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We’ve had a checkered experience with YI Technology’s Kami brand security products here at TechHive, ranging from patently awful to mediocre to surprisingly polished. I wasn’t sure, then, what to expect from the company’s latest offering, but its unimaginative name—Kami Outdoor Battery Camera—didn’t have me anticipating greatness. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find it well designed and capable of delivering completely on its promise of simple, solid security.
The bullet-style camera has a 140-degree field of view and captures full HD video (1080p). It includes PIR (passive infrared) motion detection—meaning it responds to infrared heat, so it will only detect activity by humans and animals while ignoring cars and other moving objects—as well as night vision, and two-way talk. It has an IP65 weatherproof rating, so it’s protected from dust ingress and jets of water (this story goes into some depth on IP ratings, if you want to know more about the standards).
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best home security cameras, where you’ll findreviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
Motion-detected video clips can be stored locally to a microSD card, or in the cloud with a Kami Cloud subscription. The base plan provides a seven-day video history and is offered as a three-month subscription for $15, or annually for $50. A 15-day plan costs $7 per month or $70 a year, and a 30-day plan runs $12 a month or $110 a year. Premium plans that enable continuous video recording are also available as in-app purchases.
Setup and performance
The camera is powered by four rechargeable batteries that are slightly larger than AA size. To install them, you must unscrew the front-facing part of the camera while holding the camera casing. When the two parts separate, they reveal four battery slots around the circumference of the camera body. When I popped my batteries in, the camera’s voice prompt let me know they were running low, so I removed them and inserted them in the supplied battery charger. This apparatus plugs into a wall with a USB cable and AC adapter. Once they were topped off, I put them back in the camera.
When the camera is powered on, you’ll add it to the Kami Home app. The app guides you through the Wi-Fi setup, which requires little more than entering your network login credentials and scanning a QR code in the app. I had the camera connected in a couple of minutes.
I used the supplied screws and hardware to mount the camera on a wooden fence to monitor my driveway. The camera can be removed from the mount—when you need to recharge the batteries, for example—by rotating the camera counterclockwise. Yi says the battery should last six months per full charge, which is a couple of months longer than promised by some competing brands. Keep in mind that your motion detection and alert settings will impact battery life.
The camera appears on the Kami Home app’s main screen with any other connected Kami cameras, each identified by name with an image capture of its most recent view. From here, you can arm or disarm all your devices at once by swiping an icon at the top to Home or Away. To view the Outdoor Battery Camera’s live feed, just tap its image.
The picture quality is very good. The image is sharp and balanced with accurate colors, though areas of bright light, like where the sun streams through a window, tend to wash out. Night vision, which activates automatically in low light, provided plenty of illumination and contrast to make out facial details when a person was in frame.
Because the camera uses PIR motion detection, I was able to monitor my driveway without worry of recording every car that drove down my street. Pedestrian traffic was a different matter though, and I initially was peppered with alerts in the mornings when commuters walking to the train station and kids walking to school paraded down the sidewalk in front of my place. Fortunately, the Kami Home app has an Alert Frequency setting that lets you lengthen (or shorten) the “cool off” period between alerts. Sliding this down the to the “low” setting solved the problem. You can also turn motion detection off completely or set it to activate according to a schedule.
The Kami app puts most of the camera controls you need within reach on the live feed screen. Beneath the feed are buttons for muting and unmuting the speaker, recording video and capturing still shots, and using two-way talk. All your motion-detected video clips are displayed in reverse chronological order on the bottom half of the screen.
The Kami Battery Powered Outdoor Camera proved to be as straightforward as its name. It offers easy installation; solid, if basic, security features; and simple, intuitive operation. That’s more than enough for most users who want to keep an eye on their property.