Switchbot Outdoor Spotlight Cam and Solar Panel

I’m finding the brand new Switchbot Outdoor Spotlight Camera to be quite exciting. I have a pair of them with separately supplied solar panels.

Elsewhere on the web you may see reviews of these cameras sitting in the sun – well, for now this one will be the stormy-season review.

These two cameras arrived before the official release date and I got about half a day of brilliant sunshine before the heavens opened up. Thunder, lightning and mud – AWFUL weather.

Let’s take a look – the camera is a white non-pan-tilt outdoor unit which sits in a plastic support fitting which can be wall mounted with supplied screws and plugs – doesn’t look that “outdoors” – but apparently that’s the intention.

The separately supplied solar panel is a nice-looking job – I expect the panel to handle the weather well from what I’ve seen so far. The camera I wasn’t too sure about but fate had it that these guys were and are still testing “at the deep end” as it were.

Pretty standard setup – the Switchbot APP (mine is on Android) quickly recognises the cameras (and as my Switchbot sensors already work with Google Home and MATTER I don’t expect any surprises there).

Both cameras are sitting outside right now, perched on our above-ground pool here in normal-sunny Spain, one facing in toward the house, the other facing the valley and distant mountains – and are they getting a beating? Yes. One has had a solar panel attached for a couple of days (mainly in the rain with little sign of any sun), the other got a quick solar charge before the heavens opened. So instead of the usual posed ideal photos…..

In the photo above, just taken, this was the first time in a couple of days I’ve been brave enough to go out and take pictures – the others were taken indoors through a mesh. It’s still raining but at least everything is no longer covered in mud. You want to know if these €99 cameras can handle weather extremes? The only sun we’ve had recently has been that morning of intense sunshine – Spanish intense – the rest of the time they’ve been sitting getting absolutely soaked. The rightmost camera with no panel still shows around 80% charge.

Switchbot camera 1
Switchbot camera 2

The above photos came via the APP this morning from the two cameras you see in the top photo.

The photos below I took on my phone showing the pool with the two Switchbots sitting getting a soaking yesterday – in the first image I only had one of the cameras outside with its solar panel – no way I was going outdoors.

A single Switchbot camera

Image below – a rief respite from the rain so I went out armed with camera 2

Both Switchbot cameras

The image below-left will hopefully give you an idea of just how bad the weather was throught most of my testing time – still raining now a couple of days later but nothing like the horrendous storms of the previous day.

June 7, 2023: Both cameras are working just fine. I should say that the Switchbot APP occasionally won’t start up on my Samsung S23 phone – coming up only with a black screen.

Stopping the APP always solves the issue but there does seem to be a problem at least between my Samsung S23 Ultra phone as this “dead APP” phenomenon is not happening with other APPS.

June 8, 2023: The camera (Spot Cam 1) I left attached to the solar panel out in the bad weather remains absolutely fine. The camera not connected to power (Spot Cam 2), last night stopped talking to the APP. I brought the camera indoors overnight (no power, just brought it in overnight) and although the green light was on and off, the camera was not responding to the APP…”offline”.

I plugged the Spot Cam 2 into USB power for a couple of minutes this morning and I noted a snapshot of me appear in the APP, timed 06:40am today, but on trying to activate live video the camera still reported “offline” so using the little on/off button on the back, I turned it off, then on.

The green light started flashing frantically then settled down… the camera came back online reporting maybe 70% battery – so it was not a power issue.

Right now I can’t explain why it stopped working in this way. Time will tell if this was a one-off issue or not. I’ll just leave it outside again today with no power (remember, power level around 70% this morning). At 7am the weather is fine, light rain is expected about mid-day.

I should say at this point that my powered Imou cameras and APP have never done this and simple work – but it is too early to start forming opinions..

9AM, the second cam is once again showing OFFLINE while still capturing my static image as I approach the cam – how can it be offline and yet get an image to my phone? 9:01am human detected…. (and an unflattering photo of me in my night gown – no I’m not putting the image up) – yet right now I’ve brought the camera back into my office, it’s green light is flashing slowly, The APP says the camera is offline…and it is no longer returning images of me… so how did it get that 9:01am image and return it to the APP if it was already offline? – I’m going to try giving this a USB charge as the logic behind this failure is escaping me other than a lingering thought that the battery level indicator might be miles out or there’s a software bug… the camera is dry incidentally.

WOAH this is blowing my mind. I plugged into USB power, waited a minute, turned the camera off then on and throughout all of this the APP shows the camera as being offline – except that the little battery indicator now shows “charging” – how does it do that if it is offline? I unplugged the power and seconds later – I backed out of the APP and back in – now the camera is showing as offline again – but still at around 70% charged.

I then turned my phone fully off then on. Camera 2 still offline (while camera 1 is still showing up perfectly). HELP in the APP says “make sure the firmware is up to date” – a little difficult when the camera is offline. I feel a reset coming on. With USB power applied… short reset, no change.

Long reset – a set of beeps from the camera and a red flashing light.. delete the device in the APP – add a device… add 2.4Ghz WiFi… camera makes a beep – “new firmware available” – “proceed to upgrade”…. black screen on the APP… back to main screen – back to APP – FIRMWARE VERSON -Bluetooth – “Getting data…” – WIFI V2.1.19 as before – ok, I’ll wait… not seeing any flashing on the camera, just the steady green light…. 10 minutes later – still “getting data”.

If I touch the area that says “Getting data…” I see a screen that just says “Firmware Version” under the heading “Firmware version”. Something wrong here, I back out to the “Getting data…” page. still no change 15 minutes later. If I backout again I’m into the main camera 2 screen with a live video of me. If I go into settings there’s an orange dot next to firmware version.. that takes me back to “Getting data…” – I’m convinced something is broken here… back to my main screen showing camera 2 live video – battery still at maybe 75% – no sign of charging – so I change to a different charger/lead combo – still not charging but still showing live video.

A lot of faff, to be sure, but in the end after a couple of days of good sunlight the cameras seem to be ok, sitting outside on test. However there is still an issue with the Bluetooth update – I’m just ignoring it – and now I looks, on both cameras the Bluetooth version says 0.7.

September 2023 Update

I went off at the end of July for a break in the UK and put the cameras in a dark cupboard. It’s now September 3 and I just remembered I left the cameras in there. One of them was STILL WORKING – the other is now charging. It looks like a full charge from empty is going to take much of the day. Must be a big battery.

The cameras are currently €99.99 and the solar panel an extra €49.99 – you can also buy the Switchbot HUB 2 for €79.99 but that’s not needed and mine isn’t plugged in. I’m not entiely convinced about the pricing including the solar panel.

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