I couldn’t help but chuckle when the latest IP camera from Sonoff showed up on the list of my devices with the default name “S-CAM”. Somehow this slipped through the cracks before the product had been rebranded to Sonoff Cam Slim. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only product design mistake and the further I went with my review the more I asked myself: Sonoff, what the hell were you thinking?
Sonoff Cam Slim – 2nd time the charm?
Sonoff CAM Slim is the second IP camera from Sonoff. The previous device – poetically named: SONOFF GK-200M, brought enough to the table to keep consumers interested in offering the device at a very affordable price point (under $30). The new device lacks PT capability, but it comes in a more compact package and modern look.
Off to a great start
The unboxing alone left me with a nice feeling inside. Sonoff Cam Slim is priced at $26.90, but from the product design standpoint, it punches way above its price tag. The camera looks sleek and modern. Despite no colour options, it will blend in well thanks to a timeless shape and slim profile.
I’m used to Sonoff products, so much in fact, that I recognise their products from the plastic used to create the enclosures. This time it’s different. The plastic reminds me of these used on Aqara or Xiaomi devices. It’s nice to the touch, modern and fills you with confidence. All that without the premium price.
The camera sports a 1080p sensor utilising a 130-degree angle, which is more than enough for indoor use and comes with a built-in speaker and microphone for two-way audio. It connects to your usual 2.4Ghz WiFi. The universal stand lets you mount the camera on walls, and ceilings or simply can be used as a stand. It works well, and the camera can be tilted in all directions without tipping itself. It has a built-in magnet as well just in case you have magnetic surfaces around. Brilliant!
Hidden under the camera cradle, you’ll find a tripod mount (1/4″ thread), Sonoff Cam Slim brings IR lights, and support for micro SD cards up to 256GB. There’s even a USB-C port which is shocking.
The only thing that sticks out is the pairing process. It uses sound pairing to connect to your network. It’s the most annoying way to pair, but the device connects quickly and then you can forget about that annoying sound.
It feels like you are getting your money’s worth, right?
Before I drop the bombshell, let’s talk about the footage for a bit. Sonoff Cam Slim is a budget choice so I won’t hold against it 1080p footage or even the average 10-12FPS. It’s far from fluid, but not deal-breaking if individual frames are sharp. Unfortunately, limited frames and compression don’t make it easier to get clear details in freeze-frame mode and moving objects are likely to end up smeared, blurred or compressed.
The sensor’s dynamic range is decent and unless pointed directly at sunny windows, the image is nicely exposed and there are enough details even in the shadow to figure out what’s going on. It’s an indoor camera, conditions inside are more favourable.
What’s puzzling is the fact that you cannot zoom in on the picture inside the eWeLink app. The only way you can zoom in is by recording the footage and opening it on your phone in a video player app.
At night, the footage is streamed thanks to IR diodes. The black and white images and videos are sharp and crisp, although still shot at a low framerate. I really like the sensitivity of the sensor, as it makes the night footage look very bright. What’s strange, there are no settings for triggering the night mode. It’s applied automatically.
The audio is pretty decent too. The speaker sounds relatively nice for the size and the microphone has a decent pickup. It’s not as good as on SwitchBot Camera but it will do the job and you will be able to figure out what’s going on.
What’s interesting is how Sonoff Cam Slim stores the footage on the micro SD card. Files are saved as .mp4. These are recorded in 10min intervals with motion events breaking them up into smaller pieces.
This is the part of the review where my praise is almost over. From now on, I’ll be looking at features wondering, what they are thinking? At the moment, Sonoff Cam Slim has only a single detection mode which can be set to low/med/high. Additionally, you can also specify the detection schedule.
For some reason, the camera can’t be set to record motion events only. eWeLink options allow you to set the recording schedule, or record constantly. No event recording setting whatsoever.
Wait, pay for what?
I lied a little.
Event recording is pay-walled. Set at £4.59 (or £31.99 a year) monthly per camera, the plan offered by eWeLink unlocks event recording, cloud storage and microphone pass-through for smart speakers. You are reading this right. To trigger the camera from an external sensor or use it in motion event recording mode, you need to subscribe to the eWeLink service. The footage will be recorded to the cloud (and SD card) and the camera will save up to 5 minutes of the event’s footage.
Motion detection events are stored on the micro SD card only if the continuous recording is enabled. I have been given a trial to test these features, but I can’t help but feel like I’m paying for stuff I get on other cameras for free.
It quickly goes from bad to worse. If you think you can use Automation Scenes to bypass the paywalled options, think again. The only action available in smart scenes for Sonoff Cam Slim is: “sound alarm”. No options to activate/deactivate recording or anything else.
The idea behind event triggers isn’t new or novel, and it is usually handled by the automation panels in Tuya or similar apps. SwitchBot has excellent camera options linked to smart actions and these come free. I’m not sure what Sonoff is trying to gain here. If anything, it will make their regular customers angry.
There are 2 redeeming qualities at this point. Sonoff Cam Slim connects to smart speakers via eWeLink skill and streams the footage quickly. The latency is minimal and you can talk with whoever is on the other side without any problems (with voice passthrough being subject to an account subscription).
The second advantage is the easy-to-use RTSP support. Simply provide your credentials and the stream is sent to your RTSP server. Most of the IP cameras I covered either don’t have an easy implementation of this (hello Imou!), use a strange workaround (hi, Aqara G2H Pro) or just don’t bother at all (hey SwitchBot!).
To enable it, go to the camera settings, specify your security credentials and generate the link which then can be used to send the stream from the camera. It will look like this:
I hate the software
Paywall aside, the Sonoff Cam Slim is lacking in options. There are no privacy options, detection zones or anything remotely advanced. What’s more annoying is the fact that the layout for timeline browsing is simply impractical.
While other brands give you a timeline, that you can scroll and access at glance all motion events, Sonoff insists on having a countless number of message-style cards for motion events and recordings. It’s highly impractical, as views also require you to search for the correct date.
Access to the camera from LAN is pretty quick, however, once you are outside your local network it takes a long time to connect to the camera. It’s not an issue with my connection either, as I have tested this against other cameras I own.
What makes it all even less fun, is the fact that for some reason my thumbnails in the cloud and local storage weren’t loading at all. I was sent an early version of the camera, and apparently, this is fixed in the consumer units, but how I suppose to review a product of things is simply not working. A couple of days into my evaluation, the cloud thumbnails started to appear (clearing cache, re-installing, re-paring camera – didn’t help) so I get a preview of the cloud videos, but not the ones stored locally.
Fortunately, the notifications are working fine, and take me directly to the motion event. Sadly the event I’m taken to, often times out and I need to reload the content and the thumbnail appears in the notification inconsistently. You will have to open the app and find out what triggered it yourself.
The only thing that the software does well is the footage recording. Snap a picture or record the video and it’s automatically saved in your media folder. The same goes for the motion clips – you can download the whole clip to your storage.
I love Sonoff products, and I never fail to praise the ones that truly deserve, but for the first time, I feel that Sonoff completely missed the mark with their Sonoff Cam Slim. The camera hardware (with exception of the low framerate) is really good for its price, but the software implementation and paywalls, make me want to chuck this thing in the corner and forget it ever existed. All issues mentioned in this review could be fixed by software/firmware updates. The question is: will Sonoff listen to the feedback and sales numbers? As it stands right now, I do not like this camera at all. Let me know how you feel about this in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.