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The Best Nanny Cams of 2016

A Watchful Guardian: Nanny Cams Tell All
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How to Choose a Nanny Cam

The top performers in our review are the SVAT PI1000 Recording System, the Gold Award winner; the Foscam Mini Video Speaker, 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 nine 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 if you must leave your baby with a nanny or a babysitter, there is an excellent way to protect what is most precious to you: a nanny cam.

Hidden cameras, or spy cameras, can act as another set of eyes so you can be sure that your child and home are in trusted hands. These nanny spy cameras are often disguised as stuffed animals, alarm clocks and smoke detectors, with many more creative costumes. The best nanny cams come with useful features, a variety of recording options, a wide field of view and high resolution so you can easily see whether your nanny or babysitter is doing his or her job properly.

Nanny cameras can serve more than one purpose in your home. If you go on vacation and hire a petsitter to take care of your fur babies, a nanny cam lets you see how well your pets are treated while you're away. If you have an elderly parent at home who requires visits from a caregiver, a nanny cam can show you what goes on when you're gone. A hidden nanny cam is an inexpensive alternative to a security camera for when a maintenance crew or housekeeper makes a visit to your home when you're not at home, but you need more than one nanny cam to view every room of your house. Some are even small enough to double as a car camera, but there are also specific cameras designed as dash cams.

Home security systems and wireless home surveillance systems are other ways to keep an eye on any activity in or around your house when you're not there. These systems have monthly fees, though, and often require professional installation. At times, you may want to capture video quickly and surreptitiously, which is when a mini spy camera could come in handy in addition to your usual nanny cam setup. You can even use a nanny cam or wireless spy camera to see what your pets do all day when you're gone – or reward your pet remotely with a treat cam. If you need a camera to keep an eye on your children, read our reviews on the best baby video monitors – some are internet-ready and you can stream video from your phone or tablet. If you're tech savvy and would prefer to set up an IP camera to monitor you children, be sure to read what we had to say about this alternative to home security systems and video monitors.

Types of Nanny Cams

Finding the right nanny cam for you starts with figuring out what type of nanny camera you want. Hard-wired systems are older and fading out – this type of hidden nanny cam has a cable that connects to a computer, or in the case of older models a VCR, where footage is stored. This is a secure method of transferring data, but it can be inconvenient because you need to make sure the cord reaches the device that holds that footage.

Wireless hidden cameras that transfer recorded video to your computer over a Wi-Fi connection or store the footage on a built-in DVR drive or a secure digital (SD) card are the most popular types of nanny cams.

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 video on the DVR so you don't lose important footage. Some of the cameras we reviewed can overwrite old footage with new footage if the DVR 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 DVR for a new batch of footage.

One concern with Wi-Fi spy cameras is the possibility of interception of footage, but you can easily prevent most would-be hackers from infiltrating your system by changing the default login and passwords and making sure your Wi-Fi password is long and strong – use a variety of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and symbols.

Legal Concerns With Nanny Cams

It's important to remember that whatever type of camera you use – a wireless hidden camera tucked behind the leaves of a plant, security cameras in the corners of each room or miniature spy cameras – there are different laws in each state. You have the right to record video of anything that goes on in your private residence 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. Whether you tell your nanny or children that they are being filmed is up to you.

Footage that you capture from a nanny cam not only shows you potentially bad behavior by your nanny, it shows the good stuff, too, and can be useful in performance reviews. If you plan to do a background check on your nanny or babysitter, make sure you follow the laws and use the right service that's meant for employers to use to check up on their employees. 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, read our smart home articles.

Nanny Cam: What We Evaluated, What We Discovered

Security cameras like nanny cams typically have similar features that make storing and viewing video easy. The best nanny cams include motion detection and timed shutoff, among other features that give you the best nanny cam you can have. Nanny cameras offers a variety of recording options that give you added convenience, such as continuous and scheduled recording and the ability to take still pictures.

A nanny camera with DVR saves video to an internal storage device and encodes that video into a format that your computer can decipher so you can view it. All of the nanny cams we evaluated include DVR, so the footage you record is stored locally on a card or a built-in storage device. Also, you get a time and date stamp on the video captured by any of the nanny cams we reviewed, so you can easily find a certain section of video to view for legal or performance issues.

Nanny spy cams with motion detection are useful because they start recording the moment they detect movement. In combination with timed shutoff, this can help save battery power for a wireless nanny cam and memory on the DVR. Most of the nanny cams we reviewed have an overwriting feature, which can be activated to record over the oldest footage with new footage if the DVR runs out of space.

Whether you told your nanny they are being filmed or not, you may not want them to know where the cameras are located. The best way to ensure they don't find the camera, is to look for a nanny cam that has dual functionality like the SecureGuard Large iHome iPod Dock Spy Camera – it's a working charging station for your Apple products and it records video.

