HomeHome AutomationI should've read the manual: Imilab C22

I should’ve read the manual: Imilab C22

Another IP camera from Imilab

Last time, I looked at the IMILAB EC3 Lite – an outdoor IP camera from the same brand that got me in trouble. Today, I’m peeking inside with another offering from Imilab. I expected this review to be straightforward, but there is a plot twist. Imilab C22 (Imilab Store|AliExpress) isn’t made for the Imilab Home app. It’s made for Xiaomi and this brings a whole new take on their gadget.

IMILAB C22

I’m playing it safe. The IP camera is made for indoors, so I made it watch me while I work, chill and procrastinate. That way, I won’t get in trouble for adding the 4th security camera to my entrance!

Inside the box, I found a typical design for indoor cameras. Imilab C22 comes with a round dome that hosts a 3K (5MP sensor) capable of looking around and tracking targets. Located on the tilt axis, you’ll find a microSD card slot, a microphone (as the camera supports 2-way audio) and the reset button. The base houses a rear-facing speaker and a micro USB port that powers it up. We are months away from 2024 and companies insist on not using USB-C for some reason!

Considering the lack of the USB-C port, I’m surprised to see the support for WiFi6. I have two ASUS mesh routers RT-AX86U and RT-AX88U which deliver the latest WiFi6 standard to all my devices. It may come in handy, as the benefits of the tech include better bandwidth and less crosstalk from other channels. For all above, Imilab asks $

Whatever AI features Imilab C22 brings to the table, I’m ready!

Not for Imilab Home

I foolishly assumed, that just like the previous model, the Imilab C22 would pair with Imilab Home. The camera yelled at me for trying to pair it this way and told me to use Mi Home (Xiaomi Home) instead. I already have a Xiaomi DLP projector, Xiaomi 1S vacuum and Xiaomi Mop in that ecosystem – so I was familiar with it.

Once I had the correct app open, Imilab C22 paired in seconds. I guess the WiFi6 is no joke! The next step was to load the IP camera with a decent micro SD card and let it spy on me. After all, their website says very little about the product and if you want to know what to expect, someone has to test it!

Mi Home

My first impressions are great. The camera stream opens quickly. It takes about a second to start the stream on my local network from the Device Card. I like that you can quickly check the stream without loading the entire interface. You can’t move the camera around, but it gives you an instant idea of what’s going on.

The proper camera interface loads equally fast and I’m greeted by various options to enable 2-way audio, record or screenshot the stream and pan the camera around. Timeline is available in both timeline and event views. Thankfully, the video thumbnails load correctly – it may take a refresh to see all the thumbnails – but they are handy. The timeline itself comes with handy filter options to add or remove custom events. These are colour-coded and show up depending on which triggers have been selected. Thanks to these filters, finding the right event type across the timeline was easy.

Audio/Video

The image quality is really good. It’s not the resolution that won me over but the wide dynamic range that delivers even in the worst lighting conditions. Thanks to the 3K resolution the image, even when zoomed in retains details.

Usually, it’s the outdoor IP cameras that get the bump in resolution, so it’s nice to see all these extra pixels available on Imilab C22. Are they necessary? No, but the IP camera isn’t very expensive either. Overall, the video is great, served at 20FPS with options to reduce bandwidth in case the camera is accessed using a paid data plan.

Audio

As Imilab C22 supports 2-way audio, you can have a conversation with whoever is on the other side of the device. The speaker is loud enough to fill the room with sound and the voice coming through the IP camera is clear. It won’t win awards, but it doesn’t have to.

The microphone is average at best. Annoyingly, I found out that while the 2-way conversation works okay, recordings of these (or anything using audio for that matter) are very subpar. To actually showcase what the microphone is like, I had to record the screen of my phone rather than using built-in tools. I didn’t have these issues with the other Imilab camera I covered.

Night time

Thanks to the street lights, there is always enough light in my living room for the Imilab C22 to use advanced night mode. It never had to resolve to infra-red-based black and white streams. It speaks volumes about how good the sensor is.

Even at night, the stream is detailed and you can zoom in without noise degrading the video quality. I wondered, why the camera doesn’t have a LED light – now I know that having one would be a total overkill.

NAS, Cloud and SD cards

I suspect the extra options are available thanks to the Mi Home app. Once you pop in a micro SD card (supports 256GB), the NAS option appears. You can mirror files to another machine on your local network. A 32GB card was filled in just over 2 days. The files from the card are stored as .mp4, however, they are just listed in bulk. Searching for a specific file will be hard. Each file is approximately 130MB and has 15min of video shot at 20FPS.

I had a tough time locating my Raspberry Pi-based NAS inside Argon Eon, but shares from my Windows 10 and Windows 11 machines showed up right away. It’s an option many will welcome, especially since I could not see RTSP settings.

Detection

Let’s start with automatic human following. It is reliable at aiming at humans and following them around, but when I remain stationary, Imilab C22 has a habit of reframing the position a little too often. Thankfully, the camera is very quiet, but I can tell when it is re-adjusting its frame, even though I have not moved away from my seat.

Visual detection isn’t the only option available. Sudden sounds, baby screams and broken windows can trigger phone notifications too. I don’t have toddlers to spare to verify if the camera could double as a peculiar baby monitor, but adult screams work well. The detection type can be customised in the push notification section.

The zone detection is also available, but it was the Face Detection that let me down. This option is only available to customers with Cloud Storage active. Another disappointment was the Android notifications. Each message contains the detection type and timestamp with camera name/location, but no thumbnail. You’ll have to open the app to see what’s going on. Thankfully, in the event list, each entry comes with a thumbnail.

Final thoughts

It’s a shame that Face Detection is tied to the cloud account. I’d love to use this as a trigger for custom automation. There are things that could be accessed thanks to Xiaomi API, but as the camera lacks the dedicated RSTP stream setting, it could be the argument against it for anyone into DIY automation. At $59.99 (Imilab Store|AliExpress) it’s an interesting choice for home security that brings great video performance to your Mi Home automation. Are you interested? Let me know in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈💵 – See the transparency note for details.

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