The Best Peephole Camera for Apartment Doors
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Peephole cameras are a natural fit for apartment doors or other rental situations where installing a fixed doorbell is not an option. These devices should fit right into the existing peephole in your front door so they’re really easy to install and, in many cases, don’t require any drilling or fixtures that would damage the property. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good products targeting this segment yet, but there are some that can be worth a look.
I’ve gone through dozens of these products to compare specs, features, and user experience to pick out the best options available right now. So many of these have not been worth considering due to poor quality and limited functionality. Overall, I’ve chosen the JeaTone Peephole Viewer as it’s the only video recording peephole camera with smart phone support and a decent screen size.
This product category has been a tough one to sort through. I normally steer clear of cheap fly-by-night brands and only recommend products that have had time in the market to prove themselves. In the case of peephole cameras, the products on offer are largely cheap consumer electronics from no-name brands, which means you’ll likely have poor documentation and questionable support if something goes wrong.
The feature set also consistently falls below that of a good video doorbell or wireless security camera product. That’s usually because, even though you’d think it would be the same, their target audience is very different.
That being said, while there is not a perfect peephole camera for an apartment door, I’ve tried to sort through what is on offer to pick out the best peephole cameras available right now from a simple digital door viewer to a peephole security camera. Just be sure to look at my concerns as well under each one.
If none of those options look appealing, I’ve also covered some alternatives solutions that can provide much greater smart security capabilities.
Key Decision Points
Not all peephole cameras are created equal. In fact, most of them are fairly constrained in what they offer. You’ll probably have to compromise on what you get with any given model, so it’s worth taking some time the think about what you actually want to get out of it. Are you looking for round-the-clock security monitoring of your doorstep, or do you just want better visibility through your peephole?
Video recording or still photos?
A door peephole camera will typically have a built-in screen on the inside of the front door to replace the normal peephole viewer, but not all of these devices will record videos. Some only record stills, and some don’t record anything.
The latter may be all you need if you’re just looking for a better way of seeing who’s outside, but if you’re looking to use such a device as a door peephole security camera to improve overall home security then you’ll need video recording, preferably with a motion sensor to trigger it.
A key benefit of not going with video recording is battery life. The still models will last much longer on a charge, so if you don’t need to record videos these may be a better option.
I’m yet to see a peephole camera that supports HDR, which means the video quality is never going to be the best when you have a person standing with strong light in the background such as a streetlight or the afternoon sun.
Peephole or doorbell?
The other key difference you’ll note is the outdoor design of the door peephole camera. This can either be made to look like a regular peephole or have a larger housing to accommodate a doorbell as well.
Having the doorbell is nice, but it makes the camera more obvious, and you might need to keep it more discrete depending on your apartment situation.
Keep in mind the peephole only models generally don’t have night vision capability as this requires extra hardware alongside the camera. This makes them essentially a digital door viewer, and like a conventional peephole you’ll need exterior lighting to see much at night.
How They Compare
Brinno SHC500 See in Store
JeaTone See in Store
digitsea See in Store
Sonew Door Eye See in Store
|Field of View|
|Field of View||90||120||120||120|
|Works with Alexa|
|Works with Alexa||✘||✘||✘||✘|
|Works with Google|
|Works with Google||✘||✘||✘||✘|
|Battery Life||6 months||1 month||6 months||6 months|
The Best Peephole Camera Overall
✔ HD video recording
✔ Memory card included
✘ Low screen resolution
✘ Most expensive
What I Like
JeaTone Peephole Viewer has a more conventional video doorbell approach with a motion activated 1080p HD video camera and a 120-degree field of view. I’ve picked this as the best overall peephole camera due to the large screen size, video recording and smartphone remote access capabilities, and other video doorbell features that most competitors lack. JeaTone actually has a range of products for sale and actually seems to have a real company presence, so that’s also a mark in their favor from a support perspective.
The JeaTone Peephole Viewer will capture events on an internal memory card automatically when triggered by the motion sensor. The motion detection sensitivity is adjustable, and the app supports multiple users. The recorded videos can be viewed later from the screen directly, or you can opt to save the video to your phone via a smart phone app.
