A Basic Guide to Spy Cameras

The most commonly asked questions about spy cameras such as what they are used for?

What kind of features are important, and how to detect them.

You’ll find tons of useful tips, tricks for finding hidden spy cameras, and much more below.

What are spy cameras?

Spy cameras are hidden cameras that are used to record people without their knowledge.

They are mostly used to capture video of certain behavior or actions that people wouldn’t display if they knew they were being recorded.

For example, your neighbor or babysitter might be swiping valuables while you’re away.

How can you confront them without any evidence that it was them?

You can buy a spy camera and hide it in your home so that their activities will be observable even when you are away.

Many spy cameras offer live feeds to smart devices or will record when motion is detected.

What are they also known as?

A spy camera is also known as a hidden camera, nanny cam, or security camera.

The most common term for them is the hidden camera and they are often used on reality shows when people are unaware they are being recorded or for security purposes at home or office.

Many people have seen a film or two where a spy camera is used such as James Bond or other spy thrillers.

They can be extremely useful and hidden on clothing or other small objects like a button or phone charger.

Why use spy cameras?

Spy cameras are great for solving problems such as missing items or observing your children’s behavior when you are away.

If you want to know if they are having friends over and throwing parties without giving away the fact you are observing then a spy camera is the right tool for the job.

Many spy cameras are often described as nanny cams.

These are not cameras that detect intruders, instead, these cameras help people to monitor domestic staff such as nannies or cleaners.

How/ where to hide?

Depending on the type of spy camera you get there are numerous places to hide them.

If you get a small enough camera you can consider hiding it on a bookshelf, in a stack of books, or in a pile of clothing.

Other spy cameras are built into common household objects such as phone chargers.

If you have a USB charger spy camera then you can plug it in anywhere there is an outlet and no one will know it is there.

You can also fit it inside decor including models, Christmas ornaments, or a stack of movies.

Some spy cameras are designed to be wearable and are built into clothing items like buttons.

How to use?

If you know what you want to record, such as a certain part of the house or a baby’s room, you can buy a camera that is going to be the easiest to hide in that environment.

Some spy cameras are just small cubs which can be set on any flat surface.

Setting one of these in a stack of baby blocks may be one example of how you can use a spy camera to keep an eye on your kid’s room.

You should also consider what kind of lighting environments you will be working with.

In the case of a baby monitor, you will want a spy camera that films well in low light conditions.

How small?

Spy cameras range in size from several inches to the size of a button.

The smaller a spy camera is, the more difficult it will be to set up.

A small camera designed to be pinned on clothing may be more difficult to face in the right direction while a USB charger spy camera will always have a straight forward angle when you plug it in.

Keep in mind whether you will be moving the spy camera around a lot and traveling with it or using it for more stationary purposes.

How do they work?

A spy camera captures an image much like any other digital camera by receiving light through the lens and focusing it on a small grid of light detectors.

The grid of sensors then measures how much light there is at a particular place and the detectors are combined to show a complete picture.

There are also spy cameras with motion detectors which can detect motion in a particular part of the frame while others just continue filming a fixed area.

Spy cameras use

Spy cameras are often used in everything from private investigations to solving family matters.

Sometimes a lawsuit requires a private investigator to find out certain information that requires a spy camera.

Other times you may just want to know if your spouse is cheating on you or if your kid is sneaking out at night.

There are a number of circumstances that could require a spy camera, these are just a few.

How to spot/ detect spy cameras?

If you are worried that a spy camera is being used on you, it can be helpful to know how to detect them.

Some of these methods range from simple to requiring a special device.

The simplest way to find out if there is a hidden camera is to turn off the light.

Most cameras have an indicator light which should become visible in dark.

Another simple way you can spot a security camera is to manually check every device in the room from smoke detectors to air filters and wall decor.

Even plants may be hiding a hidden camera.

There are also special devices that can detect RF frequencies which you can move around the room until they alert you to a potentially hidden camera.

Another way is to use your phone if you make a phone call and there is interference it is possible there is a hidden camera.

There are also apps that will help you find a hidden camera.

Are spy cameras legal in the USA?

It is not exactly black and white when it comes to determining if a spy camera is legal.

In most cases, it is legal in the United States to record surveillance video with a spy camera, even without the consent of the person you’re recording.

However, it is illegal in most states to record with hidden cameras where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy such as a bathroom.

The types of situations where spy cameras are legal are defined in the Privacy Act.

Are spy cameras legal in the UK?

The same is true for the UK.

