Doorcam 2 is not what you’re looking for.
- In some buildings, it may be against the rules to have a camera in the hallway. You might be able to get away with it if you have a concealed peephole camera. But, the Doorcam 2 is definitely not concealed. So, make sure to check with your building manager and confirm that devices like this are allowed.
If you compare the DoorCam 2 to any of the peephole cameras, it’s better in almost every way. It’s definitely the most smart home compatible. But clearly, it’s NOT a peephole camera. If you want a peephole camera for security purposes, this is a nice, but expensive option. However, if you want a more discreet camera with a door viewer lcd screen, you’re better off looking at one of the options from Brinno.
What to look for when buying a peephole camera?
Choosing which peephole camera is going to be best suited for you can be a difficult task, and it can often be confusing to decide what sort of features are worth considering on a security camera for your peephole.
Peephole cameras hang on your door and therefore, plugging them in to constant power is inconvenient at best. Therefore, these cameras are designed to run on batteries. The WiFi connected models I found (Brinno and JeaTone) both suffer from terrible battery life (1-2 months at best). However, the simpler models (like Digitharbor and the Brinno SHC500) demand much less power, and therefore perform much better (6+ months).
Given the quality of video available from typical smartphone cameras, you would think that similar quality could be achieved with a camera that fits in a peephole.Video quality is a combination of resolution, light, and image distortion. Most people focus on resolution for which the current standard is at least 1080p. But resolution alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Wide angle field-of-view lenses will be able to capture more viewable area, but the edges of the image will become distorted.
A WiFi connection unlocks the possibility of remote access to your peephole camera’s footage, or other smart home integrations. It also uses more battery power, and introduces the possibility of the WiFi connection not performing as it should. The Brinno, JeaTone, and Remo+ all have WiFi and apps that grant remote access, but the Remo+ is the only one that has smart home integrations.
A lot of the best security peephole cameras tend to feature a larger housing on the outside of the door in order to house all of the necessary elements for things like motion detection and night vision, but if you’re not looking for this from your peephole camera, then you can opt for a more discrete design if that’s preferable.
A discrete option is much better if you don’t want people to catch on that they’re being watched through your peephole and means that it is also less likely to be vandalized too.
The Brinno Duo, JeaTone and Remo+ cameras feature the ability to talk with your visitors, this is great if you find yourself out when an important package arrives and is also great at deterring unwanted guests that find themselves at your door.
This is mostly a feature for capturing footage of people doing things they probably shouldn’t be doing. The Brinno Duo and JeaTone are equipped with motion sensors.
I suspect a lot of peephole cameras will be installed in apartment buildings that have hallways which are well-lit 24/7. For that reason, night vision may not be a necessity.
To conclude, I didn’t find any great options for peephole cameras that connect to WiFi and try to do all the things a video doorbell does.
The Brinno Duo is probably the best I could find, but it also carries a hefty price tag and an inconvenient workaround for avoiding frequent battery replacement.
Dollar for dollar, the JeaTone has the best feature set, but it still suffers from poor battery life and questionable support. If you do decide to try it out, make sure you install it right away so that if it doesn’t work, you can send it back while the return window is still open.
The only safe bet for the true peephole cameras are the much simpler models like the Brinno SHC500 and the Digitharbor. These models don’t have any motion detection or WiFi to run, so there’s much less that can go wrong, and they require much less power. Therefore, they are quite reliable and have much better battery life.
The best product by far that I researched for this article appears to be the Remo+ DoorCam 2. However, the over-the-door design clearly makes it NOT a peephole camera. It’s also the most expensive product I’ve listed, but in this case, I believe the extra price is justified.