Spotlight cameras are motion activated security cameras that include a bright spotlight capable of instantly illuminating the area seen by the camera.

These spotlight cams differ from floodlight cameras because the light is focussed in a particular place, rather than illuminating an entire area.

A good spotlight cam can come with bright bulbs, super sensitive motion detection and efficiently designed smartphone apps, all of which can help to keep your home safe from potential intruders.

However, with so many different cameras on the market, it can be tough to know what to look for. This guide aims to provide you with a good place to start.

Are Security Lights an Effective Deterrent?

Outdoor security lights can sometimes act as a deterrent to home invasion, but not always. Interviews with reformed or convicted burglars tend to yield mixed answers on this subject.

Part of the problem with security lights appears to be that they can be set off so easily. Anything from neighbourhood cats to people walking past the front door late at night can cause them to be activated.

This regularity tends to inspire complacency on the part of the homeowner. Neighbours too are unlikely to be alarmed by the house next-door’s security light going off if it happens too often.

Evidently, some burglars simply make use of the extra light, while others are discouraged either by the increased visibility of their actions or by the prospect of other, trickier security devices on the premises.

The point is that security lights alone are not sufficient to stop an experienced and determined burglar from gaining access to your home.

Since the average UK home has a 1 in 43 chance of being burgled, this is quite a worrying statement to make.

Light-Based Security Strategies

When it comes to securing your premises, a deterrent more likely to work than outdoor lighting is the strategic use of your home’s indoor lighting.

It is possible, via the use of lighting control technology, to program your household lights to switch on or off at random or timed intervals. This has the effect of making it look as if an occupant is moving from room to room. Visually, this is vastly more off-putting to a would-be burglar than a simple security light at the front or back door.

As a deterrent, this method is superior to simply switching your lights on when you go out or leaving them on when you go to bed.

A smart burglar will often check a house a few times before actually attempting to gain entry. Statistically speaking, a burglar is highly likely to live in or around your local area – and will probably be able to regularly observe your home without you noticing. If you think your home is safe because you leave the lights on when you go out for Friday night drinks, you are mistaken.

For its part, exterior lighting can be employed in multiple ways, from ambient lighting (hanging or wall-mounted light fixtures), accent lighting (lighting an area for a specific effect, usually aesthetic) and task lighting (lighting with a specific purpose, such as pathway lighting or security lighting).

If you are so inclined, it can be useful to mix these three forms of lighting, ensuring that your outdoor areas are always well lit (or can be lit up at a moment’s notice). This tactic effectively robs prowlers of their hiding places – and by itself can discourage them from trying to enter your home.

To make proper use of outdoor lighting, then, all entrances to the property should be well lit. Wall-mounted lights on either side of doors are recommended, as is the use of motion-sensitive spotlights to illuminate any darker areas around the building.

A combination of a well lit garden, reliable security lighting and programmable indoor lights should act as a significantly better deterrent than any of these technologies would individually.

Which Bulbs are Best?

Halogen lights are a tried-and-tested technology when it comes to security lights, as are traditional incandescent bulbs. However, we prefer LEDs.

LEDs are considerably more energy efficient than traditional or halogen bulbs, using between 75 and 90% less energy overall. An LED can easily be as bright as a 50-Watt incandescent bulb while only using 11 or 12 Watts.

It’s sometimes tough for us, as an environmentally conscious site, to advocate for the use of more external lighting, as this uses more energy overall. Using LEDs is one way you can counteract that extra energy usage.

By the same token, LEDs also last longer than other bulbs as well. A good LED can have an 11,000-hour lifespan, which means less rubbish, as well as less expenditure on your part. LEDs also do not contain any toxic substances and are fully recyclable in most cases.

However, the benefits of using LEDs don’t stop there. LEDs are nearly as bright as any other light (Halogen lights are brighter on average), but they will never overheat or succumb to cold temperatures, as other lights may do.

Additionally, the less heat a light source gives off, the less likely it is to attract bugs (more on why this is good in the next section).

LEDs also switch on and off instantaneously. This means that there’s no delay between the lighting being switched on and shining its brightest, as there is with some halogen lights. When switched off, LEDs don’t slowly dim, but go dark immediately. This is the kind of performance you want when using security lighting (especially lighting linked to a motion detector spotlight cam).

Lighting’s Impact on Wildlife

You might not see the natural pageant that goes on in your garden each night after you go to bed – but trust us, it’s there. Remember, when it comes to nature, everything depends on everything else – and that includes you.

