The Best Peephole Camera for Apartment Residents

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Smart video doorbells have become a popular addition to many homes, and for good reason. These devices have very real home security and convenience benefits, and take the place of a device that many homes already have, so it’s not a big stretch to install one.

Apartment residents can be left out, though, either because building rules prevent doorbells being installed outside their apartment door, or because they are rental tenants.

It’s those situations where peephole cameras come into play. These devices 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. There aren’t many good products targeting this segment yet, but there are some that can be worth a look.

Overall though, I’ve chosen the Brinno front door peephole camera range to offer the best balance of features and support, the latter being something generally lacking in this space. That brand doesn’t cover every use case, so read on for some decent alternatives that may be a better fit for your needs.

a Comment on Peephole cameras

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 can expect little to no support from them if you run into trouble.

The feature set also consistently falls below that of a typical video doorbell product, or that of full fledged security cameras. That’s usually because, even though you’d think it would be the same, the target use case is very different.

That being said, while there is no perfect peephole camera for apartment users I’ve tried to sort through what is on offer to pick out the best peephole cameras available right now, from digital door viewer to peephole security camera. Just be sure to look at my concerns as well under each one.

Types of Peephole Camera

Peephole cameras can take a few different design directions, and there are three key factors you’ll want to consider to fit your specific requirements.

Video recording or stills?

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 door bell as well.

Having the door bell 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.

Do you need tools to install it?

Finally, if you need to avoid damaging the property, keep an eye out for models that don’t require tools to install. Some devices will still require screws to support the indoor part of the door camera.

All of the products I’ve picked below don’t damage the front door in any way, and should be able to fit most standard peepholes with varying door thicknesses. I’ve listed the tool free ones specifically, but the others need only a screw driver to insert the machine screws that hole the indoor and outdoor pieces together.

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.

You might still find some old stock around and Ring has pledged to continue supporting the product, so you can buy one if you see it. I’ve found some stock under the older Door View Cam name at Amazon Canada.

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.

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.

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.

The Best Peephole Camera Overall

Brinno Duo SHC1000w

  • 480p Camera

  • 2.7” LCD screen (inside)

  • Door knock sensor included

  • Local storage

  • Tool free installation

Why this model?

I’ve selected the Brinno Duo as the best peephole camera overall primarily because 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.

Unlike many peephole camera models, the Brinno Duo does not feature a button or sensor on the outside of the door. 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. Brinno has opted for a 90 degree field of view to focus on the face in front of the door, which is a narrower viewing angle than the other peephole camera models in this list.

The Duo model comes with an option knocking sensor as well, which fits over the camera. The knocking sensor looks like a traditional door knocker, and acts similar to a doorbell by triggering the device.

You can view the camera live, but it doesn’t record video. Instead it will capture a still photo when an event is detected by either motion detection or someone using the optional door knocker. A log of the events is stored on the device, and each activation can send the photo via email to an address of your choice as well. The photos are stored on an internal MicroSD card which comes with the device, which you can easily upgrade as required.

This model includes WiFi and a smart phone app, so camera activations will send a notification to your phone, and you can view the live stream from there as well as at the door itself. If you don’t need that functionality, you can save some cash by going for the lower level SHC500 model that doesn’t have the WiFi capability.

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.

The software features are not in the same league as the Ring Peephole Cam, but having the outside view shown on the screen gives a much clearer view, and covers a wider angle than you’d normally see through the peephole.

Potential Concerns

While this is my pick for the best peephole camera based on a combination of support and features, it’s not really suitable as a security camera as it doesn’t record video, and there is no night vision feature so you’ll need a light on to see anything. The image quality is also pretty basic, as the relatively low video resolution is intended for the fairly small screen provided.

It’s intended more for interacting with visitors and keeping a log of those who have come to the door. If you just want the security benefit of being able to talk to someone without having to open the door, then this will do the job.

Some people have had difficulties getting the WiFi to connect, this is unfortunately a common complaint with smart devices that often use cheaper WiFi hardware. It can be due to poor handling by cheaper routers, or the length or symbols used in your WiFi name or passphrase.

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, WiFi signal strength, temperature and so forth.

Alternative Peephole Cameras

JeaTone Peephole Viewer

  • 1080p camera

  • 4.3” Indoor LCD screen

  • Two-way talk

  • Local storage

  • Doorbell included

What I Like

JeaTone Peephole Viewer has a more conventional doorbell camera approach with a motion activated 1080p HD video camera and a 120 degree field of view. This is one of the better motion activated peephole cameras as JeaTone actually has a range of products for sale and actually seems to have a real company presence.

The JeaTone Peephole Viewer will capture events on it’s internal memory card (not included) automatically when triggered by the motion sensor. These can be viewed later from the screen directly. You can opt to record the video on your phone via a smart phone app, or install a micro SD card up to 128GB.

