Whether you’re a business owner searching for the right security camera to protect your property or a hotel who needs a record of the cars coming in and out of their premises, a license plate camera is a perfect addition to complete any surveillance system.
Unless you’re particularly tech-savvy, security surveillance can seem like a complicated topic that only spies and secret agents can navigate, but it’s actually much simpler than you would think once you know what you’re looking for.
In terms of license plate surveillance, you can choose between either a camera specifically designed to read license plates or any camera with high-resolution quality that is capable of capturing a clear enough image for you to read the plate number.
Beyond that, what features and functions should you look out for when you’re buying a new license plate camera? Does night vision really work, or is it something that works better in the movies than in real life?
This article is going to take a look at 5 different license plate cameras for you to compare and consider. Our buyer’s guide covers some of the things you’ll need to factor into your decision as well as clearing up the difference between LPC and LPR cameras.
If you’re in a hurry and want to see which camera we’ve chosen as the best license plate camera, see our top pick below.
- License Plate Camera Comparison Chart
- #1. SV3C Outdoor IP Camera
- #2. Honic Night Vision Security Camera
- #3. Amcrest Outdoor Camera
- #4. SV3C Outdoor Surveillance Camera
- #5. HDView License Plate Camera
- Best License Plate Camera: A Buyer’s Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
License Plate Camera Comparison Chart
Key Features Ratings Price
#1 • SUPER HD 5MP
• POE IP CAMERA
• SMART MOTION DETECTION ALARM
• IP66 WATERPROOF & ONVIF COMPATIBLE
• 7/24H CUSTOMER SERVICE AND 1 YEAR WARRANTLY
#2 • Clear Sony EXMOR CMOS image sensor
• Smart IR technology
• I2.8-12mm megapixel lens
• 4 modes of output, including 2 megapixel HD-TVI, 2.0 MP HDCVI, 2.0 MP AHD, and 1200 TVL wired BNC video output
#3 • EXPERIENCE ULTRA HD 4K
• SMARTER SECURITY
• DAY OR NIGHT, RAIN OR SHINE
• SECURE CLOUD VIDEO BACKUP
• SIMPLE, RELIABLE, SECURE
#4 • 355° Pan 120° Tilt 5X Optical Zoom
• 1080P HD & 50M Night Vision
• Two-Way Audio & Remote Viewing
• Smart Motion Detection & Instant Alert
• Solid Construction & Warranty Service
#5 • Reliable POE CCTV System
• Color Night Vision, See in color - even at night
• High Definition 3MP Dome Audio Camera with 4mm Lens
• Easy Setup & Works with Third software, Synology NAS, BlueIris, Milestone
• IP67 Weatherproof Rated, 2 Years Warranty
Our top pick is the highly rated IP security camera from SV3C, a reputable brand in the security software industry. You might spot another offering from SV3C further down this list, but we chose this model for our top pick because of its high-quality performance.
The SV3C IP camera has an impressive 4K Ultra HD quality (8 megapixels) and 3840 x 2160p resolution for crystal clear images. It can capture license plates up to 40 ft. away from the camera’s location, which is a vast improvement on the 2.8mm lens featured on the previous model.
The upgraded model features a 5mm fixed lens with a viewing angle of H 82° and V 60° so your camera won’t miss a thing, and you can view your property even when you’re away by connecting it to your iOS or Android device over WiFi.
The smart motion detection alarms will send a notification to your mobile phone or via email in case of an emergency and you can customize your camera settings to reduce the number of false alarms your security system detects.
This durable security camera is suitable for outdoor use thanks to an IP67 waterproof rating and the heavy-duty casing that protects it from the elements. It’s also heat resistant, so come rain or shine, it’s capable of capturing clear images in all weather conditions.
Next up we have the Honic security camera which features an incredibly clear Sony EXMOR CMOS image sensor with a wide dynamic range (WDR) including 1080p, AHD, TVI, and CVI.
Read license plates up to 130 ft. away with the night vision feature thanks to 4 powerful SMT LEDs and a black film panel. The Smart IR technology automatically adjusts itself to focus on objects whether they’re close to the camera or at a distance.
