Product Review - Koda LightCam
Koda’s first foray into security cameras has produced an affordable product with an interesting array of features. Through a focus on smart motion sensing, flexible installation options, and lighting to deter intruders, we found the Koda App-Controlled Motion-Activated Light with Camera, or Koda LightCam for short, to be a solidly built option for homeowners.
Koda LightCam’s Main Features
The first thing you’ll notice is the broad light strip encircling the device. Koda’s security camera features a motion-activated, adjustable 1300 lumen LED floodlight to surprise intruders, light your yard, and indicate various camera modes by changing color. For example, a solid green light indicates live mode is enabled, while a flashing white light shows motion has been detected.
To avoid false alerts, Koda has developed an “UltraSense™ technology” that utilizes passive infrared (PIR) and microwave radar detection together with their own algorithm to determine real alerts. This dual approach is a step above traditional security cameras we’ve reviewed that rely only on PIR and may be susceptible to false notifications caused by moving branches, light changes, etc.
The security camera relies on a 2.4GHz WiFi network. This may seem like a downgrade from newer 5Ghz networks for our more tech-savvy DIYers, but is still quite common for smart devices. The choice helps keep costs down, but more importantly, 2.4GHz networks have superior range and penetrate walls better, both key features for an outdoor camera.
The camera is touted as 1080p HD with night vision and includes a 90dB siren, speaker, and microphone. It connects to its own Koda Smart Home app and provides both recorded events and live access. Users can talk through the app to anyone within range of the camera, and instantly hear their response with noise cancellation for added clarity.
Installing the Koda LightCam
The packaging came with an illustrated installation guide and everything we’d need to get started, including a screwdriver, extra mounting screws, and an S hook (so you can keep your hands free while balanced on a ladder). We felt the directions were easy to understand and complete, even for a beginner.
Before permanently securing the camera to your home, we strongly advise downloading the Koda app and setting up your account and network connection. Get a feel for the video output and test the camera’s 106 degree field of vision in different locations until you find one that’s right for your needs. Koda recommends installing nine feet up, and we tested various heights, as well as from a second story balcony. We encountered no issues during the guided walkthrough on the app, and the camera quickly reconnected to the internet each time we plugged it in during testing.
There are two power options: direct wire connection and a traditional outlet plug. The direct wire connection is great if you want a reliable power source that can’t be easily severed by an intruder. Even if you’re not experienced with home wiring, it's easy to remove an existing outdoor light fixture and connect the security camera to those wires to get the device up and running. It makes sense too, as the Koda LightCam’s floodlight easily replaces the need for other outdoor motion-sensing lights you may have installed. However, if you have an outdoor-rated outlet nearby, you can simply plug the camera in as well.
The device mounts on a ball and socket, so you can adjust the camera manually after it’s attached. Simply loosen the screw on the side, move the camera head to the correct angle (while checking the view on the app), and tighten once you have a good spot. The device is rather tall, so if you don’t have space for the camera in an upright position, you can put it on its side and flip or invert the video through the app settings.
Using the Koda Smart Home App
The Koda app has a clean design that is intuitive to use. There are the usual options—you can name your camera, view live footage, review and download videos, and more. You can also set up multiple cameras, and view all their feeds at once using the Live View interface, which isn’t a common feature on other apps we’ve experienced. While we weren’t able to test that function, an example given on the Koda website showed a clear grid layout when multiple cameras are activated.
There are some important items to go over when using the app for the first time. The floodlight’s brightness can be adjusted, which we recommend trying out as the app will default to a midrange output and your home may require a higher or lower setting. You can also adjust the motion detector’s sensitivity to keep reading accurate based on the space and height of your camera. You may also want to switch between day, night, and auto mode for filming, but we found the auto mode to be very accurate—it switched seamlessly between the correct modes for changing lighting conditions throughout the day.
