Which Hidden Camera Should I choose?
When you are looking to buy a hidden spy camera or nanny cam, there are a heck of a lot of choices. Like anything, there is good, bad and middle of the road. People come into our store all the time with devices and cameras they bought online and are unhappy with. Either the device does not function as they thought it would, may not work at all or doesn't have the features they wanted. I'm going to explain the basics for buying a nanny camera or covert surveillance camera. And by "I'm", I am referring to that guy over there on the right....
My name is Rick and I am the owner, marketing department, shipping department and head janitor at the Daytona Spy Shop. After a career in law enforcement, I became a licensed private investigator. I visited spy shops and I purchased spy equipment and hidden cameras from online retailers for use on my cases. I can tell you from first hand disappointment that all hidden cameras are not created equal. Like anything else...you get what you pay for, right? However, there is no need to pay too much for too little, either.
Here are a few pointers to help you make an informed decision:
1) What TYPE of hidden camera do you need? - It is really important to know this up front! You need to have an idea of the basic requirements for your camera. Do you want it to record all the time or just when it detects motion? Is the area well-lit or do you need a camera with night vision? Is it important that you be able to see every wrinkle on a person's face or is a lower resolution camera acceptable?
Okay, the first question is this: Do you want a battery operated camera or do you want an AC powered camera? We have folks come in our shop everyday and try to fit a square peg into the proverbial round hole. They want a camera that has full High Definition resolution, Night Vision, Motion Detection, WiFi Connectivity, hundreds of hours of video storage capacity...and they expect it to fit in a device the size of a marble. And, they know it exists because they saw it on "Person of Interest" or "CSI". A small pen camera that is battery operated will record for about an hour before the battery goes dead. You can't buy a pen cam and expect it to sit in a cup filming activities for the entire week while you are on vacation. Every camera needs a power source. If that power source is a battery, most often the run time will be an hour or two. Some of the cameras do have extended batteries and they claim they will sit in standby for a month or even three months. My car manufacturer also said my vehicle would get 40 miles to the gallon. It gets about 17. Don't believe all the claims you hear.
Here's the best rule of thumb. If you only need a few minutes of video and you will be manually holding the camera, (i.e.: Pen Camera, Hat Camera, Key Chain Camera) then battery operated is the way to go. However, if you want the camera to run all the time, you need an AC powered, plug-it-in-the-wall camera....OR a hard-wired, permanently installed camera.
If you find yourself in the middle of the above two scenarios, then perhaps a camera with an extended battery will work. Just remember, the more video the camera records, the faster the battery will drain.
2) Do you need Night Vision? If the camera will be in a dark place, you might want to consider a night vision camera. Keep in mind, most people don't enter a room and walk around in the dark. Most people turn on the light. Some good quality cameras have a great low-light resolution without night vision. If you do decide to get a night vision camera, make sure you choose wisely. Some surveillance and nanny cameras have regular IR night vision that we all recognize by the dim red glow visible when the night vision function is active. This probably won't work in a hidden spy camera. People may wonder why your "tissue box" or "plant" is glowing. With a hidden nanny camera, you want invisible IR night vision. It is invisible to the human eye. So, make sure you verify that the "night vision" described is the "covert IR illuminator" type such as Invisible 940 nm IR. Most quality hidden spy cameras with night vision have an effective range of 10-15 feet. Cheaper models will sometimes only have a range of 2-4 feet. If you are unsure, ask for a demo in person or ask to see sample video of that camera taken in complete darkness.
3) Do you want a Wi-Fi Hidden Camera? A nanny camera with built-in Wifi allows you to monitor the camera remotely when you are across town or across the globe as long as the camera is connected to your wi-fi router. Beware that some cameras have what is called P2P (Peer to Peer) wifi. These cameras allow you to connect to the camera's internal wifi module and view what the camera views, but only when you are relatively close (about 100 feet). You cannot use P2P wifi to view your camera when you are not fairly close to the camera. Another major point about wifi nanny cameras is security. Anytime you purchase a wifi spy camera, always change the password from the default one. Otherwise, anyone with the same app can view your hidden camera remotely. Trust me, I have had to call clients and tell them to change passwords because I could see live hidden camera footage from their camera once they took it home. It's super important to change the password. This is a good time to point out that you should be buying spy equipment from a person or company that you can reach out to if you need advice or help in the camera's operation and set-up. We set up hidden cameras and wifi spy cams all the time. Most people don't and it can be a bit confusing. We always provide additional instruction to our customers should they need it. Check out the "Contact" page of any online spy shop. If they only have a contact form to fill out and no address or phone number....BEWARE! They may not be around when you need help and advice.
4) Expect to pay a fair amount for a good quality hidden spy camera. We always explain the pros and cons of each camera we sell. The first question I ask a customer is where will you place the spy camera and what do you want it to record? We have top-quality 1080P Full HD hidden cameras with wi-fi, invisible night vision and motion detection. They can cost from $200 to $500 depending on the style of camera and the manufacturer. We also have cheaper 480p (D1 resolution) cameras hidden in pens, watches or flash drives. The video resolution is a bit hazier with 480p but some people are fine with it because these cameras often cost less than $60.00. And then we have very good quality "middle of the road" nanny cameras with 720p HD resolution. We always demonstrate the camera in person in the shop, and we show the customer sample video of the same area with all the cameras we sell, so they can make an informed decision.
One final point here...Hidden Cameras cannot have Audio. That is illegal in the United States unless you're law enforcement. Read about that here.
If we can answer any questions for you about spy surveillance cameras, hidden nanny cameras or body worn spy cameras, please call us at (386) 310-4812.
Let us give you expert advice and instruction about spy cameras. You can't find that on Amazon or eBay!!!