It is generally legal to record using spy cameras even without a person’s permission, but there is still are still situations where you can’t record as defined in the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act.

Much like the USA, filming with spy cameras is not legal where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

That is why it is legal to put a spy camera in an office but not in a restroom.

Types of spy cameras

Spy cameras come in many forms.

These include USB chargers, electrical sockets, photo frames, plastic bottles, teddy bears, jewelry, smoke detectors.

Spy cameras are designed to be used in lots of different ways inside or outside your home (including your bedrooms and bathroom) in your car, office, and on your clothes.

Examples of types of objects you can buy with spy cameras in them include USB flash drives, USB smartphone chargers, men’s shower gel, Wifi AC adapters, and clocks.

Although it is not as commonly known, it is also possible that your own smartphone could be used as a spy camera.

Hackers can tap into your own cell phones camera or your webcam for example.

Keep your webcams covered when not in use to avoid having yourself filmed without your knowledge.

Features of spy cameras

There are a few features that are common across all spy cameras.

They include resolution, the field of view, the method of storage, audio or no audio, ability to connect wirelessly with Wifi, zoom, and night vision.

Depending on which features are present in a given spy camera, the cost could go up or down.

The more features included typically denotes a more hefty price tag.

A few of these features are going to be standard across all spy cameras and we’ll start there first.


All spy cameras record video, it is just a matter of what resolution they record in.

The most common formats are 720P and 1080P.

Both of these formats are high definition and almost all spy cameras record in one of these resolutions.

Field of View

Field of view is an important one, and all spy cameras have a specific field of view.

Field of view refers to the angle that light is acquired by the lens.

The more curved the lens is, the wider the field of view.

It is common for spy cameras to have a field of view above 45 degrees all the way up to 90 degrees.

This allows even a small, small camera to record a wide image.

Without a field of view, the area that a spy camera could capture would be significantly smaller.

SD card storage

The next most common feature of a spy camera is an SD card storage slot, typically this refers to a Micro SD card.

These are used as a form of removable local storage that can store the video files themselves then removed later to be viewed in a computer.

There are primarily two types of storage, either SD card storage which stores files locally on the card itself or through the cloud via Wifi where it is sent to another hard drive provided remotely by a cloud service.


The other type of storage is through Wifi.

Wifi can either connect your spy camera directly to your smartphone or computer or send the video to a cloud storage service through an internet connection.

Wifi functionality is typically denoted by a 2.4Gz connection since faster speeds require larger devices.

A 2.4Gz Wifi connection is fast enough to easily transfer video files but keep in mind if someone decides to do a sweep for hidden cameras, a Wifi-enabled device can be detected.

It could also create feedback during cell phone calls which can be another giveaway.

It comes down to whether you are willing to trade the convenience of streaming video to your phone wirelessly at the cost of being more easily detectable.


Audio is another common feature, but it is not always present in a spy camera.

Many spy cameras sacrifice the ability to record audio in favor of smaller size.

It requires more space and a potential to give away the spy camera by having another noticeable feature where the mic is located.

In small spy cameras such as those built into USB chargers, a hole for the mic may seem rather odd to anyone looking at it since USB chargers don’t normally have tiny holes.

Again, it comes down to exactly what you are looking to record and if audio is necessary.

If it is, it is important to understand that it comes at a cost and a trade-off must be made.

Some spy cameras even offer the ability for two-way audio but this feature is far less common since it would obviously give away the fact there is a hidden camera present.

Connect to Android or iOS app

When choosing a spy camera, you can find devices that offer connectivity to your smartphone.

This feature requires Wifi to be able to connect to a smartphone, but not all Wifi spy cameras will connect to a smartphone.

Keep in mind most spy cameras that offer smartphone connectivity have an accompanying app which is available on both Android or iOS.


Zoom gives a spy camera the ability to enhance the image and look closer.

This can either be achieved by a digital zoom which expands the image digitally, or it can be achieved with a moveable lens.

Having moveable parts requires the spy camera to be larger so keep this in mind if you are searching for spy cameras that can zoom.

The most common form of zoom is digital and it is usually included on most spy cameras.

Night Vision

Night vision gives the ability to see in the dark but it requires a special infrared light to work.

This means another potential identifier which could give the spy camera away but provides a high-quality image, even in the lowest light conditions.

Housing an additional feature such as night vision means the spy camera will need more room for the infrared LEDs, this means a larger spy camera.

Keep these trade-offs in mind when choosing your spy camera.