Fstoppers Reviews the Wyze Cam: A $25 Security Cam for Your Hotel

Fstoppers Reviews the Wyze Cam: A $25 Security Cam for Your Hotel

This is a look at how this affordable home security cam can be used for increasing security of your gear while traveling on assignment. Even though it was never designed for this purpose, unlike a lot of other options on the market the Wyze Cam has just the right features to make it possible. 

Security is a big issue for me when I’m traveling on an assignment. Sometimes I am able to pack just the essentials for the job but more often I have to carry a ton of gear. This means occasionally I have to leave gear in a hotel, trunk of my rental, or sometimes in a locked office. The best tactic in these situations is learning when and where the right places to do this are and overall awareness of your environment. Additionally, you should always have your gear insured for travel. Business insurance is one of the most important things we as freelance business owners should have. My insurance company Hill & Usher has worldwide coverage built into my package and it gives me a lot of reassurance when I travel. This, unfortunately, will not be a lot of help when your gear goes missing in the middle of nowhere and you still have a job to do. 

That is why I started looking into security options. There are a lot of possible options out there like anti-tamper luggage, elaborate locks, cameras, GPS devices, and even web-based services. All ranges in actual helpfulness and price depending on what and where you are trying to keep your gear safe. 

Then one day exploring the smart tech area of my local Microcenter I came across a possible solution. I’m a huge geek when it comes to smart home technology and have been coding and designing my own solutions for some time. Sitting on the shelf was a smart security camera I had never heard of for $25. For that price, I grabbed one to test out thinking maybe I could hack it to make my own mobile security device. Well, it turned out the Wyze Cam had already incorporated all the necessary features I was looking for. 

The Wyze Cam made by Seattle based company Wyze Labs is a smart home camera like most the others on the market. Its biggest difference is the fact that it sells for roughly $25 or $20 plus shipping from their website. It connects to your WiFi network, records in 1080p, has night vision, motion detection, and two-way audio capabilities. It has a decent mobile app that allows for live streaming and 12-second event recording using AWS that saves for 14 days free. Its features are right in line with all of its competitors but all of these great features, however, are not what makes this device useful as a mobile travel security camera. 

For starters, the device dimensions are roughly two inches squared with a folding magnetic base that allows for the camera to look in any direction. This is important for both packing it in my luggage while traveling and hiding it in the corner of a hotel room or car. It is powered via USB so can easily be plugged into any outlet but more importantly, this means it can be powered by a battery bank. The ability to not be restricted to a wall outlet with hiding the camera is a huge advantage. It also makes leaving the camera in a parked car or trunk a possibility. I have tested this with several banks and it seems with an Anker 10000mah bank depending on your settings I roughly got 20 hours of continuous recording. 

Unlike a lot of smart home cameras on the market, the Wyze Cam has a MicroSD card slot that can be used to record to continuously. This is important because if you want to use it as a mobile security device you need to be able to place the camera in locations where you don't have access to WiFi. As long as the camera has been initialized and set-up on a WiFi network with the MicroSD card installed and all settings set. Then you can simply disconnect and take it with you. When you power the camera on it will start recording based on the parameters you set-up. You can have it do continuous recording direct to the SD card or you can even set it to only record based on motion detection. 

Of course, when using the device like this you do lose all of the WiFi features like seeing playback in app on your phone, live streaming, and notifications. To see the footage all you have to do is pull out the SD card or reconnect the camera to your network and it will now be available to you in app. 

For $25, a 32gb SD card, and a battery bank, two of which most of us have extras lying around. You can have some chance of catching or even retrieving your lost equipment. If in a hotel, video proof of another guest or even the staff taking your stuff will go a long way to getting it back. If nothing else it will speed up the process of an insurance claim. 

I have been testing this camera like this for several months now. I was so impressed I grabbed another and started using it to monitor my motorcycles which I currently have to park on the street. I have had this second camera running for the better part of 4 months with only a couple minor issues all of which relate to router problems. In all these instances the camera continued to record I just couldn't log onto the camera remotely in app until I got home and reset it. Wyze also works with Alexa so you can view it on any Alexa video device. I have mine connected to my Firestick TV and whenever I hear something on the street out front I just ask Alexa to show me.

What I Like

  • Small Size
  • External Storage
  • Can be run off battery pack
  • Works with no WiFi

What I Don't Like

  • Nothing. It wasn't really designed to be used this way. 

Are these the best WiFi smart home cameras on the market? Probably not but they are affordable, packed with features, and in my experience pretty reliable. Recently Wyze Labs announced they were releasing a NAS device called a Maxdrive that will connect directly to your router's Ethernet port. This will allow you to record continuously from all your devices directly to the Maxdrive. They also mentioned an outdoor version of the camera was on the horizon. Great new products like these combined with the large community on the Wyze forums and Reddit make me think I might invest in more cameras as a more in-depth security system for my studio space. 