Smart phone functionality is provided through the use of the Smart Life app, as the JeaTone camera uses the popular Tuya smart home platform. This will ensure you get motion and doorbell notifications on your phone wherever you are and can respond from the app directly. The doorbell will similarly ring a chime on the inside unit, although it’s not very loud which may be an issue in a larger apartment.
It’s powered by an internal lithium-ion rechargeable battery that is stated to last for around 30 days of normal use. Recharging has to be done via a micro-USB cable to the screen unit.
The large screen and better-quality camera would be a benefit for older residents that want the added security of being able to clearly see who is outside without having to open the door. While setting up the app is optional, you’ll get low battery warnings through that, and it’s required if you want to use the two-way talk feature, as the screen doesn’t have a microphone.
The battery life is, of course, a sore point here. Having to recharge every month could be a nuisance, especially since you have to plug the indoor unit into power and can’t take the battery out. This is unlike other peephole cameras that have removable batteries.
Build quality is also, unsurprisingly, not great. There are a lot of reports of issues with poor performance and camera issues. Unfortunately, these are exactly the kinds of problems I’m wary of with these cheaper brands.
The usual Wi-Fi connection issues during setup again rear their ugly head as it’s only a 2.4GHz device. Setting up on some dual band networks can be a headache, but the setup process is fairly straightforward thanks to the Tuya app providing clear visual instructions. This is good, because the documentation is a Chinese translation so it can be difficult to understand, and I also wouldn’t expect too much in the way of support.
Most Discrete Peephole Camera
✔ Long battery life
✔ Good Support
✘ Only takes still photos
✘ Memory card not included
What I Like
The Brinno SHC500 is the lower model peephole camera from Brinno have been around for a while, manufacture a range of outdoor camera products, and are an actual full-service company with a 1-year warranty. You’ll get some peace of mind by having this support backing, decent build materials, and a theft proof concealed design.
It’s not a particularly capable device given that it only captures a handful of still photos when motion is detected and doesn’t have any smart phone or smart home support. Its main benefit is that it’s very easy to install without any tools, and the camera itself is disguised as a normal peephole for a much more discrete installation. This not only conceals the presence of the camera, but also ensures there is nothing to vandalize on the outside. I had previously picked the SHC1000 model over this one as it’s far more capable, but time in the market has proven it’s a bit of a lemon.
You can view the camera live, or you can press the button to capture a ‘digital visitor log’ of who has come to the door. It will also capture 5 still photos when an event is detected. A log of the events is stored on the device, and each activation can send the photos via email to an address of your choice as well. The photos are stored on an internal MicroSD card which needs to be purchased separately.
Four AAA batteries are included and will give you an estimated 6 months of usage, or 3000 activations according to Brinno. That’s pretty decent, but I wouldn’t expect anything less given it’s not recording much. Going with a rotating set of rechargeable batteries is probably a good idea.
Brinno has opted for a low-quality camera and screen combination, with a limited 90-degree field of view. This can mean it’s difficult to see much beyond what’s right in front of the peephole, and packages or kids can be invisible. Motion detection is also sketchy. Relying on the camera and not a proper motion sensor can result in the photos triggered too late to be useful.
These factors, and that it only takes still photos, mean it’s not suitable for security purposes, but more for being able to more clearly see who is outside than using the conventional peephole.
Battery life has also been reported by some to be far worse than claimed. Using lithium batteries can help with this, but your mileage will vary depending on your environment and usage.
Best Budget Peephole Camera
✔ Long battery life
✔ Doorbell included
✘ No app access
✘ Takes still photos only
What I Like
The digitsea Video Door Viewer has the highest rating of any peephole camera I’ve found so far. It’s a more basic peephole camera and doorbell with simple installation and a lower cost for the price sensitive. As such this one comes in as my ‘best budget’ peephole camera pick. Don’t expect any smart features here, it simply allows you to see who’s at the door when they press the doorbell, or when you press the button from the inside.
It’s a digital door viewer with a high-definition night vision camera and a 120-degree field of view. When pressed it will capture images that will be saved to the internal memory card, which will store a rotation of the last 75 photos. You can remove the card to extract the photos or view them from the screen by using the buttons on the side to move forward, back, and delete.