Motion masking is a feature that only half of the nanny cams we reviewed include, but it's a helpful option that preserves battery on wireless cams and keeps the DVR from filling up too quickly. The Supreme Defense Electrical Outlet Hidden Camera is one of the nanny cams that allows the camera to block its lower field of view so a pet doesn’t trigger the motion detection and recording. A few of the hidden spy cams on our list come with remote controls, so you can control when you want to record video without having to press a button on the base.

Recording Options
The nanny cams in our review have continuous recording, so the devices record video from the moment you manually turn them on until there's no space left on their DVRs or you turn them off. Half of the hidden nanny cameras we reviewed have scheduled recording, which is beneficial when you only want to record for a certain amount of time like when you go out on date night and leave the kids with a babysitter. Another way to preserve the space on your DVR is to adjust the recording quality, which most of the cams we reviewed allow. A lower-quality recording takes up less space than higher-quality video.

The best nanny cams let you take pictures from the nanny camera, and the cameras that come with a remote control make this even easier like the iSpot and the Bush Baby 2 Smoke Detector DVR. Only two nanny spy cams we reviewed can also function as webcams: iSpot and the Foscam Mini Video Speaker, which are both disguised as clocks.

Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtain the products in our comparisons on loan from the companies and through retail purchase. The companies have no input or influence over our test methodology, nor is the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.

What Else Is Important in Choosing a Nanny Cam?

Many other details play a role in making the best nanny cam even better, and these details can be found in a camera's design, the video that a camera produces and how that video is stored. We looked at each of these specifications to determine which hidden nanny cams are the best.

One of the most important aspects of any security camera, hidden camera or nanny cam is the field of view (FOV). That field of view, or angle of view, is measured in degrees and the wider it is the better because you can get a larger view of a room. The average FOV of the nanny cams that we reviewed is about 66 degrees and the biggest FOV is 80 degrees, which belongs to the SecureGuard cam.

Another point to consider is what time of day or night you plan to use your nanny camera. If you need to record video at night, you should look for a nanny cam with a low minimum illumination, which is measured in lux. In our review, the Supreme Defense Electrical Outlet is the best for nighttime video recording because it measures at .1 lux, which lets a lot of light in. On the other side of the spectrum, the Zetta Z12 Intelligent Security Camcorder measures at 6.8 lux, so the video recorded with low lighting is going to be too dark to view detail.

Generally, the nanny cameras’ lens focal lengths are about the same, about 3.7 mm, with a few measuring at 4.3 mm, and the shortest – and best – focal length is 3.5 mm, which belongs to the Foscam camera. The shorter the focal length, the more you can see of the room or subject.

Video Output
The video resolution, or number of pixels present per inch in a digital video, contributes to the sharpness and clarity of the video. So, the higher the resolution the better the recorded video looks. The average resolution of the nanny cams we reviewed is 640 x 480, which is acceptable.

The difference between smooth and choppy video is the frames per second, or FPS. The higher the FPS, the smoother digital video plays. You want to look for a nanny cam that offers about 30 FPS, which is what most of the hidden nanny cams we reviewed have. The lowest belongs to the Supreme Defense Electrical Outlet at 12 FPS.

When you consider which nanny cam to buy, storage type comes down to preference and how you view the video. Most of the nanny cameras we reviewed store video on a micro SD card, SD card or an SDHC card, which is a secure digital high capacity card. An important consideration is the maximum storage capacity of the nanny cam. The average is 32GB, which can hold several hours of footage, depending on the quality of video. The biggest capacity is 64GB, which belongs to the Zetta Z12 and the BrickHouse Camscura Micro.

Our Verdict and Recommendations

One of the top hidden nanny cams in our review is the SVAT PI1000 Recording System. Even though it doesn't have dual functionality and it isn't particularly disguised, it also doesn't quite look like a camera – it could pass as a motion detector. It's a small and lightweight nanny cam that has similar functionality as the top-ranked nanny spy cams. 

The Foscam Mini Video Speaker also scored well in our review because it has the majority of the features found on the best nanny cams. It lets you set up scheduled recording, which is convenient because you can record during times you know you want to monitor an employee or your children. However, there is no motion detection, and its field of view is narrower than those of higher-rated nanny cams.

All of the nanny cams we reviewed work well for their intended purpose, but if you're looking for the best budget-friendly cam, you should consider the Zetta Z12. It's the least expensive of all the nanny cams we reviewed, and it can work as a dash cam.

The Bush Baby 2 Tissue Box includes several useful features that the top-rated nanny cams have, but it's missing several recording options. Still, its disguise is convincing, as long as you keep it full of tissue. Three of the best nanny cams for nighttime recording are the Supreme Defense Electrical Outlet, SecureGuard and the Lawmate ChargeIt AC Adapter DVR, which all have low minimum illumination.

Whichever hidden nanny camera you choose, be sure to read our nanny cam reviews so you know what to expect with each device.