Hidden Body Cameras: The 2019 Buying Guide

 

A body camera is like a portable witness. It supports your side of the story and provides a layer of accountability most people don’t have. Whether you’re trying to produce a viral video or you simply want to prove what really happened in a confrontation, a body camera is a valuable tool for recording your point of view.

 

People tend to act differently when they know they’re being filmed. In fact, if someone knows you’re recording them, it can often escalate a conflict and make the situation worse. Depending on your situation, you may simply be looking for a law enforcement style camera, but keep in mind: with a hidden body camera, no one will even know it’s there. 

 

Many covert body cameras look like things people normally carry or wear: glasses, watches, pens, buttons. They don’t stick out or cling to your clothes in an obvious way. But sometimes manufacturers are so focused on making a camera small or discreet that they sacrifice crucial features—features you need to get the footage you want.

 

In this guide, we’re going to explore the main features to consider when buying a hidden body camera, and then we’ll take a look at some of the best models out there. But first, there’s something we should address.

Can you film someone without their consent?

In most states, you can record a conversation without someone’s consent as long as you’re present, and it’s not in a “private” setting like a bathroom or someone else’s property. But some states require “all party consent” to record video anywhere, and others require it for audio. If you post body cam footage of someone online without their consent, that can open you up to lawsuits, and depending on the situation, they may even be able to have you prosecuted.

 

So before you record someone without their consent, review state and federal laws regarding audio and video recordings.

 

Every state’s laws are a little different, so it’s worth reviewing yours, but to help you get started, here are the 11 states that require you to have someone’s consent before you can film them:

 

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington

 

And here are the states that require “all party” consent to record audio of a conversation:

 

  • California
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington

 

But if your state isn’t on either of those lists, that doesn’t mean you have the green light to start putting everybody on YouTube. You’ll still want to see what your state laws say about filming people in public.

 

Now, let’s talk about what you want in a body camera.

Concealability

If you don’t want people to notice you’re wearing a body cam, you don’t want an obvious lens staring them in the face. You need to get a body camera that’s either easy to hide, or disguised as something else. In most cases, even a small camera will be clearly visible if you have an extended interaction with someone.

 

When it comes to choosing a form or style you want, it’s important to select something that’s inconspicuous on you, especially if you plan on using it to record people who know you. If you don’t wear glasses, for example, a body camera disguised as glasses is going to draw attention. So find the balance between a style you like and a form that fits you.

 

Another big factor to think about when it comes to concealability: how do you turn it on and off?

How is it activated?

Some body cameras record continuously once you turn them on. To avoid draining the battery (which is often limited) and recording video you don’t want, you’ll probably wait to turn it on until you’re in a situation you want to record. So, can you turn it on without drawing attention to it? 

 

You might be able to conceal the moment of activation with a natural action like wiping the lenses on your glasses or checking your watch, but you need to think about whether or not you can discreetly turn your device on or off.

 

Some body cams work around this by including motion sensors. Motion activation is a great battery-and-storage-saving feature on stationary cameras, but on a body cam it means if you’re moving, your camera is on. So you might be better off with a simple manually activated camera.

Video quality

Whether you’re creating videos for social media or collecting evidence of wrongdoing, video quality matters. Low resolution can make the difference between being confident who did what and being able to prove it. So it’s worth investing in a body camera that records in 1080p HD, or at the very least, 720p.

Battery life

As cameras get smaller and manufacturers cut back on features and functionality to accommodate design, battery life is often one of the first things to go. A lot of hidden body cameras have as little as one to three hours of battery life while recording. Features like motion activation can save some battery life (but again, with motion activation your body camera may still be on a lot). But the main thing is to make sure your battery life will last long enough for your purposes. If you need your camera for an all day (or weekend-long) event, you don’t want to be constantly turning it on and off to save battery.

Storage capacity

How many hours of video your camera holds will affect how often you have to upload your footage to another device. Ideally, you want enough storage to get all the footage you need without having to stop, upload, and continue. Keep in mind: your body camera’s battery life is not the same as its storage capacity. If a camera holds up to 100 hours of video, that doesn’t mean you can record that much on a single charge.

Audio recording

Depending on your situation, a silent film may not cut it. Or, alternatively, you might live in a state where consent laws regarding video are more lenient than those regarding audio. Either way, you want to pay attention to whether or not your body camera captures audio as well as video. It all depends on your purpose, but you’ll always be able to give a more accurate account of events if you have both video and audio.

Time and date stamp

Some body cameras have a built-in time and date stamp to help you keep track of what was filmed when. This is useful for your own personal records, but it also makes your video a lot more valuable if you ever have to use it as evidence in court. The time stamp on your video could be key to reconstructing a timeline. Or the date could determine the difference between right and wrong.

Loop recording

Loop recording is a valuable feature when you’re out of storage space. It allows your camera to continue recording right over the top of the oldest footage. So if something important comes up and you’re out of storage, you still have options.

Types of body cameras

Now that we’ve covered what you want to look for, let’s examine some quality body cams you can actually buy. We’ve selected a range of styles to help you see what’s out there and hopefully find something that fits your purposes, and we’ve highlighted whether or not these cameras have the features we’ve discussed. We’ll also point out if there’s anything else you should know about them.

