Kami Wire-free Outdoor Camera review: a well-featured security camera with a few flaws

Kami's new wireless outdoor camera is hub-free and well-priced, but it'll only suit certain situations

Kami Wire-free Outdoor Camera review
(Image credit: Yi Technologies)
T3 Verdict

The Kami Wire-free Outdoor Camera is a smart camera with a few real highlights, also some big downers. So-so motion detection and sometimes smeary footage make it better for live view than security recording.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Easy battery replacement

  • +

    Feature-packed

  • +

    Two-way talk with fast live view

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Wonky motion detection

  • -

    Sometimes poor footage

  • -

    Absolutely needs a cloud subscription

The Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera is a smart camera with some serious girth. It's a two-part device comprising of a rear cover (with pivoting elbow mount), and the business end – a 1080p camera with night vision – which screws onto the front. 

There's two-way communication via an integrated speaker and microphone array. There's an SD slot for local storage. It can stream straight to its app, or an Amazon Echo Show, with no need for a hub. That's a long list of features for a camera at this price.

It's fairly heavy, with most of that bulk coming from the four large batteries, the same standard 18650 battery cells you might see in cordless powertools or (more overtly) powering vape mods.

For power, the 18650 battery solution is pretty smart. The cells are readily available, so you're not tied to some expensive proprietary battery pack or stuck with camera downtime while an internal battery recharges. Just charge up a set and stick them in. Take note, other cameras.

Four fat batteries doesn't just mean bulk, it means weight, but the angle mount is up to the task of positioning this with reassuring stiffness. The waterproofing, too, seems more than solid, with an o-ring seal between the case and body contributing to its IP65 rating, enough to stop dust ingress and jets of water – this is fine to live in your garden.

In terms of image quality, smart cameras tend to land very much on a spectrum. Kami's cam trends well above the average line, offering a good range of colour, some truly excellent night vision capabilities, and a 140-degree sensor that can correct its lens distortion in-camera. It handles different light levels well, not flinching when pointed at a bright sky or peering its way through twilight.

That said, upon deep inspection of the live view, it seems the Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera's image does tend to be rather smeary at the pixel level; if you want detail in something small, it's not really there.

Recordings also tend to be rather heavily compressed, whether stored in the cloud or on the SD card. They'll be enough to prove something happened, sure, but perhaps not enough to identify a face. It all depends on the moment, the available light, the speed of movement.

Unpredictable behaviour is a common thread, and we get tangled in it again where motion sensing is concerned. At times it was sensitive enough to trigger when a butterfly flitted through the scene, or a particularly aggressive raindrop deigned to fall. At other times, it utterly ignored a hulking human dancing around in front of it.

Perhaps that's a harsh assessment? Maybe, but those things happened. It's not so much the butterfly sensitivity that's a worry, because we'll take false positives all day long, and you can tune the sensitivity in-app or put motion detection on a schedule. It's more the (admittedly very few) occasions in our testing where the camera simply didn't do its job.

It's also justifiable, we feel, to grumble about the speed of alerts: where you'd likely expect a near-instant push message from any smart security camera, the Kami cam frequently took several minutes to inform us of a motion alert. At one point during our test, it decided it would not deliver alerts at all, only waking up (and tossing out seven push messages at once) once we'd gone into the app to see what was up.

In fairness, a security camera isn't only about immediate alerts, and there's a home and away option, selectable in app, that seems to make it hotter on sending you those alerts when you specifically tell it you're not home. 

Capturing footage and keeping it is vital, and you'll absolutely want to subscribe to the Kami Cloud service, mainly because the free options are so powerfully hamstrung that this feels like half the camera without it.

Kami Wire-free Outdoor Camera review: verdict

Is this a great camera? No. There's a lot about the Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera that just isn't quite right. But it's passable, and its large range quality-of-life features raise it in our esteem a little. 

For certain purposes, particularly live viewing in spots where you need a weatherproof option and no down time for charging, it's a simple and solid option, especially for the price.