SwitchBot Outdoor Spotlight Cam and Solar panel review
REVIEW – Last summer, my mother’s pool filter sprung a leak, spewing thousands of gallons of water out onto her lawn in minutes. Had she not been there, the loss could have resulted in losing its prime and damage to the motor. A camera like SwitchBot Outdoor Spotlight cam and remote switch could save the day!
The SwitchBot Outdoor Cam is an app-controlled, weatherproof, Wi-Fi-connected camera with an internal battery and optional solar power panel.
The SwitchBot Outdoor Spotlight Cam and Solar panel arrive in red and white cardboard armor.
The camera is about the size of a baseball
The first step is to top off the power. The USB-C connector is under a clever two-door rubbery cover. A USB-A to USB-C cord is packaged with the camera. A 2A USB charger is recommended, but not included.
The outer cover reveals the on/off switch, charging port, TF card slot, reset button, and USB-C power socket.
A small LED adjacent to the port lets you know the camera is sipping electrons.
The base is equipped with a 1/4-20 mounting nut so most standard tripods and pedestals should work. The speaker for two-way audio conversations is also near the bottom.
On the SwitchBot Outdoor Spotlight Cam’s happy face are the lens, PIR (passive infrared) motion detector, LED spotlights, indicator, microphone, and an infrared emitter.
The cam securely fits into the three-lobed base. This is a great design.
Very little fiddling is needed to aim the camera toward the action. The only caveat I can think of is to make sure the base’s lobes don’t interfere with the lens or power cord when pointing the camera in the direction you want it. The manual also recommends avoiding placement in direct sunlight, where there’s a ton of traffic (foot or otherwise), and overly hot or cold locations.
For convenience, SwitchBot includes screws and drywall anchors as well as adhesives and mounting templates.
The SwitchBot app is needed to access the camera. It recently got a GUI upgrade that I like very much. To add the camera, turn it on via the power switch and an LED on the camera’s face will start flashing to show it’s ready to pair. The configuration is extremely well documented and walks a user through every step. Outstanding job, SwitchBot!
Start by tapping the “+” in the upper right corner of the app.
…Select “Add device…”
…Pick “Outdoor Spotlight Cam…”
…Add your Wi-Fi credentials and follow the instructions…
…Provide a name and, optionally, the “room” where the Outdoor Spotlight Cam will be installed…
…Check the installation parts.…
…And the app begins streaming video to aid with camera positioning…
…Installation tips and instructions (including the solar panel) are then provided. The SwitchBot instructions are first-rate.
…And when completed, the camera starts working! Yay!
If it’s available, the app will offer to upgrade the firmware. SwitchBot does an exceptional job keeping its products peacefully purring. I had an issue with the video frame rate and contacted SwitchBot’s technical support team. A short time later, they released a firmware update that alleviated the issue. Got to love good technical support! Kudos to SwitchBot’s customer service and engineering teams!
The camera’s main screen has all of the functions at your fingertips. Bitrate, toggle between SD and HD, audio mute, and even a mode to display up to four cameras at once are on top. At the bottom are pause, play, intercom (phone icon), record (camera icon), and full-screen.
The same controls are available in full-screen mode.
Clicking on the gear icon opens the settings menu. “Privacy mode” turns the camera’s recording functions off.
“Motion Detection” allows tweaking to your heart’s content. Sensitivity, human and pet recognition, and even zones to watch/ignore are adjustable.
There’s even an alarm that can be configured to let your camera subject know they are busted :-).
Cloud storage is optional at an additional charge.
Local storage is available too, but the SD card isn’t included. This is my preferred medium for reviewing content.
“Basic Settings” toggles the indicator light, battery/wired mode, night vision, video display, and talk volume.
”Alert Notifications” adjusts the app’s messages and can even send e-mails when events occur.
“Cloud Services” include Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
NFC (Near Field Communication) tags are supported. Tapping a phone on one of these babies can toggle some of the camera’s settings.
As with all SwitchBot products, the FAQ section is very good.
“Firmware” and “Device Info” contain the camera’s data.
This “Battery” screen provides the current capacity percentage and solar panel connection status. I’ve saved it for last because it’s an appropriate segue to talk about the solar panel.
The Solar panel feels very rugged and is rated at 600mA in full sun.
The 1/4-20 bolt sits atop a knurled ball that swivels and tightens with a threaded collar. The arrangement allows the panel to be securely pointed toward our nearest star to gather photons. The mounting base is cast aluminum and very strong. Mounting screws, anchors, and a template are included. I’m impressed!
The solar panel cable is just shy of 10 feet long. The USB-C threads through the smaller cap in the rubber cover and should keep the camera’s battery up and running.
With everything up and working, the camera successfully captured video, differentiating between human and other movements. I didn’t see any “pet detected” indications, maybe because all of the dogs strolling by my front door were with their humans.
I’m very happy with the results. Here is a sample still photo…
Videos and stills can be “downloaded,” meaning they are available for perusal in the SwitchBot app. I found this a bit confusing and expected files to appear in my iPhone’s camera roll. Nope, to do that, select “Recordings and Screenshots”, then the download icon at the bottom. To delete, use the trash can symbol.
Here’s a five-second clip of the video uploaded from the memory card. The quality is very good.
At night, the camera automatically switches to black-and-white and uses infrared LEDs for illumination. Manual selection is also available.
The camera detects infrared with more sensitivity than the human eye. The actual brightness of the LEDs is much dimmer than the photo shows.
Night videos are equally good. So many bugs!
The Spotlight LEDs are very bright! The camera is very sensitive and had no difficulty with trees that were about 60 feet away.
I love home automation and have owned and used many different brands, SwitchBot being among my favorites. Setup is always painless, the products are innovative, inexpensive, and reliable. Their Outdoor Cam and Solar panel are no exception. Both have great features, play well with the SwitchBot app and Cloud services, and have solid performance. I’ll be installing it (possibly with a SwitchBot Mini plug (reviewed here) on the motor) to monitor my mom’s pool to prevent another “Old Faithful” event. Thank you, SwitchBot!
Price: Outdoor Camera – $89.99, Solar panel – $49.99, Combo with both – $119.99 from Amazon, $125.98 from SwitchBotWhere to buy:Outdoor Camera – SwitchBot, Amazon.Solar Panel – SwitchBot, Amazon.Combo with both – SwitchBot, Amazon.Source: The sample for this review was provided by SwitchBot.REVIEWPrice:Where to buySource: