Outdoor security cameras, for your garden, porch or the front of your house, used to be a complicated affair. These days, however, they’re becoming super easy to use, and – most importantly – quite affordable.
Ring’s Spotlight Cam (I was testing the battery-powered version) ticks most boxes: it’s quite easy to set up and use, it offers a very wide field of view and a high-quality video feed (during the daylight, at least), two bright lights that can turn on automatically when the cam senses motion (hence the ‘spotlight’ in the name), and even two-way talking and a siren you can activate from your phone.
Of course, not everything is perfect – the night vision is quite limited (though the spotlights help), the cost ramps up when you factor in the monthly Ring Protect subscription, and overall there are cheaper options out there.
That being said, having used the Spotlight Cam for a few weeks, I’ve become a big fan of what it can do, and I consider it an excellent buy – if you’re not too troubled by its downsides. So let’s dig in deeper…
Quick Look – Ring Spotlight Cam (Battery)
What is it: A battery-powered HD outdoor security camera with spotlights, real-time notifications and video that streams to your smartphone.
Value For Money
- Excellent video quality
- Motion detection works well (but can get trigger-happy)
- Simple to set up
- Weather resistant
- Spotlights are quite powerful, considering their size
- Most features require a monthly subscription
- Night vision is very limited in range and brightness
- Most mounting options require drilling
Features and Specs
- Size: 12.6cm x 6.9cm x 7.6cm
- Video Quality: 1080p Full HD (With Night Vision)
- Battery Life: Up to several months between charges (you can optionally place two batteries at once, doubling the battery times)
- Field of View: 140° horizontal, 78° vertical
- Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connection – 2.4 GHz
- Operating Temperatures: -25°C to 50°C
- Extra Features: Works with Alexa and Google Home / Can view on your TV with a Fire TV Cube / Can connect a solar charger
The Ring Spotlight Cam is an excellent outdoor security solution, with great video quality and motion sensing. The night vision videos are mediocre, but they’re saved by the powerful spotlights that serve both as video lighting and as a burglar deterrent. The purchase price is pretty affordable for the set of features you get – but remember to factor the monthly subscription into the total cost, as the camera is not very useful without it.
Table of Contents
Who Is The Ring Spotlight Cam For?
If you’re already familiar with Ring, it’s most likely due to their very popular Ring Doorbell. But Ring, which is owned by Amazon, also manufactures “regular” security cameras and alarm systems – both outdoor and indoor cameras.
The Spotlight Cam is primarily an outdoors camera – there’s nothing stopping you from using it inside, but it can’t stand on its own (so you have to mount it), and the bright LED spotlights are certainly most useful outside.
The 1080p video provides very decent quality – it won’t be as good as what you take on a modern smartphone, but it’s good enough to see what’s going on around your house, and identify faces – if the need arises.
The most obvious use-case is as a security camera pointed at your garden/back door – but it can also be used as a Ring Doorbell alternative (without the doorbell part), showing you everything that happens near the front of your house.
While the night vision feature isn’t very impressive (the range becomes very limited, and forget about identifying faces) – the two LED lights are quite bright, and you can set them to light up automatically when the camera senses motion. Once the spotlights light up, the video becomes pretty clear once again.
The battery can last a few weeks – or even months – depending on your usage patterns, and how much you use those powerful spotlights. There’s a dual tray inside the camera, so you can insert two batteries, doubling the length of time between charges (but the box comes with just one battery).
With this being an Amazon device, it works best inside Amazon’s Echo/Alexa eco-system (though it also supports Google Home).
To see the video feeds in real-time, you can use Ring’s smartphone app. But if you have Echo Show devices scattered around your house – you can instantly ask Alexa to show you the video feed on the Echo’s screen, which is particularly useful if you have a device in the kitchen (such as the Echo Show 15) or the bedroom.
Lastly, while the camera itself is not too expensive – the “optional” Ring Protect subscription is almost a must if you want to benefit from most of the camera’s useful features (such as saving videos to the cloud) – therefore you need to factor £3.49/month or £34.99/year into the total cost.
