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Spy Cameras Buyers Guide

Spy Cameras Buyers Guide

What types of spy cameras are available?

Nowadays you can buy spy cameras anywhere ranging from a $5 eBay item to a $4,000 handmade 4G remote surveillance system from OzSpy, and everything between. And make no mistake, you do get what you pay for. In 2015 we purchased 200x $20 spy pens to offer a cheaper line, the failure rate ended up being 89%.  We hear similar stories often when people tell us about the failures they had with cheap units.

When choosing a spy camera, think to yourself. Is it a mission critical recording?. Meaning you may only get one chance to get the evidence, and does it have to be used as evidence? If you answer yes to either then you should really research what you need and choose wisely. If the camera is detected or fails to record you may never get another chance.

There are cameras built into many things from pens to clocks, light bulbs to picture frames. We also build them into existing furniture so if you need one in your premises you can bring in something and we will build a camera into it. This makes spotting a camera much harder as they are impossible to research online since it is a one of a kind.

People also refer to them in different ways now, an example is a Nanny cam. You may think it’s a camera for nannies, but it just means a hidden camera that blends into a home. There are other specific terms like clock cameras, watch cameras, smoke detector cameras, etc. Basically they just refer to the case it is mounted in. The electronics inside hardly changes between cases, but between suppliers it can vary a lot.

Normally spy cameras do not have IR night vision and even when they do it is next to useless, so whenever looking at a spy cameras, even if it says IR night vision, don’t expect it to see more than one meter or so.

If it is as big as your thumb (roughly), you can put a camera in it.

What makes a great spy camera?

There are several things that make a great spy camera, including reliability, clear picture, ease of use and quality so it works when you need it to. It is also vital to consider power/battery life and recording times as there vary considerably.

When purchasing a spy cam, it is important that it blends in well and isn’t identified as a spy camera. The last thing anyone wants is when they are trying to catch a perpetrator of a crime and the perpetrator notices the spy camera then makes themselves look like they are totally innocent in front of the camera or even steals the camera.

This is one of the major challenges today as most spy cameras are mass produced so even if people see something suspect, say a smoke detector, they can easily search for smoke detector hidden camera which will undoubtedly give them information on what they look like and make no mistake, mass produced smoke detector cameras look nothing like a real smoke detector you would buy at your local hardware store. Thus not only rendering the covert camera useless, but worse than that, allowing them to modify their actions in front of the camera to cloud the facts.

For this very reason, unless you are looking for a novelty item to muck around with the only safe method is to build your own or look at a custom built camera. OzSpy has been building custom cameras for 20 years and although they are more expensive due to the time it takes to build them manually they are usually the only choice for many situations where the collection of evidence is critical.

Generally we look for:

  • 1080p (or above) resolution for clear recording
  • Wi-Fi connectivity for stationary units for remote view and notification
  • The ability to run permanently on power as many cannot do this and batteries go flat
  • True colours in most lighting as many low cost units can distort colours
  • Reliability so for a mission critical job you can be confident the system will get the evidence
  • Unique appearance that does not look like a hidden camera and is not searchable on the internet

What features are important when choosing a spy camera?

This really depends on what you need, for a nanny camera just designed to record the actions of a baby sitter a self recoding unit is perfect as you can remove the SD card and play it back in your phone, tablet or PC when you get home.

If you are away and need to monitor an empty house that you feel someone is sneaking people into you would probably prefer a unit with an app or can email you so you get notified as soon as it happens.

How about you are an investigator you may need something that looks like a rock where you can place it into a garden and watch the people entering and leaving the house from the comfort of your car or office.

Maybe you think a friend of the family is sneaking into the bedroom and stealing while you are either at home or away then a spy camera with email or an app will let you know as soon as they enter the room without them being alerted at all.

Or perhaps you are worried about your teenager sneaking out at night through the window or sneaking people in through the window you would place an outdoor camera outside thus still protecting the teenager’s privacy whilst gathering the evidence you need to confront them.

We can gear cameras for any situation and connect through your internet or create a private 3G/4G network so our cameras can be accessed from anywhere in the world and our cameras can be pretty much placed anywhere.

So what we hope you get from this article is that whether you buy from us or any other reputable supplier, ensure your spy camera will get the results you need at evidence level without the embarrassment of getting caught out yourself by placing an easily detectable spy camera…

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Bug Detector Buyers Guide

Bug Detection Buyers Guide

Buying a bug detector may not be a sign of paranoia or an unwarranted worry. There are many ways other people can bug your room and tap into your private life.

The head of a screw attached to a wooden cabinet can covertly record your every move and word. Covert listening devices, also known as bugs or wires, can be fitted into small, inconspicuous, everyday items such as pens, calculators, and even shirt buttons.

If you have any suspicions that you might have been bugged by a business competitor or a distrustful spouse, you have to search for those bugs and disable them or knowing where they are you can provide false conversations to them.

You cannot simply look for them as you need a detector to show you where to look. An office block or a normal house would take days to search for with the likelihood of finding it without a bug detector slim at best.

Bug detection is a mix of a quality detector and a keen human eye, without either the process is flawed and you are unlikely to find what you are looking for or you are likely to feel there are bugs everywhere.

Detectors

The first thing to know about Bug Detectors, like most other surveillance technologies is that you get what you pay for. Professionals spend 10s of thousands of dollars on a detector for the primary reason that they detect at a high level.

