The Ultimate Guide To Home Security Cameras

security camera
Have you ever been caught on camera doing something really embarrassing? If you have, you’ve probably learned to avoid cameras. Burglars have the same instinct – steer clear of security cameras.

Installing security cameras around and in your home can be a great addition to your home security. If you don’t have the budget to install real cameras, consider putting up fake cameras. The only thing needed to run a fake camera is a couple AA batteries. A red light will blink to give the impression that it’s recording, and no one will know that it’s actually fake. Most burglars won’t want to risk getting caught on camera and will avoid your home.

If you do have the money for real security cameras and feel that you need them, digital video recorders are the best option. They have the clearest picture. When you install security cameras, you may want to consider remote surveillance. Remote surveillance gives you the option to check up on your home even when you may be miles away. For example while you’re away on a business trip or vacation, you can check on your home with remote surveillance.

One type of camera you can have installed is a bullet camera. Bullet cameras are small, but durable, and probably won’t be noticed. They can be used indoors and outside. A special kind of bullet camera can even be installed in your pool. Other models have infrared capabilities for nighttime. Most bullet cameras are used inside the home to monitor house cleaners or babysitters.

Security cameras are no longer just for the rich and the famous. You can have cameras, real or fake, in your yard and home to discourage burglars and protect your home.

If you’re ready to get started, here’s the table of contents for our Ultimate Guide to Home Security Cameras:

  1. An Introductory Guide to Wireless Security Cameras
  2. The Need for Home Security Cameras
  3. 3 Advantages of Wireless Security Cameras
  4. Hidden Camera Video Surveillance – Is It Legal?
  5. What is an IP Surveillance Camera?
  6. Methods of Low-Light Video Surveillance
  7. Using Your Webcam for Video Surveillance
  8. 3 Smart Security Cameras that Do the Thinking For You!
  9. Child Safety – Installing a ‘Nanny Cam’
  10. Watching Burglars with the iCam App
  11. Fake Surveillance Cameras
  12. Strategic Placement of Surveillance Cameras
  13. Are Digital Cameras Going To Replace Peepholes?
  14. Surveillance Cameras in Unlikely Places
  15. Surveillance Video Quality – The Basics
  16. 2 Ways To Record Video Surveillance
  17. Affordable Video Surveillance Systems

Introduction to Wireless Security Cameras

home security camera
Having wireless security cameras installed is a great way to have access to 24/7 video monitoring of your home. With recent advancements in security technology, you are now able to purchase wireless security cameras that aren’t required to be directly connected to a video transmitter. However, before installing wireless security cameras in your home, it is best if you have a general knowledge of how these devices are able to function.

Basic Components

A wireless security camera system usually includes one or more wireless cameras, which each have a built-in transmitter. This is the part of the camera that sends a signal to the receiver, which does not need to be directly connected to the camera. This signal allows the transmitting of video captured on the camera to the receiver, which can be connected to a TV, VCR, Electronic Recording Device or a home PC.

How Wireless Security Cameras Work

The signal that is transmitted by the camera is slightly similar to a radio signal. The video footage is transmitted to the receiving device at a specific frequency, which is able to be captured and recorded (as long as the receiver is tuned to the same frequency). If you’re ambitious, you can actually convert a wired camera into a wireless camera by attaching a transmitter and programming a receiving device.

However, in order to perform these functions, both the transmitter and the receiver in a wireless security camera system do require a constant power supply. Depending on the type of camera, the system may either be powered by a battery pack, or by a direct AC adapter which is plugged in to an electrical outlet. Depending on your needs, you may opt to purchase a wireless security cameras that operate on battery power. This means that even if the electricity in your home fails, the camera will continue to transmit images to the receiver. As long as your recording device is also able to run on backup power, you will still be able to capture video surveillance.

Choosing a Wireless Camera System

Just like with all other security equipment, there are key differences in wireless security cameras which dictate how effective they are in increasing your level of security. Some wireless camera systems include extra features, including:

  • Night Vision
  • Motion-Activated Recording
  • Infrared Vision
  • Programmable Duress Signal **

Another consideration that you need to make with a wireless security camera system is the issue of range. It’s important that you are able to place the camera in an area where the transmitter will be able to send a signal that is strong enough to be clearly picked up by the receiver.

Many home protection companies now offer add-on packages to home security systems that include video surveillance. Most of these systems are all-inclusive, and may even come with free or discounted installation. If you are planning on adding video surveillance to your home, it may be beneficial to first contact your home protection company. There may be options available through your company that are more beneficial than setting up video surveillance on your own.

** A “Duress Signal” is a programmed code that can be used if an intruder in your home forces you to disarm the system. It will alert your security monitoring company that you are experiencing a security breach in your home.

The Need for Home Security Cameras

attempted car break-in
Crime reports are always in the news. Homes are robbed, cars are broken into and property is stolen. Maybe you feel safe because those kinds of crimes do not happen in your quiet neighborhood. Or maybe you’re not sure if home security systems even work. Here is proof that you could be a victim to burglary and that home security is not only important, it works, too.

