At one point they were a pretty niche product, but nowadays, mini cameras can be found in households around the world. They’ve gained a lot of popularity among people, especially since the technology they require has become very affordable.
You might find them under various names, “hidden camera”, “nanny cam”, etc., and they’re used for various purposes. From monitoring childcare providers to home security, they can come in pretty handy. Before we even begin, make sure you know the laws before you put a hidden camera in your home, or office for that matter. They could get you in legal trouble if you don’t abide by the laws.
One big benefit they come with is that they’re very easy to set up and use. Most of the models are similar, so setting one up shouldn’t be much different from another one. Let’s take a look at some of the basics of how to use a mini camera, and how to set it up for best performance.
Make sure you choose a good spot
To begin with, you want your camera to have a good line of sight. Think about what you’re monitoring, if it’s a person, think about the behavior or the place they’d be. Make sure there aren’t any visual obstructions. For example, if you’re worried about how a nanny might be treating your baby, make sure the camera points towards their crib. If you’re using the mini camera for break-ins, point it towards the doors. Another consideration should be the sound. Many cameras nowadays let you record sound as well, but that won’t be of much use to you if you put the camera next to a speaker, or your TV set. The noises from the speakers or the TV will drown out everything else, making the sound you’ve just recorded pretty much useless. If you have such devices, it would be wise to place the camera on the opposite side of the room. If you want to listen in on a person, maybe try putting it near a couch, or a chair, your target could sit on, or in. While discussing placement, keep the power supply in mind. Some cameras offer battery-powered recording, so you can put them just about anywhere, without any cables in sight. However, ones that need power should be placed near a socket. And, you should ensure that the cable that is visible is either hidden or disguised as another household appliance. If your camera needs a wired connection, it should be near a router or a computer. You don’t want to be running long cables all over your place. And, last but not least, actually, check out the spot to see if your eye is naturally drawn to it. There are certain places, or layouts, or patterns, that attract attention. If you think the target is likely to look there, don’t put the camera there or it might be spotted easily. A good hint would be to keep it significantly higher, or lower, than the average eye level. A fake smoke alarm could do, or you could put it under furniture. If you aren’t sure whether you did a good job, ask a friend or family member to try and find the camera that you’ve hidden. If they can’t find it, even though they know it’s there, you’re good. However, if they find it rather quickly, you might want to pick a better spot.
Installing the camera
The first potential problem when you’re installing a hidden camera could be the lighting. On one hand, they often do require a lot of light in the room if you want a clear picture. On the other hand, if there’s a lot of light shining at them, chances are you won’t be able to see anything through them. Your camera should face away from a major light source, and whatever it is recording should be well lit. Next, you’ll want to camouflage it well. Even though you’ve put it out of sight, you don’t want someone accidentally spotting it and recognizing it as a camera. You could make sure that the camera itself is as small and discrete as possible, or you could disguise it as an everyday object. Chances are you’ve come across nanny cams that look like common household objects, such as a wall hook, or a plug-in air freshener. People are much less likely to see something that looks like a wall hook and notice the hidden lens, than an obvious camera that’s well hidden. Once you’re done installing it, you should test it. This is especially important for motion-activated or sound-activated cameras. You should make sure that it does detect motion or sound correctly, as you don’t want it failing when you really need it. And don’t just do this once you’ve installed it – check it a week or two later to ensure it’s still working.
Even if you think that you set it up, and it’s working, and everything’s done, a hidden camera does require a bit of maintenance. For example, if it’s a battery-powered camera, you should regularly check the battery level, and either changes the batteries or recharge the camera when necessary. To see how often you should do this, you could check the owners’ manual. If there isn’t a mention of this, you could keep track of how long it takes for it to empty completely. The memory should also be cleaned out, especially if your camera isn’t network-connected and uses a micro SD card for storage. If you’re using an IP server to record, you won’t need to do this. Last but not least, as with any electronic device, it might break at some point. You want to be aware if this happens, so ensure that you check it regularly to see if it’s working as it should be.
Instructions and Manuals
The issue with minicameras is there are so many in the market that finding instructions and properly installing them varies so much from different models that it’s hard to give a one size fits all tutorial on their install. However, there are some commonalities between different models and the smaller square-shaped camera has taken off as the most popular and has similar instructions through models. We have compiled a list here of the different mini cameras and their instructions so you can either find your model or find a model similar to your camera and follow the instructions in the case that you have lost your own instructions. Please again keep in mind these may be different models to your particular camera and your mileage may vary.
You may check one particular mini spy camera that we’ve reviewed, the SQ11 Mini DV Camera Review.