Cheap DIY Hidden Security Cameras

Cheap DIY Hidden Security Cameras

cheap hidden security cameras with the ESP32 CAM

DIY hidden security cameras can complete a home CCTV system without sacrificing the look of a room. Cheap Arduino parts can be tucked away into a wall, window, or door to easily add a layer of security.

Though the resolution may not match higher quality cameras, miniature security cameras can guard sensitive places. A hallway where people enter or a side alley are good candidates.

More about placement of small security cameras below.

First, unique considerations of hidden security cameras…

Miniature Security Cameras

A miniature security camera, for our purposes, is about the size of a large thumb. They can be placed into nooks and crevices. For slightly larger cameras, have a look at the DIY dashcam. Both this tutorial and that one are intended to work with motion detection software, and can even perform object detection.

There are some miniature security cameras that can take 1080p pictures. However, it is very rare to have both high resolution and high frame-rate in a miniature security camera. One or the other must be given up.

Frame-rate vs. resolution

Pick one.

If searching for an off-the-shelf mini security camera, try to find one that implements the “IP Camera” protocol. This will make it a snap to integrate. Otherwise, you could connect a USB camera to a Raspberry Pi. In either case, as long as you can connect it to MotionEye (the motion detection software), it can work with object detection and other Home Assistant integrations.

Since all our IOT is DIY, we used an Arduino camera: the ESP32-CAM.

Hidden WiFi Security Camera

The ESP32-CAM makes a great hidden WiFi security camera.

hidden security cameras wifi ESP32-CAM
The ESP32-CAMs make great hidden security cameras.

It’s small, has an integrated camera, and supports both 5V and 3V3. One advantage to this approach is that the device can conceivably also act as a sensor. You could attach a temperature sensor, for example. It’s also quite cheap to implement.

The price per camera is well under $20.

I found these cameras worked best at 480×320 resolution and 5 FPS. Their field of view is not terribly deep, so they do not work well for yard surveillance. Instead, they work best when 2-10 feet (or so) away from the subject. At this range, it is possible to do face/object recognition. They also do not have night vision, so need to be placed in a well-lit area.

How to Hide a Security Camera

Using the parts above, I wired the power supply directly to the camera. I started by cutting off the end of the power cable and stripping the wire tips.

apartment security camera made with ESP32 CAM
Powering the ESP32-CAM with a 5V adapter. Note, the breadboard is just to keep things in place. I spliced female terminators on the power supply to connect to the board.

The lens of the ESP32-CAM is less than 1/4″ in diameter. It can be placed within a plastic case, inside a crack of a wall, inside a window, etc. I used double-sided mounting tape to place them in convenient locations.

how to hide a security camera
The first attempts at placing a hidden security camera. Not pretty, but also not visible from most of the room.

Arduino Security Camera

Normally, this is the part where I’d share pin diagrams and Arduino code. However, the folks at RandomNerdTutorials already did a great job covering the ESP32-CAM. Their tutorial even includes onboard face detection.

For our purposes, the important bit is that it is an IP camera. This means it can now hook in to MotionEye, which then enables the same features as the rest of the home CCTV system.

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Written by
(zane) / Technically Wizardry
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