Before we begin with our hands-on review of Zmodo security cameras, we have a riddle for you.
What’s small, cute, and takes really good pictures?
Other than yours truly, of course.
It’s Zmodo, the Shenzhen, China-based electronics powerhouse1 that offers crisp 1080p HD video, 65-foot night vision, motion alerts, and optional cloud recording in their affordable indoor and outdoor security cameras. They also make smart doorbell cameras and other innovative smart home products, including a light-camera combo for lamp posts, which sounds really cool to us!
For our review, we purchased two Zmodo cameras: the standard 1080p HD, plug-in, outdoor Wi-Fi camera Zmodo is known for, and the Sight 180 C, an indoor/outdoor model with a wide field of view and a slim design.
While these two look quite small and unassuming at first glance, we think you’ll see that there’s much more to these Zmodo cameras than meets the eye.
Stick around while we get to know Zmodo!
First, we want to say that we always appreciate a handy instruction manual in the box when we get ready to review a camera. This one even has little screenshots next to each step so you can match the image to what you’re seeing on your phone.
We do need to note, though, that if you’re not good at folding a map, you might have a bit of trouble with this one.
But, we have more pressing matters to address. Like, for one, how easy it is to install these cameras! All we had to do was find a good spot, line up the camera so it’s fixed in exactly the position we wanted it, and – a few screws and a little elbow grease later – we were up and running.
We do have one word of caution, though. While we were installing our outdoor camera, we noticed that it’s very top-heavy; we knew we had to secure our camera very carefully to ensure it wouldn’t lose its position, or worse, fall and break.
We double- and triple-checked to make sure our camera was secure before we went back inside, just in case. And we recommend that you do the same.
Did You Know: DIY camera installation is usually easy, but it’s not for everyone. Brands like Vivint are usually installed and hardwired by professionals because they involve a bit more than camera installation. So if you desire a house full of security cameras but don’t feel confident doing the work yourself, you might want to consider a brand that offers professional installation.
After that, we turned to our next camera: the Sight 180 C. This camera immediately reminded us of a stripped-down doorbell camera, primarily because of its long, flat shape. Clearly, this camera was made with versatility in mind; the attached support stand is adjustable, and its size and weight make it easy to mount to a wall. And, if you want the option of moving your camera around the house, you can simply place the camera on a surface, on its support stand, without any mounting at all.
With both cameras in place, we turned to Zmodo’s app to continue with the setup process.
Ah, the app. We love having one centralized platform to view our cameras, and access all of their features. Keep in mind that setting up security cameras these days almost always requires downloading an app, and this was no different.
From there, we followed the prompts to set up each camera in the app’s dashboard.
This is where things got just a little clunky – for a minute.
The app told us that in order to set up our devices, we had to put in our Wi-Fi network login and password. Pretty easy, right?
Except that this process was a little different. When we accidentally put in the wrong Wi-Fi password the first time, the app moved to the next step – scanning the camera’s QR code2 – rather than prompting us to re-insert the password.
So, what we had, essentially, was a failure to communicate. This added several minutes to a pretty simple setup process. Of course, this doesn’t affect the day-to-day use of these cameras, but we still thought it was worth a mention. So word to the wise, take your time typing in your Wi-Fi password!
Once we discovered this little hiccup, we’ll admit, it made setting up the other camera much easier.
Then, once we saw that both camera displays were accessible from our app, we sat back and watched. It was time to see the world through Zmodo’s eyes!
If you’re like us, you might get to this step in the process and wonder: How does such a small, inexpensive camera like the Zmodo 1080p take such stunning pictures and videos?
Indeed, we were blown away by the image and video quality this $34 camera produces. It harkens us back to another inexpensive yet well-performing camera in our review lineup: the Wyze Pan Cam, which at $30 presents another truly affordable option but also packs a punch in performance.
While not quite as impressive as our Zmodo in video quality, Wyze certainly holds up as a viable alternative.
So, if video quality is a priority for you – and most likely it is – you’ll be impressed with Zmodo. And, with that low price tag, it’s easy to justify buying a bundle of cameras for a fully monitored security camera experience. If that’s what you’re after, we think you’ll appreciate Zmodo’s 2-, 3-, or 4-pack kits. It surely makes the whole buying experience easier!
