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Panasonic Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit review: Flash back to the '90s with this dated outdoor camera kit

Panasonic's $300 Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit isn't the snazziest security system we've ever seen, but it can handle the elements and alert you to motion and sound activity.

Megan Wollerton Former Senior Writer/Editor
6 min read

The $300/AU$549 Panasonic Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit includes a Wi-Fi hub and two cameras rated for outdoor use. Additional hub-compatible Panasonic devices are available a la carte -- everything from extra cameras (you can have up to four per hub) to motion, door/window and water sensors, as well as smart plugs (you can have up to 50 sensors and smart plugs per hub). That's almost enough to make you forget that there's no Panasonic IFTTT channel or other third-party integrations, but not quite.


Panasonic Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit

The Good

Panasonic's $300 Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit is easy to set up, its motion and sound notifications are consistent and you can customize things like sensor sensitivity and alert zones.

The Bad

The app is tough to navigate and the cameras stream and record in standard definition.

The Bottom Line

This camera kit is a reasonable option for outdoor home security, but its app needs an update and I wish the cameras had high-definition settings.

You're also stuck with a 480x640-pixel VGA resolution (standard definition) and an app that looks outdated. On the other hand, you can arm and disarm your cameras on demand, the motion- and sound-related alerts are prompt and you have a lot of control over the settings (you can adjust motion sensitivity and create custom activity zones).

This kit isn't perfect, but it manages to offer just enough in terms of features and performance to make it a reasonable DIY outdoor security camera contender.

This security camera kit braves the elements (pictures)

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The basics

Panasonic's hub-and-dual-camera kit look pretty standard as far as DIY security devices go. The glossy black and white plastic hub isn't exactly small, but it won't take up a ton of space, either -- it also won't distract from your overall decor. The hub comes with a power adapter as well as a cable to connect to your router.

Not only does the hub act as "command central" for the cameras (and any other Panasonic-brand accessories you may decide to add), bridging communications between the cameras and your phone, it also has some of its own built-in features. Specifically, it has a speaker and an LED status indicator, which work in tandem with the Android and iOS Panasonic Home Network apps.

Basically, the status indicator will display either solid or flashing green, yellow or red LEDs so you know what's happening at a glance without having to look at your phone. Solid green means the cameras are disarmed and that the system is ready; flashing green, flashing (alternating) green and yellow, solid yellow and flashing yellow all mean the system is in various stages of initial configuration; solid red means that the system is armed and flashing red means that the armed system was triggered by either motion or sound.

Audio alerts -- via the hub's built-in speaker -- will let you know when the system is arming or that a camera has detected motion or sound. The hub also comes with a microSD card slot for local video clip storage and a 4GB card is included with the purchase.

Like the hub, the cameras share a similar black and white plastic design aesthetic. They come with optional stands and hardware for mounting to a wall, fence or other outdoor structure and they are rated for 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 0 to 40 degrees Celsius) and encased in a weatherproof finish to keep them safe from inclement weather.

Both cameras come with a long cable for an easy install -- I set mine up on a front and a back porch and was able to comfortably run the power cords from indoor outlets to the outside porches -- and both are equipped with microphones and speakers, two-way talk, a 640x480 VGA resolution (standard definition), motion detectors and night vision.

A closer look at this camera kit

Setup is mostly straightforward, but I didn't enjoy working inside the Panasonic Home Network app (available for Android and iOS users). I used the app on my iPhone 6 Plus and found it to be lacking in terms of ease of use and general design flow. It looks like it came straight out of the 1990s, which is quite a feat given that mobile apps didn't exist back then.

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The app looks a bit dated. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The steps for configuration are pretty simple. The app will guide you through exactly what you need to do to get both the hub and the cameras up and running. It took about 10 minutes from start to finish (it will take longer if you plan to use the included hardware for a more permanent installation).

Simple navigation within the app is also more complicated than I'd like, partly due to the unnecessary clutter on the home screen. You can see the home screen in center screenshot above -- camera, sensor, smart plug, phone, smart control and settings sections are all listed, even though most of those things weren't actually connected during testing.

The activity log, pictured in the third screen shot above, isn't especially helpful either. It doesn't distinguish clearly between motion and sound alerts or let you sort by alert type. And if you want to set the cameras to record automatically when motion is triggered, you'll have to set that up separately in the Smart Control section of the app. (Otherwise, it will only save clips that you record manually.)

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

And, while this system is DIY friendly in terms of setup, it isn't if you need to reconfigure your hub to work with a new Wi-Fi network. Nothing that I found in the user's manual, in the app or on online forums helped, so I reached out to Panasonic directly and they said to "hold down three buttons on one side [of the hub] and one button on the other side for it to reset." They were referring to the Handset/Locator, Camera, and Other Device buttons on one side of the hub and the Wi-Fi Setup button on an adjacent side. This worked fine, but it wasn't intuitive enough to figure out without contacting Panasonic for help.

The nitty gritty

These Panasonic cams performed pretty well. While the 640x480 VGA resolution wasn't super crisp, it also didn't hold my bandwidth hostage or cause any protracted lagging (which is more likely to happen with higher resolutions). The 720p Ring Video Doorbell , which is also designed for outdoor use, had issues with long lag times and pixelation. I didn't experience that with these cameras because they used less bandwidth.

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Receiving notifications and viewing the live video feed. Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Setting detection zones also worked well. Since there are a lot of trees in the area, I didn't want to get notifications every time the wind caused a branch to move. But, I did want to see if I would receive alerts when cars -- or people -- were approaching. And it worked -- I received consistent notifications when motion and sound activity took place and was able to review the saved footage from the "Recording List" section of the app.

Netgear's $300 Arlo camera kit and the $200 Flir FX are two other systems we've reviewed that are rated for outdoor use -- or have optional weatherproofing accessories that adequately arm them for outdoor use. The Arlo kit comes with two battery-powered 720p cameras with magnetic bases; it works extremely well and boasts an intuitive app. Flir FX has some serious app glitches that made its reliability questionable at best.

Panasonic's Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit rests in the middle between the two. Nothing about it is stellar, but it also doesn't fail outright in any categories. I do wish it integrated with third-party devices, though.

All of the indoor home security cameras we've tested

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Panasonic's $300 Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit has some catching up to do if it wants to compete with today's top smart home offerings . It doesn't have the crisp 720p or 1080p resolution that we've come to expect from modern DIY cams and I'd like to see some in-app design tweaks. That said, it's priced pretty well considering that you get two sturdy outdoor cameras and a hub that can accommodate a bunch of extra (optional) accessories. No, you won't get HD optics, but it's a decent option for outdoor security, particularly if you're a fan of local storage.


Panasonic Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 7Design 7Performance 7