Security lighting can be powerfully detrimental to wildlife. For instance, moths may be attracted to your home’s exterior lighting and become disorientated, which reduces the positive effect they have as natural pollinators. Accordingly, bats may in turn suffer food shortages, as there are fewer moths for them to hunt whilst on the wing.

Overly bright security lights can also temporarily blind some animals, while garden birds may also become confused by sudden illumination near to them and begin the dawn chorus early. This negatively impacts both them and you (for obvious reasons). It can also be fatal to them over time, due to exhaustion and an inability to defend their young or seek food.

Many animals become confused as to when to sleep and when to feed (night and day being dictated to them by the presence or absence of light) and they can be badly affected as a result.

So, how can you protect your home from intruders AND look after the wildlife that exists around it? In order to minimise your security lighting system’s impact on local wildlife, always take the following steps.

  • Be careful not to place your lights too high up.
  • Try not to aim your spotlights or floodlights at areas where they might disturb local wildlife (in particular forested areas and trees that may contain nests).
  • Switch off any unnecessary lights at a reasonable hour.
  • Where possible, place lights beneath porches, guttering or other obstructions in order to avoid the light traveling upwards and causing further light pollution. Lamp fixtures are an excellent choice for this very reason.
  • For non-security lighting (especially ambient lighting), choose lower–intensity lights with warmer hues.
  • Try to opt for lights with a lower Kelvin temperature. A light that has a temperature of 3000K will have a yellow-y tint, but a light of 6000K will give off a bluish tint that has a shorter wavelength, therefore attracting more bugs than is necessary.
  • Be sure to share this knowledge with your friends – and also to let any company you buy lighting from know that care for the environment is a factor in your decision whether or not to buy from them.

What are Lumens?

Lumens (lm) are the unit by which visible light is measured. The larger the number of lumens, the brighter the light given off will ultimately be.

It is a common misconception that higher Wattage is equal to brighter light. This is not the case. Remember, if it’s brightness you want – always look at the lumens.

A great lumen count for a spotlight or floodlight would be anywhere between 700 and 1500, any higher and you’ll be lighting up the entire neighbourhood. However, a lower lumen count is more environmentally responsible (see above), as well as generally being acceptable. A good security light will only need to put out between 300 and 700 lumens in order to be effective.

The lumen count, however, does not take into account the actual distribution of light. For this, you would be better served by an understanding of candela.

Candela describes the intensity of light at a distance of 1m from the original light source. This measurement is useful to know if you’re buying a floodlight or spotlight cam. 1 candela is roughly equal to the light given off by a single candle (measured at around 12.57lm).

Which Motion Detection Method is Best?

There are several available types of motion detection technology, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. The three types you are most likely to encounter (active ultrasonic, computer vision and passive infrared) are the three we will focus on here.

Active ultrasonic motion sensors emit ultrasonic sound waves (inaudible sound waves above 20KHz) that reflect objects in their vicinity before ‘bouncing’ back to their emission point in a manner not entirely dissimilar to a bat or dolphin’s use of echolocation.

When the waves are disturbed by the presence of a moving object, the device automatically triggers the alarm, switches on the light or activates the spotlight cam (or all three).

Passive infrared (PIR) systems detect the infrared energy given off by living things as heat. When an excess of infrared energy is detected, the device is activated. A major positive of PIR sensors is that they may be customised to exclude smaller heat sources such as pets or someone switching the central heating on.

The third type of motion sensor you may encounter is called computer vision (CV). This newer method of motion detection uses the spotlight cam’s internal software to analyse video footage frame-by-frame, activating the relevant devices when there is a big enough change in the overall image. Once again, this method can be heavily customised to avoid the movements of things like pets or branches blowing in the breeze.

As to which is better, each method has its advocates and critics. PIR, for example, is very good at filtering out false alerts, but it can take too long to activate, since it requires the spotlight cam to spend extended periods in ‘standby’ mode. On occasion, this means that the camera will only activate after the object has passed its field of view, capturing useless images as a result.

PIR sensors are also unable to detect movement through glass, due to the lack of detectable body heat.

Active ultrasonic sensors will not be triggered by false activations such as changing weather conditions. They also have a very high sensing distance.

However, active ultrasonic sensors suffer from an extreme sensitivity to changes in temperature and also struggle to detect objects of certain shapes, such as curved and thin objects.

CV, while still rather new, has a major upside in the form of facial recognition software, which is sometimes included with it, but has a clear downside in that you never quite know what you’re going to get. Every company seemingly designs their CV system differently, which means that the same motion detection system put out by two different developers could vary greatly in terms of performance.

CV also suffers from some versions being very ‘tech heavy’ and often requiring additional system support (which you will have to pay for separately). This is probably not the best option for a technophobe.

Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers here. It is upon you to choose the spotlight  cam (and, in so doing, the method of motion detection) that best fits your home and circumstances.

How Does Night Vision Work?

Some night vision cameras rely on infrared light, which is invisible to the naked eye, as well as to most animals (though some species can detect it as heat). A night vision camera emits infrared light like a sort of invisible floodlight that stretches out in front of it. The spotlight cam detects this light, enabling it to film in dark conditions.

Infrared cameras are not typically used in the day, because infrared light can interfere with colour footage. Accordingly, once the spotlight cam detects lower light levels (e.g. the coming of night), the camera’s filter shifts to allow infrared light to pass through the lens.

The images captured by IR night vision cameras are usually rendered as black and white because this makes it easier for human eyes to see.

In the case of Infrared cameras, the infrared LEDs do not typically throw light out very far. This means that even the best infrared night vision camera is limited mainly to capturing movement that is relatively close to it. It is always worth knowing the exact distance the night vision can stretch to if you’re purchasing any kind of night vision camera.

Infrared night vision will always require at least some light source in order to work properly and will not commonly operate in pitch black conditions.

Another type of night vision camera converts photons (light particles) into electrons (negatively charged particles), thereby effectively converting light into an electrical signal. A device known as a photomultiplier is then used to multiply these electrons, brightening the image, which in turn passes through a green phosphor screen.

The effect is that whatever the spotlight  cam films is greatly brightened, while the green filter increases our ability to see details still further (human eyes are very sensitive to the colour green). This is the same basic technology as you find in night vision goggles.

This type of night vision’s downsides are largely based on a slight loss of detail, as well as the human eye’s tendency to equate the loss of sharpness with a widening of distance. Accordingly, this type of night vision can make things appear further away than they actually are. By the same token, light sources captured on camera may appear to be much closer when viewed through this type of night vision device.

Once again, both styles have benefits and drawbacks, detractors and supporters. You are more likely to encounter PIR night vision on your spotlight cam – and that’s OK, because it’s good technology. You just need to find out how well it’s likely to suit your needs before you buy.

Remember that 60% of UK home invasions take place under the cover of darkness, so a reliable night vision mode – capable of discerning details such as facial features and vehicle number plates, is very important when buying a home security camera.

Is CCTV an Effective Deterrent?

While there’s debate surrounding the effectiveness of security lighting, there are far less doubts concerning the ability of CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) to deter burglars. This is because CCTV is a great deterrent.

Despite this, only 14% of adults in the UK report having a CCTV setup in their home. This statistic may be partly to blame for the fact that over 95% of burglary cases go unsolved, while over 800 British homes are being burgled every day.

Statistics also show that a home with an effective security system is far less likely to be burgled, with over half of all burglaries occurring in homes without any system besides locks on the doors and windows

CCTV is very effective in cases of premeditated crimes. In such cases, the would-be perpetrators may perform basic surveillance of your property, only to find it too well protected and move along.

You must remember that an effective burglary takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Usually, the intruder gains access, grabs whatever is easily to hand and leaves. They are looking for a quick way in and out (easy access, easy exit – easy money).

The vast majority of burglars are not looking for any kind of challenge; present them with one and you will have increased your home’s security overnight.

CCTV is useful because it greatly increases the chances of a burglar being caught in the act, providing evidence that is more likely to lead to conviction than a simple witness statement.

Having spotlight cams facing the areas of your home that may present potential intruders with an entry point (e.g. the back door) is also very useful from both a practical security and peace of mind standpoint.

CCTV is arguably the single best home security tool we have right now. A spotlight cam, then, is the perfect blend of light-based security and CCTV.

Spotlight Cam: Wired or Wireless?

If you are planning on buying a spotlight cam, one of the bigger decisions you’ll have to make is whether to buy wired or wireless. Each has its pros and cons.

Wireless CCTV works by transmitting its footage to a receiver using a radio frequency transmitter. This eliminates the need for data transmission cables.

The receiver will need to be connected to a physical storage device or else make use of a cloud storage system in order to save the footage.

Wireless CCTV cameras may run from battery power (meaning that there are no wires whatsoever), or else must be plugged into the mains (this is still considered

‘wireless’, as the term refers to the use of radio frequency transmitters as opposed to a lack of charger cables or mains connectors).

While mains power requires access to a power outlet (as well as lengths of cables stretching between the outlet and the spotlight  cam itself), battery power also has its flaws, as it runs out easily, requiring the batteries to be changed regularly. Nevertheless, battery powered cameras are very useful for outdoor areas and areas where there is no access to mains electricity.