Here’s a full breakdown of Zmodo’s products and prices:
|Zmodo Cameras||Camera Type||Key Features||Price|
|Sight 180||Indoor||1080p HD resolution, two-way talk, magnetic swivel base||$79.99|
|Sight 180C||Indoor||180-degree viewing angle, two-way talk, night vision||$79.00|
|Snap PT||Indoor||1080p HD, 360-degree pan & tilt, wireless charging pad||$199.99|
|Pivot||Indoor||Two-way talk, built-in Bluetooth speaker, smart device hub||$59.99|
|Pivot Cloud||Indoor||1080p HD, 350-degree rotation, smart home hub||$119.99|
|1080p Indoor/Outdoor||Indoor & Outdoor||Motion zones and alerts, 65 ft. night vision, DIY installation||$39.99|
|Torch 360||Outdoor||1080p HD, light controls, 360-degree field of view||$129.99|
|24-Channel System||Outdoor||N-Channel Security System||$999.99+|
|Greet Lite||Video Doorbell||720p HD resolution, motion-triggered recording||$70.00|
We’ll get right to the point: This is one of the widest-angle camera lenses we’ve reviewed. The Sight 180 C has a 180-degree angle, which is about 50 degrees more than its most in-demand competitors. Ring’s Stick Up Camera, for instance, has a viewing angle of 130 degrees.
We like to call our Zmodo Sight 180 C our panoramic camera. Throughout our tests of the Sight 180 C, we noticed how much more activity this camera picked up than its similarly-priced peers; this was especially helpful when we were trying to keep an eye on our fast, troublemaking puppy darting across the first floor of our house while we were out running errands.
And, with all that coverage, it meant that we didn’t have to buy extra cameras to pick up what this one missed.
So if coverage is what you’re after, we think this is a great pick. Keep in mind, also, that user reviews of Sight 180 C bear this out; most users seem to love the extra coverage and have become lifelong customers because of it.
But like so many cameras we review, this one doesn’t come without some downsides.
First off, there’s no siren. Can you live with that? For indoors, we could. So this became a great, low-budget way for us to keep all the little ankle-biters in our home in check. We think we like it this way! However, it’s nice to have a siren on outdoor cameras, as it serves as an active crime deterrent. That’s one minor gripe we had about the Sight 180 C.
We’ve been wowed by that crystal-clear quality delivered by both of our Zmodo cams. But would we be similarly impressed by how they performed at night?
Short answer? Why, yes, we would.
But not in the way you’d think.
You see, the quality of the night vision on these cameras could be better. We think that’s pretty evident in the photo above.
Our first thought was that the video quality on these cameras was akin to that of another inexpensive DIY camera, the Amazon-affiliated Blink XT2. We saw, for instance, a problem with glare; any light in this camera’s field of view produced a strong halo effect that rendered any objects at or around it virtually invisible.
And then there’s the textbook blurriness, which was to be expected. Tree branches blending in with the night sky doesn’t help either.
But, guess what? All of those things are pretty standard in cameras of this price point when it comes to night vision, so we were neither surprised nor disappointed.
That’s because there’s a lot that our Zmodo camera has that the aforementioned Blink camera does not. For one, there’s Night Vision Sensitivity, which helps us fine-tune alerts based on the sensitivity of the motion.
But it doesn’t end there. Our Zmodo camera also distinguishes between objects. In addition to straight-up motion, our camera was able to tell us if said motion was a person, animal, or vehicle.
They call fancy little features like this “intelligent alerts.” And we intelligent, safety-minded people really like that!
Look, she hasn’t learned to cook us dinner or clean our bathroom yet. But Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa3, can still learn a great deal about the devices in your home and allow you to use those devices hands-free. We wanted to check this out for ourselves, so we put it to work with our Zmodo cams.
So, here’s the thing. Using Alexa to control our Zmodo cameras is not as simple as using Alexa to control, say, a Ring Doorbell.
That’s because Amazon owns Ring4, and Ring’s skill is embedded in our Amazon Echo Show.
Zmodo, clearly, is not owned by Amazon. So we had to do a little more legwork to get Alexa to recognize our third-party Zmodo cameras.
To do this, we went into our Amazon Alexa app in our phones and searched for Zmodo under Skills.
Then, we had to enter our Zmodo login and password.
And there it was! Not too difficult, but a little more time-consuming than Ring’s smart home experience.
The cool thing was, we could just leave this display up for as long as we wanted. So any time we heard something that didn’t sound right, or we knew we’d be getting a delivery, we didn’t have to stop whatever else we were doing to check on it. This team of multitaskers was quite grateful!
As we’ve been seeing more and more nowadays, subscription plans are becoming the way we’re all doing home security.
Zmodo’s menu of subscription plans is pretty standard for the industry: one basic plan for no charge, and a few upgrades that add a little pizzazz to our technology. For our purposes, we chose the premium plan, which gives us 7 days of free recording, among other features. That’s 7 more days than we had before, so we’ll take it!
