Nanny Cams: The 2019 Buying Guide
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Nanny Cams: The 2019 Buying Guide

    Nanny cameras are a valuable investment in home security. Installing one in your playroom, nursery, or living room helps ensure your loved ones and your property are safe when you’re not around. You don’t have to wonder what happened when you weren’t looking, because you’ve got it on video.

    There are many different kinds of nanny cams, and the one that’s right for your situation depends on your priorities. Maybe you’re trying to keep an eye on a babysitter or caretaker. Or you want to watch your kids when you’re in the other room. Or even keep your pets from destroying the furniture.

    You might want a camera that’s discreet—or disguised as something else. Or maybe you just care about video quality. Or you need two-way communication. You can get a perfectly good nanny camera for under $50, but the highest-end models can easily cost upwards of $200.

    Note: Other types of indoor cameras can work fine as nanny cams. Most baby monitors don’t have the range or recording capabilities you need, but if you have one that saves video internally or works with an app, it could double as a nanny cam.

    In this guide, we’ll explore the questions you should ask and the features to consider when buying a nanny cam. We’ll also recommend some specific nanny cameras you should check out.

    Here are the questions you should ask when comparing devices:

    • Will you be able to see everything you need to see?
    • How do you access the footage? 
    • Do you want the camera to be hidden? (Depending on where you live, you may need your babysitter’s consent to record them.)
    • Does it capture audio, too?

    After we get through the basics, we’ll look at some specific cameras. (Or you can skip ahead to our top recommended nanny cameras.)

    Let’s start with how to make sure you can record the video you need.

    Will you be able to see everything you need to see?

    If you just want a camera to see what your kids are up to in the other room or make sure your baby is still sleeping on his/her back, video resolution may not be that important to you. But if you want to better visibility, there are some features you’ll want to think about.When you’re evaluating potential nanny cams, you’ll want to compare these features.

    Video quality

    Video resolution can make the difference between knowing someone did something and knowing exactly who did what. And if you ever want to use video evidence in court, that difference is vital. Getting a nanny cam that records in 1080p ensures you’ll be able to clearly see faces and other important details. 720p is OK, too, but you probably don’t want to use anything less than that.

    Night vision

    If you want your nanny cam to help keep your home secure, or you want to check on your kids while they’re sleeping, night vision is a must. Without it, even the highest resolution video is useless in the dark. The best nanny cams with this feature can automatically switch between regular and night vision depending on the light levels in the room.

    Field of vision

    Another thing to consider is how much of the space you’re trying to monitor will show up in the frame. If you want your camera to cover every corner in a room, you either need one you can maneuver via remote control or a camera with a wide angle or fisheye lens. Depending on the size of space you’re trying to monitor, it may just be a matter of where you install the camera (corners and elevation give you the greatest field of vision), but each nanny cam should specify it’s field of vision in degrees. Nanny cams with wide-angle lenses will cover the most area.

    How do you access the footage?

    If all you care about is having video proof of something that happened, how you access the footage may not be important to you. But some nanny cams are a lot easier to use than others. Here are some of the things to pay attention to.

    Internal storage

    Some nanny cameras simply store footage internally. This means you have to have physical access to the device in order to see what it recorded. If you’re comfortable with that, you’ll want to consider how many hours of footage you may need. 

    Some nanny cams can only hold a few hours at a time. That’s fine if you’re just stepping out of the house for work, errands, or a date night, but it probably won’t do the trick if you’re out of town for multiple days. Even if the camera is motion activated, your nanny cam is going to record a lot of activity while your kids, pets, and babysitter go about their day.

    Note: Some nanny cams let you increase their hours of capacity with an SD card.

    Cloud-based storage

    A lot of nanny cams store footage in the cloud, which lets you access it remotely through an app. This is super handy because it means you don’t have to be home to see what’s happening there. Unfortunately, a lot of cameras that use cloud-based storage require you to pay for a subscription. Some allow a limited amount of storage for free, which can go fairly far with a motion-activated camera.

    Note: In order for your nanny cam to store video in the cloud, it has to be connected to your wifi. So if you live in a more remote area that doesn’t have good wifi, this may be a “feature” to avoid.

    Live streaming

    When you want to see what’s happening at home right now, you need a nanny cam with live-streaming capabilities. This is a must if the point of your nanny cam is to see what’s happening in another room or while you’re gone. It’s also helpful for keeping your house secure while you’re gone. You want to know the moment there’s movement where there shouldn’t be.

    Nanny cam app

    Just like nanny cams themselves, not all nanny cam apps are created equal. Remember: for cameras with cloud-based storage or live streaming, an app is going to be the main way you actually use your nanny cam. Good manufacturers understand this, and so they build high-quality apps specifically for their devices. Other manufacturers use cheap third-party apps, and it shows.