It offers highly pixelated images with 1920 x 1080p resolution in HD mode and the 2.8-12mm megapixel lens allows you to manually zoom in and out in order to attain the best image captures for license plate reading.
If you’re struggling to find a camera that can handle less than ideal lighting conditions then this Honic camera might be the ideal choice for you. The WDR copes with both dark and bright spaces, managing to balance tricky lighting in areas such as showrooms, hallways, and other indoor spaces.
The camera’s housing material is made of metal with an IP66 waterproof rating to protect your equipment from weather damage and ensures clear, capable license plate capturing even in heavy rain.
The camera is easy to install and it has 4 modes of output, including 2 megapixel HD-TVI, 2.0 MP HDCVI, 2.0 MP AHD, and 1200 TVL wired BNC video output. The power supply coaxial video cable and DVR are not included but will need to be purchased separately.
We decided to look at the Amcrest outdoor camera next. It features impressive ultra-high quality 4K with a Sony Starvis image sensor and Ambarella S3LM chipset for high-resolution even in low-lit areas.
There’s a 4.0mm narrow angle lens to provide clear, up-close shots of faces and license plates, while an 88° viewing angle gives you a wide scope of your premises. The UltraHD 3840 x 2160p resolution guarantees ultimate clarity with vivid, natural colors.
Motion detection alerts are sent directly to your smartphone or computer so you’re never out of the loop even when you’re away from the feed. You can customize the settings to select 4 motion detector zones with different levels of sensitivity to reduce the number of false alarms, and you’ll receive a notification every time your camera is offline.
Mobile viewing also allows you to record and watch the footage back on your smartphone device using the Amcrest View Pro or Amcrest Cloud app, capable of viewing up to 16 cameras at once thanks to the multi-view feature. Plus, cloud storage means you don’t ever have to worry about losing footage.
The Power Over Ethernet (POE) ensures easy installation and it can endure extreme weather conditions as the camera is encased by a heavy-duty IP67 weatherproof metal which protects it against damage. The durable housing can handle storms and heavy wind and rain as well as being protected against dust.
The next camera we’ve included is the second camera from SV3C on this list – we did tell you to keep your eyes peeled for another one!
The SV3c ProHD features a motorized lens for more convenience, with a 2.7-13.5mm advanced auto-focus varifocal viewing lens. This allows you to adjust your field of vision for a wider viewing angle.
It has 5 megapixels that ensure clearer images which is great for anyone needing to monitor license plates, but it also has additional features that make it a great versatile security camera such as two-way audio.
The Starlight Illumination Sony CMOS sensor has even better low-light capabilities for a night vision distance of 100 ft. which is pretty good for a license plate camera within this price range.
It also features motion detection alerts that will notify you via email or the companion mobile phone app, and you can adjust the sensitivity and area size using the app as well.
The final security camera we’ve included is the HDView license plate capture camera, one of the most expensive options on this list. It has full HD 1920 x 1080p resolution for consistently clear images and a 2.4 megapixel Sony sensor.
It features a 4-in-1 mode of output including TVI, CVI, AHD, and 960H with a 5-50mm varifocal long-range lens for adjustable zoom, so you can see license plates both close-up and far away with similarly clear quality.
You’ll need to set the OSD menu if you want to read license plates at night without the car headlights distorting the image, which is less convenient than other options considering the higher price, but it allows you to customize the IR night vision.
Furthermore, with the night vision settings, you can capture images at a distance of up to 180 ft. which is the best of all the cameras reviewed here and there is shutter speed control for non-blurred images.
Best License Plate Camera: A Buyer’s Guide
For the non-secret agents among us, trying to find a license plate camera that is going to provide suitable surveillance for your security needs can be a difficult task. There’s plenty of specifications for you to compare, but how do you know which ones you should factor into your decision?
When it comes to choosing which product to purchase, you need to keep in mind what the intended purpose of your license plate camera will be, as this will help to determine which features are going to be more valuable than others.
The Difference Between LPC and LPR
As we mentioned briefly in the introduction, there are two main types of cameras that are capable of reading license plates. License plate recognition cameras (LPC), and license plate capture cameras (LPR).
