We decided to test three different brands of IP cameras to see which came out on top. Is it worth paying £300 when you could buy one for £60? What more do you get for your money? These questions and more are answered in this article.
Cameras we compared:
5MP Varifocal Bullet Cameras
4MP Fixed Dome Cameras
Taking a look at our bullet cameras, the difference in build quality is clear just handling them. The Reolink camera is much lighter, lacking the reassuring heft of the Grundig and Wisenet cameras. Holding it in your hands, it’s unsurprising that this is the only camera we tested without an IK impact protection rating.
Moreover, the mechanism for positioning the camera is a simple ball-and-socket design that you pull into position. There’s no way of tightening down the camera during setup and the ball itself seems to be made out of material that would be prone to wear and tear when exposed to the elements. The Reolink RLC-511 is IP66 rated, but it’s still difficult to imagine the camera holding up against years of harsh weather exposure.
Still, the Reolink cameras are so affordable that it won’t break the bank to replace them. If you’ll only be installing your IP cameras indoors where they can easily be adjusted and aren’t likely to be tampered with or vandalised, Reolink becomes a much more viable option.
By comparison, the Grundig GD-CI-BP4637T and the Wisenet QNO-8080R are both IK10 rated. As far as positioning goes, you’ll be adjusting this on a three-axis gimbal and locking each axis down with alan keys. That’s for both cameras. This makes for a pair of very solid feeling cameras. Both are IP66 rated and feel solidly built. They clearly outpace the Reolink here and it was hard to pick a winner out of the two for this category.
Almost any camera is capable of performing well when there’s an abundance of light, but if you want to capture crisp detail even at longer distances, then you’ll want an IP camera with a bit more oomph. What’s more, if you’re positioning the camera indoors in a warehouse or other area that’s sometimes exposed to different lighting conditions (upon the opening of a shutter, for instance), then you’ll need a camera with a wide enough dynamic range to avoid blowing out the highlights when a much brighter light source is suddenly introduced.
Despite all the bullet cameras we tested being 5 Megapixel cameras, there was a great deal of variance in image quality. When it comes to daytime performance, the Wisenet bullet camera was our clear winner here. Daytime performance, at least in our tests, scaled with price. The Wisenet produces a crisp, clear image with more detail in shadowed areas than the Grundig and a lot less grain than the Reolink.*
*note: images on this webpage have been compressed for optimum performance. For the truest comparison view the video embedded on this page.
As the light waned, our findings became more surprising. In low-light conditions, performance no longer directly correlated with price. The Reolink RLC-511, the most inexpensive camera we tested (coming in at around £60GBP exc VAT), still didn’t perform too well. Even with a fair bit of ambient light left, the camera switches to its IR sensors. This makes the Reolink a poor choice for businesses relying on a distant street lamp, for example, for enough light to produce a colour image with their IP surveillance cameras. Since the Reolink is most suitable for businesses looking for a cheap camera they’re going to be installing indoors, lack of light might not be an issue.
Colour is important, though. Capturing a colour image means capturing a lot more information that can be passed onto law enforcement if it comes to that. After all, what use is a surveillance camera if, on the rare occasion you need it, it doesn’t capture enough information for police to conduct a successful investigation. Whether it’s recovering stolen goods, or seeing justice done, being able to identify the colour of a suspect’s jacket, their hair colour or that of their getaway vehicle, a camera that performs well in low-light can make all the difference.
For that reason, the Wisenet and Grundig IP cameras again draw as winners in this category. Though it’s perhaps subjective which produces the better image in low-light, to our eyes the Grundig camera produces a nicer image, retaining more colour saturation and detail in the most shadowed region in the frame
Infrared (Nighttime) Performance
In nighttime (near no-light) conditions, our findings were quite surprising. Rather than performance correlating with price, as you might expect, the results were almost the inverse. Our Reolink RLC-511 was arguably the best performing camera.
The Wisenet QNO-8080R, the most expensive camera we tested (coming in around £350GBP exc VAT) actually performed the worst of all. This was very surprising to us, but the results were the same regardless of whether the cameras were zoomed all the way in or out. Our subject disappears before reaching the opposite side of the car park whilst remaining visible in both the Reolink and Grundig images.
