You don't have to be a spy to find a use for the best spy cameras. These small, unobtrusive devices can be just the thing for home security, for monitoring pets and kids, for keeping an eye out for garden wildlife, or plenty of other applications. They're generally cheap to buy and easy to use, meaning even inexperienced photographers can pick them up and get them working.
A good spy camera is small enough that you can place it anywhere without it drawing attention to itself. Some even come disguised as household objects like clocks or lightbulbs, and for the more ambitious of secret agents out there, some spy cameras are even wearable.
Other than physical form, what are the things to look out for when buying a spy camera? Ideally, you want one with a wide field of view, as it needs to be able to see as much of its surroundings as possible.
You're not going for artistic merit in the images and videos captured here, you just want to be able to see as much as possible. With this in mind, video quality and resolution doesn't really matter as much as they do in other cameras. You may not want to bother with the file sizes of 4K or even Full HD when 720p will do just as well; if this is the case, then you can probably save some money by grabbing a lower-resolution spy camera.
There are also extra features that can be useful, like motion detection and night vision. You'll want to look at how the camera is powered, i.e. does it need to be plugged in or can you charge the battery and leave it alone somewhere? As mentioned, most spy cameras will be easy to use (many will start recording if you simply double-tap the power button) but you may want to check if a spy cameras offers extra functions like remote control or smartphone compatibility.
"Spy camera" is a pretty broad term, and there's quite a bit of overlap with other types of camera. If you're interested in the cameras on this list, 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 cheapest camera in the Blink range, the Blink Mini is a solid choice for anyone who wants a simple spy camera that doesn't cost too much. It's easy to set up, and its diminutive dimensions make it easy to put somewhere out of sight. The camera can shoot Full HD video, and comes with a suite of security features, including motion detection and infra-red night vision. Plus there's two-way audio, in case you need to use it to tell off a pet that's getting too close to the snack drawer.
The only real downside to the Blink Mini is that it has no SD slot, and in fact, no internal storage at all. This means that to save footage and images, you're stuck either signing up for a subscription plan to get some cloud storage, or paying the same price as the camera again for the Sync Module 2 hub, which allows you to offload clips to a USB stick or similar device. This is hardly ruinous as the camera is so cheap to begin with, but it's something to factor in before you buy.
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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