How to Choose a Nanny Cam
The top performers in our review are the SpygearGadgets Power Adapter, the Gold Award winner; the Eyeclub Spy Clock, the Silver Award winner; and the Zetta Z12 Intelligent Security Camcorder, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a nanny cam to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 products.
A quick search of news stories for child abuse by nannies brings up a harrowing number of documented cases. It can be hard to trust a stranger to care for your children while you're away at work or running errands, but one way to help protect them is to use a nanny cam.
Hidden cameras, or nanny cams, act as another set of eyes in your home. They allow you to know what is happening when you're away. The best nanny cams are able to record high quality video using a variety of recording options and have a concealed and easy-to-use design. With a nanny cam, you can rest easy knowing that your child and home are watched over.
Types of Nanny Cams
Finding the right nanny cam starts with figuring out what type is best for you. All nanny cams have the same basic functionality, more or less – they record video from a hidden spot. However aside from this core function, cameras differ in their disguise and effectiveness. Nanny cams are disguised as a wide range of normal objects, including stuffed animals, alarm clocks and smoke detectors. Nanny cams also vary in how well they record video and how easy they are to use. To find the perfect nanny cam, consider the video quality, possible recording options and design before you make your purchase.
Nanny Cam Maintenance
Spy cameras like these nanny cams are easy to care for. Like any other camera, you may need to clean the lens occasionally and check the batteries in the wireless nanny cams. Also, you should keep an eye on the amount of video on the SD card so you don't lose important footage if the storage is full. Some of the cameras we reviewed can overwrite old footage with new footage if the SD card runs out of space. You can transfer the recorded video from the nanny cam to your computer or another storage device if you want to save it and then clear the storage for a new batch of footage.
Legal Concerns With Nanny Cams
There are different laws in each state regarding nanny cams. You have the right to record video of anything that goes on in your private residence, even if you’re recording secretly, but recording audio isn't always legal. A handful of states, including California, Florida, Illinois and Washington, require that anyone whose speech is recorded be aware it is happening. So, you should check your local laws before you capture any audio of your nanny or babysitter without their knowledge. Whether you tell your nanny or children that they are being filmed is up to you. To learn more about various uses of nanny cams, the legalities of using a hidden spy camera and suggestions on the best places to hide nanny cams, you can read more in our smart home articles.
Nanny Cams: What We Evaluated, What We Discovered
There are three factors that make a great nanny cam: video quality, ease of use and concealment. The best nanny cams excel in these factors, while a nanny cam that struggles in one has a major weakness. And although most nanny cams look great on paper, using them in person was a different experience. To find how well each nanny cam actually performed in these three factors, we tested them and compiled the results.
We tested to see how well each nanny cam recorded video, measuring clarity, contrast and color. We took recordings of a chart, one similar to something you'd see at an optometrist, at various distances and under two light conditions – day and night. We then evaluated the recordings to calculate the video quality score. Each camera received a percentage score, with 100 being a perfect score. Any score below 70 percent indicated that the camera had poor recording quality under that light condition.
We found a variety of results in our testing. Practically all the nanny cams we tested produced reasonably good quality video in daylight conditions. A few excelled with their high-resolution cameras, producing crisp and clear videos that showed small details and motion. However, under nighttime conditions, many of the cameras struggled. Their videos came out dark and grainy, making it hard to see anything. There were exceptions of course, as a few cameras – most notably the SpygearGadgets Power Adapter and the Supreme Defense Electrical Outlet – had no problem recording when the room was dark. Overall, most nanny cams recorded good quality video during the day, but poorly at night.
Ease of Use
Some nanny cams are easy to use while others are difficult, so we tested how user-friendly each nanny cam was. After handling the cameras, we evaluated each of them on the difficulty of setting them up, adjusting the settings and operating the recording. Each nanny cam received a percentage score out of 100. Any score below 70 percent means that the camera proved difficult and frustrating to use.
Our testing provided valuable experience. As we used the cameras more, we found ease of use to be increasingly important. Cameras that were complicated to setup or were inconsistent in their functions were especially challenging. It was frustrating when we didn't know if a camera was actually on or not. Nanny cams with a score of 90 percent were much more enjoyable to use.
Unless you choose to tell a childcare provider about the camera, the nanny cam becomes worthless if it doesn’t stay hidden. This is why we assessed each model for concealment. As we handled the nanny cams, we evaluated them on the quality of the disguise. Cameras that had a well-hidden design received a score of 90 percent or above. Anything lower than 80 percent means that the disguises were apt to be recognizable as cameras. Although most nanny cams we reviewed had small camera lens holes, some of them were more apparent than others.
Our hands-on testing is designed to simulate typical, real-world experiences with the hidden cameras. For our tests on nanny cams, we obtained test models on loan from the companies and through retail purchase. The manufacturers have no input on our testing methodology, and our rankings are not shared with them prior to publication.
What Else Is Important in Choosing a Nanny Cam?
The most effective nanny cams have motion detection recording, so it the camera only records and saves footage when there is action in its field of view. Without this recording option, you will need to frequently upload footage on to your computer or else risk losing important evidence. You may also end up reviewing hundreds of clips before finding anything with action. Any other recording options are nice to have, but they’re unnecessary. Motion detection is all you absolutely need in a nanny cam.
In addition to motion detection, also consider app integration. This feature is convenient to have, as you can control and access the nanny cam anywhere with your phone. The recording options of app-integrated nanny cams also tend to be easier to adjust. However, they also are more complicated to set up. If you’re confident and comfortable using your phone to control devices, consider purchasing a nanny cam with this feature.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
We've reviewed 10 of the best nanny cams available on the market. After over 100 hours of researching and testing, we've found the best of the best. Here are our top picks.
The SpygearGadgets Power Adapter is our Gold Award Winner as the top nanny cam. This unit excels with its high-resolution camera and concealed disguise. It also has an immense storage capacity of 128GB and is effortless to use. The only drawback is the camera's sensitivity to bright lights, but its ability to effectively record in low-light conditions certainly compensates for this.
Receiving our Silver Award is the Eyeclub Spy Clock. With an integrated app and adjustable, high-quality camera, this nanny cam is convenient and powerful. This unit also has a variety of features and settings, providing you with flexibility. And although it can be difficult to set up, the convenience of the app is certainly a plus.
In the number three spot, as our Bronze Award winner, is the Zetta Z12 Intelligent Security Camcorder. This relatively inexpensive nanny cam provides good video quality and a variety of features. Its compact design also allows you to record from a variety of hiding spots or use the device as a dashboard camera while you drive. This camera does slightly struggle when it comes to nighttime recording, but affordability and utility make it a good option.
Outside of the top three nanny cams, there a few other units with standout features. If you want a nanny cam that is effortless to use, consider the SpygearGadgets USB Wall Charger. It works straight out of the box without any setup. Just plug it in into an outlet and it'll start recording. The best concealed nanny cam we reviewed is the AES Alarm Clock. The fact that it's actually a normal alarm clock modified with recording functionality provides it with an effective disguise. Discerning the true nature of the clock is nearly impossible to an unsuspecting person.
Whichever hidden nanny camera you choose, be sure to read our nanny cam reviews so you know what to expect with each device.
Contributing Reviewer: Aaron McCarter