When researching which spy camera best suits your needs, people often want to know how long a hidden camera can record.
The answer is that there is a big variation in how long hidden cameras can record – from 1 hour right up until days, weeks or months. It all depends on the type of camera, the battery type and how it is used.
Here are the factors that determine how long a Spy Camera can record:
The Type Of Spy Camera
The type of spy camera that is being used will have a big impact on how long it can record for. Let’s go through each in turn, from the shortest recording time up to the longest.
60- 70 Minutes Recording Time : Battery Operated Hidden Cameras With No Motion Sensor
These types of spy cameras (typically called DVR cameras) are self contained units. Everything they need to function is contained within the camera itself.
As a result, the possible recording time of these types of cameras is typically limited by the quality of the battery.
An example would be a spy watch camera. I tested the battery life on my Spy Watch Camera – which is a high quality device – and found the battery life to be limited to about 60-70 minutes of continuous recording.
You can check out the full results of my Spy Watch Battery test here if you are interested.
My Spy Watch Camera
60-70 minutes of continuous recording time is about what you can expect from high quality DVR cameras – which includes gum cameras, pen cameras, watch cameras etc. These are all body worn spy cameras, typically with no motion sensor.
Up To 15 Days Recoding Time : DVR Battery Operated Hidden Cameras With PIR Motion Sensors
A PIR Motion Sensor Chip (Found Within Motion Detection Spy Cameras)
PIR stands for a passive infrared sensor. It is technology used in hidden cameras to detect motion.
These cameras have a much longer battery life due to the way they work. The PIR motion sensor extends the possible recording time of the hidden camera because the camera only turns on when it senses motion.
When the camera detects no motion, it sits there on standby basically doing nothing. It’s similar to a TV sitting on standby vs playing a movie. Obviosuly this saves a lot of power.
Because of this the battery life is preserved meaning the device can record for much longer.
With PIR motion sensor hidden cameras the problem that reduces the recording time becomes the storage device. Even a very large memory card cannot record continuously for 15 hours – more like 2-4 hours.
Weeks – Months Recording Time : Plug In Hidden Cameras With PIR and Large Storage Memory Cards
When you use plug in cameras that operate from the mains power supply instead of batteries, you then need to consider the capacity of the storage device. I checked out the Sandisk website (Sandisk is the most popular storage card supplier and found the following:)
Sandisk Memory Video Recording Time
Now if this all looks like GobblyDeGook to you, don’t worry! What this bascically means is that if you use a mains powered hidden camera with motion detection, with a 128GB memory card, you can probably record for weeks – months.
Obviously this depends how much movement there is to record. If there is constant movement then the memory card will be used up more rapidly – in about 20 hours.
In a real world situation like protecting your home from intruders you could easily set up this kind of home security and leave it for weeks at a time, knowing it will capture all the footage you need.
Here’s an example – plug it into the mains, and go on holiday knowing it will record would be burglars
The great thing about this set up is that you can easily transfer any footage easily to your PC from the memory card and replace it. It takes only a few minutes and is very convenient.
Virtually Unlimited Recording Time : Plug In Hidden Camera With WIFI Storage
Now we come to the ultimte in long recording time – using a remote device to record footage, powered by the mains.
With this set up, you have all the advantages of a mains powered hidden camera, with none of the relatively minor disadvantages of using a high capacity memory card.
The basic upshot here is that instead of recording your footage to the local storage device (the memory card), these devices store the footage remotely – usually in the cloud, but wherever you specify. You could set the device to record to your own server, for example.
They can be set to motion detection, just like the battery operated versions. So you only capture footage when there is movement.
Check out our related guide if you want to know exactly how Wifi Spy Cameras work.
And the best part?
Some devices that use motion detection and Wifi can even alert you instantly if there is movement. Typically you would get a text message / email – however you set it up.
Typical Set Up For This Kind Hidden Camera
You would typically use this kind of setup for the ultimate in home security. Check out this example below:
That would be perfect for recording in the front room a study room. It is perfectly disguised – no burglar in a hurry would ever suspect it (especially at night).
Because it’s connected to Wifi you could be sitting on a beach somewhere and get an alert that an intruder is in your home. Then immediately contact the police and get the burglar apprehended!
I hope you can see that there is a very wide variability in recording times of hidden cameras. It all depends on the type of hidden camera you use, and it’s intended use.
If you want to use a body worn hidden camera, it’s really not possible to record longer than an hour or two, even with the best quality devices available.
But if you want to use the hidden camera for home security, or to protect your business, there are numerous options.
The keys to extending the recording time are : larger storage capacities, powering the device from the mains, motion detection..And storing the footage remotely.
If you combine all the multipliers together as per the last example, there is really no practical limit. Naturally because the devices are motion activated, you won’t be recording continuously (nor would you want to).
Most people will be looking to protect their homes using spy cameras. If this matches your needs, I’d recommend checking out our aticle on the best hidden cameras for home security.