The best spy cameras aren't just for 00-agents! If you're looking for a camera for home security, or something to keep an eye on pets and kids when you're out of the room, a spy camera is a great choice. They tend to be inexpensive and easy to use, meaning you can just set them up and leave them to it.
The classic form factor for a spy camera is small and unobtrusive, something that can be tucked out of sight and out of mind, where it'll go unnoticed. There are more fun ones too, with some spy cameras that are disguised as regular objects like glasses, light bulbs or photo frames! As mentioned, they tend to be easy to use, so even if you have no videography or photography experience at all, you'll be able to get them working. In many cases, starting the camera recording is as simple as double-tapping the power button.
What does a good spy camera need, feature-wise? A good wide field of view is pretty essential, allowing the camera to capture as much of a room or an area as possible. Video quality tends to be less of a factor, as you're probably not shooting this video with aesthetic quality in mind, so it tends to vary significantly by model. Some spy cameras may shoot Full HD or even 4K, but plenty more might top out at around 720p. This may or may not bother you, depending on what you're using the camera for; if it doesn't, then you can save some cash by picking up a lower-resolution spy camera.
Some spy cameras offer extra features like night vision, motion detection or smart connectivity, allowing them to be controlled remotely with a smartphone or similar device. Many are battery powered, but some need to be plugged in. Again, this may or may not be a factor for you, depending on your needs for the camera!
"Spy camera" is a broad term, and one that overlaps considerably with other types of camera. If you're interested in these models, we'd suggest also checking out trail cameras as well as action cameras, home security cameras and pet cameras, as many of these provide similar functionality to a spy camera.
For this guide, we've included spy cameras at a range of different price points, so there should be something for every user. Let's get started with our recommendations for the best spy cameras you can buy right now in 2021!
Best spy camera in 2021
The first device in our run-down is the Blink Indoor which might be classed as a spy camera or simply a helpful home security camera device. What’s interesting here is the ability to talk to intruders (or simply parcel delivery folks) using the integral two-way audio system controlled via a Blink app on your smartphone. The fact this camera is powered by two AA batteries (which will last up to two years) means it's wire-free, while it’s also Alexa-compatible, letting you view live streams and arm or disarm the camera itself. Additionally, filmed clips can be stored in the cloud for up to a year with no additional service fees. Full HD video recording is provided during daylight, while at night it cleverly switches to infrared HD night vision. It’s weather-resistant too. If you need a fully waterproof version opt for the Blink Outdoor.
The Fredi Mini Hidden Camera may be the size of an after dinner mint or a cheese cracker, but unlike both of those it is clever enough to detect motion, shoot 1080P video, capture images to an optional microSD card or record on a constant loop, and even ‘see’ in the dark. Like many of its ilk, there is the ability to set up an alarm notification to your smartphone, whereby this hidden camera will send images to your email address, so you can monitor how the nanny is getting along with the kids, or how the dog you’ve left home alone is bearing up. That’s not all though, as this miniature wonder features six infrared LEDs and a night vision distance of five metres, so you can leave it monitoring proceedings while you sleep, if desired.
One of the best home-security spy cameras, the Arlo Essential Spotlight can be placed pretty much anywhere with its screw-in mount. Unlike many other products in the Arlo range, it doesn't require the Arlo SmartHub in order to work, although you can connect it if you do have one. It's a well-featured spy camera, with motion detection and an effective "vision" range of 300 feet. There's also a spotlight, if you want to use it as an intruder deterrent.
The battery in the Arlo Essential Spotlight can last a good long time (the manufacturers say up to six months) though be aware that it's non-removable. This means you have to take the entire rig down when charging time comes. It's also worth being aware that the Essential Spotlight records only Full HD, not 4K. This probably won't be a deal-breaker for most, but still.
Setting up the camera is an easy process, and once it's connected to your phone via the app you'll be able to control a host of functions, though with the caveat that it's a lot less useful if you don't continue your free trial of the Arlo Smart subscription service.
