The unique LaView L2 Light Bulb Camera plugs into a light bulb socket. It’s a clever idea, but its erratic and haphazard recording prevents us from recommending it.
Price When Reviewed
Best Prices Today: LaView L2 Light Bulb Camera
One of the challenges of security camera placement—especially outdoors—is the power conundrum. Battery-powered cameras need constant recharging, while AC-powered cameras often mean running a cord to a hard-to-reach place, such as the eaves of the roof. LaView’s light-socket-based solution would be clever—if it was a good security camera.
Design and setup
Let’s talk first about the practicalities of this. The LaView L2, which is designed to look like an oversized Edison light bulb, makes the most sense in outdoor settings. The manufacturer says it carries an IP65 rating for protection from the elements, meaning it’s impervious to dust ingress and that it can withstand being sprayed with water jets from any direction (we’ll tell you everything you need to know about IP codes at the preceding link).
You can simply replace the bulb in any outdoor wall sconce or lamp pole in the yard with the L2 to get video security (the fixture must have an E27 bulb base). The problem, of course, will be any shades or glass that surrounds the socket—unless you can remove it. If you can’t and the glass is reasonably clean and isn’t distorted (such as with an antiquing effect), you should have fair enough visibility. You’ll want to turn off the L2’s built-in lighting, so it doesn’t reflect into the camera lens. This isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing option, but it does allow for unobstructed recording.
You can also deploy the L2 indoors, but as I got to testing, I was surprised to see how few locations were well-suited for the device. Most of my lighting is recessed with canister bulbs, and the L2 wouldn’t fit in any of the ones in my home due to clips inside each fixture. The image might also be obstructed in such a configuration, depending on the depth of the canister.
A lamp isn’t a great option, either, as you won’t be able to put a shade on it. A two-prong AC-to-light socket adapter is included in the box if you want to try connecting it to a traditional wall receptacle, but this causes the camera to stick out from the wall horizontally, which doesn’t work well due to the placement of the camera lens. With a right-angle power adapter (not included) you might have better luck.
Ultimately, placement will be an exercise left for the user, so I’ll assume you have a spot in mind to put this device; otherwise, you wouldn’t be considering it at all.
The LaView L2 is surprisingly full-featured, considering its price, and it supports both 2.4- and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks. (A cheaper 2.4GHz-only version is also available.) The resolution of 2304 x 1296 pixels is substantial, and while the viewing angle isn’t specified, the field of view feels quite narrow, with no visible fish-eye effect. The L2 is a pan-and-tilt camera, so any shortcomings in viewing angle are made up for by the ability to rotate the camera through 355 degrees horizontally and (by my estimate) about 65 degrees vertically. Note that you won’t be able to capture activity that happens directly beneath a vertically mounted camera.
All the expected features are here, including infrared and color night vision, two-way audio, motion detection (with three sensitivity levels), and a “human body filtering” mode that limits motion detection to people-shaped objects. A tepid siren is available on demand or in response to motion detection, and a motion-tracking mode that sets the camera to follow a moving subject through the area is also included. Support for Alexa and Google Home smart speakers and displays is also provided, though the roughly designed and barely documented interface used to configure all of the above leaves much to be desired.
Clips are stored by default to a microSD card (capacities up to 128GB, not included), or you can opt for LaView’s Cloud Pro+ service, which is relentlessly promoted through unskippable, in-app advertisements. LaView has a number of plans, ranging from a one-camera plan for $11/month or $70/year (currently on sale) to a seven-camera plan for $60/month (no yearly plan available). These aren’t overly competitive prices, but it might be worth it if subscribing makes the ads go away.
Setup is simple, involving scanning a QR code through the LaView app, and stability was generally good in my testing, with only a couple of drop-outs. The LaView L2 captures surprisingly crisp and clear video both during the day and night, and the PTZ features respond fairly quickly. Motion tracking isn’t perfect, but it works well enough if the object isn’t moving rapidly.
The L2 also includes built in LEDs that let it double as a light bulb of sorts, although the light is directional and is limited to just 350 lumens of brightness. That won’t do much to illuminate the length of your driveway, but it can work well enough as a nightlight to help you guide your way in the dark. And since you’ll be giving up a standard light bulb to install the LaView, you just might need it.
It’s a pity, however, that one of the most essential features in a security camera just doesn’t work very well here. After extensive testing of the device I found that the camera would wake up and follow my activities every time I passed in front of it, seemingly recording the action. But actual video recordings would only sporadically appear in the app, and push notifications were even less common.
A small pet peeve: Recordings are thumbnailed and time-stamped, but the length of each clip is not documented in the app. I could find no rhyme or reason for the recording failures: It felt almost random as to whether any given recording would be successful, and I was never able to figure out why this behavior was happening. For this problem alone, I can’t really recommend the device.
Should you buy the LaView L2 Light Bulb Camera?
With a less-than $50 price tag, the LaView L2 doesn’t require much of an investment, and if the unique ability to plug into a light fixture instead of a wall receptacle appeals to you, it might be worth a look—but only if you need real-time video monitoring. If you need reliable recording features, take a pass.
Power source: Any E27 light bulb socket
Weatherization: Rated IP65
Network connectivity: 2.4-/5GHz Wi-Fi
Camera resolution: 2304 x 1296 pixels
Video recording storage: up to 128GB microSD card (not included); cloud (with subscription)
Field of view: 355 degrees horizontal (motorized pan/tilt)
Night vision: Infrared and color (with onboard lighting)
Two-way audio: Yes
Onboard siren: Yes
Smart home integration: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant