HomeReviewSwitchBot Camera PT dropped the antlers

SwitchBot Camera PT dropped the antlers

PT= [Pan, Tilt]

A while back, I received a pre-production model of SwitchBot Camera PT in a seriously impressive advent calendar from SwitchBot. While I shared a bit of feedback about the cute, antlered prototype, I was actively discouraged from finalising my opinion until I get a production model instead. Spring has come, SwitchBot Camera PT (AmazonUK, AmazonUS, SwitchBot Store) dropped the festive antlers and shaken off the bugs. Let’s talk IP cameras again.

SwitchBot Camera PT

If you don’t follow SwitchBot, you should know that SwitchBot Camera PT is not their first rodeo with security IP cameras. Some time ago, I reviewed their less mobile offering labelled as SwitchBot Indoor Cam. A bigger, and more movable brother has joined the ranks and it’s available for purchase through SwitchBot Store and Amazon fronts (UK, US) at £29.99/$39.99 as well as the official SwitchBot store.

Inside the eco-friendly box, you will find the SwitchBot Camera PT, a wall bracket safety pin, screws and a regionalised charger with a micro USB cable. No matter how loud I moan, some companies keep resisting the urge of adding a USB-C port. Dear SwitchBot – we all love USB-C and your products have shown that it’s possible to add one! Sort it out!

SwitchBot Camera PT
SwitchBot Camera PT and everything you will find in the box

It’s a 1080p IP camera with the ability to tilt and move 360 degrees around. It hooks up to your 2.4GHz network and takes a minute or so to pair and get rolling. Among other features you will find:

  • 2-way audio
  • IR based night mode
  • microSD card support
  • object tracking

Traditionally, you will find the built-in speaker at the back of the camera, the microphone next to the lens and the microSD (recommended cards: AmazonUK, AmazonUS) card slot with support up to 128GB.

Audio/video

At first, I thought that SwitchBot Camera PT would feature the same optics as the SiwtchBot Indoor Cam, but after taking a closer look, the field of view has changed. Chances are that the hardware underneath it is still the same but the new IP camera has definitely been treated to new optics.

The recorded (and exported as mp4) footage is 1080p at 20fps, the individual clips take up about 8MB per minute. A typical 32GB card should last you about 4 days with the constant recording enabled (stored on the card as .media files).

The resolution is OK, but any attempt of zooming in on the footage will lead to an immediate loss in quality. Ideally, you’d point SwitchBot Camera PT at objects that are not further than 5-7m to retain as many details as possible. The video footage itself is good without compression artefacts and pointing the camera at trees didn’t result in a blob of an image each time the wind blew on it. That’s quite good, as some IP cameras are terrible at dealing with motion.

It’s an indoor camera so the dynamic range isn’t impressive. If you are thinking about placing it near the window, shadows can become quite dark. Unlike the stationary cameras, you can simply change the viewing angle to re-adjust the exposure. The image itself is optimised for indoors.

While mounted on the ceiling upside down, the camera has no blind spots, in a free-standing position the camera can get only so low, limiting how much down it can see. It’s not a big issue, but something to be mindful of it, if you are going to put SwitchBot Camera PT high up.

At night camera switches to a familiar, IR based, black & white recording which works well thanks to an array of hidden IR diodes illuminating the surrounding area.

Audio

As the camera comes with an onboard microphone and speaker, you can hold a 2-way conversation. Using the app the latency is really low and the sound, microphone sensitivity and how your voice comes through – are genuinely good. SwitchBot Camera PT punches way above its price tag in that regard.

Detection

The camera can detect and track motion and scan pre-set locations. The sound of the moving SwitchBot Camera PT servos isn’t loud, but if you are sitting in a quiet room, you will be able to hear it.

The detection is split into motion detection and human recognition. Additionally, the sensitivity can be adjusted to one of 3 levels. As I don’t own any pets, I’m unable to verify if the ‘Human Only” is able to filter your animal movement out. The camera in the following mode does a decent job of following you, but if you are close to the SwitchBot Camera PT it may confuse itself as it is unable to determine where that pesky human left. Similar applies when the camera points through the window. In the follow mode, trees and wind can set the mode off and you will end up with the camera trying to look for ghosts in the wind. It’s not a camera for outdoors, so I’m not holding this against it.

SwitchBot Camera PT
SwitchBot Camera PT with privacy shield enabled

SwitchBot has thought about panning around too, and the cruise schedule is available. Users can specify the time of the cruise pass and the camera will scan around the entire field of view in 5-sec increments to give you a feel for the environment around.

One of the things that SwitchBot needs to work on (and they are aware of this already) is the fact that mobile notification about motion detection doesn’t have a thumbnail and doesn’t take you directly to the motion event. It simply opens up the app and leaves you to figure out which camera triggered the motion and how to find it. Thankfully, the message section for each camera lists motion events and thumbnails, which makes it easier to find the desired footage.

Features & Smarts

SwitchBot always brings exciting automation with their new products, and this time around is no different. Built-in scenes allow automating camera basic settings like:

  • Motion detection on/off
  • Privacy Mode on/off
  • Recording on/off

But also move the camera to one of 4 preset positions. It’s a handy feature to point the camera in a specific direction when the motion is detected by one of their motion sensors or take a peek at the door when the SwitchBot contact sensor triggers.

For peace of mind, the privacy shield has a physical implementation as well. SwitchBot Camera PT will roll its eye inside the enclosure and then cut the feed off until enabled again. A quick glance at the camera and you know that the device respects your privacy as requested

Smart assistant

In my tests with the Alexa ecosystem, the skill loaded up the camera feed in about 6 seconds and the delay is further reduced to about 1 sec. SwitchBot IP cameras are one of the most responsive ones when it comes to streaming the content over screen enabled devices.

SwitchBot Camera PT and Amazon Echo Show

The microphone has a good pickup and the conversation via Alexa devices won’t give you any problems. It’s a shame that I cannot control the position of the camera directly from Alexa Show. You will have to trigger a voice control to move the camera to desired preset or adjust the angle using the SwitchBot app.

The app

As the SwitchBot collection grows, almost identical cards in the device overview make it harder to locate the devices you need. Sure there is a custom order option, but I would like to see the ability to colour code these. SwitchBot, I know you are reading this – so that’s a free suggestion for you.

The menu for SwitchBot Camera PT brings the most useful options in the Features tab, while settings are well laid out in device options. Events are grouped in a separate tab for easy access, but the camera timeline (subject to storage) also shows up active recording sessions.

The app offers additional settings to schedule event detection and continuous recording mode in case you don’t want to skip a beat. What’s not present in the settings is the ability to adjust the event recording parameters, and these are set to 15 sec per motion detection.

SwitchBot cloud – backup associated with the camera offers 30-day event recording service with monthly (£5.60) and yearly payments (£56.00) per camera.

What’s missing

You have noticed that I haven’t mentioned support for RTSP. It’s because it’s not there. Right now you can store the footage on micro SD cards or cloud plans provided by SwitchBot. I remember asking them about RTSP when the indoor camera came out, but so far no steps were taken that would add it.

Another thing that rubs me the wrong way is the file export. To share the footage from SwitchBot, you have to find them even in the timeline (or current playback) hit record (or capture a screenshot) then go to the in-app gallery to share the clip with other apps or save it in the local storage. Can we just agree, that if I hit the screenshot/record button, I’m absolutely ok with the files being available directly on my Android device?

Final thoughts

SwitchBot Camera PT (AmazonUK, AmazonUS, SwitchBot Store) brings decent features and automation to the SwitchBot ecosystem and does it at a very attractive price point. While some of you will be turned off by the lack of RTSP, having access to SwitchBot API is a plus in my book and I wouldn’t be surprised if SwitchBot decided to listen to our feedback and make their products better. Let me know what you think about SwitchBot Camera PT in this Reddit thread.

🆓📈 💵- See the transparency note for details.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Video
Audio
Smart Integration
Motion detection
App

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A while back, I received a pre-production model of SwitchBot Camera PT in a seriously impressive advent calendar from SwitchBot. While I shared a bit of feedback about the cute, antlered prototype, I was actively discouraged from finalising my opinion until I get a...SwitchBot Camera PT dropped the antlers