Hidden Camera Detectors Tested

By: Derek Ward, Published on Nov 18, 2019

Hidden cameras are a growing problem as cameras become smaller, cheaper and easier to access. However, some companies claim to be able to detect those cameras.

IPVM purchased 2 of the top sold Amazon hidden camera detectors as well as downloaded a number of phone apps, testing them against a variety of hidden cameras, some we purchased and will be testing later, and some made in-house.

Key Findings

After testing and having various IPVM staff try the hidden camera finders, it is possible to detect and "see" a hidden camera but as we show in the video below, it can be hard and errors are likely:

However, there are major drawbacks with the covert camera finders, such as:

  • Precise angle needed to "see" lens: Seeing a hidden camera lens requires a precise, close angle to get a reflection from the red LEDs against a camera lens. Given the design of having a ring of LEDs around an eye piece, the user will have to slowly sweep the room for cameras, and if a specific angle is not used, a camera could be completely missed.
  • RF detector performance poor: The RF detector had issues pinpointing locations of hidden cameras. Many false positives occurred during our test with interference from laptops, phones, routers and other devices that emit their own RF. Also, the RF scanner failed to detect hidden cameras that work without WiFi and instead record to an on-board SD card.
  • Reflected "Dot" small and faint: A red dot is reflected back off the lens of the hidden camera and made slightly more visible through the eyepiece. However, depending on the angle and distance a hidden lens is seen, the dot could be easily missed.
  • False Positives Abundant Using Hidden Camera Finder: Whether from using the RF detector or the hidden camera finder, false positives can be seen frequently. The LED's on the camera finders reflect off most retroreflective surfaces and items, such as other LEDs, metal, and plastic. Users may second-guess themselves, thinking they have found a hidden device, when they did not.

Ultimately, while hidden devices can be "seen" with these handheld devices, they are finicky and require a certain finesse and understanding to use them. The enclosed instructions for both detectors we purchased were atrocious, amounting to "As user gets close to lens, the eye will see reflected light".

Variance in Device Cost, Same Fundamental Issues

We purchased the K18 Anti-Spy Detector & Camera Finder ($59.90 USD Online) and Anti-Spy Signal Detector ($17.99 USD Online). A wide variety of these devices are available online, but most imply the same basic function of "seeing" a hidden camera through an eye piece using red LED's to see reflected light. Cost of these devices range from less than $20 up to and over $100. At least this ~$100 USD Online "Scout" model comes with a practice lens.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Seeing Hidden Cameras

We purchased a variety of covert cameras for testing, and they include a USB charger, light bulb, smoke detector, and picture frame. While the light bulb stands out the most as a covert camera given the lens on the end of the bulb, the USB charger and picture frame are most convincing of being normal, everyday items.

Picture Frame

The picture frame has the hardest hidden camera to "see" with the camera finder. The lens is pitched slightly down, so if the user is looking down at the frame, the lens will not "appear".

Below is a demonstration showing the angle needed to "see" the hidden camera in the picture frame:

USB Charger

This hidden camera is slightly easier to see, given the central "dot" in the center of the charger right above the USB port. To illustrate how close one may need to be to see the "dot", below is an image taken of the USB device from ~12' away:

Upon closer inspection, the hidden camera lens is above the USB port, in the center of the charger.

Light Bulb

The light bulb hidden camera stands out the most out of the covert cameras we purchased online. The lens sits on the end of the bulb, the light emitted from bulb is weak, and the holes for the microphone and speaker all make it stand out more with the naked eye.

Smoke Detector

The smoke detector hidden camera is small, and users that pay no mind to smoke detectors may not realize the odd, black dot that is the remote receiver. The camera is on the top-center of the device, and can be hard to see given the small lens and how far away the ceiling could be.

Finally, we hid cameras in normal, everyday household items, such as a fake plant and tissue box. Below is an example of a camera we've placed in a fake household plant:

We then took a tissue box and punched a hole through a dark portion on the box. We then hid a small cube camera in there, and stuffed the tissues back into the box:

Device Issues

LED light reflecting off objects: Retroreflective surfaces bounced the LED light back through the eye piece, creating false-positives.

RF Scanner False-Positives: While scanning for a camera, the RF signal would spike, but that would usually be due to laptops, phones, routers, walki-talkies or other such wireless devices. Below is an example of the hidden camera finder's RF scanner signal peaking due to interference from a laptop, access points and walkie-talkies.