Early Saturday morning, thieves broke into Ken Warner’s vehicles that were parked outside his garage. The thieves went on a crime spree through Hastings, Wisconsin and stole various items from six different vehicles. From Ken Warner’s truck, the thieves stole a laptop.

Luckily, Warner had installed security cameras on his garage. As the burglars broke into the cars, the cameras captured footage that could be used to find and arrest the thieves. When Warner discovered his trucks had been broken into, he checked the security cameras and watched the burglars in action. Warner then uploaded the video to Facebook, and the video spread to the Star Gazette.

The security camera’s footage led to various leads and police have already made one arrest. Police are still searching for the other burglars, though, and Warner’s stolen laptop.

The thieves broke into Warner’s vehicles at 2:24 a.m. – a time when most people are asleep and would not see a burglar breaking into a car. This is why home security cameras are so important. Cameras capture crime when homeowners are away or asleep.

You might believe your town is quiet and safe enough that you do not need any kind of home security. But you can never know for sure. If your car or home is broken into and property is stolen, then you might wish you had installed security cameras. Without the security cameras, the police in Hastings might have been without any leads and the burglars would have escaped.


3 Advantages of Wireless Security Cameras

wireless home security camera
Most people view wireless technology as being a relatively new invention. However, the first successful wireless transfer of electronic signals actually took place in 1879, by a man named David E. Hughes. Hughes was able to transmit radio signals several hundred yards, all by using a keyed transmitter. However, it was a long time before Hughes was fully recognized for the breakthrough that he’d made, since he did not satisfy the proper “scientific requirements” of the time period. Hughes eventually went on to produce the Hughes Telegraph, which was the first telegraph machine that could print out text messages that were transmitted over long distances.

Today, wireless technology has become extremely common, with most residential households now having their own wireless internet connections. In relation to home security, wireless technology helps to improve versatility and effectiveness of home security devices. One of the most notable devices that improves the security of a home is the wireless security camera. Using wireless technology for security cameras has several important advantages.

1. Versatility.
When placing a wireless security camera, one of the most important benefits is the versatility that you have with the placement. Since you don’t need to take into account the length of the wiring, you have more freedom to place your wireless security camera in an optimum location. This can also help you to improve the effectiveness of your video surveillance system.

2. Flexibility
If you install a wired security camera surveillance system, it can be extremely difficult to move your cameras after they have been installed. With wireless security cameras, you have the flexibility to move them at any time. This can help you to have more control over the level of surveillance captured by your cameras. For example, if you have an outdoor pool that only requires surveillance during the summer, you have the freedom to move your cameras to other locations.

3. Inconspicuous Surveillance
With a wireless security camera, you aren’t required to place it in a specific location. This gives you the ability to hide your camera in any location that you deem appropriate. While some of the benefit of having a video surveillance system lies in the cameras being a visual deterrent against burglars, there may be times when you wish your cameras to remain hidden. Examples of when hidden cameras may be useful are: interior surveillance cameras, “nanny cams” and motion-activated security cameras. Also, with wireless security cameras, you don’t have to worry about drilling into your wall to find a place to hide the wiring.

surveillance camera footage
Installing hidden cameras around your home can be an effective way to constantly monitor any activity. Hidden camera surveillance can help you to identify any potential burglars or intruders, as well as allow you to keep an eye on your children’s babysitter. However, a question that many people often ask – “Is Hidden Camera Surveillance Legal?” is subject to a lot of controversy.

Hidden Camera Laws

In general, it’s illegal to obtain video surveillance of someone with the intent of using for blackmail or other malicious purposes. It is also illegal to take video surveillance of an individual in a place of “expected privacy”, where the surveillance will violate specific privacy laws. These “expected privacy” locations may include:

  • Bedrooms
  • Bathrooms
  • Locker Rooms
  • Dressing Rooms
  • Changing Rooms
  • Hotel Rooms

However, not every state has a law that expressly prohibits unauthorized installation of cameras in private locations. In some states, it’s legal to install cameras in these locations, as long as it has been authorized by the owner of the property. However, the following states deem it illegal to install hidden cameras in places of privacy:

  • South Dakota
  • New Hampshire
  • Utah
  • Michigan
  • Maine 
  • Minnesota
  • Kansas
  • Hawaii
  • Deleware
  • California
  • Georgia
  • Arkansas
  • Alabama

Some states have laws that do not allow trespassing on private property in order to obtain unauthorized hidden camera surveillance. These states include:

  • Hawaii
  • Alabama
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Maine
  • Kansas
  • Delaware
  • Michigan
  • Georgia
  • Utah

Hidden Cameras In Your Home

In general, you are entitled to install a hidden surveillance camera in your home for purposes of safety or home security. The footage captured on this camera may be able to be used in court, when prosecuting an individual caught breaking the law within your home. However, some states do prohibit the use of hidden surveillance cameras that also capture audio. This means that a surveillance tape with audio may not be able to be used in a court prosecution. States that don’t allow you to capture audio without the person’s express content include:

  • Washington
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oregon
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Montana
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Louisiana
  • Illinois
  • Hawaii
  • Florida
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • California

A Note About Intent

Since a lot of states have a “gray area” when it comes to hidden camera surveillance, the concept of “intent” has often been brought into the legal spotlight. If you are taking hidden video surveillance of your nanny to ensure that she is keeping your children safe, this is seen as acceptable intent. However, if you are taking video surveillance of visitors to your home in order to blackmail them in some way, this is seen as malicious intent. It’s also illegal, as stated before, to take hidden video of people in places of expected privacy in certain states.