The Reolink bullet managed to capture detail in the parking space markings missed by the Grundig camera, but the Grundig bullet camera was no slouch, arguably achieving a clearer image with less grain, despite missing some of that aforementioned detail. The Grundig’s image is noticeably brighter than the Wisenet’s too.
Domes Compared (Grundig & Wisenet)
Given the surprise we felt about the Wisenet’s nighttime performance, we decided to pit two fixed dome IP cameras - one from Grundig and another from Wisenet - against each other too. This time, we recorded the footage at night in our warehouse. Again, the Grundig camera outpaces the Wisenet, with a clearer, crisper image that manages to be brighter while delivering more detail in shadowed areas for almost half the price.
ONVIF is an IP security standard created to ensure some level of compatibility between different models and brands of cameras. All of the Grundig and Wisenet cameras we looked at are ONVIF compatible, but the Reolink RLC-511 is not. Our research suggests that only two Reolink cameras are ONVIF compatible meaning that, though you can use the Reolink app to manage your Reolink cameras, most DIY NVRs and other bespoke network recording solutions won’t be any good if you’re planning to use Reolink cameras. However, they can be used with the Synology Surveillance Station. As one of the most popular IP camera management systems, this goes a fair distance toward saving Reolink cameras as viable for use by some businesses.
Since both Wisenet and Grundig offer ONVIF compatibility for most or all of their cameras though, IT administrators and managers will have a lot more flexibility using their products. Installers looking to work new IP cameras into an existing setup that already uses other brands of cameras will also prefer to use one of these options for the same reason.
Though most businesses will be able to afford NVR systems with a great deal of storage space, smaller file sizes mean you can store far more footage - very useful if you need to access footage dating from long ago.
That’s where compression codecs come in. More advanced compression codecs will be more capable of reducing file sizes without sacrificing image quality. H.264, H.265 and the new H.265+ codecs are the ones you’ll commonly see on IP cameras.
The Reolink RLC-511 supports H.264 only. The Wisenets also support H.265, but all of the Grundig cameras we’ve looked at support H.265+. These different compression codecs resulted in some pretty crazy differences in file sizes. Somewhat surprisingly, file size didn’t directly scale with the compression codec, despite our best efforts to standardise the settings at which we were recording.
Whether we recorded with each camera on max settings or with standardised settings (1080p at 20fps) 30 minutes of footage took up disk space 192MB (Grundig), 1.87GB (Wisenet), 246MB (Reolink). That’s a ratio of 1:10:3 Grundig, Wisenet, Reolink.
These findings show that the Reolink manages to be quite efficient in storing its footage even with the older H.264 codec. Wisenet with H.265 produces huge, unwieldy file sizes about 10x greater in size than a Grundig IP camera recording with the same settings. The Grundig camera was extremely efficient, being the only brand to support the newer H.265+ codec. 30minutes of footage routinely came in below 200MB on max settings for the Grundig bullet, quickly falling to below 100MB when resolution and framerate are scaled-down closer to 1080p and 20FPS.
For businesses looking for a camera that’s efficient at storing footage, Grundig cameras are the clear winners, being the only ones to support the H.265+ codec that clearly translates into smaller sizes with no visible loss in image quality.
The Reolink is extremely affordable but falls short in build quality and low-light performance. Its nighttime performance is surprisingly good, though. The Wisenet bullet IP camera, by contrast, is the most pricey of the bunch, but this doesn’t necessarily translate to great performance. Though the daytime performance is great, the nighttime performance of the camera is extremely disappointing.
Our Grundig bullet camera, however, disappoints nowhere. Its daytime performance is good, but its nighttime performance is very good. The Grundig models we tested are affordable at around half the price of their Wisenet equivalents, but either keep pace with them or outperform them where it matters. With excellent build quality and performance across the board, as well as with the most advanced compression codecs available and all of the advanced analytics options that businesses with more sophisticated security requirements could need (including vehicle license plate and facial recognition), Grundig cameras get our vote as the best IP cameras for your money.
*All prices correct at time of writing and subject to change. All prices listed in GBP. All prices exc VAT.