Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for all the latest smart home tips, tricks and updates!

Why Everyone Needs a 4K Smart Cam (Reolink Vs Ring Image Quality Compared) – New Video

Reolink recently got in touch with me, asking if I wanted to review one of their cameras. I opted for their RLC-810A, a 4K, 8 megapixel smart camera which records with MUCH better image quality than Ring does.

This video compares the Reolink 4K footage with my Ring Floodlight Cam Plus, that records in full HD (1920x1080p).

The video timestamps are:

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 0:51 Camera Lenses
  • 2:34 Bit Rate
  • 3:56 Frame Rate
  • 5:26 Night Vision
  • 6:22 Wrapping Up

Video Transcript

Hello, I’m Tristan from Smart Home Point. In today’s video I’m going to be comparing one of Reolink’s 4K cameras, with the Ring Floodlight Cam Plus, which records in full HD. But of course, it’s not just the resolution that matters, it’s also the bit-rate, the lens that’s used, and also the frame rate. So I’m going to take a look at all this in this video.

Reolink were kind enough to send me their RLC-810A camera for me to test, but this is a fully independent video – I’m not being paid to say nice things about Reolink’s products. Right, so the Reolink 810A camera is a 4K, 8 megapixel camera. We all know that 4K is better than full HD, and you can clearly see in the intro that the Reolink cam has better image quality than the Ring Floodlight. But why did I also mention the bit-rate, lens and frame rate?

Well, let’s discuss the lens first of all. Many smartphones now have multiple rear camera lenses – including my Samsung S10 which has three. One is a “normal” lens – which they call a 1x zoom lens – and another is a 0.5x “wide angle” lens. The wide angle lens captures more of a scene, which is very useful for a security camera of course, but it can also sometimes lead to a weird fishbowl-type effect. I’m actually filming this video on a 16mm wide angle lens because this is a fairly small room, and with a “normal” lens you wouldn’t see too much of me.

The same is true for smart cameras. Ring’s doorbells and cameras use wide angle lenses – meaning that they capture a lot of the scene. You can clearly see the difference in how much of a scene is captured by both. But there’s actually a caveat here. Ring captures a lot of a scene – due to their wide-angle lens – but then it’s only 1080p resolution, meaning that the recorded detail is almost watered down – or diluted. A wide angle lens with a low capture resolution doesn’t always make much sense.

Conversely, Reolink use a “normal” lens (and by “normal” I mean one that isn’t wide-angle, nor is it a zoomed-in telephoto lens). It then records the scene in 4K resolution, which gives the captured items quite a lot of detail. And that’s the first key point here – Reolink’s image quality isn’t superior to Ring’s image quality purely due to the 4K resolution; it’s also because less of the scene is captured, meaning the detail isn’t diluted. But of course, a wide angle lens can be very helpful for a security camera, so Reolink’s choice of lens here can be both a benefit and a disadvantage.

One of the other things I mentioned in my intro was bit-rate, a measure of how “compressed” a video is, essentially. And it’s actually THIS that determines the image quality. A 4K video with a terrible bit-rate will look… well, like this. In-fact, full HD video CAN look better than 4K video if the bit-rate is better on the full HD video. I’ve spoken about this topic more in a previous video, but the main thing to know is that Ring’s bit-rate is usually between 1 and 2 megabits per second, whilst this Reolink camera records at 8 megabits per second. This is another reason that the image quality is better on the Reolink camera – the bit-rate is 4-8 times more than the Ring camera (although this is partly to be expected, because 4K video should naturally have a higher bit-rate than full HD video due to the extra detail that’s capture).

To give a specific example, here you can see me holding a Dremel multi-tool box at different points. The Reolink camera captures this reasonably well – especially as I move closer to the camera – but the Ring camera struggles to show any real detail. This can be a worry for crime detection if you only have Ring cameras, since you might not always be able to make out great detail – unless the person is very near the device.

I also mentioned the frame rate in my intro. This is also called FPS (frames per second), and it refers to how many individual images – or frames – make up a video each second. If the FPS is too low, everything will seem quite choppy – and fast-moving detail (such as a car driving by quickly) might not be captured properly. Generally speaking, recording at 24-30 FPS is fairly standard in many cases, whereas sport and action footage is often recorded at 60 FPS. Going back to the two cameras, Ring tends to record at 20-24 FPS whilst the Reolink camera defaults to 25 FPS. As long as you’re not using these to record sport, both of these are reasonable enough frame rates.

To show this further, you can see my car drive off. I actually set my Reolink frame rate to just 15 FPS here, and you can see that the footage is a bit choppier than the Ring footage. If I increase the FPS to 25 FPS, it looks a lot more seamless – as you’d expect.

Of course, a camera that records in 4K at 8 megapixels and 25 FPS will use up a lot more storage – and internet bandwidth – than a camera recording at full HD, 1.5 megapixels and 20 FPS. On average, my Reolink camera uses a lot more megabytes per minute – whereas my Ring footage averages a lot less – as you can see on the screen. This has to be factored in if you do want to use a proper 4K security camera.

One final example that I wanted to highlight is night-time footage. Night-time recording is naturally harder for cameras due to the lack of light, so cameras will switch to a night-vision mode powered by infrared light (hence the reflections you see on the car windows). Here you can see a comparison of Reolink’s and Ring’s image quality – and again, Reolink wins the day.

If I then switch the Ring floodlight on, both cameras quickly switch out of infrared recording mode, but again Reolink’s image quality is (predictably) better. You can see a hardcore career burglar who is… wearing slippers and pajama bottoms, and appears to be duckfacing. Unfortunately for all of us, Reolink’s camera shows this duckfacing pajama criminal in decent enough quality, compared to Ring which again struggles to show any great detail.

And that just about wraps up today’s video. I didn’t shoot this video to bash Ring – I’m merely doing it to highlight how a 4K security camera can massively outperform a “full HD” camera (assuming the bit-rate and FPS are also good enough). I am impressed with the image quality of Reolink’s 4K camera, even though the lens naturally captures a lot less of the scene than Ring’s wide-angle lens. But overall, I wouldn’t want to rely on Ring as a SECURITY camera, but I would happily rely on Reolink for this purpose.

Where I like Ring is their convenience. The app works fairly well, as does the integration with the Echo Show and Fire TV. Reolink doesn’t currently support Amazon Echo, which is a pity. Plus Ring’s use of a wide angle lens means that you end up capturing a lot of what’s happening around your property – although granted, the zoomed-in detail isn’t very good.

I hope you found this video useful. The other nice feature of this Reolink camera is that it’s Power over Ethernet, which is something I’m going to be covering in another video shortly – so make sure you’re subscribed for that. If you enjoyed this video, please click the thumbs up button which will tell YouTube that more people should see this video. Thanks for watching!

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

Leave a Comment