Hidden Cameras in Businesses

When it comes down to it, the prospect of being videotaped without our knowledge can be very uncomfortable to think about. However, you may be subject to hidden video surveillance several times per day. Many businesses use video surveillance systems (either hidden or within view) in order to promote the security of their business. These cameras can help catch thieves or shoplifters within a business, and can also allow the company’s security to identify any dangerous or illegal activity. However, where should companies draw the line? Should it be legal for companies to install video surveillance in dressing rooms, since this is where many shoplifters procure their stolen goods?

As of right now, there is a lot of controversy as to how much hidden video surveillance is legal. However, when it comes to home security, you are entitled to install hidden surveillance cameras within your home, as long as you have a verifiable purpose for doing so.

What is an IP Surveillance Camera?

dome home security camera
Humans have always had the desire to memorialize certain things with an image. Pictures may tell a story, convey an emotion, or simply be a tribute to a momentous event. Though the history of painting pictures dates back to the earliest etchings on cave walls, the first official “photograph” wasn’t taken until 1817, by a man named Nicéphore Niépce. The first video camera was developed in 1951 by Charles P. Ginsburg, and sold for a whopping $50,000. However, it wasn’t until 1983 that Sony released the first video camera designed specifically for consumer use.

The use of video cameras as a security device is a concept that only became widely available to consumers within the past 15 years. It’s incredible to think about how advanced the new generation of security cameras is, compared to just five years ago. Lately, a new type of surveillance camera has gained a bit of consumer attention, and has been tentatively dubbed the “IP Camera”. Here is a quick guide to the IP camera, and how it differs from most conventional surveillance cameras.

General Construction
The video capturing components of an IP camera are generally the same as most basic surveillance cameras. It captures video at intervals that can be programmed into the device, and may sometimes have a motion-activated recording capabilities. However, the camera could be defined as a “mini-computer”, with its own processor, memory and image sensing capabilities. Some IP cameras can carry out sophisticated video analyzing tasks.

How is an IP Camera Different from a CCTV Camera?
The primary difference between an IP camera and an analog CCTV (closed circuit television) camera is that an IP camera can both send and receive different types of data over the internet, or a computer network. Many basic CCTV cameras do not have this feature.

Two Types of IP Cameras
There are two main types of IP cameras:

Centralized IP Cameras
This type of IP camera works by using a separate NVR (network video recorder) to handle most recording and video tasks.

Decentralized IP Cameras
A decentralized IP camera already has a NVR supporting device built-in. This means that the camera itself can directly record to a digital storage medium (hard disk drive, flash drive, etc).

Are IP Cameras Useful for Home Security?
It is possible to incorporate an IP surveillance camera into your home security measures. However, when choosing a surveillance camera for your home, there are many factors to consider. This may include price, network availability, the type of system that you have, etc. Some security system control panels may not be compatible with a stand-alone IP surveillance camera.

Methods of Low-Light Surveillance

security camera with led lights
Installing security cameras around your home and property is a great way to increase your overall level of security. However, a common question that many homeowners often ask is: How can I improve my camera’s surveillance in the dark? While a basic security camera system will be able to capture fairly clear footage during the daytime hours, a lack of sufficient light will result in a significant degradation of your camera’s surveillance abilities.

How Cameras Improve Low-Light Video

Many security companies have taken advantage of advancements in technology to incorporate special features, which may improve a camera’s video capture ability in different levels of light. In general, there are three methods that are commonly used by many security camera systems which work to help improve the quality of video footage captured during periods of low light.

Black-and-White Video
During the night hours, many color surveillance cameras will switch to capturing black and white video footage. This results in an increase in the overall clarity of the video, as well as an increase in the sharpness with which the camera is able to capture moving objects.

WDR (Wide Dynamic Range)
Most cameras are designed to automatically adjust for small compensations in the level of light around them. However, this can result in low video quality, especially if you have a camera placed near a large window that faces an outdoor light. The camera will attempt to compensate for the bright light by darkening the image of the interior room. To help fix this, many camera companies are switching to WDR technology, which can help to capture higher quality images in both high and low levels of light. WDR cameras are able to accomplish this because they are fitted with two different CCDs (Charge-Coupled Devices). One of these CCDs is a high speed device, while the other is designed to operate at low speeds. This causes a camera to take two scans of a captured image (instead of one, like a traditional camera). Having two separate scans allows the camera to capture a much clearer picture, even in low-light conditions.

Infrared Technology
Though most night-vision cameras don’t operate purely off of infrared technology, it is incorporated into many high-quality security cameras. The infrared used to improve low-light imaging usually also utilizes a combination of Image Intensifiers (amplification of available light), Thermal Imaging (Infrared Energy Imaging) and other low light imaging tools.

Inexpensive Low-Light Video Improvement

If you are currently on a budget, you can still improve the quality of your camera’s video footage in low-light conditions without the purchase of expensive camera equipment. Installing your cameras and lighting fixtures in a tactical manner can ensure that you will capture any movement in key areas both inside and outside your home. However, it is essential that you place your camera in a way that will capture any movement within the radius of your light, without directly facing the light’s source. As mentioned earlier, if a camera does not have WDR technology, the quality of the image will be compromised if placed in an area with contrasting high and low levels of light.

Using Your Webcam for Video Surveillance

Let’s face it – video surveillance systems are expensive. However, they represent both an effective and reliable method to help you to protect your home’s security. For a temporary solution, you can use your computer’s webcam as a makeshift home surveillance system. This guide covers the use of a single camera, though it is also possible to set up more sophisticated system with multiple cameras.

Webcam Video Surveillance Step 1 – Install Your Webcam Drivers
If you haven’t already, install the appropriate drivers to ensure that your camera is able to work with your computer. These drivers are often contained on an installation CD that came with your webcam. If you lost your installation CD, you can usually find the proper drivers by navigating to the website of the company that manufactured your webcam.

Webcam Video Surveillance Step 2 – Install Dorgem.
There are hundreds of different programs which can be integrated with your webcam for security purposes. However, most of them cost a significant amount of money. For this particular guide, we will cover using Dorgem, which is a free open-source program. Though the program has been “discontinued”, you can still download it, you just won’t be able to access support (and there won’t be released updates). The installation is fairly straightforward – simply proceed through the installation screens by clicking “Next“.

Download Link

Webcam Video Surveillance Step 3 – Select Your Webcam.
In the Dorgem application, your webcam should be able to be selected from a drop-down list. If your webcam doesn’t appear, you can either try restarting your computer, reinstalling your webcam drivers or updating your operating system.

Webcam Video Surveillance Step 4 – Adjust Your Webcam.
By clicking the “Preview” button, you can see the capture area of your webcam. Adjust your webcam to cover the area that you would like to monitor.

Webcam Video Surveillance Step 5 – Make a “Storage Profile”.
Click the “Store settings” button to set up where/how the captured images will be stored. Select “File” for the type, then click “OK“. Enter a name for the recording “event” (such as “porch-camera“), check the box for “Enable“, and then decide on an interval setting. This interval setting will determine how often the program will take a picture of what is being captured by the camera. It’s recommended that you set this to 1-2 seconds to capture the most frequent images. However, if you are low on disk space, you may want to set this interval to 10-20 seconds. Click the “” button that appears next to filename, and choose a folder to save the images. When you choose a file name, be sure to use the “%g” tag, which will allow each file to be named including the timestamp of when it was captured. So, your filenames could be “porch-camera%g“. Click the “OK” and “Close” buttons to return to the main Dorgem screen.

Webcam Video Surveillance Step 6 – Check Your Settings.
As long as the program is running, your camera should be capturing images. Move around a bit in front of the camera, and then check the storage folder you selected. If you set your camera up correctly, you should have several images in the folder capturing your motion. If there are no images in the folder, try double-checking your settings.

Webcam Video Surveillance Step 7 – Completion
You’re done! Now, as long as both your computer and the Dorgem application are running, your webcam will capture images at set intervals. You can view these images as a slideshow to gain a better understanding of any events that the camera captured.

3 Smart Security Cameras that Do the Thinking For You

smarthome world
The year 1999 was full of excitement, as many people predicted that the new millennium would bring amazing technological advancements. The Disney Channel took advantage of this perception, and released “Smart House”, a made-for-TV movie about the technology of the future. In the movie, a family wins a “computerized house”, which eventually takes on a life of its own! The family struggles to bring the intelligent house under control, and eventually comes to a heartwarming finale.

With the amazing new developments technology, our society is gradually moving closer to using ‘smart’ electronics. Aside from just performing simple tasks, the electronics of tomorrow will be able to change their functions, adapt to new situations, and provide a completely customizable experience for their users. One example of this type of technology in the home security field is the introduction of ‘smart’ security cameras. Here are three unique cameras that do the thinking for you!

Archerfish Solo – The Thinking Camera

This unique camera has a retail price that ranges from $329 – $430. Its main marketing slogan is that it “watches video for you”, implementing technology that’s currently used by the Department of Homeland Security. The camera can be “told” what to look for, including abnormal activity, unauthorized intrusions, and even “expected” events (such as your children coming home from school). When the camera detects any one of these events, it sends you a video message to your email or cell phone. This camera can even distinguish between people, cars, pets and other objects!

TRENDnet SecurView Wireless Day/Night/Pan/Tilt/Zoom Internet Surveillance Camera

This “smart” camera has a retail price that ranges from $205 – $313. When a connection is established with the camera, a user can customize the pan/tilt/zoom of the camera, even from thousands of miles away! It comes with SecurView Software, which allows a user to record and view up to sixteen different cameras. The camera also includes speakers/microphone, so a user can remotely speak and listen to people within the camera’s detection area. This camera also has day/night capabilities, with night visibility that ranges up to 5 meters.

