Hidden Camera Buying Guide

Hidden Camera Buying Guide

If you’re concerned about suspicious activity or simply want peace of mind, a hidden camera could give you some comfort. Monitor a babysitter or an employee. Record meetings and conversations.

But, before you select a camera and find a hiding spot for it, you should review all your options.

This guide will explore all the hidden camera features that you should pay attention to. Learn how to use them, and how to select the best camera for your needs.

When Would You Need a Hidden Camera?

Hidden cameras are designed to record video or take photos without anyone noticing. Depending on the design, they may be hidden in plain sight or held in your hand.

Businesses have used hidden cameras for security purposes for decades. But, modern technology now makes it easier for homeowners to get the same protection.

The main use of hidden cameras is to keep an eye on your home or business while you’re away. This could also include nanny and pet cams.

Along with monitoring, hidden cameras can be used to record private or public meetings.

How Do You Use a Hidden Camera?

Before you start using a hidden camera, you need to decide where you will use or place the camera.

When hiding a camera in your living room or an office, you can find cameras hidden in common objects. Search for hidden cameras concealed inside smoke detectors, clothes hooks, clocks, and other household items.

While these cameras are easy to hide, they may not be suitable if you don’t have the time or access to install a hidden camera.

If you’re meeting someone at a restaurant or their office, you will likely need a camera hidden in something that you would hold or wear. These concealed cameras include cameras hidden in pens, keychains, water bottles, glasses, hats, and even pocket buttons.

Operation of the hidden camera will vary. Some cameras have a single button to carry out various functions, such stopping or starting recording.

Others rely on remote control via a mobile application. This allows you to control the camera through a compatible phone, tablet, or computer. And, it may offer additional settings or options.

Which Hidden Camera Features are Most Important?

To find the right camera, you should first know which features to look for. Learn more about each option and how they apply to your needs:

  • Camera lens angle
  • Video resolution
  • Still images
  • Motion detection
  • Alerts and notifications
  • Live streaming
  • Remote opeation
  • Audio capabilities
  • Video storage options
  • Loop recording
  • Installation or concealment
  • Battery life
  • Extra hidden camera features

Camera Lens Angle

Since it’s difficult to judge the quality of the camera lens without really seeing the produced images, the main consideration is the angle of the lens.

The average field of view is between 90 and 120-degrees. This allows you to see directly in front of the camera and is good for medium to large-sized rooms or hallways.

For a small room, a 130 to 170-degree wide-angle lens offers a better view.

Video Resolution

Along with the camera lens, the video resolution will give you a good indication as to the quality of the video. High-definition starts at 720-pixels, with 1080p being the average.

High-definition video will take up more storage space and require more power than standard definition. For this reason, some hidden cameras only offer lower resolutions.

If you want to capture details and a clear view of the subjects in the video or photo, get a high-definition camera. The crisp images may be more useful for gathering photographic evidence.

For more footage or 24/7 coverage, a lower resolution will help you store more video. The video may not be as clear, but you can keep an eye on things.

Still Images

If you want a camera that can snap pictures, you should consider the resolution of the photos.

To give a better indication of resolutions, the average phone camera takes 2 or 3MP pictures. 5MP or higher will generally provide clear photos, without the graininess associated with lower resolutions.

Audio Capabilities

Not all hidden video cameras are capable of recording sound.

Eliminating a microphone saves space. This extra space could be necessary for a tiny hidden camera, such as a pen camera.

If audio is essential to your needs, pay attention to this feature. Look for hidden cameras that include a microphone.

Motion Detection

Motion detection is a common feature of hidden cameras. It allows the camera to remain in sleep mode until motion is detected.

You can install the camera and then allow it to automatically record activity. For cameras that take snapshots, the motion activation may trigger the shutter to snap several images.

As it begins recording or snapping photos, the motion detection could also activate an alert sent directly to your phone…

Alerts and Notifications

Phone or email alerts give you instant notification when something happens.

