Reolink RLC-523WA Review – Smart 5MP PTZ WiFi Camera with Spotlight

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Reolink RLC-523WA PTZ camera review rating

Summary

The Reolink RLC-523WA is an impressive camera that suits a wide variety of purposes with flexible mounting placement thanks to the 5x optical zoom. Auto tracking is particularly impressive. The main downside is the sheer size of it. 

Overall
85%
85%
  • Overall - 85%
    85%

Pros

  • Auto tracking people or cars works well and significantly improves the usable footage you get with unwanted guests
  • Spotlight is very bright being both a deterrent and providing colour night video
  • Reasonably affordable considering the amount of tech you get

Cons

  • Physically very large so it may be a bit obtrusive to some peoples tastes

I have reviewed most if not all the new Reolink cameras this year, and the new WiFi RLC-523WA is one of the more interesting (though the 8MP POE RLC-823A is more my cup of tea).

This crams in all the tech we have seen from Reolink in the past year, including object detection and spotlights with colour night vision. They throw in PTZ functionality with 5x zoom and auto-tracking people/vehicles.

Specification

  • Image Sensor: 1/2.7″ CMOS Sensor
  • Video Resolution: Default: 2560 x 1920 (5.0 megapixels) at 20 frames/sec
  • Lens: f=2.7-13.5mm F=1.6-3.3, zoom module
  • Video Format: H.264
  • Field of View
    • Horizontal: 96°-27°
    • Vertical: 69°-21°
  • Day & Night: IR-cut filter with auto-switching
  • Infrared Night Vision: Up to 60 meters (190ft) (LED: 4pcs/28mil/850nm)
  • Color Night Vision: Spotlights: 3pcs/5700K/945 lumens
  • Audio: Two-way audio
  • Power: DC power port (Not POE)
  • Ethernet: One 10M/100Mbps RJ45
  • Storage: MicroSD card slot (Max. 256GB)
  • Audio: Built-in microphone and speaker
  • Pan & Tilt Range: Pan: 360°, Tilt: 0°~90°
  • Pan Speed: 2.5°-150°/s (speed can be set)
  • Tilt Speed: 1.5°-60°/s (speed can be set)
  • Patrol: 1 patrol; up to 16 presets per patrol
  • Dimension: 136 x 136 x 201mm
  • Weight: 1.8kg

Design & Features

This is quite unique for the Reolink range, so it is worth highlighting both the features and overall design.

This is a PTZ camera which means that the camera can rotate around, panning left or right and moving up or down. It also has 5x optical zoom, allowing you to locate the camera high up on your property but still get good quality ground-level coverage.

The camera is then equipped with spotlights which allows it to achieve colour night vision. It is not as good as the native colour night vision used on Hikvision cameras and its white-label subsidiaries. However, the spotlights themselves are quite good deterrents for anyone entering your property without permission.

Like most recent Reolink cameras, this has human and vehicle detection. This is then used with the pan and tilt to auto-track objects.

This is one of the WiFi options from Reolink, so the resolution is 5MP, and power is supplied via a DC port. There is Ethernet, but this is for data only.

Due to the PTZ, spotlights and zoom functionality, the end result is a physically massive camera. I think this is important to realise before you buy it, as I suspect quite a lot of people wouldn't want something so large on the front of their house.

Set-Up

Due to the sheer size of this, I wasn't able to locate it in my usual test position covering the front of my garden. This would have provided some good auto-tracking opportunities, but it is what it is.

The camera mounts like many other bullet-style cameras using four screw holes, making it slightly less hassle than a dome camera. I found that the design made it a bit difficult to use a standard size drill for the screws, so it wasn't entirely problem-free.

With my camera placed quite low down, I found that the verticle tilt didn't go very high, so if I zoomed in, it would zoom down to the floor. I think most people would mount this well above head height, so I doubt this would be an issue for many people.  

Beyond that, the set-up is about the same as all other Reolink cameras. Scan the QR code and follow the instructions.

Settings

Most of the settings are also identical to all the other Reolink cameras. The main difference is you now have an auto-tracking toggle under detection. You can then set this to track people and/or cars.

Not in the main settings, but under the PTZ options, you have various additional options. The main one for me was the guard point with auto return. This defines where you want to watch by default. After tracking, it will return to this place after a preset length of time.

You can also set up various preset points, which give you easier control over the PTZ rather than pressing the direction buttons until it is in the place you want it to be.  There are 64 preset you can set up.

Then there is also a cruise path (which I think is the same as patrol in the app), allowing you to set up the camera to pan and tilt by itself, providing surveillance coverage over a wide area. This is set up using the presets, and you can define how fast it moves to the points and how long it stays in the points.

Motion Detection

For me, the main thing about this camera is the auto-tracking pan/tilt when detecting objects. As it was set up in my back garden, I have it set for people only. It works as expected, and it works well.

With static cameras, it is not uncommon for a camera to identify someone, but you don't really catch much detail because they have moved across the path too fast or just how they position themselves. With this, you have a much greater chance of capturing the details of any person or vehicle entering your property.  

The panning isn't 100% smooth, it sees someone, moves a bit, then moves a bit more as they move across the field of view. But the overall outcome is effective.

Day Time / Night Time Video Quality

The overall video quality during both the daytime and night time is about standard for Reolink 5MP cameras. It is generally good enough, and I am happy with it, but obviously, 8MP or more expensive brands can offer better quality.

Night time footage benefits from the spotlights which are enabled when motion detection comes on. This then provides colour images. You can optionally have the spotlight come on schedule.

The two long clips are exports from the NVR, so not much happens in them. Sorry about that. I have uploaded two shorter clips that show auto-tracking and colour night vision.

Price and Alternatives

The Reolink RLC-523WA has an RRP of £256.99, and I write this it is discounted to £192.74.

As usual for Reolink, there is not much in the way of competition, certainly not from brands I am familiar with.

The best option seems to be the SV3C PTZ Camera which is £160 on Amazon but with 20% off. It has reasonably good reviews and almost identical specifications to this Reolink. If you are already within the Reolink ecosystem, then I'd ignore it, but if you are using ONVIF with Blue Iris, it could be worth considering.

The other alternative worth considering is the Reolink DUO, you obviously don't get PTZ, but it has a 150-degree viewing angle which I would likely cover the field of view most people want from a pant/tilt camera. The WiFi model is a bit cheaper, but the POE model is considerably cheaper. While it has an unusual look, it is less obtrusive than this PTZ camera. The main downside would be no zoom.

Overall

As usual for Reolink, the RLC-523WA is an excellent camera, offering a huge amount of features for a reasonable price.

The auto-tracking PTZ is the main thing I like about this camera, and it works very well in my scenario. However, many people will likely appreciate the patrolling feature, allowing them to cover a significant area from just one camera.

This will likely appeal as a commercial use camera, too, though in this case, I'd perhaps lean toward the 8MP POE model. The size of the camera will likely be less of an issue in a commercial environment too.

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