The device is powered by an internal lithium-ion battery that needs to be recharged via the included micro USB cable. As the installation is a very simple snap on design, you can take it down to recharge easily, and given the fairly basic functionality, the battery life is very good, lasting 6 months to a year for most people.
This is a very basic peephole camera from a no-name manufacturer. Product quality is not great as a result, and there is no support available. It is not uncommon for these to die in a short time frame, but it still rates fairly well so it seems to be luck of the draw. As with these types of low-cost devices, you’ll find the exact same hardware from various off-brand names.
Easily half the price of the more capable models, if you don’t want anything too fancy, this may fit the bill. Just be sure to take advantage of Amazon’s return window if you have any trouble with the one you get.
A More Basic Alternative
✔ Normal looking peephole
✔ Long battery life
✘ No recording of any kind
✘ No app access
What I Like
I’ve highlighted this model of the verbosely named Sonew Home Doorbell Digital Door Eye Viewer primarily as it also earns a high customer rating, for what it does. To put that in perspective, it’s a very basic device that is by no means equivalent to a video doorbell.
What it does do is provide a large, clear, easy to use display of the outside of your door. You need to trigger this view manually by pressing the button next to the screen, so it really is just a digital version of a regular peephole. That may not be what you’re looking for, but it is a genuinely useful device for those with poor eyesight, or who find looking through a peephole difficult.
It runs on four regular AAA batteries that can be easily changed out by opening the flap on the top of the screen housing. Those batteries are stated to last about 3 months, but your mileage will vary, of course. It’s fairly easy to install thanks to a simple video tutorial, but you will need a screwdriver and two hands. The provided screws are also metric, so you might need a shim or to source some different screws to perfectly fit your door thickness.
Build quality is the key call out here, it feels a bit flimsy, and you’ll need to take some care when attaching the screen to the mounting plate. This hardware is actually a generic device sold under a bunch of off-brand names, so I wouldn’t expect much in the way of support from any of them.
Also note that as this presents as a fairly basic peephole on the outside, there are no infra-red LEDs to provide night vision capability, and the camera doesn’t support IR at all. You’ll need a light outside if you want to see anything at night.
Alternative Options for Apartment Doors
✔ Smart home integration
✔ Wide field of view
✘ No local storage
✘ Poor Support
If you’re looking at peephole cameras, you may find Remo’s take on this problem to be a viable alternative for a door viewer. Instead of installing the camera in the peephole, the Remo+ DoorCam 2 is hung over the front door itself. This option is much more capable and is more akin to a decent video doorbell, but without the button.
Inside the door is the battery pack and Wi-Fi antenna similar to a peephole camera, powered by three included D cell batteries, which are easily accessed from the inside unit with a standard slip off battery cover. You can get a good view of the whole area in front of the door, all the way to the ground. This is great for both keeping an eye out for packages, and for avoiding tampering.
Being hung over the door itself, installation is super easy, and you’ll get better video quality than most other products on the market from the full 1080p night vision HD video camera with a 160-degree field of view, and it’s backed up with infra-red motion detection from two motion sensors and better than average night vision capabilities.
The recorded video is stored in Remo’s cloud storage service, and you get a rolling 3-day storage plan for free. You can upgrade that for a small monthly fee if you want to keep videos for longer.
The Remo DoorCam 2 doesn’t have a screen as it’s mounted at the top of the door, so you’ll need to use the Remo smart phone app to view videos and interact with people at your door, similar to a normal smart video doorbell. With the app you can connect the camera to amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT for smart home integration, and it has an IPX4 weather resistance rating. That’s not very high, but it does give some assurance against condensation and light rain, and it’s better than all the peephole cameras on offer.
No-Drill Doorbell Mounts
With a dearth of decent peephole cameras available right now you do have another option if you’re looking for more smarts and features. There are a wide variety of no-drill mounts available for major brand video doorbells that allow you to use these without damaging the property.
These mounts tend to use a clamp design that wraps around the edge of the door to hold it in place. Popular options include:
Some might also use adhesive foam tape to attach to the outside of your apartment, so you’ll want to be sure about doing that in a way that it can be removed cleanly. Those from Wasserstein use this approach in order to conform the mount to the shape of the doorbell for an inconspicuous installation. They’re available for a range of big names doorbells such as these:
About the Ring Peephole Cam
The clear winner in this category in the past would have been the Ring Peephole Cam, originally known as the Door View Cam. Much more than a simple digital door viewer, this device comes from the same stable as the Ring Video Doorbell, a very well-established brand in smart security products, and offered by far the best features, design, and build quality on the market, along with a generous cloud storage subscription.
