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The Buyer’s Guide to Small and Hidden Security Cameras

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The greatest irony about modern wireless security cameras is that, though their purpose is to survey our valuables, many of them are so expensive that they are in fact also a valuable that’s ripe for the picking.

Spy cameras and mini cameras are a great way to overcome this kind of problem because they are designed to be as subtle as possible. Hidden security cameras can be concealed much more easily than many high-end devices, and it doesn’t hurt that they are usually a lot less expensive. Read on to learn more about small security cameras, including our favorite picks and what to look for when choosing one.

What’s the Purpose of Small Security Cameras?

Small security cameras are marketed under various guises. Mini camera, spy camera, and hidden security camera are the more common terms you’ll come across that essentially describe the same thing: a surveillance camera small enough to be effectively concealed.

The smallest of these can measure less than 2 inches, making them very easy to conceal. Though the size might suggest poor quality, you’ll be surprised to know that a lot of these tiny devices are capable of recording in HD, with some even claiming to support up to 4K.

As most of us are hopefully aware, spying is very much illegal, so despite the marketing many of these cameras commit to, you should never use a small security camera to spy on somebody. All those living in the property (and those employed in it, like babysitters) must know they are being recorded. ‘Spy cameras’ can be used as you would any other surveillance camera; to survey your property and belongings.

They’re especially good for monitoring around the front door and porch area. You could easily fix one to view through the peephole of the front door or conceal it on the porch without the risk of theft that more expensive devices, like high-end video doorbell cameras (which are highly conspicuous), pose.

Recommended reading: Lost your small security camera? Use a hidden camera detector to find it! 

Small Security Cameras: Things to Know Before Buying

Before sharing our favorite small security cameras, there’s a few things that are good to know before investing in one, from what color you should get to how to abide by the law appropriately.   

Forget aesthetics

Black colored mini cameras not much larger than two inches are your best bet for having a camera that is totally concealable, and you’ll notice that most on the market tick this box. That’s because it’s a design that easily blends into surroundings. Avoid bright colors or shapes that attract attention by sticking to cubes or spheres. Cutting edge designs aren’t wanted here!

Wires for power

The smaller the camera, the smaller the battery. If you’re planning on having a live feed for 24/7 coverage from your mini camera, you’ll want to make sure the product you buy has the option for wiring or wire charging. Perhaps one of the bigger advantages of doorbell cameras as a surveillance camera for the porch is that they can last several months; most mini cameras will last several hours at best. Find one that can be powered with a wire if you want to record for extended periods.

Dash cams

Dash cams are a great option for those looking for robust security cameras on the smaller scale, even if you have no intention to use it in a vehicle. Though they’re somewhat larger than spy cameras, they are still designed to be easily concealed with long-term use in mind. Not to mention, since they’re made to be fixed to the dash, windshield, or rear view mirror, they are especially adept at being mounted at awkward angles or hanging from a surface. For much more on dash cams, check out our article

Forget Audio

It’s illegal to record audio using a hidden camera in several states. These are currently California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. If you are planning to hide your device, then it’s advised to turn audio recording off if the camera allows for this to stay on the safe side. It’s extremely rare for public CCTV to capture audio anyway.

Know the Law

In the US (and most other jurisdictions around the world), there is a reasonable expectation of privacy that protects any person on camera. Someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a bedroom, changing room, or bathroom, for instance, so placing cameras in there without their knowledge and consent is illegal.

Hidden cameras aren’t illegal but must abide by this expectation. Small security cameras outdoors, hidden on your porch for example, are perfectly legal, because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy here. But a camera hidden in a baby’s room or crib being used to observe a babysitter is illegal (assuming the babysitter is not made explicitly aware that they are being recorded).

As with all laws, there may be differences on a state-by-state basis, so check with your local authority if you are concerned.

Our 5 Favorite Small Security Cameras

With those things in mind, we’ve handpicked some of our favorite small security cameras available on the market. 

  • Cheapest small security camera with audio – Blink Mini
  • Smallest home security camera for apartments – Arebi A10 Spy Camera
  • Best quality wireless hidden camera – Arebi 8C Pro 4K
  • Small hidden security camera for the office – Spy Camera Charger
  • Small wireless security camera best advanced features – Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2

Available on Amazon. From $34.99.

blink mini
Image via Amazon

The most affordable release from Amazon-owned Blink, the Blink Mini is an entry-level home security camera designed for those who don’t have the time or money to fuss around with pricier and more complex devices. At just 50 x 49 x 36 mm, it’s about as dainty as its name implies, making it a very easily concealed wireless camera. 

1080p footage, two-way audio, and surprisingly good night vision make up for the lack of MicroSD card slot (you’ll have to buy the Blink Sync Module 2 If you want non-Cloud storage). Stick to black for a more subtle look.

What’s Hot

·   Inexpensive.

·   Very small.

·   USB charger.

What’s Not

·   No MicroSD card slot.

·   Cheap feeling.

·   Motion detection, cloud storage, etc. requires a subscription.

Arebi A10 Plus 1080p HD Mini Spy Camera

Smallest home security camera for apartments

Available on Amazon. From $39.98.

Arebi A10 Plus 1080p HD Mini Spy Camera
Image via Amazon

This nifty little camera from Arebi is about as close to ‘spy cam’ as you’ll get, measuring just 24 x 30 x 30 mm. Despite its size, it’s capable of 1080p recording with a 150-degree field of view, which rivals many regular-sized (and much more expensive) competitors. The circular, black design is so subtle as to disappear into its surroundings, and perhaps its best feature is that it is magnetic, so it easily mounts to metal surfaces. 