Depending on the camera, you may get a simple message letting you know that the motion detection has been activated. Or, you could get connected to the live stream of the video on your phone.

Keep in mind that this feature isn’t available with every hidden camera. Alerts, notifications, and live streaming may require a WIFI connection.

Live Streaming

Live streaming is a feature that is typically available through a smartphone app.

The hidden camera system connects to the local WIFI network. You then install the mobile app and can access the live stream on your phone.

With this live streaming feature, the video can often be saved directly to the phone or tablet. Instead of saving footage on an internal memory card, you store video on the viewing device.

If you’re connecting to the internet over a mobile network, the live video feed could result in extra data usage. Instead, switching to a private WIFI network will allow continuous streaming with no data usage.

Remote Operation

The remote connection needed for a live stream often allows you to fully control the camera and its settings. Through the mobile app, you could change the video resolution, stop or stop recording, or take still images.

Remote operation can be useful in covert situations. You don’t have to deal with physically pressing a button on the camera. And, you can check in on the camera from any location.

Video Storage Options

Hidden cameras can either store the video internally or transmit the video to another source. Internal storage includes internal flash memory or expandable memory with microSD cards.

The maximum size of the microSD card depends on the device. The latest hidden cameras should support cards up to 128GB in size. Though, older devices may only support up to 32GB cards.

For cameras with internal storage or microSD cards, determine how much video you can store. With 720-pixel HD video, you can record about 20 minutes of video per 1GB of storage space. With a 32GB card, you should get about:

  • 24 hours of 480p SD video
  • 10 hours of 720p HD video
  • 6 hours of 1080p HD video

The other option is a hidden camera that transmits data over a WIFI connection to your computer, tablet, or smartphone. This is common with cameras that feature live streaming.

Loop Recording

With loop recording, you can enjoy continuous filming.

When the storage is full, the camera will automatically record over the oldest files. Use this feature to get 24/7 coverage.

Battery Life

Most hidden cameras are powered by a rechargeable battery and charged using a USB cable.

Sometimes, this USB connection allows you to transfer files to your computer. Once connected with a USB cable, the computer treats the internal storage as a removable drive.

Whether the camera uses rechargeable or disposable batteries, you should consider the average battery life.

A miniature hidden camera could offer just a couple hours of use before it needs charging, while others could offer all-day recording. You can even find hidden cameras with attachable power supplies for extra battery life.

Extra Hidden Camera Features

Along with the features discussed, you will find extra features available on certain cameras.

For example, some hidden cameras include time and date stamps on your video or photos. This adds a digital record of the time and date that the images were taken.

Night vision or infrared recording is another extra feature that could be useful. When recording in low light or night conditions, night vision sensors can offer a clearer picture.

Sleep mode can also be helpful. This feature will extend the battery life so that the camera can remain hidden longer periods.

How Much Should You Pay for a Hidden Camera System?

Price will vary depending on the features and quality that you’re looking for.

You can find inexpensive hidden cameras for as low as $20. These cameras will often consist solely of a function button and may not include any extra features.

If you want live streaming to a mobile phone, alerts, and high-definition video, you can expect to pay a little more. High-end cameras can range from $100 to several hundred.

How Do You Choose the Right Hidden Camera?

Choosing the right hidden camera requires you to consider how you plan on using the camera.

If you can hide it in a room, look for cameras that are made for concealed placement. If you need to wear or hold the camera, look for disguised handheld cameras.

Along with the design, decide which features are most important. High-quality video, wide-angle lenses, and internal storage are some of the most commonly sought options.

Since nearly everyone owns a tablet or smartphone, live streaming and mobile app controls are also popular.

Think about where the camera will be placed, what you’re recording, and whether you want instant access to a live video feed.

With these considerations in mind, examine products with the help of in-depth hidden camera reviews. Get more information about specific cameras.

After reviewing everything discussed, along with several product reviews, you should be prepared to make the right decision.

As a last thought, remember to compare several options before making a final choice.

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