Wireless cameras are also easier to install than their wired counterparts, which makes them far less intrusive. They can also be accessed from anywhere in the world via the Internet.

A wired camera setup, for comparison, works via your phone line, which would have to be cut in order for the spotlight cam to stop working. It is also far less vulnerable to hacking or tampering. A power outage or tripped fuse, however, will take the entire system down in a way that a battery-powered wireless camera could easily avoid.

Wired cameras never require their batteries to be changed. Also, unlike wireless cameras, wired cameras are not vulnerable to Wi-Fi interference and bandwidth overlap. Wired cameras also enable the user to connect more spotlight cam units to a single setup and so are better suited for larger properties.

In general, wired spotlight cams are far more reliable, but lack the remote accessibility of wireless cameras.

Both systems work well, and neither choice is intrinsically better than the other. In the end, your decision will probably come down to whether you rent or own your home.

For homeowners, a wired CCTV system can be installed and left in place effectively permanently. Installation can be both expensive and difficult, with de-installation just as challenging. For renters, who don’t want to drill holes or place cables – and who will likely move house after time, the only realistic choice is wireless, which is very easy to put in, remove and take with you wherever you go.

720p, 1080p or 4K?

Another thing to consider is just how much image resolution you will need.

A digital video file has certain set dimensions, which are named according to how many pixels make up the image. The more pixels in the image, the greater the resolution will ultimately be.

The number of pixels in an image is measured vertically and horizontally, so if you see a measurement such as ‘1920 x 1080p’ appearing in an item description, it means that the image will be 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels high. Sometimes, just the height is used as a sort of shorthand, meaning that ‘1920 x 1080p’ is often abbreviated simply to ‘1080p’.

We chose 1080p as our example because it refers to high definition (or ‘HD’ footage) and it’s really what you should be looking for in this day and age. Another common resolution, ‘720p’ is still used in the cheaper CCTV cameras and can provide quality footage, it just isn’t as good as HD.

Ultimately, it’s an issue of clarity. If your spotlight  cam does catch something illegal, you will want clear, high-resolution footage of the people perpetrating the crime.

720p is capable of reproducing details such as facial features, but is less likely to do so as it is far more susceptible to issues such as changing light levels and the subject’s distance from the spotlight cam.

You may also consider opting for 4K or ‘Ultra HD’, UHD features images that consist of 4000 pixels. At this level of performance, resolution is measured by width instead of height.

4K is probably the best option on the market right now. However, cost is a factor here, not only in terms of the camera itself but also in terms of data storage.

It should be noted also that both HD and 4K can place a huge drain on your bandwidth, which can be detrimental to the spotlight cam’s performance overall.

What is FOV?

FOV stands for field of view. A camera with a wide field of view can cover larger areas, thus surveying more territory.

The amount a spotlight cam can see is determined by its lens size. The larger the lens, the narrower the camera’s field of view will be, and vice versa.

If a camera has an FOV greater than 80 degrees, it is usually deemed to have a ‘wide angle’ lens. If a spotlight cam can capture a full 180 degrees, then the lens will usually be termed ‘super wide angle’.

A high FOV increases the camera’s chances of capturing something incriminating on film.

A spotlight cam with a 90-degree FOV, for example, is good for indoor use, as it can be set up in one corner and capture images of the entire room in front of it. It may also work well surveying a larger area such as a back garden.

A spotlight cam with a 60-degree FOV would be better suited for looking closely at a smaller, more specific area, such as a front porch.

A camera’s FOV is really important. If you’re unsure what type of lens is best suited to your needs, try using this FOV calculator.

Is an Alarm an Effective Deterrent?

A security alarm, as you are no doubt aware, emits a shrill, piercing noise when activated. This instantly alerts anybody in the vicinity that a possible crime is taking place and greatly increases the chances of somebody seeing the perpetrator.

Studies have shown that at least 60% of burglars will look for the presence of an alarm before attempting to break into a home, with the vast majority simply baulking at the presence of one and selecting a new target.

Statistically speaking, houses that have visible alarms are far less likely to be burgled than houses without them. However, like security lights, alarms on their own are not enough of a deterrent.

Part of the problem here, presumably, is that we live with alarms all the time. After all, every street has that one car alarm that goes off whenever somebody so much as looks at the car. In the modern era, with more and more alarm systems protecting homes, schools, offices, hospitals and seemingly everywhere else, false alarms, fire drills and other shrill disturbances are commonplace.

So, if your neighbour’s alarm goes off in the night, are you likely to get out of bed and look out the window, or perhaps even venture outside to see what’s up? For most people, the answer to this question is an emphatic ‘no’ – and burglars know this.

