Posted 24 November 2023

Looking for camera for back garden

I'm looking for a camera for the back garden, more to watch the wildlife than to provide security but it will do that too.

Ideally I'd like a 4k pan and tilt camera with colour night vision and 5x optical zoom, which will give me good pictures of the foxes 30-40 ft down the garden, but maybe a 2k camera would suffice. I doubt auto-tracking will be of much use for my purposes, so I don't care about that, or audio.

I want to use it with opensource NVR software running on Linux (either on a RPi or a SFF i5 PC), so it needs to be compatible with that, for recording and sending notifications/snapshots to my phone at least, even if I have to use the manufacturer's app to control the pan and tilt and zoom. If I could also view the live feed and control the camera using an Echo Show that would be nice.

I don't really mind whether it's PoE or WiFi, although the latter is obviously easier to install and saves me spending £20 on a PoE switch. My budget is about £100.

I haven't found anything that meets all these criteria yet. The closest I've found is these Reolink cameras.

This is 4k PoE with 3x optical zoom and pan and tilt for £82.…JCE

This is a 2k with 3x optical zoom and pan and tilt for £74. It does WiFi or Ethernet and doesn't have PoE, but that can be fixed with a cheap splitter.…UBA

This is a 4k PoE with 5x optical zoom but no pan and tilt for £83.…b5O

This is another 4k PoE with 5x optical zoom but no pan or tilt for £78. It's nice that it's enclosed to protect against the rain (my last camera in the back garden got destroyed by rain getting into it) but I'm not sure if this could be mounted on a wall facing out, rather than underneath a horizontal surface as shown in the pictures.…odw

There's also a couple that are way out of my budget.

This is a 4k PoE with 5x optical zoom and pan and tilt for £175.…5Xv

This is a 2k WiFi with pan and tilt and 5x optical zoom for £192.…T3y

This is a 4k WiFi with pan and tilt and 16x optical zoom for £240…Oe9
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  1. AndyRoyd's avatar
    Not a serious attempt at solution as such, more of an experimental plaything suggestion that may yield surprisingly decent results for the (minimal) money:
    2k, bullet, Alexa Echo Show compat, ONVIF, wifi & 5V power so you can save by no-POE-costs-required and if necessary use any old cabling resembling wet string to place the cams nearer the subject - wifi permitting.

    Currently significantly reduced to £19.99 fulfilled Amazon so could buy multiples within your budget to lever greater flexibility than a single PTZ,
    possibly even tapping each into simple looped power if used with separate 5V x(no. of cams)A PSU,
    or even run them off same PSU as Pi if its beefy enough.

    Dave seemed happy with his:…C18
    doveman007's avatar
    That's an interesting idea. Getting several cheap cameras without PTZ or zoom and setting them up at various positions so I can switch between one on the back wall for a wide view and one somewhere in the garden for close ups (I assume they auto focus on the subject).

    I'm not sure how well that would work in practice, because they'd probably have to go near the border to keep the lawn free, so there would probably be about 10 ft between the camera and the fox when he's lounging on the lawn, and I might get get more detailed views with a single camera on the back wall with 5x zoom. I'd love the 16x zoom, but I can't afford that one.

    Powering the cameras would be tricky if they're dotted around the garden. Ideally I'd use a solar panel, as my garden's south-facing, which might also provide some protection from the rain, or it might just drip off it straight onto the lens!

    If I can find a decent solar panel I might try your idea, thanks.
  2. meowdchina's avatar
    POE is handy because the camera has a constant supply and you don't need a POE switch.
    If you have only one or two cameras then a separate power supply is often practical. Which is ideal if your router has multiple ports as you may not even need a switch.
    doveman007's avatar
    I'm not sure what you mean. Surely you need a PoE switch to use a PoE camera?

    If I'm just putting one camera on my back wall, I don't really need PoE as I can poke the power cable out my kitchen window and use WiFi for the feed. I was just thinking there might be some benefits to using a PoE camera, maybe better quality images if they don't need to be compressed for WiFi, or l less congestion interfering with other traffic, or more secure as a burglar can't just jam the signal, and running a single PoE cable from my upstairs office window isn't really any harder than sticking a power cable out of my kitchen window.

    Running a PoE cable up my garden would be a bit trickier, but not impossible.
  3. meowdchina's avatar
    Just started looking at cameras again myself and have been amazed at how their low light performance has improved. PTZ still bumps up the cost though. Make sure you let us know which one you went with.
    doveman007's avatar
    I've just seen this one. It's £131 so out of my budget but it's got 6x hybrid zoom. What that seems to mean is there's two lenses which it switches between for 1x wide view or 6x zoom, rather than an adjustable lens that can adjust between 1-6x.

    Deal of the day: Reolink 4K PTZ Security Camera Outdoor WiFi Dual Lens 8MP, Auto Tracking, 2.4/5 GHz Dual-Band WiFi, Smart Human/Vehicle/Pet Detection, 6X Hybrid Zoom, Color Night Vision, Two-Way Audio, Trackmix WiFi…N18

    I kinda feel that having an adjustable zoom would be nicer, but this might actually be better when trying to quickly catch shots of wildlife, as there's no delay whilst the lens zooms in, it just switches to the other lens, and that's also one less motor to go wrong!

    Some of the reviews for the other Reolinks I listed weren't great. The main complaints were about a decrease in build quality and issues with the gearing system making the pan and tilt overshoot, and if you set preset positions it tends not to miss them. This one seems to have better reviews though, so maybe they've fixed those problems and it's worth the extra £50 to avoid them.
  4. AndyRoyd's avatar
    Another option for a plausibly significantly-reduced to sub-£20 FBA 2k PTZ, this time complete with 64GB storage card

    At first glace you might reasonably assume
    "no ONVIF; no interest"
    but check the Amazon US site for a more detailed description & user reviews that mention NVR, ONVIF, RTSP, FTP, Blue Iris, Tinycam, Ispy, etc.…8DB

    Obviously no optical zoom, but as this model has LAN connection I'll repeat prev comment about dumping the cam near(er) to the subject and option for simplistic quasi-POE via £3/pair injector/splitter.

    More info via URLs below, but mainly historic as not convinced the cam's base FCCID page will mention the latest version nor current source for PC/Mac s/w…80W
    nor the 3rd party heavily-compressed mobile-orientated manual via HTML at:…ual
    doveman007's avatar
    That price is decent for a ONVIF 2k PTZ camera, especially with a 64GB SD card.

    I don't really fancy running cables down my garden though, so I could put this one on the wall but I'd want a solar powered WiFi one to put down the garden, if the main one doesn't have zoom.

    With the cameras that do human detection, is that handled in the camera or the software? I'm just wondering if I'm using opensource software like Shinobi, whether that will filter out leaves moving, pets, known persons, etc. so that I get fewer notifications on my phone?
  5. humdan424's avatar
    ctronics Outdoor Security Camera with Color Night Vision, 1080P PTZ Digital Zoom CCTV Camera Surveillance Camera Home Security with 355°Pan 90°Tilt Auto Tracking Human Detection Two-way Audio…Vxr
    doveman007's avatar
    That doesn't meet any of my criteria. It's not even 2k, it doesn't have any optical zoom, and it's not compatible with opensource NVRs.
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