The Top 10 USB Spy Cameras 2017

NameWind Speed Range 
Tangmi 16G Spy Camera0-30m/s
FiveSky 1080P HD0-30m/s
FiveSky 1080P HD0.3-30m/s
Mengshen HD Portable1-25m/s
MiniTechnics Best USB Flash Drive0.4-30m/s
Don’t you just live a good spy movie? The James Bond franchise never runs out of steam, and is still going today. Spies are cool, dangerous and generally suave, and let’s face it, what a life they have! Of course, that’s just on the movies, but that doesn’t stop us dedicating this review of USB spy cameras – and you are going to love them – to the late, great Roger Moore, who played Bond no fewer than seven times, and who died just a couple of days before I wrote this at the grand age of 89.

Spies and gadgets go hand in hand, right? Indeed they do, and while the Bond-type gadgets, developed by the mercurial Q, are fancy and often humorous, those we can buy in reality tend to be more mundane, but still rather interesting. There’s none of the high explosive devices here, nor do we have a watch that includes a radio beacon for when you get abducted and left for dead, but we do have tiny, very clever, and very useful cameras, which are powered by the USB port on your computer.

That USB port; what a great invention! Universal now, they can power many useful and innovative items – and we have many reviews of them on this site – and you can perform all manner of interesting things using them. Cameras are ubiquitous now, of course – you most likely have one in your pocket on your phone – but these are different; they are designed for more covert use, and are surprisingly capable and affordable. So, before we give you our review of the top 10, let’s talk a little more about what they do, and how they do it.

 

The Top 10

1: Tangmi 16G Spy Camera

As you read further into this review you will find that, despite what you may believe, USB spy cameras come in many shapes, sizes and forms. This one is in the style of a USB flash drive, and as such is highly unobtrusive. It is very small, and offers some impressive specifications. It offers resolution up to 1280×960, and as standard offers 16GB of memory, which can be expanded to 32GB with the addition of a micro-SD card. It’s easy to use and delivers excellent results.

It can be used as a webcam if you wish, and it has motion detect capability, plus the battery offers up to 60minutes of recording time in basic function mode. It can be used when on charge, too, so you get added capability. It’s a very neat little design – no frills and without the promise of anything fancy – and would make a perfect choice for added security in the office or home. As less than £25 it’s also good value, so is worthy of consideration if you want one of these.

Pros
  • Small
  • Expandable Memory
  • Motion Detect
Cons
  • Can’t see any

2: FiveSky 1080P HD

In many cases, the trick is to disguise the camera as something else; the above appears to be a flash drive, while this one is made to look like a plug-in phone charger. It is a perfect disguise, and if a little larger than some other models, is very capable and would never be mistaken for a camera by your average man on the street – or burglar! It features motion detection, provides HD resolution with full, clear and crisp audio, and stores the video to a micro-SD card of up to 32GB. It has no battery, and works of the mains, and can in fact also charge your phone!

All video is in AVI format for easy playback on many devices, and it is a very effective device that you can carry around with you and use wherever you are. It also features loop recording, so can automatically delete the earliest files to make space for new ones, and is perfect for security or stealth use. In short, we like this one because of its clever design and impressive performance, although at around £35 it is more expensive than some – but we believe worth the money.

Pros
  • Clever Design
  • Can Charge Phones
  • Works from mains
  • up to 32GB
Cons
  • The price may put some off, but it really shouldn’t

3: FiveSky 1080P HD

Sounds familiar? Same as above, but this one is black, so…. In many cases, the trick is to disguise the camera as something else; the above appears to be a flash drive, while this one is made to look like a plug-in phone charger. It is a perfect disguise, and if a little larger than some other models, is very capable and would never be mistaken for a camera by your average man on the street – or burglar! It features motion detection, provides HD resolution with full, clear and crisp audio, and stores the video to a micro-SD card of up to 32GB. It has no battery, and works of the mains, and can in fact also charge your phone!

All video is in AVI format for easy playback on many devices, and it is a very effective device that you can carry around with you and use wherever you are. It also features loop recording, so can automatically delete the earliest files to make space for new ones, and is perfect for security or stealth use. In short, we like this one because of its clever design and impressive performance, although at around £45 (note the difference in price to the above) it is more expensive than some – but we believe worth the money.

Pros
  • Very clever design
  • Mains powered
  • Portable
  • Capable
Cons
  • The white version is cheaper!