    If a nanny cam app is clunky, buggy, or doesn’t have the features you need—like the ability to pan, tilt, and zoom your camera, or push notifications to alert you when motion is detected—you’re going to wind up frustrated with your purchase, even if the video looks great.

    Do you want a hidden nanny cam?

    If people know you have a nanny cam, that may change the way they behave—or if they know where your nanny cam is, they may avoid a room entirely. Some parents may prefer for babysitters to know they’re being watched, while others want to see how a babysitter treats their children when they think no one’s looking.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing quality hidden cameras, it’s pretty tough to pick out the best brands and devices. In China, a single manufacturer may create the exterior of a camera for several brands that add their own tech—so you wind up with lots of cameras that look exactly the same but have a wide range in quality, depending on the brand that sells it.

    You also can’t just skim reviews on Amazon. We’ve found that there’s often a big discrepancy between the best-selling and highest rated devices and the ones that actually perform the best. (There are also a lot of fake reviews.)

    We’ll help you find a good hidden nanny camera, but first, there’s a question we need to address.

    Is it legal to record a babysitter without their consent?

    Depending on which state you live in, it may not be legal to record someone without their consent. In most states, it’s OK to use a hidden camera to capture video in the main part of your house, but not “private” areas like a bathroom.

    These 11 states require you to get a person’s consent before you film them:

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

    If you plan on recording audio, that falls under a whole different set of regulations. Most states require you to either be present or a participant in the conversation in order to record it, and 12 states require consent from everyone involved in a conversation. So in most cases, you can’t record audio—especially if you ever want your recording to be admissible in court.

    Thankfully, that’s what the “mute” button is for.

    But regardless of what your state laws currently allow, we recommend you get your babysitter’s consent—because most people would feel violated, even if the law says it’s technically OK. It’s also easy to do this informally before you hire someone: “We use a nanny cam to make sure our kids are safe. Are you comfortable with that?”

    If you want a hidden nanny cam, here’s what you should think about.

    Concealability

    Some nanny cameras more discreet than others. The best hidden nanny cameras aren’t just smaller, wireless devices—they don’t look like cameras. Most importantly, they look like something else that belongs in the room

    A lot of people are familiar with the classic “teddy bear that’s actually a camera.” A nanny cam disguised as a toy makes sense to use in a playroom if you have small children, but it could look pretty conspicuous in an office or on the shelf in your living room. (Not to mention, it invites people to handle it or use it as a toy.)

    Today, you can find hidden nanny cams in all shapes and sizes: wall chargers, alarm clocks, Blu-ray players, watches, books, picture frames, fans, and even light bulbs. These cameras will actually function like the device they’re designed to imitate. So if concealability is important to you, focus on finding a nanny cam that looks like something that belongs in the place you intend to put it.

    Quality

    As you shop around for hidden nanny cams, you’ll likely find what appears to be the same camera from several different brands. That’s because hidden cameras tend to have a range of generic models that sellers add their own tech to and brand as their own. This means that when you’re looking at what appears to be the same hidden camera, there can still be a huge difference in quality of the device itself, the customer experience, and user manuals (which are often poorly translated and difficult to use). So be sure you use reviews to guide you to the most reliable brands, even if the device itself looks the same.

    What about audio?

    In most states, you can’t record audio without someone’s consent, or you have to be part of the conversation to do it. But if you’re upfront about using a nanny cam to record audio, that may be a feature you want. In some situations, your babysitters may prefer it, too, because then you can verify their version of events if there’s a conflict with your kids.

    Some nanny cams also support two-way communication, which means:

    • Your kids can ask for permission to do something you didn’t discuss
    • Your babysitter can confirm instructions
    • You can give updates about when you’ll be home, or tell your pet to stop destroying the furniture

    Now let’s look at some of the best nanny cameras out there.

    Top recommended nanny cams

    We’ve selected a handful of high-quality nanny cameras that deliver a good balance of the most important features. For each recommendation, we’ll cover the basics and talk about what makes it one of the best nanny cams.

    Best value: Wyze Cam Pan

    Price: $37.98 (no subscription required)

    Video quality: 1080p HD

    Field of vision: 360 degrees

    Night vision: Up to 30 feet

    Live streaming: Yes

    Motion activated: Yes

    Audio recording: Yes

    Two-way audio: No

    Storage: Cloud based, with option for SD card

    App: Yes

    Wireless: No

    Other notable features: voice control enabled with Alexa or Google Assistant, remote control via the app, person detection, push notifications

    Wyze’s Cam Pan is one of the most affordable, quality nanny cams out there. At just over five inches long, it’s not particularly discreet, but that’s not the point. Pan Cam delivers pixel perfect video day or night, and it captures everything in the room (including audio). With the Wyze app, you can pan, tilt, and zoom the camera to focus on what you want to see, and you can live stream the feed from anywhere. You can also give multiple people access to your account, so others can check the feed when you aren’t available. You also get some free cloud storage each month.

