Should you buy a lightbulb security camera? I tested 10 cameras from Amazon from $20-$150.

February 22, 2023

Replacing an ordinary lightbulb with a security camera seems like an easy and convenient way to keep an eye on your property without additional wiring, but the question is how much performance do you give up by going with the lightbulb form factor over a traditional security camera. To answer that I bought every variety of lightbulb camera on Amazon to see which one is the best.

I tested their day and night image clarity, motion detection accuracy, notification speed, app experience, WiFi strength and finally their ability to light up your space since they will theoretically be replacing a light bulb. 

For a price of $20 the least expensive camera we’ll be testing is this unbranded 2 megapixel 360 degree camera that uses the iCSee phone app.  The 360 camera is slightly larger than a standard A19 lightbulb, but should fit in most light fixtures.  Designed for use in an overhead light the 360 camera has 3 cool white side firing LEDs and a fisheye lens allowing it to see the area directly underneath and around the camera.  The visible area will vary based on the height of the camera, but at a mounting height of 9 feet the 360 camera gives an overhead view of a 16ft radius.

Next for $26 is this 2 megapixel Tuya SmartLife compatible motorized pan and tilt camera sold by more than a dozen different white label brands, but this one happens to be called OwLuck.  The OwLuck has 4 front facing white LEDs and 4 infrared LEDs and is slightly wider but significantly longer than a standard A19 bulb.  The OwLuck has motorized pan and tilt through the app, but has a very narrow horizontal field of view that I measured at just 50 degrees.

After that for $30 is this 3 megapixel pan and tilt camera from XVIM.  The form factor of the XVIM is extremely similar to the OwLuck except the XVIM only has infrared LEDs and uses the HomeYePro app instead of Tuya.  The XVIM also has motorized pan and tilt, but has a much larger horizontal field of view which I measured at 82 degrees horizontal.

Then for $32 is this slightly larger 4 megapixel pan and tilt camera from LaView that uses the LaView app.  The LaView has an entire ring of cool white LEDs and as I said is slightly larger than the OwLuck and XVIM and may be reaching the limit of what can fit in a standard light housing.  The LaView has motorized pan and tilt and has a similar field of view to the XVIM at around 82 degrees horizontal.

Next for $50 is another smaller form factor option, a dual lens 2 megapixel pan and tilt camera from EyeToo that uses the IPC360 Home app.  In addition to dual lenses the Eyetoo has 8 front facing white LEDs and 4 infrared LEDs for night vision.  Even on its widest setting the EyeToo has a narrow horizontal field of view of approximately 50 degrees and the zoom lens is 4x magnification with approximately 30 degrees horizontal field of view.

Also for $50 is this much larger 4 megapixel pan and tilt camera from EverSecu that uses the Tuya SmartLife app.  Aside from the E27 lightbulb base, the Eversecu doesn’t resemble a lightbulb and is likely going to be the wrong shape and size for most light fixtures and you’ll probably need to use an extender to make it fit.  The Eversecu has 4 larger front facing white LEDs and 4 infrared LEDs for night vision.  Like the last 4 cameras the Eversecu has motorized pan and tilt and the horizontal field of view is roughly 60 degrees.

After that for $50 is an extremely similar camera from Symynelec.  Just like the Eversecu the Symynelec is 4 megapixels, uses the Tuya app, has 4 white and 4 infrared LEDs, motorized pan and tilt and a 60 degree horizontal field of view.  In fact the only difference I can see between the Eversecu and Symynelec is the color of the actual camera portion which is black on the Symynelec and white on the Eversecu.

For $65 is this unique form factor 1 megapixel lightbulb camera from Zmodo.  The Zmodo is right at the limit of what might fit in your existing light fixtures.  The Zmodo has a downfiring LED array with 8 red, 5 green, 5 blue, and 6 white LEDs.  Unlike the previous cameras the Zmodo camera only has pan, not pan and tilt and the horizontal field of view is significantly larger at approximately 100 degrees.  The Zmodo camera uses the Zmodo app.

