SpotCam Pano 2 review: An affordable security camera with advanced AI
at a glance
Human and fall detection
Digital zoom tracking
Must manually create separate video clips for download
Must subscribe to cloud plan for more than one day of video history
The SpotCam Pano 2 offers advanced features at an affordable price, making it a great option for most home users.
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For its modest $79 price tag, you might expect the SpotCam Pano 2 to be a bare-bones, entry-level product. It’s not. SpotCam’s latest addition to its line of home monitoring cameras comes with full-HD video, advanced AI detection, a panoramic viewing angle, and free cloud recording for the life of the camera. That makes it a smart choice for both first-time and seasoned home-security DIYers.
The Pano 2 has a simple design. The camera sits on a slender stem that can be manually rotated 360 degrees. These slots into a flat base with a non-slip rubberized ring underneath, allowing the cam to be set securely on a table, shelf, or any other flat surface. It also comes with a magnetic mount and a pair of screws; attach this to a wall and you can fold the camera flat against its base and just snap it onto the mount. The Pano 2 requires wired power, so whichever installation option you use, you’ll need to place it within about four-and-a-half feet of an electrical outlet.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best home security cameras, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
Setup and installation
As the Pano 2 is meant to be used indoors, setting it up is fairly straightforward. Once it’s installed and powered on, you just need to download the SpotCam app to your phone or tablet, then follow the on-screen prompts to add the camera and connect it to your Wi-Fi. Even with a firmware update, I had the camera up and running within a few minutes.
The 1080p camera has a 180-degree field of view and comes with customary home monitoring features such as night vision, two-way audio, general motion and sound detection, activity zones, and scheduling capabilities. Smart home integrations include Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT.
But surprisingly for the price, it also includes some advanced functions including digital zoom tracking, which allows you to follow a moving object, and human and fall detection, both features that are typically only available as add-ons via SpotCam’s paid subscriptions.
Given that many people install home security cameras to monitor elderly or ailing family members, fall detection is particularly compelling. It works by alerting you when someone falls and doesn’t quickly get back to their feet, but it needs you to ensure a couple of conditions for detection accuracy. According to SpotCam, fall detection works best when the Pano 2 has a slanted view of the person, meaning it will have to be installed at such a height that it doesn’t have a strictly horizontal viewing angle. SpotCam also suggests not training the camera on busy backgrounds.
After adjusting the camera to accommodate these requirements, I staged a few man-down incidents at varying distances from the camera to test the feature. The camera easily detected falls within about six feet or so of the camera—5 seconds seems to be the minimum a person has to be on the ground to trigger detection—but had trouble recognizing falls at double that distance. It was unclear if it was the distance itself or the fact that it put me closer to what could be described as a busy background that caused the issue. Either way, this peccadillo may limit its utility, but a home monitoring camera should never be used in place of caregiving professionals for people who need them, as Spotcam points out.
People detection and digital zoom tracking
Human detection, on the other hand, worked perfectly throughout my testing. It alerts you only when it recognizes a moving object as human, so it ignores the movements of my dog and cats as well as other incidental motion like the rustling of curtains in a breeze.
Digital zoom tracking works by locking onto a person when the camera detects movement and following them around the room. As its name indicates, the feature uses digital zoom rather than mechanical movement of the camera to “track” the person, maintaining focus on the area of the image where they are as they move. This is viewed as a second image in the SpotCam app that can be placed beside the main live feed or within it in a picture-in-picture layout, depending on your settings. While there are scenarios where digital zoom tracking may help in monitoring family members, it would be especially useful if an intruder was in your home as it allows you to get a longer and better look at their face.
The Pano 2 captures high-quality video in any light, though its wide-angle produces a bit of a fisheye effect. The camera’s day-to-day features function reliably, complete with timely and accurate alerts, while a “motion mask” feature (which lets you mask out parts of the image you want motion detection to ignore) helps manage the number of alerts you receive . The SpotCam app makes it easy to view captured video and adjust the camera’s various settings. You can also add more AI functionality, such as baby crying detection and vehicle detection, through subscriptions to individual features and service packs.
Cloud storage plans
As with previous SpotCam cameras, the Pano 2 stores all captured video in the cloud. It comes with the free SpotCam Live package, which includes live streaming video, motion and audio detection, event alerts, and the ability to share live video and snapshots. You also get a one-day rolling video history, but you must “subscribe” to this free feature in the app to activate it. If you want to view more than a single day’s worth of recordings, you can upgrade to one of the SpotCam NVR packages. Options include a 3-, 7-, or 30-day plan for $3.95 a month/$39 a year, $5.95 a month/$59 a year, or $19.95 a month/$199 a year, respectively.
You can view videos of detected events with any of these plans, but to save and share them you must create and export a separate video clip. Fortunately, this is much easier than with past SpotCam models, which required you to set various parameters before you could produce a video file. Now you just tap a download icon and the video is automatically produced and saved to a separate tab called My Film, from which you can download it to your local drive.
Aside from the quirk I just described, the SpotCam Pano is an excellent candidate for most home users. It provides essential home monitoring features while keeping the functionality simple and the total cost of ownership low. That earns it a strong recommendation.
Michael Ansaldo is a veteran consumer and small-business technology journalist. He contributes regularly to TechHive and PCWorld.