 

As you compare cameras, evaluate your needs and consider your abilities. Do you need it to last for an hour, or all day? Will you need to take a more DIY approach to concealing it, such as sewing it into clothing? Or do you need a body camera that’s ready to go out of the box?

MIUFLY Police Body Camera

Price: $129.99

Video quality: 1296p HD 

Activation: Motion activated

Battery life: 10 hours

Storage capacity: 32 GB 

Audio recording: Yes

Time and date stamp: Yes

Loop recording: Yes

 

When people think of body cams, this is often what comes to mind. It’s the style and quality law enforcement relies on every day. While it isn’t particularly discreet, this highly durable camera gives you great video quality, it should easily last a whole day, and it comes with some high-end features like built-in GPS (so you can always prove exactly where something happened), night vision, weatherproofing, and more. It even has a two-inch screen so you can watch recordings directly from the device, and password protection so only you can access it. 

 

While the features are really nice, the standard body camera style means it’ll still be noticeable in your interactions with others. You may have to sacrifice some features for a more disguisable option, like the ones below. 

Lawmate Covert Button Camera

Price: $225.00

Video quality: 1080P HD 

Activation: Manual

Battery life: N/A

Storage capacity: N/A

Audio recording: Yes

Time and date stamp: No

Loop recording: No

 

This hidden body camera is pricier, but it’s Lawmate. This is the quality of tech law enforcement and private investigators trust. With wide dynamic range (WDR) picture and video, this body camera records great in a wide range of lighting. It also has a 78 degree field of view. If you’re looking for a camera people won’t notice, this is a good route to go. It’s designed to peek out through a button hole on your shirt, and with a little DIY you can even conceal it with a matching button.

 

Unfortunately, this camera requires a separate portable DVR, which is why the battery life and storage capacity aren’t listed (that depends on the DVR you hook it up to).

LKCare Spy Camera Pen

Price: $49.88

Video quality: 1080p HD

Activation: Manual

Battery life: 2.5 hours

Storage capacity: 4 hours

Audio recording: Yes

Time and date stamp: Yes

Loop recording: Yes

 

Nobody will ever be surprised to see a pen peeking out of your shirt pocket. And the actual lens on this hidden body camera is about the size of the pen tip, and it blends right in. There are three discrete buttons below the lens, and you just push the top one to start recording. With a free 32 GB micro SD card, it’s got everything you need to record on the go. And it can take pictures, too!

 

This isn’t a pen you’ll want to loan out to people, but it definitely works as a pen. You can also get free replacements for life!

Miebul Camera Watch

Price: $53.68

Video quality: 1080p HD

Activation: Manual

Battery life: 1.5 hours

Storage capacity: 5 hours

Audio recording: Yes

Time and date stamp: No

Loop recording: Yes

 

This hidden body camera is cleverly disguised as a watch. The lens is located at 6 o’clock, so the trick with this camera is positioning your shot. If you’re standing, you’ll almost always be recording from below. If you happen to need your hidden body camera at night, this one comes with night vision. You can also take photos. And of course, it functions as an actual watch.

Hereta Spy Camera Glasses

Price: $49.99

Video quality: 1080p HD

Activation: Manual

Battery life: 1.5 hours

Storage capacity: 32 GB

Audio recording: Yes

Time and date stamp: Yes

Loop recording: No

 

There are plenty of styles of glasses that function as hidden body cameras, but a lot of them look clunky and outdated. These glasses look great and get the job done. Also, unlike other spy glasses, the lens isn’t visible on these, so nobody is going to be staring at your forehead trying to figure out why your glasses have a shiny little dot on them. The lens also has a wider field of view than most other spy glasses (it’s 78 degrees).

 

This option has a pretty big advantage over other covert body cameras: you don’t have to worry nearly as much about getting your shot in frame. Options like watches can be awkward to position in the right way, but these glasses will always be capturing what’s in front of you—much like a traditional body camera worn on your chest.

Hidden Water Bottle Camera

Price: $39.99

Video quality: 1080p HD

Activation: Motion activated

Battery life: 3 hours

Storage capacity: 3.33 hours

Audio recording: Yes

Time and date stamp: No

Loop recording: Yes

 

This is not a wearable body cam, but it’s highly portable, and very discreet. A lot of water bottle cameras look disposable, which is a problem because they don’t imitate recognizable brands of disposable water bottles. So they’re actually pretty conspicuous. This hidden water bottle camera is great because it won’t stand out. While it works as a stationary nanny cam, you can also carry it with you or tuck it into a water bottle holder on a bag, and no one will think anything of it. 

 

Since it’s handheld, it’s best suited for covert recording in situations where you won’t be walking or running. Ideally, you’d use it in a setting where you can put it on a table or desk, but you can certainly hold it without drawing attention.The lens is in the lid of the bottle, and it isn’t visible. It also comes in a variety of colors: blue, gray, yellow, or green. And yes, you can actually use it as a water bottle, so no one will wonder why you always carry an empty one around.

Find the body cam that’s right for you

When it comes to body cameras, the most important qualities are usually portability, battery life, and video quality. If you want a hidden body camera, that often means sacrificing functionality for form. Ultimately, only you can decide which factors matter most to you, and which style of body cam will suit your purposes. 

 

Whether you choose one of the options above or keep shopping around, we hope this guide has given you the tools to identify quality and make the choice that’s right for you.