An experienced burglar knows not to run down the street if he triggers an alarm, just as the smarter shoplifters refrain from sprinting away the second they cross the store’s threshold. An alarm being triggered simply tells him or her that it’s time to go, as quickly and discreetly as possible.

So, an alarm on its own, though a very good deterrent, is not quite enough to keep your home completely safe.

Your best bet, as far as we’re concerned, is a mixture of all three options: security lights, CCTV and a quality alarm with a design that makes it visible to anybody approaching the house.

the reviews

Ring Spotlight Cam

An excellent option for those who use Alexa for everything, the Ring spotlight cam works in tandem with Amazon’s virtual assistant to launch video recording or playback via voice command.

If your home has a virtual assistant, you’re in for a treat here. This spotlight cam will likely integrate well into your home’s security setup, enabling quick alerts and interaction with the device entirely verbally (no button pushing). If you happen to have other Ring products in your home, once again, this will easily integrate with them in a fluid and efficient manner.

Additionally, the camera’s app is very well laid out and easy to use. You can even activate the siren from your phone.

The downside of all this interconnectivity, of course, is that this spotlight cam is 100% dependent on the Internet (you knew there was a grumble coming, admit it).

There is no local storage option here whatsoever. So, if your Internet isn’t totally reliable, this spotlight cam may not be the best choice for you. Even if your net connection is reliable, you will still need a very fast broadband connection and excellent Wi-Fi coverage in order to get the best out of it.

Also, you will realistically need to sign up to – and extra pay for – the Ring spotlight cam Plan in order to store any footage taken by the spotlight cam (and honestly, what’s the point of taking the footage is you aren’t going to store it?).

So far, we’re looking at a great addition to a modern, up-to-date home with a net connection so fast it takes you home before it even knows your name, but potentially not such a great choice for those whose Internet connection can best be described as ‘iffy’ and who aren’t interested in computerizing their entire lives.

If your home sits somewhere in between those two, let’s look at the Ring spotlight cam and see how it holds up as a physical device.

With a 140° field of view, full HD capabilities, weatherproofing to IP55 level and an LED spotlight capable of generating 300 lumens worth of light in an instant, this is a good bit of kit. You could find a brighter spotlight, you could find a camera with better image resolution and you could find a more stoically weatherproof spotlight cam, but assuming the device works well enough as a whole, you shouldn’t really have to.

The Ring spotlight cam offers infrared night vision as well as real-time video and captures it all in glorious 1080p resolution. Both the video quality and the night vision are superb.

The only downside here is to do with the outer casing of the spotlight cam itself. It is not well shielded from rain, meaning that, although it doesn’t leak, water droplets that land on the camera’s casing can cause the image to blur. Though this clears up when the spotlight cam dries off, it does render you quite vulnerable if it happens to be raining.

The motion detection works well, offering adjustable ‘motion zones’ that allow you to choose exactly where the spotlight cam should be looking for motion, as well as where it shouldn’t. This cracks down on false alerts caused by children or pets considerably.

If the Ring spotlight cam captures somebody skulking around your home or otherwise looking suspicious, you can ward them off verbally via the camera’s built-in microphone and speakers, or else give a blast of the siren to get them to leave.

PROS

  • Integrate well into your home’s security setup, enabling quick alerts and interaction with the device entirely verbally.

  • Adjustable ‘motion zones’ that allow you to choose exactly where the spotlight cam should be looking for motion.

  • Available in both ‘battery’ and ‘wired’ versions, which means that you have more options than usual regarding where it can be placed.

CONS

  • No local storage option – need to sign up and pay for the Ring spotlight cam Plan.

  • It is not well shielded from rain (IP rating: IP55)

The Ring spotlight cam is available in either ‘battery’ and ‘wired’ versions, which means that you have more options than usual regarding where it can be placed. Should you opt for the battery version, you will receive a quick-release battery pack, as well as the option to purchase a back-up battery pack and/or solar panel for the spotlight cam. To be honest, you may not actually need either option, as the battery life is excellent, but we still recommend purchasing the second battery for convenience’ sake.

When you do have to replace the battery, however, it isn’t easy at all. The ‘quick release’ battery pack doesn’t really live up to its name and it’s likely that you’ll find yourself unscrewing the whole unit just to get to it. If this sounds like a pain, we recommend looking into the solar panel as an option.

As a final point, Ring will replace this spotlight cam in the event that it is ever stolen.

