The best fake security cameras are a great way in which to deter intruders, and cut down on cost and installation effort. This guide will help you choose the best dummy CCTV camera, and buy it at the best price.
You might think we at DCW would have our doubts about security cameras which don’t actually capture images, but fake CCTV cameras (or “dummy cameras”) are a useful tool for everyone protecting their premises. Cameras which lack real components are not only significantly cheaper than the real thing, but are of course a lot easier to fit, reducing cable runs or the costs of an NVR or video subscription service.
There are down sides too, of course: principally, should you actually need footage, they will not be able to provide. That said, it’s not a binary choice. There might well be situations one or more dummy cameras helps draw more attention to an existing camera setup. Perhaps you can even persuade unwelcome visitors of questionable moral background to glance somewhere that’ll help a real camera get a better shot?
Different prospective thieves, from package swipers to heist planners, will have different levels of understanding when it comes to surveillance technology, which is something to bear in mind. Some are foolish enough to misinterpret infrared LEDs, outside their own spectrum, as meaning “that camera’s off.” More sophisticated troublemakers will be quite aware of the reasonably common night mode feature and how it is lit, and will no doubt choose to avoid it. At a very simple level, some cameras feature power lights in the visual-spectrum. This is frequently mimicked for deterrent effect, so commonly in dummy cameras it may even serve as a tell-tale sign for the more discerning thief.
Ultimately, though, the game is about odds. You – the camera or fake camera buyer – want to bet as little as possible by spending as little as possible since the “win” is simply not to be the victim of a crime. In most situations well-placed dummies should do that job perfectly, and here are our top picks.
Best fake security cameras in 2020
Striking an effective balance between discrete and deferent, the black dome shape can be placed indoors and out where it’ll stand out just enough from a white ceiling or porch. It is cheap and not designed for those who change their mind frequently – taking the battery in and out is the only way to disable the blinking light – but on the other hand the screw fitting is easy to twist on and off from your chosen location which balances out pretty well.
From the nefarious visitor’s perspective, the camera looks convincing, though sadly you cannot angle the fake camera lens down – it points at 45˚ and that’s that. Given that it will be positioned to emulate wide-angled real equivalents, that shouldn’t be a problem. The only thing which might make someone suspect this wasn’t really a camera is the LED which, if seen in the first couple of weeks of its battery cycle, blinks so brightly (every 5 seconds) the reflection would spoil the video. If there were any!
There are many prospective criminals who decide to look elsewhere on seeing a blinking light – why take the risk? – but for many fake cameras this is a powered feature which nudges them one step closer to the effort and cost of maintenance associated with a real CCTV camera. The AlfaView has a better solution, with no apparent compromise: a solar panel which can top up the charge of AA batteries which keep the red LED blinking every 3 seconds.
You will need to supply your own Ni-Cad rechargeable but at least this will be less frequent than with other light-blinking options. In terms of putting off unwelcome visitors, once again the blinking light is behind the main glass – weirder here than with a dome – but the presence of fake infra-red lights and lens shielding looks convincing. The bracket and adjustable position make it easy to place on the corner of a structure so it won’t be missed and still appear to be monitoring your chosen spot. Even at close examination the fake cable run and shielding are convincing, perhaps the only aspect which would make me ponder its reality is the label ‘Security Camera’ where one might expect a real brand.
If you need to protect a business or home from any unwanted visitors, it’s important to draw trespassers attention to any cameras – real or simulated – to encourage them to leave before they even have chance to cause a disturbance, let alone try to gain access. This is where this design, with an array of 30 red LEDs, is effective: see it at night and it feels like someone is using night vision to monitor you – and not at all discretely!
The top cover slides back to reveal the battery compartment. This in turn is covered by an extra piece of plastic which is flimsy but serves only to prevent any moisture draining the wrong way. Standard AAs will likely only last a month though because of the extra lights, and – like so many other cameras in this category – the branding is somewhat suspect. The thing is, who’s really going to examine the side close-up given the light’s deterrent effect is visible from some distance?
The Armo hanging dome fake security camera makes an effective copy of the genre, and can be hung either from a wall or ceiling and, in most cases, will fit in with the right balance of deterrent and reality. While the manufacturer’s say this is suited for indoor and out, giving the right tone in a residential neighbourhood – perhaps on a drive – but also looking just right in a retail environment.
