It’s been some time since I covered an outdoor IP camera, and Imilab has sent me one to try. Their website features a selection of products including smart cleaners, watches and other security products. At $64.99, it’s one of the more affordable security cameras to use outside so let’s take a closer look at what’s on offer.
Getting in trouble
I’m no longer a master of my fate, and as soon as I stuck the camera outside of the apartment building I’m currently renting a flat, an email complaint came to my box claiming that I have “installed an illegal security system”. I truthfully replied that I have not installed anything and that an IP camera perched on the window sill is hardly a bother considering another 3 CCTV cameras pointing at the same area. I guess I’m a rebel – but I’m willing to go through all sorts of trouble to deliver this review!
IMILAB EC3 Lite
What I have on my hands is a wireless IP camera IMILAB EC3 Lite. It works with 2.4GHz WiFi where the signal is boosted by the small external antennas and it’s powered by a 12V brick (which arrived with an EU plug). The unit looks sturdy and brings an IP66 rating to keep the electronics inside intact.
It features 2K stream resolution, 2-way audio, a security siren and colour night vision thanks to LED lights. Various AI options enable intelligent event detection and Imilab is also offering a 3-month trial of their cloud storage. In case you’d like to keep things local, IMILAB EC3 Lite supports microSD cards. You can access the slot for the card at the bottom of the camera, next to its, rather loud, speaker.
The mount fixes the camera to a wall or a ceiling with screws and the joint allows enough flexibility to set the camera in any orientation.
Security is up
To manage your security feed, you’ll need the Imilab Home app. While it’s yet another app to my smart home collection, the setup was painless. The camera promptly paired with the app and once I entered my 2GHz WiFi credentials I was ready to go. It’s not the only IP camera from Imilab I received, the other one I have uses the Xiaomi app instead. I was curious to see if IMILAB EC3 Lite would work with the Xiaomi Home app as well, but I was not able to pair it. I switched back to the Imilab Home app instead after a couple of tries.
The app works fine, but it’s clear that translations could be better. Opened/Close stands for Enabled/Disabled – once you get past small quirks like that, everything important works well.
Things I liked about the app
The ability to switch from event list to timeline isn’t new, but the colour-coded events are easy to browse and each event type can be toggled, so it won’t show up on the timeline. It’s a neat way to display only events that matter.
Things I didn’t like
Translation aside, all events in the event view (on an SD card) show up with a stock thumbnail. No matter how long I wait, these never change to anything remotely useful. What’s the point of having a thumbnail if it doesn’t hint at what’s in the video? The thumbnails are present in the Home Surveillance tab, but the images are static and don’t take you to the actual video.
The same applies to push notifications. They tell you what type of event triggered the notification, but the Android notification features no thumbnail. Having the ability to decide on the spot if the notification warrants further investigation inside the app would be more than welcomed.
Unfortunately, there are no options for RTSP support. You will be limited to exporting clips manually through your phone. I know this may be a deal breaker for many of you. I have no info if this could be enabled or added in the future.
I’m in the UK. The app’s region is set to Europe. I’m mentioning this as the only skill I could find for Alexa, which required the region to be set to: China, the US, Mexico, Canada or Brazil. I’m not sure what are the plans for the IP camera to be supported by smart speakers at the moment.
The video feed loads very quickly. I can access it on my LAN in 2-3 seconds. The camera brings a 2K streaming resolution which adds that extra detail to the image. This comes especially handy for the IP cameras that are fitted outside. They monitor larger areas by default. The feed captures good video filling the hard shadows with enough details to make it useful.
When zoomed in, compression artifacts are present especially when pointing the camera at trees or grass, but the overall picture quality is good. Support for WDR is also appreciated especially if you expect the sun to get in the frame of the camera at some point.
The audio is loud. So loud that actually bothered me in the setup. I could not find options to turn the speaker down a notch. Blasting AI-generated prompts at full volume at 11 pm is not what I wanted to submit my neighbours to. It is in fact loud and clear when it comes to 2 way conversations. You will have absolutely no problem being heard and listening to whatever the intruder has got to say in his defence.
The 32GB card fills up quickly due to the resolution and the quality of the storage. A 260MB file can be easily accessed from the SD card as it’s saved as .mp4 but it has no information about when the file was recorded. These are best exported via the app. A single file stores approx 20-25min of footage recorded in 2304×1296 px at 15FPS. A 32GB card should last about 2 days before the content will be overwritten. In my tests, I used ScanDisk 32GB A1 Class microSD card.
IMILAB EC3 Lite offers 2 modes: typical infrared (black and white). and night colour vision that uses built-in LED spotlights to illuminate the area. In both modes that camera is very capable. Path illumination was enough to keep the videos bright and in colour despite the camera being set to infrared only. This mode is reserved for near-pitch-black conditions.
What’s really strange is the fact that you cannot enable LED floodlights at will. There are automated settings for night vision, but there is no option to turn the lights on when streaming the footage from the camera.
I can’t tell how many motion events I missed, but the fact that IMILAB EC3 Lite detects all the wildlife in front of the apartment complex is both amusing and reassuring. I have recordings of small birds and hedgehogs rummaging through the grass as well as random insects triggering events.
As each detection type can be filtered and customised, it’s easy to limit push notifications to what’s needed. Human detection seems to be spot on. For the first time I got to see some of my neighbours. IMILAB EC3 Lite definitely logged each time I left and entered the building.
I have seen activity zones before, but it’s the first time I come across the Border Crossing option. A line (or rectangle) can be drawn onto the area, which once crossed will trigger alarms. That’s an interesting take on creating virtual fences. It’s a shame that the rectangle always needs to be square. I’d love to draw a custom shape which would reflect the area’s features.
I appreciate the fact, that each detection type comes with its own schedule, audio/visual alarm options and push notifications. If you use an audio/visual alarm, both the floodlight and siren will be used at once. I found no settings to disable the sound and use the floodlight only. However, you have the option to record your voice and use the siren to play this back when a person is detected.
By this point, you probably know if IMILAB EC3 Lite is for you. It’s reasonably priced and comes with some interesting detection options. I found it to be reliable, but I’m aware that the lack of RTSP will put some of you off. If you think this is the IP camera for you, then you can get it from this link. If you want to see a slightly different take on Imilab indoor camera, then I’ll have one more camera that uses the Xiaomi ecosystem instead. If you have any questions, let me know in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈💵 – See the transparency note for details.