The majority of people of course could never expect to spend that, however spending $100 or even under that to protect a company or someone in a relationship break-up is probably not worth the investment.

Most detectors over about $400 are handmade, or at least hand tested individually so you know they actually pick up bugging devices. Many below that range are mass produced with turnover in mind second to the unit actually working.

So since Bug detectors range from under $100 to about $10,000, the question begs as to why the price range, yet the cheaper ones seem to cover just as much, if not more.

Well it comes down to the following:

Filters

The first thing that improves with price are filters. Although the cheaper units pick up everything, and we mean everything, the better quality units can filter out ambient signals. For example a cheap unit will pick up a nearby radio station, but a professional unit will know it’s a radio station etc. and allow that to be blocked. This saves you smashing a hole in the wall or dismantling furniture because the local radio station transmission stream appears to come from there.

The other thing a better detector has (from about $200+) is that you have a sensitivity dial. So you can start it up and adjust dial so with ambient signals, the detector is quiet. Then when you get near a device you can clearly see the change. Without a good sensitivity adjustment things can appear quite scary.

Frequency coverage

You really need to get a bug detector that covers from about 1MHz to 6GHz to cover the majority of the risks, however for a serious threat a detector that goes over 20GHz would be recommended.

The better units will have a more defined and accurate frequency range without blind spots. For example we have used detectors made for UK, in Australia they can miss certain 3G areas. This when combined with the new series of GSM bugs being 3G compatible clearly that detector becomes less likely to find some bugs.

Quality/reliability

Most people cannot test to see if a bug detector actually does what it says. At best you can call someone on a cordless phone or mobile and see what happens. Since you are testing only a possible few hundred frequencies out of a possible 25 billion it is hard to know if you are safe and if the detector actually works at all.

Monitoring options or protection mode

Some premium detectors have what is called protection mode and earphones. This allows you to go through all the detections, listen to them and mark as safe. The detector will ignore them in the future and only detect new devices.

A good detector will notify in between a few seconds and a minute or so when a new transmitter is detected making the detection of new devices and burst bugs much easier.

These offer a far greater layer of protection, but come at a price.

Some other features you may find in detection equipment

  • Audio plug so you can listen to the bug via earphones from the detector
  • Silent mode with vibration
  • Silent mode with display
  • Signal strength graph which is vital for locating bugging devices
  • Protection mode as discussed above
  • Rechargeable
  • Frequencies from 0.5MHz to 25GHz (and more)
  • Robust metal housing as they do get knocked around

Types of bugs

Standard RF Transmitter

A standard RF (radio frequency) transmitter is without doubt the easiest to detect as they constantly pour out a stream of RF which makes them easy to detect and track. These transmitters are most common with low end systems and homemade devices and normally run on VHF and UHF frequencies.

GSM

GSM bugs are harder to detect as they are dormant whilst not transmitting and furthermore the signal is the same as the ambient mobile phone signals in the area.

GSM bugs are widely available online, however most are 2G which is in an end of life cycle in Australia. 3G units are more expensive and less widely used.

A detector that can support a protect mode will be more suitable for these devices.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi bugs are also sometimes used and these can be both sometimes easy to detect and sometimes more difficult due to the ambient Wi-Fi signals in your area.

Basically the same rules apply as GSM and burst bugs, however sometimes if you notice a new Wi-Fi device when you scan with your mobile it can be a clue.

Burst

A burst bug has a memory, so generally they record to themselves all day and then transmit the days recording in a short burst. These are harder to detect as they are only transmitting a detectable signal for a short time each day, normally in the early hours whilst people are asleep.

Burst bugs are not as common, but are widely used by a more professional surveillance expert, or someone they advise.

A detector that can support a protect mode will be more suitable for these devices.

Self-recording (retrievable)

Opinions vary about these, but from our experience self-recorders, like voice recorders etc. generally are extremely difficult to detect, however these units need to be accessed every couple of days or so to recharge and extract recordings from.

Most users of these have several units and will visit the location and do a quick swap.

Electronic bug detection in a DIY format is unlikely to detect these, however they are normally placed in an easily accessible place and are at least the size of your thumb so they can be found with a physical search.

Hidden cameras

This subject really needs an article all by itself as the detection of wireless cameras can be more difficult. However if you have a quality detector and purchase a separate lens detector or small hidden camera detector with lens detector (these have an eyepiece to look through which makes lenses shine or even sparkle) then you will have a good shot at finding it.

Basic use

Each and every bug detector has varied and unique features and to get the most out of your new detector you should study it and search the web and YouTube for bug detection techniques.

In the most simplistic form you should follow these rules:

You may not detect some bugs until you are 0.5m away, so put the detector everywhere

The antenna length alters the frequency sensitivity so if you get a detector with telescopic antenna sweep once full extended and once only extended a few inches

Signals are polarised similar to batteries, this means if you are holding the antenna up and the bug is horizontal it will be harder to detect. Always sweep vertically in an arc and then horizontally in an arc. This will cover most angles.

Preparation

A general sweep of the house or office and make note of each signal, then turn off the mains and check again. This will help you identify signals that are affected by turning off the mains.

Most good bugs are independent from power, however some rely on it, so although this will not tell you in a simple yes or no format if there is something there, when some common sense is applied you should quickly discern if a particular device is acting suspiciously.

Some household items will always show up, these may include your flat screen TV, some fridges and other devices. If the item in question still has output after turned off at the power point then further investigation may be required.