Ring’s cameras and doorbells tend to film in full HD (1920x1080p) with a few exceptions. Whilst this is good, Ring cameras also use a wide angle lens that pick up a lot of footage – at the sacrifice of overall detail quality, that is.
Whilst you can zoom in on Ring recordings by doing a two-finger pinch, the overall detail you will get when zooming in can be fairly poor (especially at night time). Most of the time, it’s very hard – if not impossible – to make out car plate numbers.
If you like video, feel free to check out the YouTube guide for this video below. If not, please keep reading!
Ring camera and doorbell recording quality
Ring were one of the first to market with their smart doorbell, releasing the Ring Video Doorbell 1 in 2013. It recorded in ‘HD ready’ 720p, i.e. 1280 x 720 pixels.
Since then, Ring have released a range of smart cameras and doorbells, all of which record in ‘full HD’ 1080p, i.e. 1920 x 1080 pixels. Whilst the difference might not sound like much, full HD can capture more than twice as many pixels as 720p.
I should clarify that when I say ‘pixels’, I’m generally talking about the level of quality and detail: 1080p will capture a greater level of detail than 720p will.
To give an example, the below are some video captures from my 1080p Ring Doorbell Pro:
You can see that they capture a fairly impressive level of detail, especially for a doorbell! Ring cameras capture the same level of detail, too.
Ring devices record when motion is detected, and they record around a 1 minute video clip. You can also do a live view session to see a real time view of what’s being captured, which lasts up to 10 minutes. Finally, a Ring Doorbell will also record when the doorbell is clicked. No Ring devices currently offer the ability to record 24/7, however.
Whilst the level of detail provided by Ring’s devices is fairly good, anything captured more than a few metres away from the device won’t be amazing quality. For example, if I wanted to get the plate number for a car parked opposite, I wouldn’t be able to – it’d be too blurry.
Hence I wanted to cover different zoom options that are available to you, and test out whether any of them can provide useful information when you need it.
Zooming in – Ring app
When viewing recordings back in the Ring app (or if you’re in live view), you can use the two finger pinch motion to zoom in or out. In other words:
- To zoom in: put two fingers very close together, and move them away from each other.
- To zoom out: put two fingers apart from each other, and then move them close together.
This allows you to see the following level of detail:
As you can see, there’s varying levels of quality when zooming in. Anything captured at night time is going to be a bit blurry and obscured anyway (due to night vision mode being on), and so zooming in will never be too useful.
However the day time zoom is better – I’m able to see that the parked-up van is some sort of window company, based on its logo and the word “WINDOWS“. Heck, I can see that the company name is… wait… “[Word] of [word] WINDOWS“. Okay, that’s not too useful actually.
The reason that zooming in is never perfect is because Ring devices (like nearly all of their rivals) are only fitted with a single camera lens: a “1x” wide angle lens which is good for objects close to the lens, but not great for objects far away.
The fact that I can make out “of” and “WINDOWS” from a van parked up 20+ metres (64+ feet) away is actually pretty awesome when you consider that this is all from a doorbell!! 10 years ago, doorbells just made a sound after being pressed, so the current state of smart doorbells and cameras is much advanced.
But this knowledge doesn’t help if you were burgled or seen something suspicious, and hence you wanted to get plate numbers or extra information from a recording to provide to the police.
Since Ring’s 8-10x digital zoom isn’t too useful, can analyzing things on a computer help more?
Zooming in – computer
If you go to Ring.com (or download the Ring app), you can view the 1080p recordings from your Ring cameras and doorbells. However they are still the same quality level as when you viewed them on a mobile phone – i.e. they’re still 1920 x 1080 pixels.
Equally, viewing the recording on Ring.com doesn’t actually allow you to zoom – there’s just no option for it. What you have to do instead is download the video by right clicking on it, and clicking “Save as”. This will download it to your computer, and you can then open it up in your computer’s video player.
If your video player has a zoom feature then great, you can try zooming in here. But if it doesn’t, consider using VLC Player which is free and comes with a digital zoom option:
You can enable ‘Interactive Zoom’ by going to:
- On the menu bar, click:
- Effects and Filters…
- Video Effects…
- Interactive Zoom
- Click ‘Save’
- Click ‘Close’
A window in the top left will appear over your video, allowing you to move the white box to show which part of the main video should be zoomed in on.
This is a fairly good level of zoom – probably a 6-8x digital zoom, which is similar to the Ring app’s zoom on a mobile phone.
Having said this, you can’t magically start seeing extra level of detail – you’re still just doing a digital (i.e. software based) zoom. It’s not like fancy camera or the latest smartphone that has a zoom lens (known as an ‘telephoto lens’), and hence can take physically-zoomed video records.
One thing you could try is going into ‘movie mode’ and trying to enhance part of the footage in a photo editor. Hence I did a screen grap (pressing the ‘Prt Sc’ keyboard button) and copied the picture into Photopea – a really awesome free, browser-based photo editor. Naturally you can use use any photo editor that offers sharpen/enhance tools, though.
In the above case, I extracted just the part of the footage I was interested in, and then I went to Filters -> Sharpen -> Smart Sharpen. This allowed me to play around with different options to try and improve the picture quality.
As you can see, I wasn’t able to make out the exact company name, but it’s a bit if an improvement – especially when you (again) remember that this van is parked up 20m/64′ (or more) away.
But in summary, there’s always going to be a limit to how much detail you can see from Ring’s video recordings. Whilst the movies (and shows like NCIS) sometimes show camera techs zoom in and gain an incredible level of detail from a single blurry video, the reality is somewhat different: you can’t magically obtain perfect quality from any part of a video.
Nest Hello’s zoom compared
Ring Doorbell’s closest rival is the Nest Hello, and they have a whole support page on their zoom and enhancement features.
Nest Hello also only has a single “1x” wide angle lens (i.e. no telephoto/zoom lens), so it relies on an 8x digital zoom – just like Ring.
However, Nest Hello comes with a really useful feature: enhance. You can specify a part of the doorbell’s view to focus on, and all recordings after this point will be zoomed in on this area – and be automatically enhanced.
Whilst you can’t then zoom back out of recorded clips (you can only cancel the enhance mode, and then future recordings will be zoomed out again), this is quite a nice feature because it allows you to get extra information about certain areas that concern you.
This is made possible via Google’s state of the art photo AI, which is the same sort of technology that Google Pixel phones use to allow really good level of ‘zoom in’ even with a single “1x” lens (such as with the Pixel 3).
Whilst it’s unfortunate that you can’t enhance on pre-recorded clips, if you see a suspicious vehicle parked up then you could always temporarily zoom and enhance on this area to get extra detail quality.
Equally if some of your doorbell footage is obscured by a wall or siding, being able to zoom this area away – and only see the useful parts of your outside – is a nice feature… one that Ring unfortunately doesn’t have.