Panasonic BL-C230A Wireless Internet Security Camera The retail price of this camera can range from $249 to $435, depending on the retailer. This camera is marketed as “A camera with the ability to see, hear, feel and interact”. The Panasonic BL-C230A can detect changes in sound, body heat and motion – which is the “triple sensor” feature. It also has the ability to be remotely tilted and zoomed through an internet connection. When motion, sound or body heat are detected, the camera transmits an alert to a user’s PC or mobile phone. The type and frequency of alerts can be adjusted manually.

The ‘Nanny Cam’

Nanny with kids
If you are a parent, it’s natural for you to experience some anxiety when leaving your children alone with another person. This may be a nanny, a babysitter or even a family friend. To help lessen the anxiety of leaving children under the care of someone else, many parents are now choosing to install a ‘Nanny Cam’ to keep an eye on how a caretaker interacts with their children. However, how useful is a ‘Nanny Cam’? Is it legal to capture hidden video surveillance of a professional child caretaker without their knowledge? Here is some information to help you to become more familiar with the concept of a ‘Nanny Cam’.

What is a Nanny Cam?

Basically, a “Nanny Cam” is a hidden camera that you install in a non-visible location inside your home. This camera may be hidden in a potted plant, a stuffed animal, a lightbulb or other common household object. The primary purpose of this camera is to allow you to see how a caretaker interacts with your children while you are not around.

Why Are Nanny Cams Useful?

Recently, there have been a lot of cases of child abuse by caretakers that have gotten extensive media attention. While it is not advised to believe that all nannies have the potential to abuse children, it is still a problem that should cause some concern. While many potentially abusive nannies can be screened out with the proper interview process, it can still be difficult to know when you’re choosing a nanny that is truly dedicated to keeping your children safe.

For a concerned parent, a Nanny Cam can help you to gain insight onto how your nanny interacts with your children while you’re away. It can either provide you with peace of mind, or allow you to identify a potentially dangerous situation for your children.

Are Nanny Cams Legal?

Currently, you are allowed to take video footage of a person without their knowledge (in your own home) in all 50 US States. However, it’s important to remember that not all states have laws that support hidden cameras which also take audio. It is currently not legal to record audio without a person’s consent in the following states:

  • Washington
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oregon
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Montana
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Louisiana
  • Illinois
  • Hawaii
  • Florida
  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • California

Where Can I Buy a Nanny Cam?

If you’re looking to purchase a Nanny Cam, you can usually find a camera that fits your needs by searching online. As stated before, do not purchase a camera that also records audio, especially if you live in one of the 15 states where it’s illegal. Be sure that the camera is small enough so that it can be placed somewhere without your Nanny’s knowledge, and is able to still capture video footage in low-light conditions.

Watching Burglars with Mobile Apps

smartphone home security apps
The iPhone has an application for just about anything. Nature lovers can download apps that identify birds and tracks. Harry Potter fans can create spells and challenge friends to a wand duel with their iPhones. Other apps are designed specifically for work outs. With thousands of apps, you can find exactly what you need – including home security.

Vince Hunter, from Dallas, Texas, downloaded the iCam application for $4.99. While Hunter and his wife were 1,500 miles away on vacation, he received a text message from iCam notifying him that the motion detectors at his home had spotted movement. Using his iPhone, he pulled up the webcams he had installed around his home as part of a security system. On his phone’s screen, he saw two burglars at his home.

“I check the footage, and see in real time guys in this area, and they’re kind of hunched over. They’d just broken the glass. I said, ‘Holy cow, I gotta call 911,’” he told reporters.

After calling the police, he went back to watching the live footage. He said, “They’re in the backyard checking things out. They’re throwing bricks…at the tempered glass and they can’t break it three times. Finally, it appears they wind up and kind of go back in that area, and they just hurl this brick through the glass and…this brick ends up in our living room.”

The broken window triggered the alarm system, and the burglars took off. Hunter watched the police arrive at his home, minutes too late.

The Hunter’s home had previously been robbed, so they installed a home security system including motion detectors and cameras. Hunter can watch footage from the cameras from any computer, but with the iCam app, Hunter receives alerts directly to his phone and he can watch footage from anywhere in the world. After the attempted burglary, Hunter commented, “You know, it was surreal. It really was. The first thing I couldn’t believe is that we could do this on our cell phone. Really? A cell phone?”

Hunter’s home was protected, but his neighbor was not as lucky. Her home had been robbed before the burglars tried to break into the Hunter’s home. Police hope to use the footage from the iPhone to identify and arrest the burglars.


Fake Video Surveillance Cameras

fake home security cameras
The art of capturing surveillance actually dates back several hundred years, to ancient China. Chinese military strategists such as Sun-Tzu (who wrote “The Art of War”) authored texts which extensively documented how to capture and use enemy surveillance. Though recording devices weren’t present at the time, Chinese soldiers often gained intel by infiltrating enemy camps, spying on important military events and taking notes on intercepted communications. In the 1200’s, the Mongols made extensive use of surveillance gathering in order to move through Asia and Europe. In today’s society, surveillance is used in modern espionage, criminal prosecutions and also to help keep residential homes safe from burglars.

