Anyone with an IP camera at home knows how annoying wiring one can be. Going WiFi removed one of the problems, but the power lead is still required on most of the IP cameras available out there. Imou Cell 2 (AmazonUK, AmazonUS) brings complete wireless freedom and combines it with 2K resolution. Sounds exciting right? I have one here, so let’s see if the execution is flawless as well.
After reviewing Imou cameras from the Ranger series (indoor use) and Bullet range (outdoor) I have an idea of what to expect from their ecosystem. Imou Cell 2 is the first 2K IP camera I have in my hands and comes with complete wireless freedom (WiFi and battery operation). I talked about their 4MP cameras in the past, but these required a power source. Right off the bat, it solves the most annoying aspect of owning the camera: routing the wires.
Inside the box, you’ll find a blocky, but un-offending white IP camera: Imou Cell 2 which looks like a cross between Xiaomi Wanbo projector and a HiFi speaker (I have a white model, the black version is also available). It will blend well on a shelf but can be a bit of a sore thumb when wall mounted. Inside the box, you can find a 360-degree wall mount, charging cable and a hefty battery. There was a microSD card already included in the package – nice touch!
It looks like Imou went all-in with the feature list. From the things that didn’t make the cut – I found only one position – no USB-C – the charging port is still micro USB. I guess Imou still has a stock of these ports before they join the 21st century. On a positive note we have:
- 2K resolution
- Dual band WiFi (2.4GHz & 5GHz)
- local/cloud/RTSP storage
- LED light & IR sensor
- two way audio
- Human & motion detection
- Battery power
Honestly, Imou Cell 2 is where I want all IP cameras to be (with USB-C of course) as it’s the first camera in my hands to offer enhanced resolution, dual-band WiFi and the ability to go wireless. Flexibility is its strongest suit. All this comes with a bit of weight and bulk. It’s not the smallest IP camera at: 6x6x11.5cm.
One thing that you will need to get used to is boot time. Without subscription each time I want to access the camera files, I have to wait a couple of seconds for the camera to boot up and be available online – something that constantly connected cameras (like the Imou Ranger series) don’t go through. It’s a trade-off you have to live with if you want to have a wire-free experience. Alternatively, files stored in the cloud don’t suffer from similar issues.
Thanks to QHD (2K) the image has a bit more detail than a typical 1080p outdoor camera which is very helpful in the situations where the camera is placed outside, far away from probable objects of interest., That extra resolution can be a difference between having a clear shot of an intruder or just an impression of his face.
The video quality is pretty good too. Exported files may have an occasional compression artefact here and there, but nothing that stood out to me as an issue. The attached audio is clear and loud, which comes in handy when investigating voices and conversations.
I only wish the dynamic range of the sensor was a bit better. On particularly sunny days shaded areas appear quite dark which isn’t ideal, especially since Imou Cell 2 has a stationary position and can’t be re-adjusted to re-balance the exposure of the frame.
Smart Night Vision
Thanks to built-in LEDspotlight, the camera is cable of streaming colour video at night. The behaviour of the Imou Cell 2 can be set manually, but the smart option will switch on the spotlight and display (and record) colour video when motion is detected. It helps keep a low profile when in sleep mode and provides an extra deterrent should anyone stumble into the camera’s range.
The spotlight isn’t very bright but enough to illuminate the area around to stream the colour footage.
Detection on Imou Cell 2 is split into two categories: AI aided human detection and motion events. Youn can tailor both of them by scheduling the active time and setting movement thresholds. In line with other Imou cameras, the active area of the frame is present and you can select the parts of the screen which will respond to the motion.
There is one thing to bear in mind. The camera stays in sleep until motion is detected. Looking at the footage, there is about a 2-3 seconds delay between motion which wakes up the camera and the start of the recording. If the footage from the camera is important to set the trigger points further away to make sure you get the action recorded.
It’s not the first time I revisit the app. It’s well designed and works great with single or multiple cameras. The connection with Imou Cell 2 takes about 5-8 seconds as the camera has to have enough time to wake up and start streaming content on-demand. It’s a trade-off you have to pay for having a battery-powered IP camera.
Imou promises up to 6 months of use on a single charge in the lab conditions. That timeframe will depend on how often you are streaming the content over and how frequent the motion events occur. The camera comes with various preset options that let you configure the battery saving options like the duration of the recording or the resolution of the video.
In my test I went all-in with QHD resolution, generous record time and sensitivity cranked up all the way up. I also disabled human detection to increase the count of events recorded by the camera. This is probably the most power-hungry scenario, even if it’s not entirely practical. To make things harder I placed the camera outside in near 0-5℃ temperatures to give its battery run for its money.
In 48h with about 80 motion events recorded, the battery charge dropped from 100% to 95% which gives you about 40 days. With the 6 day recording in that mode, bringing the battery down to 89%. It’s miles away from 6 months promised by Imou, but I’m running it in a hardcore mode. Add sensible detection policies and parameters and you will double that time easily even on a busy day.
As the battery can be easily replaced, you may consider getting a dedicated charger and spare battery which will go on sale around April. On top of that, the PR person for Imou confirmed a dedicated solar panel to keep the camera topped up – also available around April. A fun fact is that you can also plug in your micro USB cable directly into the battery – the removable battery has a charging port too.
A 32GB micro card was included in the box, which will last you for a long time. A minute-long video recording at max resolution takes up about 10MB. A 32GB card will last you a very long time. If that’s not enough, Imou offers paid cloud plans to take advantage of. They are easy to sign up for and reasonably priced.
- 3 day backup from £1.79
- 7 day backup from £2.59
- 30 day backup from £5.69
It’s a shame that files stored on the microSD card are locked behind a
.DAV file format. Exporting and sharing the footage will require the Imou app.
As the device can be left plugged in, it would be nice to see an option to record continuously, unfortunately, I’m limited to motion recording only. It’s a shame, as it would add to the versatility of the Imou Cell 2.
At the moment, Alexa integration isn’t working. The action to show the camera simply times out. It’s probably due to how long it takes to send the request and then wait for the camera to be fully awake and stream content. I spoke to Imou reps about it, and the fix should be implemented around the 15th of Feb 2022. I’m willing to give them the benefit of doubt, as they handled other issues in a timely manner.
RTSP made… not easy
There is no mention of NVR on the product page for Imou Cell 2 however the camera supports it, at least not officially. It’s the same as with Imou Bullet 2E which supports NVR unofficially.
Long story short, the NVR works via ONVIF, but the setup is messy (not documented). To make it work (I verified the stream with VLC) Depending on your client, you will need to provide the URL stream. The Imou Cell 2 uses 554 and 37777 ports to output the stream.
To get the safety code, navigate to your camera options in the IMOU app and you will find a barcode in the general camera information with a safety code listed. This is the password to use the RTSP stream from the camera. To troubleshoot and manage the camera you can use the manufacturer software from this page. There is a configuration tool and NVR SmartPSS software that you can try with the camera.
Thanks to the Windows version of the IMOU app, you can set up your IMOU cameras with the NVR software provided. The software will take care of the monitoring for you, offering similar options to the Android counterpart.
Just remember that streaming drains the camera battery quickly and while it works, it’s not the intended option for the camera.
Imou Cell 2 (AmazonUK, AmazonUS) is a great camera for indoor and outdoor use. With solar panels on the way and options to keep the camera powered up via USB cable, it will fit almost all scenarios. Now we need a version of Imou Cell 2 with 2 axis controls and we have a perfect lineup to pick from. You can get the camera for £109 (be sure to use code NOTENOUGH20 to get an extra 20% off your Amazon order!) which may seem daunting at first, but considering the features included, it’s not a bad deal. It’s not a deal you will regret either. Let me know what do you think about this camera in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈💵 – See the transparency note for details.