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 (Over the Brinno model) would be a benefit for older residents that want the added security of being able to clearly see who is outside, and talk to them, without having to open the door. Smart features and use of the app is an optional bonus, but gives this model a lot more utility.

Potential Concerns

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.

The usual WiFi 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.

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.

REUMAR Peephole Camera

  • 1080p camera

  • 4.3” Indoor LCD screen

  • Two-way talk

  • Local storage

  • Doorbell included

What I Like

This peephole security camera from branded under REUMAR is very similar to the model from JeaTone above. It’s also an integrated 1080p HD video doorbell camera with night vision and a wide angle lens, connected to a 4.3” indoor display and integrated with the Tuya platform for smart phone control. There are some minor design variations, key among these being that it comes in black or silver options.

The documentation looks to be identical to the JeaTone peephole camera but there are some small variations. This one is slightly cheaper, but offers a wider viewing angle with a 140 degree field of view, and an extra IR LED over the JeaTone. I’ve ranked it lower as it’s new to the market and has virtually no customer feedback as yet.

The camera supports motion detection capabilities using it’s infra red motion sensor and will save a video clip to either your smart phone, or the internal micro SD card. You’ll get an alert via the Tuya app for that or a doorbell press, and it will also notify you when the battery is getting low. Battery life is the same as the model above, with a 5000mAh internal lithium ion battery giving about 30 days of normal use (these guys claim 3 months).

Potential Concerns

This could be a good peephole camera, but the usual caution about lack of support, and WiFi connectivity issues apply here. We just don’t have the data yet on build quality.

REUMAR does offer a 1 year warranty on these, but I have no confirmation of how reliable they are at honoring that at this point.

Dioche Peephole Camera

  • 1080p camera

  • Ultrathin design

  • Anti-pry Camera

  • 3.5” LCD screen

  • Tool free installation

What I Like

The Dioche Peephole Camera gives you a high definition image of the outside using a camera with a more conventional peephole appearance and a 120 degree field of view. It uses a simple tool-free installation to replace the existing peephole and gives you a short video snippet when you press the button on the screen bezel. This model is the simplest of the peephole cameras in this list. The video snippet is not stored anywhere, there’s no memory card, motion detector, or WiFi connection to worry about.

Four AAA batteries (not included) power the screen and camera, and these do give a decent battery life upwards of 10 months from real user reports. The batteries are inserted into a standard compartment on the back of the screen which you can clip off easily enough.

This is a very simple digital peephole viewer, and nothing more. This makes it the best digital door viewer suited to elderly residents who might not be able to see clearly out of a conventional peephole and don’t want to learn how to use any fancy new features.

Potential Concerns

While Dioche does have a company presence with multiple products on the market, it’s still a fairly low cost brand and the build quality can feel a bit cheap to match. You’ll need to take care installing the unit to avoid damage.

Note there is no night vision mode on this model, so it’s more of a standard peephole situation needing external light sources at night.

digitharbor 3” Door Camera

  • HD Camera

  • Wide angle lens

  • 3” indoor LCD screen

  • Doorbell included

  • Tool free installation

What I Like

The digitharbor Door Viewer is a more basic peephole camera and doorbell with simple tool-free installation and a lower cost for the price sensitive. As such this one comes in as my ‘best value’ 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, which will store a rotation of the last 75 photos.

The storage is not replaceable or expandable, and there’s no smart phone app. You’ll also see that snap on the internal screen which will activate automatically. Note that while there are infra red LEDs for the night vision functionality, there are no motion sensors here.

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.

Potential Concerns

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.

For the price, and 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.

Another Door Camera Option for Apartments

Remo+ DoorCam 2

  • 1080p Camera

  • Two Way Talk

  • Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT

  • Free Cloud Storage

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.

Inside the door is the battery pack and WiFi 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 days storage plan for free. You can upgrade that for a small monthly fee if you want to keep videos for longer.

The 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.

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.

Outdoor Design

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. Not only is this less obvious, but it also ensures there nothing for vandals to target, and likely blends into your home better.

Two-way Talk

This is a feature common for a video doorbell, 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.

Motion Alerts

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 WiFi 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.

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 night vision, along with some form of event recording without needing to use a cloud service.

For the best peephole camera for apartment tenants, though, I’ve chosen the Brinno Duo for it’s better support and extra features. While it’s not a video recording model, you can still access live video from your smartphone, get alerts, and make use of the knock sensor as an alternative to a doorbell.

If you do want a video recording peephole camera, then the best one available at the moment is the JeaTone Peephole Viewer. This will give you a 1080p night vision camera and a decent 4.3” indoor display, as well as smart phone connectivity and video recording via the Tuya smart home platform. Support and build quality won’t be up to the same standard, but for video this is as good as it gets for now.