If you’re not planning to use the subscription service (see its benefits below) – you might as well get one of the cheaper options out there – there are WiFi cameras that cost less than £50, and while you won’t get the same video quality and features – they might be adequate for those with lesser needs.
Setting Up The Ring Spotlight Cam
Security cameras used to be complicated, and setting them up was a real chore – but one of Ring’s goals was to make cameras (and its doorbell) easier to install – and they’ve done a good job of it, for the most part.
In the box, you get the camera itself, the Quick Release Ring battery, a Micro-USB charging cable, the mounting base, screws/wall anchors and a tiny screwdriver.
With this being the battery-powered model (there’s also a wired model), you don’t need any power cables or outlets in your garden – as the battery provides all the power.
The batteries on all Ring cameras and devices are interchangeable, which is a big plus if you intend to buy more than one Ring device. In this case, the camera has room for two batteries – so if you buy an extra battery, you can double the time between charges, or pull one out for charging while the other one is still powering the camera.
My particular review unit had an issue of the battery getting firmly stuck inside its slot – which is something that occasionally happens, judging by messages on online forums – though I was able to fix the issue by using a thin screwdriver.
Mounting the camera on the wall is rather easy – but you do need to drill holes in your wall, which may be an issue if you’re renting. There are a few additional mounting options you can purchase separately – such as the gutter mount.
Setting up the software entails downloading the smartphone app (which is available for iOS and Android), scanning a unique barcode on the bottom of the camera, and connecting it to your home’s WiFi.
Yes, you do need a WiFi connection wherever you plan to place the camera, so make sure the signal is strong enough – you might want to place it near a window, for example. Otherwise, the camera won’t be able to send its videos anywhere – as it doesn’t have any local storage (so some houses may need a WiFi signal booster).
You also need to be mindful of the height and the field of view – you don’t want burglars just to reach up and break the thing, but then if you place it TOO high, you won’t see the space right under the camera (which is where you might have a door or a window).
So it’s best to install the software and check the live video feed when you’re placing the camera so that you can find the optimal spot.
Using The Ring Spotlight Cam
Most of your interactions with the camera will be via Ring’s smartphone app – it’s where you watch the live feeds, set up motion notifications, and power up the siren and the lights.
The same app is used to control all of Ring’s devices – so if you have a Ring doorbell, or additional Ring cameras, you can view them all in the main app.
A security camera is a pretty basic device at its core – it takes videos and lets you watch when suspicious things happen.
But security cameras have been getting smarter and smarter for two reasons – first, you don’t want to sit and look at hours of boring videos just to find out if something happened. And if something happens – you want to know about it right now, or at least be able to jump straight to the important part of the video.
Furthermore, there are special considerations when using a battery-powered device like the Spotlight Cam, as it can’t take videos 24/7 – otherwise the battery will run out in a matter of days or even hours.
Therefore, motion sensing is a big part of any smart security camera these days – and the Ring Spotlight certainly delivers in that regard – every time it senses movement, it sends a notification to your phone, and also starts recording a video (so you’ll be able to watch it later, even if you weren’t near your phone in real-time).
You can decide whether you only want to get alerts when the camera senses a person (which will cause a slight delay in getting those notifications), or whether you want a notification for any type of movement.
In practice, I never once received a notification due to a fox, for example (even though we have several four-legged friends coming to our garden at night), but the sensor did get a little trigger-happy when the parasol was moving around too much on a windy day.
It can also get a bit annoying to receive a notification each time someone steps out to the garden – so you can either set schedules (no notifications during the daytime, for example) – or you can temporarily “Snooze” the camera’s alerts on your phone – when someone you trust walks out to the garden, or when you’re having a BBQ.
The 1080p video quality is quite good during the day, and a bit disappointing when it’s dark – the wired version of the Spotlight Cam has better night vision capabilities – with colour – but those apparently require more power, which is why the battery-powered version has inferior night vision videos.