Motion-activated recordings captured three seconds before an event and seven seconds after to give clear context to a video. We’ve seen this in varying ways on other security cameras and it’s an important feature to note. There are cases where a smaller movement may not trigger a full recording quickly enough, so the pre and post-event buffer can capture something that may have been easily missed, or show something that would explain an intruder’s intention better, whether good or bad. We did notice a couple instances of the recording ending before an event had finished—for example, if someone was lingering in a single area—but most of the time the recordings captured the full event.
The app’s motion alerts came in pretty fast, but opening the app from the notification would lead to Live View and cut off the recording early. You can trigger manual recording from Live View, but it could be easy to forget this step if you were watching an intruder enter your home. Otherwise, Live View provided real-time video with a negligible, practically unnoticeable delay. Obviously, this may change based on the quality of your internet connection.
The app is also where you can activate the built-in siren. There is no way to automatically trigger the siren, so if you get a notification on your smart device of an intruder, make sure to check it quickly to decide if you’d like to enable the sound. While this could mean missing a moment where a siren would be appropriate, it will prevent unnecessarily waking up your family and neighbors and is common for cameras with this feature.
Testing Koda LightCam Features
Beyond general use, we tested the exact claims of the Koda LightCam: the 1080p HD camera with night vision, the 1300 lumen floodlight, and the 90dB siren.
The camera captured very clear video footage of our test home, but at 1280x720 resolution. This means 720p HD, not 1080p on your phone. Technicalities aside, we could make out crisp details in all our captured videos and had no trouble downloading them and viewing them on larger devices. For the purposes of recording activity around your home, and providing evidence if necessary, this resolution gets the job done. The black and white infrared night vision provides equally clear footage without harsh contrast, and switches to color once the floodlight is turned on and the space is fully illuminated.
The floodlight is astoundingly bright—it illuminated a full backyard and front driveway area in our test. The brightness specified for the recommended camera height (no higher than nine feet) was confirmed using a light meter. The floodlight will immediately activate when nighttime motion is detected, so make sure you turn on the light through the app during your camera placement testing as it could illuminate nearby bedrooms and/or disturb neighbors or people in your own home if directed too broadly, or if you leave the settings on too high for your space.
The floodlight will also show a softer light and change colors depending on the camera’s setting. This may be a pro or con depending on your preferences. When looking at the camera, you can instantly tell if it’s updating firmware, detecting movement, in live mode, and more. This clarity can be helpful, but does remove the option to covertly watch live from your app. As of writing, there is no way to disable this feature.
The manually activated siren came in around the specified 90dB with some negligible wiggle room during our reading. This is loud enough that your neighbors will hear the sound, which can be a good thing if an intruder with bad intent has entered your property. When activated, the siren will sound for 30 seconds and slowly flash a red light before turning off until you trigger it again.
Koda Vault Cloud Subscription
Nowadays it’s almost impossible to find a security camera that offers full features without a cloud subscription and the Koda LightCam is no different. All LightCams come with a 30 day trial before disabling video history, the saved video gallery, and the ability to review, download, and share footage. Even without the cloud features, though, you still have access to motion alerts, Live View, two-way audio, manual video and image recording that you can save to your phone, floodlight activation, and siren control.
As of this writing, the Koda Vault Cloud subscription costs $4 a month with no long-term contract requirements. This price is definitely on the low end for security camera subscriptions and can be a reasonable investment if you like the features during the trial period. The monthly cost also means you can choose when to subscribe, such as during vacations, when you want to ensure your home is extra secure.
The Koda LightCam proves to be a strong device in a market saturated with home security options. The addition of a floodlight is not something we’ve seen before and makes it easy to use existing wiring by replacing a traditional floodlight. And while sirens are not new, it’s nice to see them included in more devices.
The camera itself is clearly built to last in an outdoor setting. It’s weighty, with a tough exterior and weather-sealed mount. Koda also put in the money to get their product UL certified, which means it underwent testing to meet internationally recognized standards for safety. They back their product with a three year warranty, which is on the high end for security cameras.
Overall, the combined features make the Koda LightCam a good all-in-one choice for home security and convenience. As of this writing, it's available through Costco for $149.99.