The best motion activated spy cameras feature PIR (passive infrared sensors.) This technology measures the infrared light which is emitted from an object. Any change can indicate movement and therefore triggers the camera to start recording.
Motion detection ensures that only the key moments are captured and the rest of the footage is discarded.
For this reason, regardless of what you intend to film using your spy camera, motion activated technology is essential.
Otherwise, you will be committing to sifting through hours of footage to find the key moments.
In the instance of one camera, this can be highly inconvenient but when you have multiple cameras over multiple sites this can quickly become an almost impossible task.
Motion detection can also have the added advantage of saving electricity or even more crucially, battery life.
Added to this, lots of cameras reply on SD cards and/or cloud storage. Without motion detection, these would quickly fill up.
Later implementations of these technologies now also come with lots of alerting options, such as texts or emails.
This can mean that when suspicious activity is detected, you are notified immediately.
But what technologies are available and crucially which are the best?
Types of Motion Activation available on Spy Cameras
There two types of Motion Activation available for Spy Cameras.
Software-based motion detection
The Software-based motion detection spy camera analyses all the pixels and calculates any differences.
A significant difference implies motion and would trigger the camera to record.
Obviously, the accuracy of this is due to the skill in which the software is written but its also about getting the sensitivity correct.
A lot of spy cameras allow the user to configure the sensitivity.
PIR sensor-based motion detection
PIR stands for ‘passive infrared sensor.’ This method measures the IR (infrared) light which is emitted from objects.
Any change in the IR light can indicate movement and therefore triggers an alert.
So which is the best form of motion detection?
It is widely regarded that PIR is the superior form of motion detection as it is able to discern what is causing the motion.
A perfect example is a pile of leaves during a windy day. This would certainly trigger an alert using software-based motion detection as there will be lots of movement. In fact, in this scenario, the software-based motion detection might be running all day misinterpreting multiple events.
However, as the heat signature will remain (the leaves have minimal heat signature), the PIR sensor will know that this is not of interest and not trigger any alerts.
It is also worth noting that at the time of writing, the PIR sensors have the best range. They are able to work at over 30 feet range even in complete darkness.
However, new forms of software are constantly being introduced to the market so this can change.
Other Important features to consider when buying a Motion Activated Spy Camera.
Other than the motion technology there are multiple other considerations when trying to get the optimal spy camera experience.
An often overlooked consideration is the location of the camera.
Where to Place the Motion Activated Spy Camera.
Statistically, it makes sense to place a spy camera at the front door. This is because it is the most likely place that a break in will occur with 34% of break-ins happening at the front door.
This is followed by off-street windows (23%) and then the backyard with 22%.
However, as clever as the lastest PIR camera are, they can still be triggered by movement that you do not want to capture.
Therefore consider the typical day’s movement outside your front door. If it is on a busy street you might want to consider putting the camera elsewhere or even moving the camera so that the view does not include the whole street but just the front door.
Internal Memory is key for Motion Activated Spy Cameras
As mentioned above a common issue with motion activation is that the trigger is too sensitive and captures unwanted footage. This can be configured but can take time to get right.
But what if something happens during this adjustment period?
This is why you need to ensure the camera has ample storage to cope with teething issues or long periods when you are away such as on holiday.
I personally would recommend investing in both a large SD card but also as a fallback, ensure the camera is able to store footage on a cloud drive such as GDrive using WIFI.
Check the IP Rating of the Motion Activated Spy Cameras
This is covered at length in this article – What is the Best Outdoor Spy Camera to buy?
However, essentially the key information to remember is to ensure that your camera has an IP rating of IP65, IP66 or even IP67.
Essentially the higher the number the better. The first digit relates to dust and 6 is the highest. If the camera is going outside then a dust rating of 6 is definitely recommended.
The second digital relates to waterproofing. IP68 is the highest but this relates to submersion in water and is generally found on mobile phones and underwater cameras.
IP65 should be adequate but if you trying to decide between two cameras with similar specs, go with the higher IP rating.
Our Pick of the best Motion Activated Spy Cameras
USB Wall Charger Hidden Camera
As spy camera become more widely known, manufacturers are having to think of new ingenious ways to hide spy cameras.
Recent newspaper articles have widely publicised the cases of hidden cameras in alarm clocks in Airbnb’s.
It’s for this reason, I particularly like the USB Wall Charger Hidden Camera.
Nobody would ever suspect this device.
USB Wall Charger Hidden Camera
As with all our recommended buys, the spec on this camera is fantastic.
The camera is a full 30FPS 1080 HD camera with a very impressive 80-degree viewing angle
Full explanations on resolutions can be found here – Best Night Vision
It goes without saying, that our recommended motion detection camera has errr….excellent motion detection.
It has the latest PIR motion detection. One nice feature is that it can record continuously so if whatever reason your target isn’t going to be triggered by the motion detection then this isn’t a problem.
As mentioned earlier in this article, an important consideration is storage.
This camera has this covered with not only the ability to mount a massive 32GB SD card but also the added feature of allowing SD card ‘Hot Swap’.
This means that the recording can still continue even when the card is full, just pop in another and this camera will not miss a frame.
An often overlooked feature of a spy camera is the Time/Date Stamp. It might seem unimportant but when presenting evidence then it is crucial to prove that the footage occurred when you claimed it did.
This camera comes complete with Time/Date Stamp on all footage.
Lastly and arguably the most important aspect to note is the inclusion of a 1 Year Warranty & Unlimited Tech Support.
The guys at spy associates have been around since 1999 and it’s their excellent warranty that has helped them win countless government contracts.
When buying a best motion activated spy cameras make sure it uses PIR (passive infrared sensors)technology.
Also, make sure that it has the capability to mount a large SD card and/or cloud storage.
If you intend to install this outside make sure it has the right IP rating, IP65, IP66 or IP67.
When placing this camera ensure that it is positioned where the motion detection is not constantly triggered.
A very good example of a motion activated spy camera is the USB Wall Charger Hidden Camera.