4: Mengshen HD Portable

This model is another that disguises itself as a flash drive, with a very discreet and hardly noticeable lens. It’s very small, and nicely non-descript, and delivers HD quality video feed so you can play back easily on most devices. Like most of these, it also takes still shots, so you can use it when you are out and about without raising suspicion! It plugs into your USB drive for power, and also includes motion detection so is great for filming unwanted intruders.

In fact, another great use for these cameras is as a baby-watch device; with motion detection, the camera will respond as soon as baby makes a movement or a sound, so you can see immediately if they are OK. There is a downside to this one that we feel we should mention it only supports a memory card up to 16GB, and there isn’t one supplied. However, at around £17 it is a good choice for a budget mini camera.

Pros
  • Very small
  • USB driven
  • HD quality
  • Very cheap
Cons
  • Only 16GB
  • No SD card supplied

5: MiniTechnics Best USB Flash Drive

This is a surprisingly sleek design, and another that follows the USB-powered route. It’s clearly a quality device, and that is reflected in the price – which we will come to later. You get up to 32GB memory on an SD card, plus 720×480 resolution – not as great as some, but then it does give you a massive 5-hours of recording time. There’s also a dedicated audio function which can record for up to 25hours. We do like the fact that there are just two buttons to operate it, thus eliminating any potential confusion.

This is a very clever design, and one that has many fine features, but there are some things we think need mentioning. First, it does not come with a 32GB memory card, so you will have to buy your own. Perhaps more concerning is the price: you won’t get much change from £60 with this one, and we are not sure why it is so highly priced as there are others available with similar – and sometimes better – capability for half that.

Pros
  • Very neat design
  • Up to 32GB
  • audio mode
  • Long recording times
Cons
  • No 32GB SD card supplied
  • Is more expensive than some

6: Emee 8GB Mini Spy Camera

Before we go on to talk about the good bits, let’s get the bad out of the way: this one offers only 8GB of memory, so lags behind some of the above by quite some margin. If that puts you off, don’t write it off before you read the rest, because it’s actually quite a good little device. When we say little, we mean very, very small indeed: it measures 0.9×0.6×0.9 inches. That’s tiny. It offers 100minutes of use on a full charge, and is a neat little cube design that is very simple to conceal.

It’s also easy to use, and will provide you with HD images, and also has motion detection so will start working automatically when it senses motion in the room. Perhaps most impressive is the fact it has Infra-red night vision capability – a feature that we love! It loops, too, so will delete the early files to make space for new ones, and it’s by far the funkiest model we’ve seen so far. You can have this one for not much more than £20, so if the lack of memory is not a problem, it’s worth a look.

Pros
  • Very small
  • Very Clever
  • Motion Detection
  • Night vision
Cons
  • Only 8GB

7: Hidden Camera Spy Pen

We couldn’t have a review of spy cameras without one that has a real touch of James Bond! This one is almost a pastiche of the spy camera, as it is disguised as a pen! Clipped into your shirt or jacket pocket, it looks like a pen, and yet it offers genuine HD video recording on the move. It would take an expert to deduce that this is in fact a camera, so well-hidden is the lens, and it is easy to use and comes with all the accessories to ensure you can charge it wherever you are from a USB port.

It has quality audio recording, too, so is great for those discreet conversations, and you can fit a microSD card of up to 32GB for a long recording time. As far as we can tell, however, it does not offer motion detection, but if you want a novelty item that records quality images, this is the one for you. Also, it’s not much more than £20 so is good value for money – would make an excellent gift!

Pros
  • Pen Shape
  • Hidden Lens
  • Up too 32gb
  • All accessories
Cons
  • No motion detector

8: Pannovo Sport Mini Camera

On closer inspection, this one is the same as the Emee model reviewed earlier, so let’s see what we had to say about that one! Before we go on to talk about the good bits, let’s get the bad out of the way: this one offers only 8GB of memory, so lags behind some of the above by quite some margin. If that puts you off, don’t write it off before you read the rest, because it’s actually quite a good little device. When we say little, we mean very, very small indeed: it measures 0.9×0.6×0.9 inches. That’s tiny. It offers 100minutes of use on a full charge, and is a neat little cube design that is very simple to conceal.

It’s also easy to use, and will provide you with HD images, and also has motion detection so will start working automatically when it senses motion in the room. Perhaps most impressive is the fact it has Infra-red night vision capability – a feature that we love! It loops, too, so will delete the early files to make space for new ones, and it’s by far the funkiest model we’ve seen so far. You can have this one for not much more than £25, so if the lack of memory is not a problem, it’s worth a look.

