Microcircuit, or microchip, video cameras are miniature cameras about the size of a US quarter or smaller and have been around for about ten years. These tiny video cameras have been the cutting-edge of surveillance technology. The cameras are everywhere and are especially useful for documenting instances of theft in the workplace or capturing video evidence for later use in court.

Pinhole video cameras are micro-video cameras that have been designed with a small pinhole in the front of them. They are optimized so that the image sensor can obtain images through a hole the size of a pin, making them very easy to hide and use in covert situations. Many professionals in the surveillance business offer ready-made setups of micro-video cameras built into just about anything including clocks, teddy bears, coffee pots, lamps, radios, etc.

It’s important for the surveillance professional to understand the available features of these cameras. Here is what to look for:

Automatic Electronic Shutter Adjustment
Video cameras need to have an electronic shutter that automatically compensates for lighting changes. You will find that cameras without AES will under or over expose the resulting image.

Resolution is the number of lines that compose the image captured; more lines equals a better resolution equals a better picture. Many of the lesser expensive cameras have resolution of 360 lines or below. I suggest looking for cameras with 400 lines or better.

Light Rating
Light ratings for cameras are measured in “lux” ratings, which is a measurement of the minimum amount of light needed to capture an image. Many of the cheaper cameras on the market have lux ratings of 1 to over 2.5 and require a lot of light to reproduce an image; you are best staying below 0.5 lux in black and white cameras.

Small Size
Of course, all of these cameras are small. Very small. But size will vary. Size can be as tiny as 29mm (w) X 29mm (h) X 12mm (d) with the best cameras.

Wiring and Power
Many of these cameras aren’t wired; that means you will have to wire them and determine how to route power to them. Some of the better cameras come prewired and allow you to plug them into a standard electrical outlet or a battery pack. Typically these cameras are also prewired with a standard RCA jack to plug into a recorder’s input.

Camera Housing
The better cameras come with a protective housing; the less expensive cameras don’t have a housing are called bare-board cameras. If you are going to install the camera yourself into something like a clock or smoke detector, it’s best to obtain the bare-board camera. The purpose of the housing is, of course, so circuits remain protected during use and remain dust free.

Power Supply
Low quality cameras require a lot of power and will drain batteries very quickly; color cameras consume more power than black and white ones. A short battery life, measured by a few hours, will make using these cameras impractical for most hidden camera applications. Quality professional cameras will give you an extended battery life or offer an optional wall-outlet connection for a limitless power supply.

Aside from these features, there are other important factors to consider. Do you want your images in black and white or color? Do you want to use a wireless camera or a hardwired camera? If you use a wireless model, you will also need a video transmitter; these can be quite bulky. However, with the advent of new technology, there are now self-contained microcircuit cameras that have transmitters built right into them while maintaining their very small size.

Microchip Camera Uses

These cameras can be hidden almost anywhere. They can be set up in a stationary position or hidden on your body. Covert Microchip Cameras can be inserted into the following items for stationary applications:

Desk Lamp
Table Clock
Smoke Detector
Wall Clock
Floor Lamp
Portable Radio
Coffee Maker
Teddy Bear

They can also be used for mobile surveillances as well by integrating them into:

Wrist Watches
Eyeglass Cases
Duffel Bags
Cellular Phones
Portable Radios

A Word About Audio…NO!

Although you will find a number of covert video cameras and microchip cameras with built-in sound, they are actually illegal; in fact, U.S. Customs has raided some places selling these units in the past. The surveillance professional needs to understand that the laws dealing with covert audio recording are much different than those dealing with covert video recording. In states that permit “one party consent,” at least one party contributing to the call must consent to the audio recording. In those states that operate under “two party consent,” all parties must provide consent to the audio recording; there is no such thing as a “no party consent” thus, a covert video camera with audio would be considered an illegal eavesdropping device.