In summary, this is a really good spotlight cam with only minor flaws to bring it down. The audio and video work well, the motion sensor is above average and the option to choose between battery and wired is very welcome indeed. However, you should only really be considering purchasing one of these if your broadband/Wi-Fi is absolutely first rate.

To get the best out of it, it also helps to use other Ring products in tandem with Alexa. This both helps and hurts the Ring spotlight cam. It helps because there are a growing number of homes to which this spotlight cam is perfectly suited. It hurts because there are even more to which it isn’t.

D-Link Wi-Fi Spotlight Cam

The D-Link Wi-Fi spotlight cam boasts a 150° field of view, a weatherproof rating of IP65 and a powerful 400lm spotlight. It’s also totally compatible with several other D-Link devices, as well as virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

The spotlight cam captures amazingly high quality, full HD images. The full colour night vision is just as impressive and clear, reproducing some incredible images, even in the dead of night.

Should you wish to, you can even switch the camera’s output (both the night vision and regular modes) to black and white. The spotlight cam also offers users the choice to downgrade the image quality from 1080p to 720p, which will occupy less memory overall.

The motion detection, however, is not so great. The D-Link spotlight cam uses an AI motion and sound detection system which is specially designed to seek out human movement or to react to the sound of glass breaking.

The sound detection works very well (you’ll effectively be able to spy on people outside your house), but the video will not activate until it has a clear, unobstructed view of a potential intruder. It’s all pretty clever on paper, but in practice it too often fails to recognise human movement.  

When the spotlight cam or alarm is activated, you’ll receive a notification on your phone or portable device. Video will then be recorded either to an SD card, a device of your choosing or else sent directly to the cloud.

PROS

  • AI motion and sound detection system is specially designed to seek out human movement.

  • Has a powerful 400lm spotlight.

  • The 90db siren is exceptionally loud and will certainly startle anybody.

CONS

  • You can only store 30 video clips for free.

  • Will not be able to watch continuously from your phone, because the system blocks it.

If you opt for a cloud storage setup, you can only store 30 video clips for free (it sounds like a lot, but it actually isn’t). Also, these clips will be saved in the lowest resolution. For a monthly fee, however, you can upgrade to a Premium membership. This deal includes much more storage space, as well as HD video clips.

If you have an ONVIF compliant NVR, VMS or NAS system, you’ll be able to record continuous footage and view it at any time. However, you will not be able to watch continuously from your phone, because the system blocks you from doing this.

Finally, the 90db siren is exceptionally loud and will certainly startle anybody who hears it. It is very well made and would be excellent for scaring away would-be intruders.

This is a solid effort from D-Link. The picture quality is excellent, as is the sound and the spotlight is as bright as you’ll need. This would be one of the great all-rounders on this list were it not for the sub-par motion detection, which scuppers an otherwise very good spotlight cam system.

Imou Outdoor Spotlight Cam

The Imou outdoor security spotlight cam captures full HD images using advanced PIR algorithms. It also compresses data using H.265, meaning that you can capture high quality footage at regular intervals without filling up your memory allocation too quickly. It is weatherproof to an IP65 rating and can film in the dark. On paper, then, this is a camera that seems to be ready for anything.

…But is it?

The first thing we noticed was that the siren, advertised as putting out 110dbs when activated, is actually closer to putting out 95dbs – and that’s right at the speaker outlet. 95dbs is still very loud, we just thought that was worth mentioning.

The second issue we found is that the cable that comes with this spotlight cam is only about 3m long; this is quite restrictive.

The cable has the camera at one end and a USB slot at the other. Essentially, this means that one end of that cable is going to have to go through your wall.

So yeah, this one isn’t a good choice for renters.

The spotlight cam itself, however, more than lives up to expectations. The full HD images captured by this camera are high quality (even in the dark) and while the ‘fish-eye’ lens does sacrifice some clarity for the sake of a wider angle, the footage is still clear and clean. The camera’s viewing angle is well thought out, which really helps in this regard.

The PIR motion detection works well, automatically activating the spotlight whilst simultaneously sending a notification directly to your phone. This gives you the maximum amount of time possible to check the footage and alert the police if necessary.

Additionally, the manufacturer offers a host of downloadable options for you that allow you an impressive amount of customisation and added control over things like the camera’s bitrate, resolution, compression codec and more. Wisely, none of this is forced on the less tech savvy user (who should find the default settings to be adequate at least), but it is still a very nice gesture to those users who want to get the best out of their equipment.

The two-way microphones are very good, allowing easily understandable conversations to be conducted between the spotlight cam and, essentially, anywhere in the world that has a net connection.

The night vision is wonderful as well. Full HD glass optics, a special image processing algorithm and infrared LEDs allow for exceptionally clear nocturnal images that are practically as good as those captured during the day.

