Apart from adding suspense and drama to your favorite thriller movies and TV, hidden cameras can be a surprisingly useful tool for home security. Because the cameras have tiny sizes and disguises, they’re easy to hide from clever burglars that know about your other security cameras.
We explore two types of hidden cameras: stand-alone units and disguises for standard security cameras to discover which type is best for you. We also give a crash course on state laws in our FAQ section.
Hidden cameras aren’t our first choice for security cameras due to their sometimes shady connotations, but they can be a good alternative for certain situations where a normal security camera is too big or located where burglars might break it. Here are five hidden cameras worth considering.
Hidden cameras often unreliable
Most hidden cameras come from generic brands and don't usually match the quality of mainstream security cameras. We recommend reading through customer reviews (especially the critical ones) before you buy a hidden cam. If hidden cameras seem like too much work, head over to our wireless camera review for something easier.
When choosing hidden cameras for this review, we set up some basic rules: they must cost less than $75 and record video in 1080p resolution or higher. While some of the cameras have night vision and Wi-Fi to enable mobile device controls, these features weren’t a requirement.
The overwhelming majority of hidden cameras are generic products from small-scale manufacturers. This means high turnover, with even popular models regularly selling out. We’ll do our best to replace products as they disappear, but you deserve fair warning of this unpredictable product category.
When there’s such a high turnover of hidden spy camera brands and products, we don’t test the products in person. Instead, we rely on user reviews, videos, and specifications to inform our reviews. Read our ranking methodology to learn how we test and review products.
With Puoneto, 4K video is finally an affordable reality for hidden cameras. The high-quality video outperforms typical 1080p cameras but makes this unit a little more expensive on average.
We also like that this camera has a built-in Wi-Fi connection so you can check footage from your phone after it detects motion. This tiny battery-powered unit records for up to six hours on a charge, which isn’t very long. But considering it uses motion detection to record video, you don’t need to recharge it every day.
Unfortunately, some user reviews complain of poor app performance and disappointing product quality. This is unsurprising since generic hidden cameras are typically lacking in quality—even the best hidden camera puts its covert mission over high quality.
If you want a bargain-bin hidden camera that also comes with a microSD card, we think that Ehomful is a good option. This hidden spy camera is similar to our pick from Puoneto but with a lower 1080p HD video quality and no mobile app. In exchange for fewer features, this unit costs half as much—around $33.
Because it comes with a 32GB memory card, you don’t need to worry about finding one to go with it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support cards over 32GB, so it can’t record as long as the other cameras on our list.
Overall, we like the simplicity of this mini camera, and it’s a good choice for folks looking to save some cash.
A forgettable camera disguise is an effective one, so we think it’s good that the Alpha Tech USB charger is as plain as they come.
This nondescript USB charger looks just like any number of devices floating around your house, and it even charges phones to complete the illusion. While you can connect it to a battery for more portability, it’s prone to people who inadvertently move the spy cam in a way that neutralizes it.
Still, it’s a little awkward to point the camera at a room when you plug it into an outlet. But if you have outlets higher on the wall, like above a kitchen counter, you should have a decent view of the room.
Clocks are some of the most popular disguises for a hidden cam, so we had to include one on our list. We like the Waymoon clock camera’s 4K video resolution, mobile app, and wide-angle lens, making it one of the more full-featured hidden cams we found during our research.
It also sports a rechargeable battery, making it perfect for your next hotel stay. Sadly, it’s a little more expensive than other hidden cameras, and it doesn’t come with an SD card to store your videos.
When you’re not traveling, this Wi-Fi hidden camera has a surprisingly sleek design that looks great on a bookshelf or desk in your home office.
A hidden camera doesn’t have to sit on a shelf to be useful, so we think the Yijiaoyun body camera is an excellent option to take with you outdoors. This camera clips onto your clothes and has 32GB of built-in storage, so you don’t need to buy a separate memory card.
There’s a microphone on this camera, so we don’t recommend recording in private areas, but it should be acceptable in a public setting. The rechargeable battery lasts up to six hours and can record while charging if necessary.
This body cam’s discreet, small design is perfect for clipping on your shirt on a jog, to capture a lecture in class, or as you ride your bike to work.
Compare security camera disguises
Disguising an existing security camera is often a better option than a stand-alone hidden device. This way, you get the perks of reliable mainstream brands like Wyze, Google Nest†, or Ring. There aren’t a ton of disguises out there for these brands, but here are a few of our favorites. Just don’t forget to buy the camera that goes with them.
The IoT Slash Pencil Case is probably our favorite disguise for a security camera because it’s a simple design that fits well on any desk or bookshelf. Unless you look closely enough to spot the camera, this is a convincing disguise for the Wyze Cam. Don’t forget to hide the Wyze Cam’s power cable for an even better disguise.
It doesn’t fit Wyze’s other indoor camera, the Wyze Cam Pan, but that’s probably a good thing since a case would limit that unit’s ability to pan around a room.
This SummitLink disguise for the Nest Cam Indoor doesn’t really hide that there’s a camera watching, but it can help the camera blend into the background of a room more easily. Plus, we love the colorful silicone sunflower design that looks playful in your child’s nursery or playroom.
Another benefit is that tons of security cameras imitate Google Nest’s minimalist design. This means you can fit the stretchy silicone skin on similar designs like the Yi Home Camera and SimpliCam.
Holaca is another disguise that doesn’t offer much in terms of hiding a Ring Stick Up Cam Battery from burglars. But it makes your cameras easier on the eyes with a chance of blending into surroundings. If you mount your Ring camera in a tree with this case, we could see it looking similar to a birdhouse.
Perhaps a bigger benefit of this case is the additional weatherproofing (Ring’s camera is already weatherproof) to help protect your camera from sunlight and keep rain from dripping on the camera lens.
Hidden cameras are a good option for hiding security cameras away from burglars, but they’re not as reliable as their mainstream counterparts. While we did our best to find quality products for folks committed to a hidden camera concept, we ultimately recommend buying a traditional security camera from a more experienced brand.
Hidden camera FAQ
Are hidden cameras legal?
Hidden cameras are legal in all 50 states, but there are some restrictions. You can record videos in the common areas of your home, but usually not in bedrooms and bathrooms—where people expect privacy.
You also can’t record audio without consent in the following states:1
States with two-party consent for recording audio
To be on the safe side of the law, we suggest getting consent, forgoing audio, or clearly posting a sign saying cameras are recording (implied consent) before using a hidden security camera.
How long can hidden cameras record for?
A video camera’s recording capacity depends on the resolution, battery life, and size of the memory card you use. You can generally expect to record a few dozen hours of video on most microSD cards over 32GB, which gives you a few weeks if your camera records using a motion detection feature instead of a continuous recording.
Do hidden cameras need Wi-Fi?
No, all hidden cameras record video locally on a microSD card—the Wi-Fi models merely make it possible to access this same footage over the internet. They don’t usually offer cloud storage like a standard security camera.
What’s the difference between a hidden camera and a spy camera?
“Hidden camera” and “spy camera” are interchangeable terms for a security camera that you hide or that has a disguise. We prefer the term hidden camera over spy cam. A nanny cam is a similar term that focuses on watching your child’s caregivers.
In any case, we don’t recommend using hidden cameras to spy or “get dirt” on other people you know. We just think they can help outsmart wily burglars looking to hide from standard security cameras.
*Amazon.com list price as of 10/02/2020 at 10:00 a.m. (MT). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.
†Google Nest, Google, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.
Written by John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist with over seven years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech. Before joining SafeWise in 2020, John was an editor for Top Ten Reviews specializing in home security and the smart home. Learn more