Here's what you need to know to select the perfect hidden camera for your needs
Start by asking yourself what type of hidden camera fits best into the places you'll be using it most. Choose cameras built into alarm clocks, smoke detectors, AC power adapters, coat hooks, stuffed animals, DVD players and much more. When you need to capture covert video (and audio) on the go, check out our huge selection of body worn cameras. You can record all the action with a ballpoint pen, a baseball cap, a necktie, a pair of eyeglasses, even through the button of any shirt. And if you're a do-it-yourselfer, you can easily make your own hidden camera in just a few minutes with our versatile and rugged Camscura Micro.
While most of our hidden cams include built-in digital video recorders (DVRs), we also carry some models that require a separate standalone recorder. Some standalone DVRs operate wirelessly; others need to be physically connected to their source cameras. Keep that in mind when you're comparing the price and performance of various models.
Video Resolution and Shooting in Low Light
You'll also want to consider the level of video performance you need. Every camera we sell can shoot high quality video in typical outdoor daytime lighting or standard indoor room lighting conditions. Cameras with more sophisticated optics will give you sharper images, more accurate color and better contrast between light and dark tones. Many higher-performance cams will also provide better image quality when there's less light in a room. Of course, our infrared "Nightvision" models can capture images anywhere, including total darkness.
To make your shopping experience easier, we divide our cameras' video performance ratings into three categories. High Quality, High Resolution and High Definition. Think of those three categories as Good, Better and Best, respectively. We also provide picture resolution specs (expressed in pixels) so you can compare models simply and easily.
If you plan to use your camera primarily in low-light conditions, look for models with low "lux" rating numbers. The lower the lux rating, the more proficient the camera is at recording when there's minimal light hitting its subject. Typically, a lux rating of 2 or lower will provide good image resolution in dimly lit rooms. As noted above, if you need a cam that can shoot and record in the pitch dark, choose an infrared (IR) Nightvision model.
You can learn a lot about picture quality and low-light performance by reading our descriptions and the specs of each model, but experienced hidden camera users know that there's no substitute for hands-on experience. When you unpack your new camera for the first time, try it out in the location and lighting conditions where you'll be using it most often. If you can't do that, try to simulate those conditions as best you can. Often, subtle changes in the positioning of your camera can significantly improve the quality of your results.
Video Storage and Viewing Options
Video storage and recording times differ among hidden cameras. Most of our models capture and store video to a standard SD memory card (though some models don't use SD cards and record directly to the camera's built-in internal memory). The SD card can be easily removed and plugged into any computer, where the video you've shot can be viewed, edited and saved. Devices that use internal memory (our necktie camera, for example) are plugged directly into your computer.
The amount of video you can record before you need to change cards (or fill up a device's internal memory) varies by camera. Most cameras accept memory cards of varying capacities, generally from 2GB (gigabytes) to 32GB. But due to engineering differences among models, there's not an exact formula that lets you directly equate the capacity of the card with the total hours and minutes of recording time a particular camera provides. For example, some hidden cams might give you 20 or 30 minutes of video per GB of memory, while others might deliver well over an hour per GB. Generally, the higher resolution the video signal, the shorter amount of total recording time you'll get per SD card.
If you want to view and record video remotely, some models include IP (Internet Protocol) technology that allows you to monitor the action as it happens on your PC or smartphone. BrickHouse sells a number of IP cameras that provide this feature. Some are very easy to setup and use; others require a good working knowledge of network technology to get them up and running.
Battery or AC Power - or Both?
Whether a cam runs on rechargeable batteries or AC power often depends on its form factor. For example, a DVD player or AC adapter camera would look out of place if they weren't plugged into a wall outlet. To give you the most bang for your buck and let you choose only the features you need, some of our hidden cams - including several of our wall clocks - offer battery or AC powered options. You can also choose black and white or color recording on some models.
Battery life varies among rechargeable hidden cameras. To make sure you're getting maximum usage between charges, follow the instructions carefully. Many of our hidden cams feature motion-sensing activation; they'll only start recording when a person or object enters their field of view.
These cameras use only a tiny amount of power in standby mode, so they can go for a month or more without recharging. Some models are even body heat-activated. They won't start recording until they detect the subtle change in temperature that occurs when a person enters a room. Motion sensing and heat activation go a long way toward maximizing battery life. Those features also help you record more of the action to an SD card or the cam's internal memory while minimizing the need for excessive searching to find the segment you're looking for during playback.
Published May 9th, 2013