For $99 is another unique form factor camera from Zeus.  The Zeus is a 2 megapixel bullet camera joined to a 900 lumen flood light LED array and an E27 base.  The Zeus listing makes a big deal about having a US patent and being assembled in the US, but at it’s core it is pretty clearly a cheap Chinese IP camera and uses the very generic and poorly translated CamHi app.  The Zeus has no pan or tilt, but you can rotate the camera portion to help with the orientation after screwing it into the light socket.  The horizontal field of view of the Zeus is approximately 80 degrees.

And last, the most expensive camera I tested was this $150 2 megapixel floodlight from Sengled.  The Sengled uses a single warm white cob LED light source and also includes a PIR motion sensor and two infrared night vision LEDs.  The Sengled floodlight uses the Sengled Snap app, which for some reason is completely separate from other Sengled apps you might be using like Sengled Home, Pulse, Boost, and Bluetooth.  Like the Zeus, the Sengled doesn’t have pan or tilt controls, but the roll can be manually adjusted to help level the camera after installation.  The Sengled has the widest field of view of all the cameras at approximately 120 degrees horizontal.

Arguably the most important aspect of a security camera is image quality, so to test that I hung each of the cameras from the same location and held a sign at 10, 25, and 50 feet and repeated those tests both during the day and at night.

During the day the image quality from the EverSecu, EyeToo and Symynelec was significantly better than the other cameras with the 360 camera understandably finishing last, since it’s not really designed for that application, and the zoomed in quality of the Sengled and Zmodo were hindered by their large field of view. 

At night the results were mostly the same except the Zeus performed significantly better and managed to take first place using infrared night vision, despite also having one of the brightest flood lights.  The Symynelec and EverSecu finished 2nd and 3rd and the 360 camera and Sengled were last.  There is no footage from the Zmodo because even after multiple attempts I couldn’t get it to recognize motion at night and instead this is the only clip I got, probably due to my phone flashing infrared onto my face.

Speaking of motion detection, reliable notifications and recordings are one of the things that will make or break your security camera experience.  Too many false notifications and you’ll stop paying attention, but every miss represents a potential security event that you have no record of. 

One of the best solutions is to use 24/7 recording with flagged motion events, and all of these cameras except the Zmodo support 24/7 recording, while the 360 camera bulb records 24/7 but does not flag motion events on the playback screen.  As for the accuracy of motion detection, I always recommend buying a camera with on device AI person detection since that will significantly reduce false notifications caused by shadows and blowing leaves and of these cameras only the XVIM, LaView, Symynelec, and EverSecu have free on device person detection while the EyeToo, Zmodo, and Sengled require a cloud subscription to enable that feature, and the 360 camera, OwLuck and Zeus don’t offer person detection at all.

Another important aspect of motion detection and notifications is how quickly the notification arrives on your phone, so I set my phone to LTE mode while doing my testing and walked the same route for each camera.  I’ve marked on the map the location that I received the notification for each camera.  You can see the Symynelec and EverSecu gave the fastest notifications, followed by the EyeToo, 360 camera, and XVIM.  I’ve also noted whether the notification was for generic motion or for a person detection.

The Zeus and OwLuck notifications were relatively slow but did arrive while I was still in the testing area while the Sengled notification didn’t arrive until almost 5 minutes after I finished testing, which was still better than the Zmodo and LaView that didn’t send any notifications at all for my entire test, and while the Laview events were recorded, the Zmodo had no record of the testing, and I had to repeat the testing 4 times before it actually recorded me.

App experience is also one of the things that separates these cheap, relatively generic cameras from more polished options like Eufy, Ring, and Reolink.  Rating their ease of use out of 10, the only one that I would give a passing score to is the Tuya app.  The process of finding an event, saving a recording, and downloading it to my phone was still ridiculously unintuitive and cumbersome, but at least it worked every time and is something that I could reliably repeat if needed.  The worst app experiences were the Zmodo and Sengled apps that barely worked at all and constantly crashed and threw error messages.  Also, one of the sketchiest things I’ve ever experienced happened where the HomeYePro app made me register with my phone number, and after a night of testing where I was constantly plugging in and unplugging my camera I got an unsolicited text message from XVIM support asking if I needed help with my camera.  For some people I guess this could be seen as a positive, but it was a definite overstep of boundaries for me.

