What is a Nanny Cam?

Jan 8


Doug Harper

Doug Harper

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In the later part of the 1990s technology surfaced that allowed a new kind of surveillance camera. We were now able to spy on people in our home without expensive and complicated equipment, and we could do it without them knowing it was happening.


Camera manufactures developed a reliable board or pinhole camera that could be hidden in any common object in the home. This camera used very little electricity and could even be operated on batteries.  Board cameras were black and white with a low resolution or poor quality picture. Later the higher resolution camera for a quality picture that could be used to identify someone was developed.  We found that in determining who was being watched,What is a Nanny Cam? Articles a color camera could be a great help and later a low light camera was developed. The name pinhole camera, board camera and spy camera became interchangeable. It was called a board camera, because it comes on a circuit board with the associated electronics. The name pinhole comes from the fact the camera only needs a “pinhole” to view through, so that it would not be detected when installed in an object. Anytime you use a camera without someone’s knowledge, it could be called a spy camera.

Black and White Board Cameras:

These come in two categories; one being the camera that sees in the dark without an infrared illuminator (IR illuminator) and the other that uses an IR illuminator to see clearly in the dark with great detail. The IR illuminator is purchased separately and can be placed in the room to illuminate, the field of view for the camera. An infrared illuminator’s illumination is not visible to the naked eye, and can be placed in a lamp or floodlight. These cameras produce from 350 to 410 lines of resolution and can produce an image from .01 lux of light to .0003 lux of light. That is from a low light room to a completely dark room. However in many situations you would have normal ambient light in the room with the camera.

Color Board Cameras:

The color board camera is usually a little more expensive. Also they require more light for good color definition and resolution. (.5 lux to 1.0 lux) The requirement for light can be accomplished either by ambient lighting in the room or infrared illuminators. These color cameras produce 380 to 480 lines of resolution.

Other Available features:

The most prominent feature is the small size, generally 1 to 11/4” square. Durability is another feature and usually not too important if the camera is installed in a common household object such as a radio or lamp. Most board cameras have a 70p field of view, but you can select up to 120p field of view in some cameras. In that these cameras are very small and designed for installation into an object, normally the field of view and focus is fixed, however there are more expensive options with movable lenses that can be remote-controlled.

CCD or CMOS Cameras:

Both types of digital cameras perform the same function by using image sensors that convert light to digital pictures. CCD sensors use more power and generally create high-quality, low-noise images. The CCD sensors have been mass-produced for a longer period of time and have higher quality pixels and more of them. The CMOS sensor has the advantage of lower power consumption, trading off picture quality for power.

The image the nanny cam produces can be recorded on a memory card to be read by your computer later or connected to the internet, so that you can see in real-time what is going on via your laptop or smart phone. The Nanny camera can be completely self-contained with a memory card and digital video recorder (DVR) in the object with the camera or it can be wired or wireless to your computer or DVR. With modern DVRs for this purpose, you can hook the DVR directly to a monitor without a computer if you would like to monitor in another room. The most inexpensive option would be to have a wired camera hooked up directly to your computer to record on the hard drive or use a USB DVR to your computer to go directly to the internet.

A Nanny Cam requires a camera, DVR and memory card (hidden camera with build-in DVR) or camera, DVR and monitor (wired nanny cam). A wireless system uses a camera, transmitter and receiver. Then the receiver is connected to a DVR or USB DVR to connect to your monitor or computer. Some DVR’s have a card slot for a memory card if you don’t want to connect to your computer while operating the camera. 

Now let’s look at why we would want a nanny camera (Nanny Cam). Many times we hire people who come and work in our homes when we are not there. While we are gone we worry about things like are they snooping into our personal stuff, doing the work correctly, stealing things or the worst imaginable thing like abusing our child. A Nanny Cam can be any normal object in a room that has enough room to fit the camera inside. Normally these objects still function as originally intended. A few examples are a radio, CD player, lamp, mirror, picture frame, fan, clock, exit sign, speakers or room deodorizer. Literally a pin hole can be drilled if necessary in the object and the camera glued to the other side. The Nanny Cam or Hidden Camera with a built-in DVR can literally be placed in a room and plugged into the wall outlet for installation. The memory card can be retrieved at any time to view events on your computer. The wired or wireless nanny Cam can be connected to your computer by a DVR or USB DVR for viewing while on vacation or at work. For extended times away from the camera, some hidden cameras with internal DVR can be motion activated so you only use space on the memory card while there is activity in the room.

The ideal setup is a low light color board camera with wireless transmitter and receiver to a USB DVR connect to my computer so I can monitor my home at any time and from anywhere. This can cost from $425.00 to $700.00 if you build it your-self and supply the object to put the camera inside of. Or for about the same amount if you buy it assembled and it will include the object you want the camera to be located inside of, and be ready to operate.