License plate recognition cameras are specifically designed to capture and read license plates. These use special software to tag, record, and store the data from license plate readings rather than just capture the image, and can use this information to match license plates to a database or software function.
LPC cameras or IP security cameras are great at recording images without any specialized software or hardware. They feature higher resolution, shutter speed, and are better able to compensate for car headlights in darkness or harsh weather conditions.
As long as there is a high enough resolution to provide good-quality, clear images up to a certain distance, LPC camera’s are just as capable of capturing and reading license plates if not better.
High Definition Resolution
Of course, one of the most important things you’ll want to consider when purchasing a license plate camera is the quality of the images you’ll be able to capture.
The higher the resolution your camera has to offer, the greater the distance at which you’re still able to read the license plate. Usually, this also means the more expensive the camera is, but if it’s within your budget it’s definitely worth investing in a camera that provides images you won’t end up having to squint over or strain to see.
Typically, the minimum resolution you’ll need to be able to clearly read license plates is 1080p. Any lower and you’ll struggle to make out the plate numbers your camera is able to capture due to a blurrier, less pixelated image.
Where you can, choose a security camera with a higher resolution such as 1440p or 4K UHD, as this will produce images with much more clarity which are easier to enlarge without distortion or blurring.
When you’re installing your new license plate camera, pay particular attention to the location you’ve chosen. To capture clear license plate readings, you’ll need to install it in a position where it has an optimal viewing angle of the cars coming in and out of the premises.
Assess the area and try to find the choke point – usually, a small zone where cars must drive slowly as they enter and leave. Typical choke point areas include:
- Parking lot entrances and exits
- Side streets or alleyways
Positioning your camera in any of the above locations will improve the accuracy of your camera’s readings and will ensure you don’t miss any cars going past. Just remember to point your camera in the direction of the moving cars’ path!
Height and Distance
It’s also important to consider your camera’s specifications when deciding where to mount it, as this will tell you the distance of the license plate images it’s able to capture. The ideal distance can range from 20 ft. to 150 ft. depending on the video capture quality of your camera, so be sure to check the product specifications before installing.
Mounting your camera too high will mean you’re looking down on rather than directly at the license plate which can distort the image and make it more difficult to read. Too low and you risk the feed being interrupted by people walking past or other obstructions.
In order to be able to clearly capture and read the license plates of cars coming in and out of the premises, you’ll need to ensure that your camera is installed at a reasonable height preferably looking directly head-on on at the path of oncoming traffic.
The location of your camera is also going to determine what kind of elements it’s exposed to, such as water spray back from cars, dust, or harsh weather conditions.
If you’re going to be using your license plate camera outside, waterproof protection is essential as otherwise, you won’t be able to capture clear, readable images on rainy days, rendering the camera less effective.
Most quality security cameras will come with a waterproof casing to help protect it against weather damage in poor conditions, so check to see what the IP rating is in the product specification information section.
You might think that night vision is the ultimate feature when it comes to security surveillance systems, but it can be more of a hindrance than a help if you choose one with poor specs.
A common issue that can occur if your camera doesn’t have decent night vision capabilities is car headlights blocking out the license plate number which means you cannot get a clear reading.
If you need to be able to capture license plates at night, look for infrared security cameras, as these work well in the darkest settings, where regular ‘night vision’ cameras may struggle. This is because they don’t require visible white light, which is perfect for low-lit environments.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are license plate cameras used for?
License plate cameras can be used for a number of security reasons. Many businesses will use license plate cameras to keep track of the vehicles that enter and exit their premises, or they can be used for home security use. More advanced license plate camera technology is also used by the police to run checks on insurance or stolen vehicles.
Do license plate cameras work at night?
Yes. With modern advances in technology, many quality license plate cameras offer night vision to read plates even when it’s dark. However, the quality of the image and therefore the clarity of the license plate depends on the IR.
So there you have it, our guide on the best license plate cameras. If you’re looking for a top quality, 4k Ultra HD camera that can capture plates up to 40 ft. away then we recommend the SV3C Outdoor IP Camera.
It’s one of the best cameras on the market right now – jam-packed with awesome tech meaning you’ll never miss another plate!