A function of these cameras that I wasn’t planning on testing, but needs to be mentioned is their WiFi signal strength.  I think most people are going to want to mount these cameras outside, meaning the camera will need a strong enough WiFi signal from your router in order to function properly and I was surprised by just how bad the signal was on some of them.

I have a UniFi WiFi access point mounted roughly 30ft from these cameras with nothing but wood stud walls in between and yet the Zmodo, Zeus, and LaView cameras had too weak of a signal to connect and stream their camera feeds.  I ended up needing to temporarily install an additional access point about 10 feet from my testing location in order to reliably use the Zmodo, Zeus and Laview but the other 7 cameras had no issues.

The last thing I tested was their light output since these cameras screw into a light socket that probably had a light bulb in it before, so they need to be able to replicate the functionality of that bulb.

To test this I used manual settings on my camera to properly expose my testing area using my normal 60watt equivalent carriage lights, then I turned off the carriage lights and without changing settings turned on each of the light bulb cameras. 

You can see that the Sengled and Zeus cameras provided more light than the original 60 watt bulbs and did an excellent job lighting up my driveway while the Zmodo was roughly equal to a single 60 watt traditional light bulb.  Of the pan and tilt style cameras the Symynelec and EverSecu had the brightest lights followed by the EyeToo, LaView , 360 camera, and then the weakest white light was on the OwLuck.  Last was the XVIM which only has infrared LEDs.

One other important thing to note is that the Zeus has no way to control the light through the app, or even create a schedule or triggers and the only way to turn it on is by turning the main power off and turning it back on within 2 seconds, which also causes the camera to reboot, which if I’m being honest is the worst design I could possibly think of, especially since the Zeus has trouble connecting to and staying on WiFi to begin with.  All the other cameras have options to turn the lights on and off via the app, motion, or scheduling.

So after all my testing, as someone who has tested will over a hundred security cameras over the past 5 years, I have to say that none of these cameras are very good.  However, if you’re looking for pure convenience and you want to install a camera into an existing outdoor fixture the only two cameras that I think are possibly worth buying are the EverSecu and the Symynelec which use the passably well designed Tuya app, have on device person detection, good notification speed, and decent video quality all for around $50.

If you want to install a light indoors to just keep an eye on room occupancy, or get a general idea of what some is doing in a room, the 360 bulb camera might work for you and the good news is that it’s really cheap at around $20.

The three most expensive options: The Zmodo, Zeus, and Sengled, were unacceptably bad and I wouldn’t recommend them at any price.  The truth is that most cases there are much better options than a lightbulb camera, and here are my quick recommendations.  For $60 you can buy a Wyze Cam v3 PTZ and lightbulb USB adapter.  These adapters let you continue to use your existing light socket, but also allow you to plug in power for your Wyze Cam.  For about $10 more than the EverSecu and Symynelec you’ll end up with a much less odd looking light source, a better performing camera, and a much more polished app experience.

If a flood light camera light like the Sengled or Zeus is what you were leaning towards, the $180 Reolink Duo WiFi floodlight is superior in every way.  The downside is that you will need to cut power, remove your existing light fixture and connect 3 wires, but you’ll end up with 2 fully aimable and dimmable floodlights, a 4k 180 degree panoramic camera, person detection, vehicle detection, pet detection, and an app experience that is miles ahead of anything I tested in this video.

And last, sometimes a floodlight isn’t appropriate, like with a carriage light next to a front or side door.  In those cases I’d recommend the new Eufy wall light which gives you fully controllable and aimable RGBW LED lighting, a 2k camera with wide field of view, and again, an app experience that will make you actually want to use your cameras. Like the Reolink you will need to cut power to your existing fixture and do some very basic connecting of wires, but your final outcome will be so much better.

As always there are no sponsored reviews on my website and I bought all the products that I tested in this article with my own money.   I’ve got links below for every camera in this article, and if you appreciate the time, effort and money that it takes me to make an article like this I’d appreciate if you could use those links since as an Amazon affiliate I do earn a small commission on the sale at no cost to you.  

I’d also like to thank my awesome Patrons over at Patreon for their continued support of my channel, and if you’re interested in supporting my YouTube channel please check out the links in the description.  If you enjoyed this article consider subscribing to my channel, and as always, thanks for reading The Hook Up.

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