There is so much more to be said about the Wyze Cam and even Wyze Labs but I wanted this article to be about using the device as a portable security device when traveling. If the cameras seem interesting to you and you would like a much more in-depth review, let me know in the comments. 
 

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28 Comments

Curtis Noir's picture

Just bought two of these cameras. Great write up, this is a really smart application for them.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Awesome, how do you like them so far?

Curtis Noir's picture

So far they seem like a really great value for their cost. No complaints that I can think of

A good article about an interesting product. Nice little trick using the smile link to Amazon so Fstoppers gets a few pennies from the sale.

For those who want to go directly to the manufacturer's website, heres that link:

https://www.wyze.com

Steven Magner's picture

Does it upset you that they used the Smile link? With shipping included the price is identical

Not in the least. Just pointing out that little detail, which is a little deceptive especially since they have no link whatsoever to Wyze's website. Does it upset you that I mentioned this?

Steven Magner's picture

So all the camera body/lens articles on Fstoppers referencing new releases that link to BH Photo is also deceptive since, in theory, the equipment can be purchased directly from the manufacturers website?

Sorry- Reading between the lines when theres nothing to see is where I get off this cute little ride of yours. I was specific in my statement and your inability to understand that just lost its entertainment value to me. Have a nice day.

Steven Magner's picture

You’re right, you were. You’re upset by the “deceptive” tactics put on by Fstoppers, the website you chose as your resource for information about this camera, for getting “pennies from the sale.”

I understand now. They horrible.

What a great idea! Just thought of another... hook this up in your car as a portable dash cam. Power source can come from an available USB port from your mobile phone charger. Of course you'll have to be creative to find a safe and secure mounting position, but this could work.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Yeah, there are a lot of people on the Wyze forums doing this.

Walid Azami's picture

I use these, they're great.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Nice, are you using them as a security system? That's what I think I'll be doing next.

They're so affordable I have a few sprinkled around the house and a couple in the attic just to monitor movement. Night vision is great. Had a problem with roof rats a few months back. I set up some rat traps and the cameras caught them! Makes for a quicker cleanup as soon as they're caught.

Walid Azami's picture

Wait what!? What movement in the attic?

Michael DeStefano's picture

I had a rat problem in the yard of my last place and wish I had thought of that. Great idea!

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Fyi...They're only $20 directly from the website.

I heard about these a few months back but I forgot their name. Thanks for reminding me. :)

Michael DeStefano's picture

Yeah but I've heard they have $5 shipping for each camera, but not positive.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Looks like you are correct. I went through the motions of ordering 2 units and by the time the shipping and sales tax are added, they are actually about the same.

Michael DeStefano's picture

Thanks for letting us know. If you can find a shop that sells them locally I bet they would match the Lower price. Microcenter does that.

Rob Mitchell's picture

I wonder how the GDPR stuff or whatever privacy laws are going to think about this :/

Imagine the situation, you film a maid nicking some kit from your room, she then complains that she was being 'spied' on in her/his place of work. Potential minefield.

I like the idea though, I've always got kit left in hotel rooms and ok, you know some places are more than fine but I have ended up in some less than savoury places on my travels. My only sense of security so far is a locked case, locked to something in the room.

Michael DeStefano's picture

That's an interesting idea. The vast majority of places I have or would use this just isn't an issue. Like you said they are not great places and often in countries not likely to happen. Decent establishments in the US though could possibly be an issue.

A couple of years ago GM added internal monitoring to Corvettes as a security feature for people concerned about behavior of parking valets etc.

They had to disable it because it was significantly illegal in some states especially the audio part.

Rod Kestel's picture

A neat bit of kit, but I wonder if they're really effective. For a start, the best defence is deterence. You could advertise video surveillance on your doors, but then with such a small device a thief could nick it anyway.

There is a chance that you'll be able to identify a thief, but who knows. And finally, as another commenter has noted, what is the legal standing of this? Will an insurance company or the police accept this as evidence?

The real test of course is to see what happens in an actual burlgary. Maybe others have experience of this.

Michael DeStefano's picture

All interesting thoughts. In my experience, a lot of the places I stay are not big company chains and the owners often want to make guests happy. Showing them an employee or guest stealing from a room, I would imagine, give them the opportunity to shift blame and resolve the problem quickly. I'd be interested too if anyone has experienced this first hand.

Rob Mitchell's picture

Just had a scout about for availability in Europe.
if anyone over here can suggest a place that doesn't charge the camera value to post it.. fire away. :)

Keith Meinhold's picture

We are pretty satisfied with the Blink camera system, they are tiny and run on AA batteries for months and store recordings in the cloud. The smartphone app is very simple to use and the latest version allows two way communication.

ANDREW WILDER's picture

Ive used these for a few months now and just for normal home use its tough to beat for the price. Wish it did a few things the more expensive cameras do, but for hundreds of dollars less im not complaining