That being said, the two spotlights are very bright, and you can turn them on from the live feed on the app, or have them turn on automatically when there’s a motion event – so you’ll get better videos (and scare a potential burglar at the same time).
In the app, you can also set up different modes (Disarmed/Home/Away) and control how the camera behaves in each of these modes: For example, you can tell it to stop motion tracking when you’re at home (it knowns that thanks to your phone’s GPS), and reactivate the tracking when you’re in Away mode.
You can also use the app to define different “Motion Zones” – the boundaries of the camera’s motion detection. So if there are areas outside your property you don’t care about, you can exclude them from the motion sensors.
When you’re watching the camera’s live feed, you can also initiate a two-way chat from within the app – so you can talk to your son who’s playing in the garden – or to the burglar standing on your garden furniture.
Watching the camera’s feeds on Amazon’s Echo devices is quite convenient, and, for you Amazon Fire TV fans out there – if you have the Fire TV Cube, you can even watch the camera’s feed on your TV.
The Ring Protect Subscription
After you buy the Spotlight Cam, you’re not done with paying Ring/Amazon, unfortunately. The monthly subscription is officially optional – but it’s pretty much a must for regular use.
Without this monthly addon, you can still get basic motion notifications and look at the live video feed, but that’s about it.
That’s still helpful in some specific situations – but obviously, a security camera is meant to let you watch videos of things that happened when you weren’t looking – and you can only do that with the Ring Protect subscription.
When you start using the camera, you get a free 30-day trial. After that, it’s £3.49/month or £34.99/year for the Basic subscription, which covers one Ring device.
If you have multiple Ring devices (3 and up is the sweet spot) you can get the Plus subscription, at £8/month or £80/year – and it covers every Ring device in your home.
With the Ring Protect subscription (either Basic or Plus), you get video storage (in the cloud) for up to 180 days (per video).
That’s not storage of a 24/7 video feed from your camera, of course – instead, a video file is created every time you watch a live feed, and every time the camera senses an “event” – even if you don’t act up on the notification and don’t watch it in real-time.
So, every time the camera senses a motion – the video recording is triggered – either until that motion “ends”, or for a predefined set of seconds, which you can control.
Those videos are then stored on Ring’s cloud for up to 180 days – but you can download them from the cloud and save them locally. You can also share videos directly from the cloud, if you want to send them to family members, or, you know, for laughs.
You can also set up the camera to take photo snapshots at regular intervals (to see what happens even if there isn’t any motion) – and those snapshots are also stored online, if you’re subscribed.
Additionally, the Person Alerts are only available if you’re subscribed (otherwise you can only use the general anything-that-moves motion alerts), as well as a few other smaller features – you can see the full list on Ring’s website.
As mentioned, while you don’t HAVE to get and keep this subscription – the camera’s most important features are placed behind this paywall, so there isn’t much point in buying the Spotlight Cam if you’re not planning to subscribe (there are other security cameras out there that do let you store videos locally without any online subscriptions, such as the popular eufy cameras).
Bottom Line: Is The Ring Spotlight Cam Worth It?
Ring’s security cameras were among the first to combine “smart” features, ease of use and a somewhat-affordable price.
These days, however, the competition is fierce – and the ‘affordable’ part isn’t as tempting, as there are cheaper options out there (and ones that don’t require a monthly subscription).
However, Ring’s Spotlight Cam is still one of the best security cameras out there – which is why it still gets our Editor’s Choice mark. It provides great video quality, the app is feature-rich (but gets a little confusing because of that), and it’s as close to a set-it-and-forget-it security device as you can get.
If you don’t mind spending a little more, and you want a security camera that does all the important stuff (and then some) without you having to be a security technician (especially if you’re already inside Ring or Amazon’s eco-system) – then the Spotlight Cam, with its useful spotlights, is an excellent choice.
Note: The product was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of it.