A covert security camera can be versatile tool for loss prevention and investigative reporting. High resolution security cameras can now be manufactured in small sizes, making them easy to hide in some surprising packages. Hidden cameras tend to use wide angle lenses that often only need a pinhole to look through. And as wireless and battery technologies continues to improve, you can free yourself from the restraints of wires when choosing a camera location.
A word of caution however. Every state has laws regulating the use of hidden cameras. So before you start viewing or recording, be sure that you are familiar with the law so that you don't cross the line into illegal snooping.
Here are some examples of popular, as well as unusual, hidden security cameras.
When I started out in the security industry, smoke detector cameras were the most popular hidden surveillance camera. They were easy to install and the wires were easy to hide. To look authentic, however, they were ceiling mounted and this limited their possible applications. The downward viewing angle makes them very useful for watching cash registers and desktops, but you'll have a hard time seeing faces. If mounted high enough, a smoke detector camera can also give you a wide angled view of a room. But, of course, you'll be looking at the tops of heads.
This is just a variation of the smoke detector camera. Using a speaker allows a miniature camera to look through the small holes of the speaker grill. A word of caution though; an astute observer may become suspicious when they notice that no sound ever comes from this "speaker."
Here is on more variation on the ceiling mounted, covert camera. Many commercial buildings have sprinkler heads hanging from the ceiling for fire protection. You can purchase security cameras designed to look like a sprinkler head. But, again, caution is in order. You may raise some eyebrows if a new sprinkler head suddenly appears in the ceiling.
Moving on down the wall, a camera hidden in a wall clock can give you straight on view of a room, and even capture identifiable face shots. The pin hole required for a board camera to look through can be unobtrusive enough, especially if the clock is mounted above a door or some area where passers by won't be likely to look straight at it.
You can actually purchase cameras that look like wall thermostats. They can be a useful solution for capturing an eye-level view of a room. And because thermostats are often located just inside of doors, you can get a good look at someone as they leave a room. But be careful; a thermostat that suddenly appears on a wall may raise questions. Especially if it has no effect on the temperature.
You can use security cameras that look like common desktop items to capture a close up view of a work space. Available desktop cameras include those mounted in clocks, binders, books, tissue boxes, computer speakers, digital picture frames and even coffee mugs. Before placing a covert item on a desktop ask two questions: How likely is this item to get pushed or covered so as to ruin the field of view? Would this item fool me if I were staring straight at it?
Thanks to wireless technology and SD card based storage, cameras with recording capability have been built into sunglasses, ball caps, jackets and other wearable items.
Where Can I Get Them?
Every camera mentioned in this article can be purchased from a variety of sources. The widest selection that I am aware of comes from Supercircuits. They've been around since 1989 and have extensive experience with business security as well as law enforcement applications. If you want to learn more about covert security cameras, I'd suggest you go there next.