Push notifications and motion detection are all here, as well as night vision, though it won’t suffice for pitch black environments. Unsurprisingly, the battery is poor, clocking in at about an hour of use, so you’ll likely have to keep it plugged in via micro-USB, or turn off Wi-Fi to use with a MicroSD instead.

What’s Hot

·   Tiny size, subtle design.

·   Magnetic body for easy mounting.

·   MicroSD up to 265GB (not included).

What’s Not

·   Very poor battery life when connected to Wi-Fi.

·   Night recording will require moderate sources of light.

·   Color saturation is poor.

Arebi 8C Pro 4K

Best quality wireless hidden camera

Available on Amazon. From $59.95.

Image via Amazon

If you’ve got a couple extra bucks to spare, you might want to consider the high-achiever older brother of the A10 Plus. At 1.2 x 1.2 x 2.1 inches, it’s a touch larger and therefore somewhat less inconspicuous than the A10 Plus, but still fits in the palm of the hand and is magnetically mounted. 

The slightly larger body is perfectly understandable, though, given that this remarkable device can record in up to 4K Ultra HD with a 160-degree viewing field. Its battery is also better, clocking in at about 3 days per charge when in ‘motion mode’, which records only when the motion sensor is triggered.

What’s Hot

·  4K Ultra HD, 160-degree wide-angle lens.

·  MicroSD up to 256GB (not included).

·  ‘Motion mode’ helps preserve battery life.

What’s Not

·   Slightly bulkier body than the circular A10 Plus.

·   Battery life not sufficient for 24/7 recording without being kept on charge.

·   Night recording requires moderate sources of life.

Spy Camera Charger

Small hidden security camera for the office

Available on Amazon. From $37.99.

Image via Amazon

This cheap and cheerful gadget may look like a portable USB charger, and that’s because it actually is—as well as a camera. If you happen to be on the lookout for both those things, look no further! An effective ‘spy camera’, this device is highly convincing as a USB charger. The camera inside it is hard to detect when at a reasonable distance, making it great for those suspicious of thieves in hotels or at the office. 

The camera supposedly supports up to 1080p, but realistically you won’t be getting remotely close to HD. Likewise, don’t expect any kind of wi-fi or app support. It supports up to 32GB MicroSD, which can be inserted into another device to view loop footage.

What’s Hot

·   Works as what it is disguised as, making it highly convincing.

·   Easy to use on the go.

·   MicroSD up to 32GB (not included).

What’s Not

·   Basic features, with no options for Wi-Fi, app support or livestreaming.

·   32GB MicroSD card will fill up fast with 24/7 use.

·   Very cheap feeling product.

Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2

Small wireless security camera best advanced features

Available on Amazon. From $109.99.

Almost all mini cameras or ‘spy’ cameras share something in common—they’re cheap, and that can be reflected in the quality of the materials and the lack of more advanced features. For those more than happy to spend more, consider trying a dash cam, like the Garmin Mini 2. Even if you have no intention to use it in a car, it measures about the same size as a car key, so it’ll make for an excellent, easily concealed camera wherever you decide to use it. 

There’s super crisp 1080p recording, but the features often omitted by regular mini cameras, like full voice control, automatic uploads over wi-fi, and live view monitoring are more likely to pique your interest. Still, it doesn’t require wi-fi to function beyond setup, since it supports up to 512GB MicroSD.

What’s Hot

·   Car-key sized.

·   Advanced features like voice control and live view.

·   Easy mounting via adhesive.

What’s Not

·   Must download corresponding app for setup.

·   140-degree field of view is unusually narrow for a dash cam.

·   No true night vision.

Hidden Camera App? Using AlfredCamera Discreetly

What sets apart a hidden camera from a regular security camera can be defined as a hardware difference; a hidden or mini camera is significantly smaller than a regular security camera.

But for those that don’t want to buy a spy camera, you can easily use an old smartphone device as a subtle security camera with AlfredCamera. It’s only in recent years that large devices have grown so popular. Older Android and iPhone models were far smaller than newer ones, making them perfect for concealed and inconspicuous surveillance.

Simply install AlfredCamera and your old device will be reborn as a feature-rich camera complete with two-way audio, low light mode, motion detection, and continuous recording. Available on Android and iOS devices.

For more ideas on how you can conceal a device running AlfredCam, check out our article

FAQ

How do you hide a camera in plain sight?

With a small security camera around 2 inches or less in size, you can easily hide a camera among household objects, on bookshelves, or even just in the corners of rooms.

How small can spy cameras be?

If you’re the FBI or James Bond, presumably as small as you can image. But for all intents and purposes, a camera for worthwhile home security purposes shouldn’t be less than about 1.5 inches in diameter. Any smaller and the camera will likely be a gimmick and of no practical use for long term security surveillance.

What is a good mini spy camera?

Check out our list for our favorite picks above.

How do I hide my mini spy camera?

Mini spy cameras are easy to conceal among household objects on shelves or on desks. Try placing it next to other tech devices.

Can hidden cameras work without wifi?

Many hidden cameras use MicroSD cards as storage devices, so you don’t need to have them connected to the wifi. For example, the Arebi A10 Plus supports up to 256GB MicroSD. Simply insert the memory card into another device to view recorded footage there.

Conclusion

Small security cameras make surveillance a little less attention seeking, and a little less expensive. Concealing a device is much easier when it is just an inch or two large, but it’s important to be aware of when you are potentially in breach of someone’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Always make the members of your household know that they are being recorded.