The spotlight, on the other hand, isn’t as good as it should be. In fact, it doesn’t activate until a person stands almost directly under it. Sadly, it is possible to move around just a few feet away from the spotlight and not trigger it at all. That’s a real shame.

PROS

  • Uses TLS encryption technology on specially deployed European servers in order to keep your footage completely private.

  • Downloadable options for an impressive amount of customisation like the camera’s bitrate, resolution, compression codec and more.

CONS

  • The cable that comes with this spotlight cam is only about 3m long.

  • The spotlight, on the other hand, isn’t as good as it should be.

There are a few more downsides as well. For one, if you don’t sign up to the manufacturer’s cloud service, you will be forced to wait a full 10 minutes before viewing any footage captured by your spotlight cam.

You also can’t view footage on more than one device without actively logging out of the first device. Also, as good as the night vision is, its scope is very limited, meaning that it will only be activated by something that falls directly within its line of sight.

To end on an upside, this is a good choice for those of you who value their privacy, as the company uses TLS encryption technology on specially deployed European servers in order to keep your footage completely private. So, no matter where your data is stored (be it SD card, NVR or cloud, only you will have access to it).

There’s a lot to like here. Privacy protections and a high degree of customizability top a list that also includes excellent image quality and night vision. However, the camera, PIR sensor and spotlight aren’t wide ranging at all, the manufacturer effectively bullies you into buying their storage plan and you can’t view footage on multiple devices. These drawbacks turn an excellent spotlight cam into just a good one.

Arlo Spotlight Security Cam

The Arlo Essential spotlight cam comes housed in a special weather resistant enclosure, which is protected to a standard of IP65 (basically weatherproof, though not capable of being fully submerged in water. It has a 130° field of view and a siren that’s fairly loud at 80db.

The option to buy a black version is also very welcome, as it helps to keep the camera covert and therefore less likely to be evaded by trespassers.

Fast and efficient, this spotlight cam sends an instant alert to your smartphone whenever motion is detected – and the motion detection system is excellent. The app that manages this process is also well designed, easy to use and available on both IOS and Android platforms.

The app also uses your phone’s GPS data, allowing the system to know when you aren’t at home. This will auto-enable the alerts for you anytime you leave the house.

The spotlight cam is capable of recording continuous footage and does so in crystal clear 1080p. It will record colour footage even at night and can even zoom in on particular details (though this does negatively affect the picture quality somewhat).

The Arlo essential spotlight cam is 100% wire-free. This is excellent in terms of installation, as it means that the spotlight cam can be set up anywhere around the home. This makes it a great choice for renters.

However, a big problem we encountered here is that the camera can’t really be secured to the wall mount in anything like a meaningful way. This means that if the spotlight cam is mounted at lower heights, it would be very easy to vandalise or steal. Additionally, the battery isn’t removable, which means that the entire unit must be taken inside for charging whenever the battery runs low.

It is in the area of connectivity, however, that this spotlight cam really excels. If you have other Arlo products in your home, this is probably your best choice for a home security spotlight cam, as it will integrate seamlessly with almost anything else you have. Also, if you use Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Homekit or others, this will connect very well with them.

It gets better. Those of you who use Chromecast (via a smart TV or a multimedia player) will be able to view the camera’s feed from the television – now that’s a fun extra.

PROS

  • Housed in a special weather resistant enclosure

  • The app also uses your phone’s GPS data, allowing the system to know when you aren’t at home.

  • Camera is 100% wire-free which means that the spotlight cam can be set up anywhere around the home.

  • Able to view the camera’s feed from a smart television

CONS

  • Only 130° field of view and a siren that’s fairly loud at 80db

  • The battery isn’t removable, which means that the entire unit must be taken inside for charging whenever the battery runs low

  • There’s no local storage, but Arlo’s Smart Subscription Service offers a three-month introductory period

There’s no local storage, however, which means that you will likely need to purchase Arlo’s Smart Subscription Service. Whilst offering a three-month introductory period is nice of them, this is still less than ideal.  

However, if you want to access key features such as person/vehicle/animal identification, you’ll need to purchase the storage service separately. Arlo knows that you can’t properly use their spotlight cam without paying for this service and, perhaps as a result, it isn’t the cheapest service around.

The free version of the service, in case you wondered, simply offers notifications of camera activation, but will have no ability to actually record anything that happens. It essentially renders the entire security system as nothing more than a video intercom.

It is possible to connect to a local recording server, which is a long-way-round version of bypassing the subscription service, but this seems like a bit of an unnecessary headache to us.