We couldn’t do a round up of ‘spy’ cameras without featuring at least one option that features a lens secreted within a pair of glasses. While there are a lot of pocket money options from brands we’ve never heard of available online, the look tends to be more Austin Powers than Tom Cruise. The Bear Grylls Waterproof Action Camera Glasses sport a specification list that sits head-and-shoulders above the rest, albeit with a price three times that of some ‘no brand’ alternatives. The bonus here is an eyeline point-of-view perspective when recording hands-free full HD video, and because it’s as much an action camera as anything else, we get waterproofing and dustproofing alongside promised 100% UVA protection. An accessory kit including a safely strap with float is helpfully included, for anything your ‘missions’ might throw at you.
The Insta360 Go is an amazingly tiny wearable camera that can easily be used as a spy camera. It's unbelievably light, somehow weighing less than 20g, and can still capture fantastic footage at an impressive frame rate. It comes with a magnetic clip that allows it to be attached to practically any metallic surface, meaning you can stick it up somewhere unobtrusive with a good view of a room or area. While it won't continuously record for a super-long time before needing a charge, the Insta360 Go has many useful time-lapse functions that'll give you a good overview of what's going on, which you can access by wirelessly connecting to the camera with your phone or other Bluetooth-enabled device. The optional Charge Case can be attached to provide you with a little extra battery power to keep on shooting for longer,
No one would suspect that the innocent framed photo of your child / spouse / dog / lens collection (delete as applicable) could possibly house a hidden camera, right? That's the thinking behind this photo frame camera, which can record 960p video for up to four continuous hours thanks to its lithium battery, and uses a motion detector to ensure it's only recording when something is happening. The SD card can accept cards of capacities up to 32GB, so you'll have plenty of room for your footage, and the camera itself is very unobtrusive. Easy to use, able to charge via USB, and also an excuse to get one of your images printed to display in the living room!
A great spy solution for a bookshelf or a bedside table, this LCD clock looks completely innocent in your home. It has a built-in slot for a microSD card, so it can record footage. Additionally, you can get alerts and monitor the room via the smartphone app. With night vision and a 140 degree viewing angle this gives great security coverage at any time of the day.
A pleasant looking spy solution, that won't look out of place in an office or kitchen. The camera is well hidden, so it is unlikely to be discovered – and the clock works, so it can has an everyday use. The video recording is motion activated - triggering an app on your phone, but also recording footage to an SD card. A downside of the design is that the clock hand triggers the recording - which can prove a bit irritating!
Perhaps the best spy camera innovation on our list is the Sonew Wi-Fi Light Blub Camera. Fitting a lightbulb with a camera possessing a 360-degree field of view may seem like a bright idea to some and a screwy one to others; but a bulb is surely one of the last places you’d expect to find a hidden camera that can record at up to 25fps, which is the case here. There is also a motion detector built in, which will transmit a notification to your phone if, says its manufacturer, an ‘abnormal situation’ occurs in your home. As well as the all-encompassing viewing angle, the camera bulb also features a two-way audio function, so users can remonstrate safely from afar with any possible home invader – and hopefully scare them off before major damage is done.
Resembling a mini droid from Star Wars, what the Kami Indoor Camera lacks in stealth it makes up for in value for money and usability. The chief appeal here is an unobtrusive desktop or bedside surveillance or security unit with a rotating camera that provides 360-degree coverage, with decent video quality and an attractive looking design. It does, however, resemble what it is (a camera), which may be a no-no for fledgling super-spies. Power is provided via a micro USB port near the base, and we were won over by the fact that the camera’s base is also motorised, enabling it to pivot and track any movement it detects. As with most things these days the camera is controllable and set up via a smartphone app, with user-selectable settings to governing behaviour. There are some down-sides here: the camera itself only stores very short six-second clips for up to one week, and additional storage comes via a subscription service that costs extra.
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• The best night vision goggles and binoculars
• The best trail cameras for wildlife photography and nature watching
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