The market for hidden surveillance cameras expands each year, with more people purchasing “spy cameras” in order to capture people in the act of doing something bad like robbing a home. However, there is another market for security cameras, one which relies on the mere presence of a camera to scare off potential burglars. These fake surveillance cameras have been rapidly increasing in popularity, since they are a cost-effective way to give the appearance of having an active video surveillance system, without the cost.

How Do Fake Surveillance Cameras Work?

Essentially, a fake video surveillance camera is nothing more than an electrical device shaped like a camera, which may have a battery-powered LED light to give the impression of being active. Some of these cameras may have other features, such as having fake “night vision” infrared features, or rotating to “scan” an area.

Proper Placement of Fake Surveillance Cameras

It’s possible to take full advantage of the use of a fake surveillance camera (or a dummy surveillance camera) by paying close attention to placement. Depending on the model of your camera, you may have to be careful about using your dummy camera outdoors. Not all models are weather-resistant, and may be damaged by heat, cold or excessive moisture.

The most effective placement for fake security cameras is around the entry points of your home. If your camera model has an LED light, be sure that it is clearly visible. Never place a dummy surveillance camera in an area where it can be easily taken down and examined. Be sure that it is attached securely to its location, making allowances for high wind conditions or other potential hazards if it is outdoors.

Advantages of Fake Surveillance Cameras

There are a few important advantages associated with the use of fake surveillance cameras. This includes:

  • They are inexpensive.
  • For simple models, the battery only needs to be changed every few weeks.
  • They can help scare off would-be burglars.

Disadvantages of Fake or “Dummy” Cameras

Just like with any other security device, there are some disadvantages that pertain to dummy surveillance cameras. This includes:

  • Having a fake surveillance camera may make a homeowner have a false sense of security.
  • Some people may believe they can use dummy cameras as a replacement for an actual security system.
  • A criminal may be able to tell that the camera is fake, making it ineffective.
  • When placed within arm’s reach, a criminal may be able to easily take down a fake video surveillance camera.

Where To Put Surveillance Cameras

industrial cctv cameras
If you’re a fan of horror movies, you’ve already become familiar with some of the most common horror themes. Monsters will fall from the ceiling, ghosts will jump out around corners, and at least one blond-haired girl will run screaming through a dark, murky forest. However, another less well-known tactic used in horror films is to feature ghosts that only appear in photographs, or in security camera footage. The concept of seeing ghosts in security camera footage has spurned a cult phenomenon, with thousands of “ghosts” captured on film all over YouTube.

While you may not be capturing ghosts on your home security cameras, your focus should still be on capturing unwanted intruders. Burglars, thieves and other criminals may be deterred simply by the sight of a security camera, if it’s placed properly. More seasoned thieves may try to disable a camera, which makes proper placement even more important. Here are a few tips to help you to strategically place your home security cameras around the outside of your home.

Entry Points
The first-floor entry points of your home are one of the most vulnerable sections of your home. When installing your security cameras, be sure that they are placed so that they can easily view all of your entry points.

Parking Areas
In some cases, a burglar may attempt to break in to your vehicle, even if it’s parked close to your home. Place your surveillance cameras so that they can capture a wide angle view of the parking areas outside your home.

Back Yard
Many people mistakenly believe that the front of their home is always where an intruder will attempt to break in. While its true that the majority of burglars use front-of-the-house entry points, it’s still important to place cameras that can capture footage of your back yard.

Basement Access
Did you know that many people forget that basement access can be used by burglars to gain entry to a home? If you have outdoor basement access (such as a stairwell or access hatch), be sure that your security cameras are able to view all activity around that area.

Attached Garage Access
Many people mistakenly forget about the vulnerability of their attached garage as a potential entry point for burglars. If you have an attached garage, be sure that you have at least one security camera that has a clear view of your garage’s doors (interior or exterior).

Peephole In-Door Security Cameras

peephole security camera
There is a knock on the door, and you press your face up against the small peephole trying to get a look at whoever is on the other side of the door. You look through the small hole only to see the back of someone’s head. Do you open the door to a potentially threatening stranger? You can’t yell through the door to ask the stranger to turn around because he won’t hear you.

Here is another scenario: Somebody knocks on your door while you are busy cooking in the kitchen. You have water boiling, spaghetti sauce bubbling and timers beeping. Frazzled and wishing for one more hand, you ask your daughter to answer the door. She is too short to see out of the peephole. Should she open the door without knowing who is on the other side?

A new product, released by Northvision Technologies Co., called the Home Intelliviewer solves these problems. The Home Intelliviewer takes the peephole to new and better levels. It is a 2.8 inch LCD monitor that shows who is on the other side of the door. Short people will no longer need chairs and tall people will not have to bend down to view it. The camera has a 30 mega pixel and displays the picture on a high definition screen. With the Home Intelliviewer, it is easier to see and identify who is knocking on the door. There is even an optional zoom. The camera also works in dark light.