Here’s a look at Zmodo’s subscription options:
|Zmodo Cloud Plan||Basic||7-Day Plan||30-Day Plan|
|Video History Lookback||12 hours||7 days continuous cloud recording||30 days continuous cloud recording|
|Alert Clip Storage||No||7 days||30 days|
|Custom Motion Zones||No||Yes||Yes|
|Video Editor & Time Lapse Clips||No||Yes||Yes|
We found Zmodo’s customer service experience to be useful, yet inconsistent. They’ve got plenty of help for people having trouble with installation and troubleshooting for lots of different topics. But in the event that you can’t find answers to your questions through the support page, we were happy to find a customer service phone number that led us pretty quickly to an agent, who answered our questions thoroughly.
We’ve also heard from people whose customer service experience was less than stellar; some have complained that the agent they called wasn’t knowledgeable enough about cameras but could write a novella about Zmodo’s state-of-the-art Wi-Fi extender.
Not the ideal outcome when you call an electronics company, so we understand the disconnect. For us, however, the experience was hassle-free.
As we continued to test and explore our Zmodo Sight 180 C and 1080p security cameras, we came across something that we couldn’t quite categorize, or compare to anything else.
Within the app’s Cloud settings, there’s a page that looks like this:
At first glance, it looks like just another camera dashboard.
But, take another sniff, and you’ll see that this page is actually a bunch of displays of animal rescues around the U.S. that are streaming their live camera feeds on Zmodo’s app, for some serious cuteness.
Even better: We learned that some of the pets we can see through these live feeds are available for adoption5. Other apps do this, but this is the first one we’ve seen in a security camera app. We love it!
Except we don’t entirely understand why this page just isn’t called “Pets” or “Devices in Action” or something similar, instead of “What is this page?” Can’t they just tell us what the page is?
But again, a minor gripe. After giving these cameras a good three-day run, we can say without hesitation that our Zmodo cameras deliver almost exactly what they promised, right up to that top-notch, crystal-clear video. So if you’re on the market for an affordable security camera that doesn’t skimp on features, we think Zmodo is definitely worth a consideration.
Yes. By linking your Zmodo account with Alexa, you can incorporate your cameras into any Amazon smart home ecosystem. If you’ve got an Echo Show, this is a great way to get instant insight into any activity in or around your property, or just pull up your live feed to check out the scene.
Yes. Zmodo’s $5-per-month cloud plan is an easy, inexpensive add-on and gives you a ton of space to store your videos. But it’s not required to use Zmodo cameras every day; you can also opt for a basic (free) plan, which automatically stores your last 12 hours of video history.
Mediocre at best. We didn’t get nearly the kind of clarity and detail that we got with cameras like Arlo and Ring, so it was hard to decipher dark-colored objects. This was especially difficult in high-activity areas; when we were alerted to motion through our phone, we couldn’t tell what was actually going on by looking at the clip. So if night vision is a priority for you, Zmodo might be a disappointing experience.
Low-cost technology usually comes with an unspoken warning: “You get what you pay for.” In Zmodo’s case, we didn’t find any huge flaws using their cameras in our home to monitor activity like wildlife sightings, porch piracy, and speeding cars. Everything did what it was supposed to do in our Zmodo cams. But for more advanced technology like facial recognition and built-in emergency response, you’ll have to pay more for a higher-end brand.
Since their camera features are pretty basic, you can’t really call Zmodo an A.I.-powered camera brand. But they do have intelligent alerts to distinguish between people, animals, and vehicles when motion is detected.
Tong, S. Marketplace.org. Minnesota Public Radio. (2019, June 27). Shenzhen: birthplace to Huawei — plus several other Chinese tech behemoths. https://www.marketplace.org/2019/06/27/shenzhen-birthplace-huawei-chinese-tech-giants/
Lyne, M. Search Engine Land. (2009, Oct. 15). What is a QR Code, And Why Do You Need One? https://searchengineland.com/what-is-a-qr-code-and-why-do-you-need-one-27588
Rawes, E. and Wetzel, K. Digital Trends. (2020, Aug. 7). What is Alexa, Where Does She Come From, And How Does She Work? https://www.digitaltrends.com/home/what-is-amazons-alexa-and-what-can-it-do/
Schleifer, T. and Del Rey, J. Vox. (2018, Feb. 27). Amazon is making its second-biggest acquisition ever — the doorbell company Ring. https://www.vox.com/2018/2/27/17059768/amazon-ring-acquisition-doorbell
The Humane Society of the United States. (2020) Adopting from an animal shelter or rescue group. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/adopting-animal-shelter-or-rescue-group