Were I a professional thief, this dome’s lack of obviously fake branding would definitely make me think twice, and were no batteries fitted to power the blinking light, I would definitely move on (as a pro, I’d associate flashing lights with mock cameras). It’s still possible, though, to fit two AA batteries if you prefer to ward off opportunists with a flashing red LED, and in that respect it is a little more convincing than some since it’s not excessively bright but does the job.
Motion sensor lights are an effective device when it comes to deterring undesirables (or just lighting the drive) at night, but by combining the technology with some decoy camera design traits it’s possible to achieve all the benefits while drilling fewer holes in your property. Thus the A-Zone L10 has a good claim to practicality, thanks to having a genuine function which they also shield from the elements and proudly promote, they also score highly on waterproofing and convincing branding grounds.
The solar panel not only keeps a 1500mAh lithium battery charged (a sunny day will do this in 6 hours) but excuses the lack of cables to a curious suspect as a side benefit. The overall design is pretty camera-like too, which is good, though do make sure you position the solar panel south-facing – it’s real, after all. The PIR motion sensor will trigger the light when someone passes within a 120˚ zone up to 25ft / 8m, and it’ll remain on for about 20 seconds. In the far north there might be a shortage of solar light in winter, but if you’ve got the right spot for it this is a great choice.
In recent years, the smart-home indoor security camera has become a commonplace sight around many homes, and they have a distinctly different look to the average security camera. They are sold to look at home as baby camera monitors, or sit nicely amongst home decorations, while still having screw mount options and that’s exactly what is on offer here with the kitty-like ears in the “camera” recess and addition of red LED to give the impression, for example, to your babysitter that you’re checking in via a phone app. To be fair, this is a more realistic instance of LEDs than many cameras on this list, too; my very real Nest Cam Indoor has an LED (albeit a friendlier green), and I can’t imagine the lack of cabling seeming anything other than an instance of Wi-Fi by that lonely teen wonder if they can get away with hosting an impromptu party.
Alternatives to fake security cameras
An alternative strategy, if you’d already been pondering the benefits of dummy cameras, is to select modestly-priced cameras and then simply not connect them to anything. A real camera which isn’t powered up is just an effective deterrent to most who see it, and it still leaves you the option of connecting it later. Or go for a camera which isn’t recording to a pricey recorder all the time but gives you the option of doing a little surveillance via a device you already have and a phone app. This, in turn, brings the option of immediately responding to any intruders via two-way audio (or asking your partner to get the milk as you see them going to the garage).
We have covered the best outdoor security cameras and best indoor security cameras elsewhere in Digital Camera World, but we’re just going to quickly mention a couple which fulfil the primary requirement of this list – accessible pricing. It can’t hurt to compare (but for a deep dive, check out our other list).
Although it’s not the most aggressive looking of designs, there is no mistaking that this is a security camera – with a real wire – so if you just used it as a fake it’d be a good one. The fact it is real is evident in the build quality which can survive -10 to 40˚C (14-104F), and though if you’re reading this list you might not be too worried about image quality it’s good to know that night vision is provided and – while some pricey cameras offer 4K and more, 1080P (2 megapixels) is more than good enough to check in on occasionally via your phone.
You can also use the camera as a recording point, putting in an SD Card so you do have recorded footage even if you don’t have a recorder or paid-for storage service. Setup is also pleasingly easy (point a QR code on your phone screen at the camera). Given this is only 3 times the price of some of the fakes on this list, it’s worthy of consideration.
This camera brings many of the same obvious advantages that the SmartEye above it also offers above the fakes and there is no need for me to restate them (or the obvious disadvantage which can be felt right in the wallet). The option of connecting to a full ONVIF protocol system later is a pleasing one though, if you imagine your system will expand.
From the perspective of the unwelcome visitor, there is a green LED and a flood of bright light meaning that this is as effective as the A-Zone L10 above, for about twice the price. The siren could be louder – perhaps the waterproofing is too effective – but as a homeowner, if you think you’ll enjoy beeping at or talking to trespassers, then this is still a great choice as you’ll get alerts to your phone immediately. It is also, of course, a handy option for discussing packages with delivery agents and monitoring them.
Guides to other security products:
Best indoor security cameras
The best body cameras for personal security