The Home Intelliviewer includes a two-way intercom. Home owners can use this device to ask strangers for identification or the purpose behind their visit. The intercom uses digital audio so the voices are clearer.

The Home Intelliviewer is easy to install yourself, and it is easy to use. It is suitable for any home or apartment owner who wants to increase their home security and protect their family.


Surveillance Cameras in Unlikely Places

hidden surveillance cameras
Samsung’s robot vacuum cleaner picks up after your cookie crumbs and other messes, but Samsung has added a new feature that will pick up even more inside your home – live footage. Samsung has added surveillance cameras to the robot vacuum cleaners. The cameras can monitor a broader portion of a home, and the footage can be seen on a smartphone or computer in real-time. If a burglar is inside your home, you will see it thanks to the hidden camera. Even if the burglar steals your vacuum, you will still have the footage on your computer or phone. This seeing and cleaning vacuum, known as the Tango, will make its début in South Korea this November and costs around $680.

Surveillance cameras have become a more popular and integral part of home security systems over the years. Some cameras are used to check on babysitters while other cameras are used to monitor homes and catch burglars. A vacuum cleaner isn’t the only unlikely place to find surveillance cameras. Hidden cameras, sometimes referred to as covert spy cameras, can be found in unlikely items like alarm clocks and clocks hanging on the wall. Straight out of spy movies, surveillance cameras can be hidden in artificial plants, smoke detectors, books, picture frames, backpacks, lights (both indoor and outdoor) and computer speakers.

Hidden surveillance cameras can catch footage of burglars breaking into and robbing your home. A burglar’s goal is to get in and out of a home as quickly as possible. Because of this, he may not take the time to search for hidden cameras. A burglar might not even suspect your robot vacuum cleaner to have a camera recording his evil doings. Since the footage is sent directly to your phone or computer, you can immediately call the police and possibly catch the burglar in the act.


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Surveillance Video Quality – The Basics

dvr monitors
Understanding factors that affect the quality of your video surveillance is an essential part of maintaining your security system. Poor surveillance video quality will affect how efficient your security system is at protecting your home. Here are some of the basic concepts of surveillance video quality.


Resolution is a very important factor in surveillance video quality. However, the quality of your recording isn’t entirely dependent on the resolution of your security camera. Camera resolution is measured in how many lines of pixels it takes to recreate the image the camera captures. However, purchasing a high-resolution camera doesn’t necessarily ensure that you can capture recordings at that resolution. You need to make sure that all of your video equipment is the same (or higher) resolution as your surveillance camera.

For example, if you had a camera that captures video in 500 line resolution, purchasing a time-lapse security recorder that has 350 resolution will only allow you to record video in 350 line resolution, despite your camera’s ability to capture video in 500 line resolution. Be sure that all of your video surveillance equipment is around the same resolution.

Changes in Light

One of the main problems that people experience with security surveillance cameras is how the quality is affected by changes in light. To improve the quality of your recording in changing light conditions, you need to have a basic understanding of WDR (Wide Dynamic Range). WDR technology allows a camera to capture images with two separate Charge Coupled Devices (CCD’s).The variation in speeds of the CCD’s captures two images for every image frame. Essentially, a camera with WDR technology will scan each frame twice, to produce a higher quality picture in a wider range of light conditions.

Color vs. B&W

Contrary to what you may believe, color video is not always superior in quality to black & white video. This choice will depend on the placement of your camera, the time of day you wish to capture surveillance, and your budget. If you plan to capture video in low-light conditions, black and white video is the best choice. In low light conditions, color video will appear nearly grayscale. However, if you want to capture video surveillance during the day, you may want to make the extra investment in a color surveillance camera. This will allow you to differentiate between colors, which is helpful when there is a high amount of light. It’s important to remember that color surveillance cameras tend to cost about 30 – 60% more than black and white surveillance cameras.

Wired vs. Wireless

Another factor that will influence the quality of your surveillance video is how your camera transmits video signals. With a wired security camera, the video signal is transmitted directly through a hard-wired line. A wireless security camera sends a video signal through a transmitter, which is caught by a receiver and converted into video. Both of these systems have several disadvantages:

  • Wired – Restricted placement due to being hard-wired.
  • Wired – Invasive installation procedure.
  • Wireless – Can be prone to interference.
  • Wireless – Video Signal may sometimes be unstable.

Also, both of these systems have several advantages:

  • Wired – Stable signal, consistent quality.
  • Wired – Not prone to interference.
  • Wireless – Flexible camera placement.
  • Wireless – Cameras can be moved as-needed.

As you can see, it all comes down to flexibility. Wired security cameras tend to have better signal quality, since they aren’t prone to interference from moving objects, walls, weather conditions and other electronic transmitting devies. However, wireless security cameras can be useful for capturing video in areas which can’t have wiring easily installed.

2 Ways To Record Video Surveillance

surveillance video monitor wall
Setting up the hardware for an effective video surveillance system does take a bit of technical expertise. However, another important part of making your security surveillance effective, is figuring out how to record video. By capturing the video from your security surveillance, you have the ability to re-play it at any time. Here are two effective methods for recording video surveillance.

