The Ring Spotlight Cam is an excellent battery-powered outdoor camera. As well as recording, the unit's bright LED spotlight both wards off burglars and helps you see where you're going. Improved software, too, provides greater control over recording and reduces the number of notifications you receive. A slightly fiddly app interface makes finding old recordings a little tricky – but, otherwise, the Ring Spotlight Cam is an excellent camera.
- Doubles as a powerful spotlight
- Easy to set up
- Excellent recording and notification controls
- Fiddly to find past recordings
- Review Price: £199
- Outdoor camera
- 126 x 69 x 76mm
- 1080p resolution
- 140-degree viewing angle
- Cloud recording (via subscription)
- IR Night vision
- Battery powered
- Amazon Alexa support
Ring has built up an impressive array of security devices that are designed to protect your home inside and out. With the Ring Spotlight Cam, the company is adding to its range of dual-purpose cameras with security lights built in.
You can buy this unit as either a mains-powered model or one that is battery powered. I’ve opted for the latter, since it comes with greater options for positioning the camera, plus the more powerful Ring Floodlight Cam is a decent option for those areas you’d want a full security light, such as outside your door.
Improved software and a decent price make this a handy utility camera, particularly for those who already have a Ring subscription.
Ring Spotlight Cam – What you need to know
- Installation – Needs the mount to be screwed into place, but that’s it for this battery-powered doorbell
- Detection performance – PIR sensor means you receive more alerts than a camera set up with activity zones, but some smart features can limit the number of notifications you do get
- Image quality – Sharp 1080p footage during the day, while the spotlight helps you capture full-colour images at night
Related: Best security camera 2020
Ring Spotlight Cam design – A neat-looking unit and flexible too
As an outdoor camera, the Ring Spotlight Cam is designed to be mounted on a wall or fence post. It uses an 802.11n Wi-Fi connection, so you’ll need to ensure the camera is within range of your wireless network.
Ring provides a flexible stand in the box, which attaches to a surface via four screws. You can place the mount on a wall, or hang it from a porch ceiling or similar.
Having an outdoor camera increases the risk of theft, but Ring has intelligently designed its stand to reduce the risk. Once you’ve attached the camera’s ball joint to the stand, there’s a collar that’s screwed shut to lock the camera into position. This also makes it more difficult for someone to knock the camera out of alignment.
With this battery-powered model, a battery is included in the box; it’s charged via USB. Ring claims that the battery will last six to 12 months on a single charge, although it really depends on how often the camera is triggered. There’s space inside the unit itself for a second battery pack, to extend run-time, with the added advantage that you can have one cell charging while the other is operating your camera.
If you don’t want to bother with charging at all, you can buy the solar panel pack to keep your camera’s battery topped up.
Ring Spotlight Cam features – Easy to fine-tune to capture only important information
Key to the success of any security camera is the quality of its software, and Ring has made great strides in this regard for both the Ring Spotlight Cam and the rest of its products. As with Ring’s other battery-powered cameras, the Spotlight Cam features a large PIR sensor that’s used to detect motion.
The main issue with this kind of product is that any motion will trigger the camera to wake and start recording, and you can’t draw activity zones. Ring has a few solutions to help out. First, you can choose which segments of the sensor you want to use – say, filtering out a neighbour’s path from triggering the camera.
Second, there’s now a new motion verification feature. This uses additional video processing to work out if you should be sent a notification about an event, or if the motion detection was a false positive.
Even so, if you face the camera towards a busy street then you’ll find it’s triggered often, thus impacting battery life . For dealing with busy areas, you really need a mains-powered camera where you can draw activity zones to filter out areas that aren’t of concern.
To further limit being bombarded with notifications, the Spotlight Cam lets you set up a motion schedule, defining when you do and don’t want to receive alerts. Remember: the camera will still record during these times, but you just won’t be told about it.
If you do want to stop the camera from recording, Ring provides “Modes” that let you control the camera. These can be used manually, enabling you to choose from Home, Away and Disarmed state. However, this sort of setup makes more sense if you have a Ring Alarm, since changing the status of the alarm will result in a change in the recording status of your cameras. For example, when you have the alarm disarmed, you can choose to have your cameras turn off.
By default, as an outdoor camera, the Spotlight Cam is set to be always-on. Nevertheless, having the ability to change how/when the camera records is welcome.
As with Ring’s other cameras, tapping the thumbnail preview takes you to the camera’s main app page. This lets you go live, and even initiate a surprisingly clear two-way chat with anyone you can see.
In this view, you can scroll back through the timeline to view past events and even jump to a specific day. This part of the interface is remains rather clunky, though. Trying to find one event, even using the filters to choose the type of recording (motion, triggered by live view, or favourites) is still cumbersome.
Jump into the device settings, and there’s a simpler Event history view. This lets you filter events by type, presenting a simple date-ordered list of recordings. Although this section is easier to navigate, it could do with thumbnails. If Ring could improve the process of browsing through recordings it would have a near-on perfect app.
Provided you pay for Ring Protect, videos are stored in the cloud. One device costs £2.50 a month (£24.99, if you pay annually) and provides 30 days’ video history. If you have many devices or a Ring Alarm, it makes sense to pay for Ring Plus (£8 a month, or £80 a year), for which you get cloud storage for all cameras and doorbells, plus cellular backup and assisted monitoring for your alarm.
Amazon Alexa support is available via a skill, which lets you view the camera’s feed on a screen-enabled Echo. There’s no equivalent skill for Google Assistant devices, though.
Ring Spotlight Cam performance – Excellent image quality, particularly at night
In my experience, it’s worth turning on the camera’s HDR feature, even if this does slightly reduce battery life. HDR smooths out the image and makes it easier for the camera to cope with varied lighting as a result of changes in the sun during the day. During the day, the 1080p footage is mostly sharp, with a touch of softness in highly detailed areas, such as grass. Even so, it’s easy enough to find a frame that shows someone in great detail.
It’s at night-time where the image quality from such cameras usually takes a hit, with the subsequent black and white images typically looking softer and lacking in detail. However, since the Ring Spotlight Cam has two bright LEDs on the side, which light up the surrounding area, the camera is able to capture footage in full colour. The result is that night-time images are almost as good as those captured during the day, presenting in full colour and displaying plenty of detail and sharpness.
Not only do the lights improve image capture, but they’re bright enough to be helpful in a practical way too. Place a Spotlight camera in the garden, for example, and its light will help you make your way to the shed at night, for example.
Should you buy the Ring Spotlight Cam?
When it comes to security cameras, Ring already offers the most impressive range in the market. The Spotlight Cam is yet another winner, particularly now that it comes with “Modes” that provide control over recording times. The Floodlight Cam makes more sense if you want a wired-in security light and camera, but for areas where cabling isn’t an option (or is too much hassle), this battery-powered unit boosts security and gives you a bright motion-activated light, too.
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