Even when you do ‘pony up’ and pay the piper, the delay between the camera activation and the app means that you may still miss out on recording important activity.

In many ways, the subscription issue is the biggest knock on this otherwise fine product, as it provides yet another example of a company strong-arming people into paying for exclusive services that they ought to be able to shop around for.

Overall, this is a good spotlight cam that takes great footage and connects well with other branded devices. The subscription service is a pain, but if you’re happy to pay a bit extra, this one can really work for you.

Reolink Lumus Camera with Spotlight

This spotlight cam is weatherproof to IP65 levels, captures full colour 1080p imagery in night or day and enjoys up to 64GB of local storage (via an SD card that will need to be bought separately). It’s also tough, hardwearing and clearly able to withstand a few knocks.

The Reolink Lumus security spotlight cam also benefits from the option to record your own alarm noise. This is a very cool feature that will allow you to record a vocal warning that then plays whenever the sensor is set off and may be preferable to the shrillness of an alarm. The alarm can also be activated manually, using the app.

Unfortunately, the spotlight cam only comes with a 3m power cable – and this is non-extendable. Not only is this not really long enough, the cable will also require you to create a large hole in the wall in order to properly install the spotlight cam.

The spotlight is also rather dull, only illuminating a 1.5m radius around the camera. This isn’t particularly good, but it does have an unexpected upside because the smaller light is less likely to annoy your neighbours. This, plus the ‘voice warning’ option make this spotlight cam probably the most conscientiously designed one we’ve seen in a while.

The spotlight cam is pretty good at avoiding false alerts. Thanks to a combination of PIR sensors and clever software, this spotlight cam can intelligently tell the difference between a human trespasser and other, non-threatening triggers such as bugs, rain or stray cats. You can also set special ‘motion zones’ as well as further customize the sensitivity of the motion sensors.

The camera will also begin recording from 4 seconds BEFORE the motion sensor is triggered. This means that, even if the spotlight cam takes a second or two to properly start up, whatever triggered it to activate will still be captured on camera. We can’t stress enough how excellent a feature this is. We’ve seen it on other cameras, but we’d like to see it on ALL other spotlight cams.

Other good features include the option to switch off the red light at the front of the spotlight cam, which obscures the fact that the camera is recording, making it more likely that you will capture people on video.

PROS

  • The option to record your own alarm noise

  • Set special ‘motion zones’ through the App

  • It will begin recording from 4 seconds BEFORE the motion sensor is triggered

CONS

  • The camera only comes with a 3m power cable – and this is non-extendable

  • Spotlight is also rather dull, only illuminating a 1.5m radius around the camera

If you have a Reolink NVR setup, you can set this spotlight cam to record continuously. However, you will need to purchase an SD card in order to save any footage taken directly to it. Sadly, cloud storage for this system isn’t an option in the UK right now. Nevertheless, this is a very good camera for those wishing to avoid paying a subscription fee.

The two-way audio works very well, allowing for high quality interaction between you and the person on the camera.

All things considered, this is a really good spotlight cam, with only a few negative points counting against it. The high level of customizability is probably this camera’s best feature, as it puts you in direct control of the siren, the motion detection, the amount of storage space and other aspects as well. The lack of cloud storage may be off-putting for some, but we still think this one is worth considering.

Summary

The Ring Spotlight Cam is probably the best overall model, as it offers a solid combination of camera and spotlight, as well as a host of other neat features. You’ll need absolutely flawless Internet in order to get the best out of it, however.

Next up, the D-Link Wi-Fi Spotlight Camera boasts far and away the best spotlight, as well as a great camera with a wide field of view. However, you should be warned that the motion detection isn’t great.

The Lmou Outdoor Security Camera (Wi-Fi) features the best data protection, as well as a high level of customizability, as well as user friendliness. However, you’ll be in for a disappointment if you think you can get away without paying extra for the manufacturer’s subscription service.

The award for best motion detector goes to the Arlo Essential Spotlight Cam, which is also great at connecting to virtual assistants and other Arlo branded products. It fits well into a modern home security setup, but Arlo will bully you into paying top dollar for a subscription service you might not want.

Finally, there’s the Reolink Lumus Wi-Fi Security Spotlight Cam. This is definitely the most solidly built and durable of the bunch and it also allows you to record your own alarms. The spotlight, however, feels like something of an afterthought (even the way it’s tacked on at the end of the name attests to this), which is one of the few knocks on this product.

So, there you have it, our list. Of course, it’s up to YOU to choose the product that best suits your specific needs. However, after reading our reviews, we’re sure you’ll choose well.