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Ring has chosen to discontinue the Peephole Cam.
Considerations before buying
Video quality and viewing angle
Like home security cameras, a higher resolution peephole camera is always going to give you better results, but you may not need full HD video for your situation. Cheaper options can still provide sufficient clarity to identify people and see what is going on in front of the door, especially when these types of devices can’t be angled any other way. The best peephole camera for you may not be the highest resolution one, and high video resolution doesn’t reflect true camera quality.
A bigger consideration may be the viewing angle. 170 degree field of view will provide the best coverage but will also compress the image towards the edges which can make it harder to see details. If you have an open space outside the front door and want to ensure you see well to the sides, this is still useful. If you’re looking at a more constrained area, though, a narrower field of view can provide clearer details and less distortion.
Many of these peephole cameras have a larger housing on the outside of the front door, usually to accommodate a doorbell button and night vision LEDs. You might not need that, in which case going with a more discrete model could be preferable. These models completely conceal the presence of a peephole camera, and just look like a normal peephole. This is less obvious and ensures there nothing for vandals to target, but you’ll also lose some functionality.
This is a feature common on video doorbells and basically means you can talk to the person outside the door from the inside, or even from the smartphone app (if there is one). After all, there isn’t much point being able to see the person outside if you have to open the door to talk to them anyway.
Many peephole cameras will have motion detection features and capture either photos or video of the event. This is handy, but of limited usefulness if you can’t be notified about it as well. Better models will include some sort of notification when motion is detected, which may be as simple as a beep on the internal screen.
Peephole security cameras with Wi-Fi and a smartphone app provide the best home security benefit as they will be able to alert you wherever you are and may offer advanced notification controls to limit where motion will trigger a notification, and what types of motion you’re interested in (only people for example).
Video storage location
Some of these devices are merely a door viewer and don’t even store video, but for those that do storing peephole camera videos locally provides the best solution from a privacy perspective, but often limits the usefulness of the device. In these cases, you may only be able to access the video from your local network, or possible only on the device itself.
Cloud storage often requires a subscription fee, but also ensures the videos can’t be stolen by a home intruder and can be accessed from anywhere that you have your phone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a peephole camera?
A peephole camera is a small digital video camera designed to fit into the peephole in your front door. It can be used to provide better visibility than a typical peephole lens by using a wide-angle camera, possibly with night vision, paired with either a smartphone app or an indoor display screen.
Can I use a peephole camera in a rental?
Yes, this is one of the best use cases for a front door peephole camera. Unlike a video doorbell camera all of these cameras can be installed into an existing peephole without needing to screw anything into the front door or run any cabling.
They consist simply of an external and internal component connected through the peephole and locked into place using a flange-like plate on the indoor side, often without needing any tools at all.
Do peephole cameras run on batteries?
Yes, these are all battery powered cameras because there is no easy way to run power cabling to the peephole as it’s built into the center of the door. Batteries are installed on the inside part of the peephole camera for easy access and to prevent tampering.
Most wireless peephole cameras will last between 1 to 6 months on a charge depending on how much use they get, and whether they record video or not.
The Wrap Up
While there are a number of peephole cameras on the market now, almost all of them are fairly limited in capabilities. That doesn’t make them useless, and indeed these home security devices are a simple upgrade for a standard peephole by adding a wider viewing angle and possibly night vision, along with some form of event recording without needing to use a cloud service, or sign up for an app.
The best peephole camera for apartment doors comes down to overall capability and features, and I’ve chosen the JeaTone Peephole Viewer for its video recording, bigger screen, and smart phone app. JeaTone is also an actual company with a variety of products on sale, and not just an off-brand seller flogging generic hardware.
The JeaTone peephole camera will still set you back a bit, so if you can do without video recording then the budget digitsea Door Viewer may be enough capability for what you need. It’s half the price, but only records still photos when the doorbell is pressed, or you trigger it from the inside. It’s cheap and basic, but it’s highly rated for what it does.