    Best nanny cam for live streaming: Google Nest Cam

    Price: $168.99 (plus $5 to $30 per month for Nest Aware subscription)

    Video quality:  1080p HD

    Field of vision: 130 degrees

    Night vision: Up to 30 feet

    Live streaming: Yes

    Motion activated: Yes

    Audio recording: Yes

    Two-way audio: Yes

    Storage: Cloud-based (requires Nest Aware subscription)

    App: Yes

    Wireless: Yes

    Other notable features: connects with other Nest devices, built in magnet for more placement options, person and activity recognition

    While it’s quite a bit pricier, Nest Cam gives you a pretty big advantage for live streaming: it can tell the difference between a person entering the room and movement from someone who is already in the room. It can also be programmed to recognize familiar faces. So you won’t constantly get alerts when your kids are just hanging out in the living room: you’ll only receive updates when there’s someone new in the room.

    This cam also has two-way audio, a high field of vision, and night vision. While it’s one of the more expensive options, it will easily handle most of your potential needs.

    Best nanny cam with two-way audio: Ring Stick Up Cam

    Price: $179.99 (plus $3 to $10 per month for Ring Protect subscription)

    Video quality: 1080p HD

    Field of vision: 115 degrees

    Night vision: Up to 30 feet

    Live streaming: Yes

    Motion activated: Yes

    Audio recording: Yes 

    Two-way audio: Yes

    Storage: Cloud based (requires Ring Protect subscription)

    App: Yes

    Wireless: Optional

    Other notable features: works for indoor or outdoor use, works with Alexa

    Ring’s Stick Up Cam connects to Alexa, so it’s easy to access video or the two-way audio via voice. This is especially handy if you need to react quickly to an alert. Ring Protect’s subscription model is also one of the more affordable ones out there. At just $3 for a single camera or $10 for unlimited, it’s pretty hard to beat. And that’s to store videos for up to 60 days. You can also live stream and get alerts for free.

    Best hidden nanny cam: LIZVIE Hidden Camera Alarm Clock

    Price: $89.99 (no subscription required)

    Video quality: 1080p HD

    Field of vision: 90 degrees

    Night vision: Up to 26 feet

    Live streaming: Yes

    Motion activated: Yes

    Audio recording: No

    Two-way audio: No (but you can speak through it)

    Storage: SD card (not included)

    App: Yes

    Wireless: Yes (can be wired as well)

    Other notable features: wifi enabled, instant alerts via app, functions as an alarm clock, Bluetooth speaker, and FM radio

    This camera is ideal for your bedroom or living room. The lens is completely invisible, and the alarm clock it’s housed in is small and inconspicuous. Since it’s an alarm clock, this camera can hide in plain sight. So while the battery lasts five to six hours, you may as well just leave it plugged in, so you never have to worry about it dying. 

    Interestingly, this camera comes with an unusual form of one-way audio: it doesn’t record audio in the room, but you can use the app to talk through the camera.

    A lot of hidden nanny cams make some significant feature sacrifices in favor of being discreet. In this case, you don’t have to make as many sacrifices. You’ll still have night vision, live streaming, an app, and one-way audio communication. 

    Bonus hidden nanny cam: DIVINEEAGLE USB Charger Camera

    Price: $38.99 (no subscription required)

    Video quality:  1080p HD

    Field of vision: 90 degrees

    Night vision: No

    Live streaming: No

    Motion activated: Yes

    Audio recording: No

    Two-way audio: No

    Storage: SD card only (up to 32 GB), SD card not included

    App: No

    Wireless: No

    Other notable features: functions as an actual USB charger

    The best hidden nanny cams don’t look like cameras, and double as something ordinary. That’s what makes this USB charger camera valuable: it’s a normal thing to have in your living room, office, kitchen, and other rooms. There’s no night vision—but that helps conceal the camera, because there’s no light (which would be weird on a USB charger). This camera is super affordable, so it’s easy to get multiple to cover a few different angles or rooms. The challenge, of course, is to find an outlet that’s in the right position to capture the shot you want. (It doesn’t technically have wires, but it needs to be plugged into an outlet.) It’s also worth noting: most nanny cams require wifi to use, but this one works without internet.

    Like many other hidden nanny cams, this model makes significant feature sacrifices in favor of being discreet. You won’t have night vision, live streaming, an app, or two-way audio. 

    Is a hidden nanny camera what you’re really looking for?

    Hidden cameras come in all kinds of styles and designs. It’s important to select one that looks and feels appropriate for the space you want to monitor, and to make sure it’s an item that’s not likely to be grabbed or examined too closely (like a toy).

    Want to see more hidden cameras that would make great nanny cams? Check out our guide to buying hidden cameras.