Recommendations

Finding hidden cameras is difficult, but with patience, persistence, and some knowledge of what to look for, it is possible to find them. These devices are generally cheap, and if you are someone who is concerned about privacy, then trying these out could yield results. There are several usability issues with them, but when used effectively and trying to ensure privacy, these camera finders are better than nothing.

1 report cite this report:

Budget Covert Cameras Tested on Nov 26, 2019
Covert cameras under $100 are widely available online but are they any good? To see how these models really work in the real world, we bought...
Comments (3) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Phone Camera Calculator Released on Mar 10, 2020
IPVM has released the first-ever Phone Calculator, video surveillance design software that you can use on your phone, without installing an...
Video Surveillance Cameras 101 on Feb 25, 2020
Cameras come in many shapes, sizes and specifications. This 101 examines the basics of cameras and features used in 2020. In this report, we...
Vehicle & Long Range Access Reader Tutorial on Jan 21, 2020
One of the classic challenges for access control are parking lots and garages, where the user's credential is far from the reader. With modern...
Budget Covert Cameras Tested on Nov 26, 2019
Covert cameras under $100 are widely available online but are they any good? To see how these models really work in the real world, we bought...
HID Fingerprint Reader Tested on Oct 09, 2019
HID has released their first access reader to use Lumidigm optical sensors, that touts it 'works with anyone, anytime, anywhere'. We bought and...
Lasers Impact on Surveillance Cameras Tested on Sep 25, 2019
Hong Kong protests have brought global attention to video surveillance and the ongoing attempts of protesters to disable or undermine those cameras...
How To See If Your Camera Uses Huawei Hisilicon Chips on Aug 30, 2019
Rarely do manufacturers disclose what SoCs (System on a Chip) they use, even though it is the core of IoT devices. Interest in this has increased...
How To Troubleshoot Wiegand Reader Problems - Inverted Wiring on Jul 16, 2019
Wiegand is the dominant method of connecting access readers, but problems can arise for installers. In fact, one of the most difficult reader...
Spring 2019 50+ New Products Directory on Apr 08, 2019
We are compiling a list of new products for Spring 2019 and have over 50 already. Contrast to Fall 2018 New Products Directory and Spring 2018...
Camera Disruptor Wyze Enters Sensor / Security Market on Mar 28, 2019
Wyze, the company that has disrupted consumer IP cameras, combining American marketing and Chinese manufacturer, has just announced its expansion...

Most Recent Industry Reports

YCombinator AI Startup Visual One Tested on Apr 02, 2020
Startup Visual One, backed by Silicon Valley's powerful Y Combinator, aims to be "Your 24/7 Watchman" with advanced analytics and object...
Free IPVM Memberships For The Unemployed on Apr 02, 2020
IPVM is giving 3-month free memberships (regular price $99) for the unemployed, no questions asked. To get it, just contact us, your request...
Dahua Faked Coronavirus Camera Marketing on Apr 01, 2020
Dahua has conducted a coronavirus camera global marketing campaign centered around a faked detection. Now, Dahua has expanded this to the USA,...
Video Surveillance Trends 101 on Apr 01, 2020
This report examines major industry factors and how they could impact video surveillance in the next 5 - 10 years. This is part of our Video...
USA's Seek Scan Thermal Temperature System Examined on Apr 01, 2020
This US company, Seek, located down the road from FLIR and founded by former FLIR employees is offering a thermal temperature system for the...
Terrible Convergint Coronavirus Thermal Camera Recommendation on Apr 01, 2020
A week after Convergint disclosed falling revenue, pay and job cuts, Convergint is touting 'extensive research' that is either grossly incompetent...
The IPVM New Products Online Show April 2020 Opens With 40+ Manufacturers on Mar 31, 2020
IPVM is excited to announce the first New Products Online show, with 40+ manufacturers, to be held April 14 to the 16th, free to IPVM members,...
USA's Feevr Thermal Temperature System Examined on Mar 31, 2020
This US company has burst on to the scene, brashly naming itself 'feevr' and branding itself as a "COVID 19 - AI BASED NON CONTACT THERMAL...
JCI Coronavirus Cuts on Mar 31, 2020
JCI has made coronavirus cuts, the company told employees in an email that IPVM has reviewed. Inside this note, we examine the cuts made, the...
Add Door Operators To Fight Coronavirus on Mar 31, 2020
IPVM recommends that integrators advocate and end-users consider adding door operators to fight the spread of coronavirus. This delivers...