1. DVR
DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder, which is the recording system that has replaced magnetic tape in recording video. DVR’s use digital technology to convert video into stored files. The amount of data that a DVR can store depends entirely on how much hard drive space it has (much like a computer). Some DVR’s also support copying daily archives of surveillance to a DVD or USB thumb drive. A DVR system may or may not come with compatible cameras, and may have the ability to only record when it senses motion. This can help prevent your system from recording unnecessary footage. There are usually two types of DVR systems:

  • Stand-Alone DVR – This device does not require a computer in order to record.
  • PC-Based Security DVR – This is basically a PC that has been optimized for DVR recording.

The price range on DVR systems ranges from around $200 for basic systems, to upwards of $3000 for more advanced systems. In general, PC-Based DVR systems tend to be more expensive, since they often are able to function as a working computer.

2. Video Capture Software
If you already have your security cameras streaming directly to your home computer, you can use video capture software to record the video seen by your cameras. Some of this software even supports motion-activated recording, though only with compatible motion-activated cameras. Video capture software is very popular, so you will have several choices when purchasing a product. Be sure that it includes any extra features (such as data compression, frame-rate adjustment, etc) that you need in order to capture useful security footage.

Some examples of software that has the ability to record streaming feeds:

It’s important to remember that some programs will capture streaming video directly from a device, while others will simply record on-screen activity. Unless you have a computer dedicated to keeping video surveillance on-screen, you may want to choose a program that captures video directly from a device. Video capturing software can range in cost from being Free (usually open-source) to over $200.

Affordable Home Security Camera Systems

night vision security cameras
It’s no secret – video surveillance systems can be quite expensive. If you’re serious about protecting your home’s security (and have the budget to do so), it’s possible to spend upwards of $1,000 for a high-quality, reliable video surveillance camera. If you have surveillance cameras that are separate from a monitored security system, it’s easy to spend upwards of $3,500 on a 3-camera, fully interactive video surveillance system for your home.

If you’re looking to be more frugal, there are several options available to you. While the less expensive cameras may not have the expansive features of high-tier security cameras, they can still be used as an effective way to monitor your home’s security. Here are four of the least expensive, best-selling cameras that currently have good ratings by consumers.

Note – Prices are subject to change. All prices are from bestselling camera systems on

Logitech WiLife Digital Video Security–Indoor Master System and Camera

Price: $250
Rating: 3/5 Stars

This camera is different from other security cameras because it comes with “command center” software, which gives the system the ability to send you email and cell phone alerts. The software also allows you to remotely view the video footage from your cell phone, PDA or PC. Though the range of this camera is somewhat limited (it only comes with a 10-foot Ethernet camera cable, you will have to purchase your own cable for longer distances), the software can handle up to five different cameras. Though this system only comes with one camera, you can purchase extra cameras: around $185 for indoor cameras, and $175 for outdoor cameras. (NOTE: A common customer complaint was that the outdoor cameras only last a few months, so you may be better off having outward-facing indoor cameras on your windows instead.)

Q-See QSC48030 High Resolution Weatherproof CCD Camera w/80ft of Night Vision (Color)

Price: $117
Rating: 4/5 Stars

This outdoor color video camera contains a 1/3″ Sony image sensor, which is able to record 480TV lines of resolution. Because the camera is equipped with 36 infrared LED lights, it is able to see up to 80 feet away in dark conditions (night vision is in black-and-white). The weatherproof design allows it to be installed outdoors, such as over entry points or on the outdoor corners of your house. With a 60 foot included cable, there is some flexibility as to where you install this camera. It does not come with any included software, and will need to be integrated with a device (such as a home computer) for good video surveillance.

Defender STEALTH1 Covert MPEG4 DVR Recording System with Built-in Color Pinhole Surveillance Camera Hidden in a Motion Sensor

Price: $199
Rating: 4/5 Stars

The unique feature of this camera is that the camera component is concealed within a motion detector. It is able to record up to 45 days of footage, storing this video on its 2GB SD card. Since the system is battery-operated (and stores video footage internally), there is no need for any connected cables. The video records in MPEG-4 format, which is able to be played on most computers. With “Auto-Resume” recording, the system begins capturing video footage as soon as it is turned on. Many customers gave this camera positive reviews, mostly due to its effectiveness as a “nanny cam” or for checking in on their children’s activities when they aren’t able to be at home.

SVAT CV31 Hi-Res Outdoor CCD Security Camera w/Long Range Night Vision

Price: $71
Rating: 4/5 Stars

This surveillance camera does not come with any extra software, or a base control system. However, it does contain many features that seem to work well for most customers. It has 24 infrared LED lights, which can see up to 45 feet away even in dark conditions. The resolution of the camera is able to produce 420TV lines, which is good resolution for its price range. The night vision on the camera automatically activates as soon as it gets dark, making day/night surveillance much easier. The one-wire connection system is different from some other cameras, which may require a power cord as well as a video cable (the included wire for this camera is 60ft long). Overall, this camera has pretty good reviews on many retail websites.