Pros
  • Very small
  • Very clever
  • Motion detection
  • Night vision
Cons
  • Only 8GB

9: Mengshen 8GB Button Camera

OK, so this may only be an 8GB camera, but it is another that reflects the Hollywood spy as we know him (or her)! It’s a small rectangular device that is designed to be placed behind a button hole, with a clever pinhole camera placed in the centre of the actual button. So, it’s the ultimate discrete camera, as everyone thinks it is simply a button! It offers full video, although the resolution is not as great as some of the others, and it also records audio. It does, in short, everything you want from a spy camera.

The SD card is built in and cannot be upgraded, and the camera is charged via cable from a USB port (it can be used while charging). In short, this is one of the best disguised cameras here, so if that is your main priority then it is one for the shortlist. If you want bigger memory and a more sophisticated camera, this may not be the one. However, at under £15 it is very cheap for what it is.

Pros
  • Clever design
  • Very clever
  • Cheap
  • Record video and audio
Cons
  • Only 8GB
  • No motion detection

10: Spy Camera USB

As we reach our final offering, we find ourselves pondering why anyone needs a spy camera? It’s up to you, of course, so here’s one that is very discreet and offers up to 32Gb on a MicroSD card (not supplied) and looks like a USB flash drive with a keyring attached. Once more, it would take an expert to guess this is a camera. It’s finished in discreet black so does not draw attention to itself, offers full HD video with up to 1280×760 resolution, and also records quality audio.

This one charges direct from the USB port so is easy to get going, and is very small and portable. In fact, you wouldn’t even know you have it in your pocket. It clips into its own holder for ease of transport too, so you can take it anywhere you want to. All in all, this is a very clever little camera that does what it is made to do, and you can have it for not much more than £20.

Pros
  • Very discreet
  • Up to 32gb
  • Cheap
  • Small
Cons
  • Not many, it’s a good one!

So, there you have our list of the top 10 best spy cameras on the market right now, and each has its own attributes. In truth, there is not a poor choice among them, but choosing the one you want is about making sure you know what you want to do with it. Or, if you are thinking of giving one of these to someone – they do make fun gifts – you can choose from any, as they all do the thing they are built for – discreetly record video and audio. Before we go on to sum up, let’s have a quick recap of the main features to consider.

Features to Look Out For

What people want from one of these differs, as they have many different uses. So, here’s a quick look at what you need to know:

Size – the whole purpose of a spy camera is that it won’t be noticed, so make sure you choose one that is small. All of these are, but some are smaller than others!

Disguise – for true discretion, you need one that is made to look like something else; most of the choices here are made not to look like cameras, but again, some do it better than others.

Capability – you need video, audio and – if it is for use in one particular place, say to detect intruders – a motion detector. Some of the above don’t offer the latter, so check first.

Memory – for more storage capacity, look for one that offers 32GB memory. If that is not important to you, then you have the pick of the bunch.

That’s a few of the most important features you need in a spy camera, so all that remains now is to wrap things up!

How It Works

The video camera: great invention! Did you know that first camera that could take moving images was patented in 1876? It was invented by a man with the wonderful name of Wordsworth Donisthorpe, which alone makes it worth mentioning. It was a curious and cumbersome device, and hardly practical. However, it took a long time before portable movie cameras became available, and it wasn’t until the advent of digital technology that they became affordable and truly portable. Your mobile phone probably has one, after all!

So, tiny USB video cameras – why do you need one? Well, you might want one for security purposes – some have motion sensors so begin recording when they sense someone in the room, which is great if you are unlucky enough to be burgled – or you could simply want one for recording podcasts. Or, as they are so affordable, you could just want one for fun! There are, of course, other reasons you might want a camera that nobody knows is there, but we won’t go into those!

The cameras we are going to look at might not be the most sophisticated, nor the most capable, but that is not what they are about: these are devices designed to run from your USB port, and to be unnoticed or unobtrusive. They provide perfectly formed images and are very useful, so let’s get down to business – here is our selection of the top 10 USB video cameras in 2017, so you can choose the one that you need.

Let’s Wrap It Up!

So, which is best? It’s a case of looking for the features that you want, and accepting a compromise. For example, the button camera is the ultimate in discretion, but has smaller memory than most, while the Emee is funky and very small, but suffers from the same. Overall, we like the two FiveSky models for their capability and clever design, but for one that you can use on the move, any of the others will suffice.

So, off you go and happy spying – we hope you enjoy your new purchase!