Covert night camera - recommendations

saltwater

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I'm about to start a house build next year, 2020. From the house I will be laying conduit, will be underground, terminating at the letterbox at the front of the property. The mailbox will be sturdy and robust in construction (1m long x 500mm wide x 1m tall). I plan on running at least three Cat6 cables. I plan to have three cameras located inside the mailbox pointing towards the front door and down the street both ways. These cameras will need to be covert or discrete. Are there any cameras in the market place that would fit the bill? The cameras would be secured within the mailbox, that is, they could not be directly man-handled. For the two street pointing cameras, my number one feature would be nighttime and hopefully number plate recognition.

Any advice appreciated.
 

saltwater

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Thanks for the response. Are there any cameras out there that are specifically designed to be placed in covert positions, i.e. smaller?

For nighttime use, I've noticed cameras around my area where red lights are visible and therefore evident that it's a camera. Ideally, I'm trying to avoid that, is this possible?
 

Will.I.Am

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Be very careful about installing covert cameras covering property that doesn't belong to you.
 

CCTVCam

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Thanks for the response. Are there any cameras out there that are specifically designed to be placed in covert positions, i.e. smaller?

For nighttime use, I've noticed cameras around my area where red lights are visible and therefore evident that it's a camera. Ideally, I'm trying to avoid that, is this possible?
For the red glow, that's easy, better quality cameras use an IR wavelength that's totally indivisible. Cheaper brands tend to use an IR wavelength that's just within the visible range and produces the red glow. Unless your location is totally unlit, then you'll probably find with the very best cameras now, you can use forced colour at night. Failing that, with the right cameras, you won't see the iR.

As for covert, that's more difficult. The camera fast becoming the favourite on here seems to be this one: Review-OEM 4mp AI Cam IPC-T5442TM-AS Starlight+

As already mentioned, a lot of covertness comes down to how you integrate it. eg in the post by Bigredfish showing the birdhouse, I'm guessing they used a pre-built bird house. Personally, I'd have gone with a custom built house in which the active part of the lens became the window and the rest of the housing lens was obscured by the walls. Alternatively with a longer focal length, you could probably set the camera back farther in (and paint the housing black!). Other ideas would be to integrate it into other common objects eg Birdhouses, logs. So long as they don't cause it to overheat the skies the limit. Here are a few examples off Google:




You can buy proper covert cameras but then you trade picture quality for size.
 

bigredfish

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Most all cameras, including $2000-$5000 models, use 850nm infrared leds. Yes they show small red dots, but unless you’re looking for them and right at them it’s hard to spot. Really I wouldn’t worry about it and it can act as a bit of extra deterrent.

Other wavelengths like 940nm are all but invisible but not as common in surveillance cameras. They are also a weaker light source.
 

Holbs

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you could run a dedicated 12v/24vdc cable out there along with your 3 x data cables (advisable anyways to do). Set up IR blaster on a tree or something to cover camera field of view.
 

Will.I.Am

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That's not an issue for me; the cameras would be pointing down the street but have taken on board your advice.
Unless the whole street belongs to you, it's property that isn't yours. Essentially you're talking about constantly recording everyone around their homes, without their authorisation, with hidden cameras.
I'm not saying you'd definitely get in trouble, but if I wouldn't want to be trying to explain that in court if someone found out unless I had a very good reason for the subterfuge.

If I wanted a deterrent to ensure my property was safe, I'd be displaying cameras front and centre with a nice sign telling people about them. If I was worried about people vandalising the cameras, I'd have a couple of hidden ones covering the cameras and surrounding area, then there's a good excuse for them.
 

Holbs

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could always ask the folks down the street that you have a camera for security purposes (maybe, get in writing that is ok for lawyer-speak?). I have brought such a topic up to my neighbors for LPR purposes and they loved the idea, as they could also come to me in regards to suspicious neighborhood activity. But Will brings up a good point about recording neighborhood front lawns and such. I'm no lawyer. I would consider such public domain so ok to record. Maybe I'm the guy people would love to sue :) Police have advised with grants or free installations of Ring doorbell cameras. They would have the same issue that you have about the front areas.
 

bigredfish

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I'm also not a lawyer but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn once and I believe as long as you are covering a public area where persons have no expectation of privacy, you're fine. At least here in the US.
 

Will.I.Am

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I'm not sure about the states, but in the UK recording the public areas around your house is fairly common, but we have to display a sign that cctv is installed. Though in fairness that sign can go anywhere so you can stick it on your back fence and technically you're OK.

It's the covert thing I'd be worried about, all it takes is one person to say you're using hidden cameras to watch their daughter doing cartwheels up the street in her dress and you'll be up the creek with only your hands to paddle with. Unless this is a very secluded area. If it is out of the way then that's maybe different.
 

Will.I.Am

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I'm also not a lawyer but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn once and I believe as long as you are covering a public area where persons have no expectation of privacy, you're fine. At least here in the US.
I'm no lawyer but I install cameras for a living and I know that here in the UK you're breaking the law if you even have a bright red camera with flashing lights on it boutside your house filming a public space unless you have a very good reason and public signage.
Privacy may be more lax in other countries, but litigation is also way more common.
 

SouthernYankee

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I would build a brick mailbox and mount the cameras inside the base point out. The only thing visible would be the lens, set back into the brick. If you use a unique brick and design thenthey will never see them I would also use a POE powered switch in the mailbox base to power everthing. There is no need for power to the mailbox other then POE, unless you are providing a lot of white or IR light.

I known nothing about cameras, the law in Australia
 

saltwater

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Thanks for all the responses. Thankfully, here in Victoria, Australia, our particular laws are not as strict as what appears to be the case elsewhere; there are exceptions though.

Firstly, my neighbours would be aware of the cameras, as I would tell them (not that that is a legal requirement). Secondly, the cameras would be pointing down the street, in both directions and at best there may be coverage of the front of my neighbours' properties, only on one side. Coverage of the neighbours' properties would be at the very edge of the monitoring. There are no houses on the opposite side of the street, only wetlands.

My concern is that the cameras would have to be secured away so as not to allow them to be easily removed (stolen) or damaged.
 

CCTVCam

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I'm no lawyer but I install cameras for a living and I know that here in the UK you're breaking the law if you even have a bright red camera with flashing lights on it boutside your house filming a public space unless you have a very good reason and public signage.
Privacy may be more lax in other countries, but litigation is also way more common.
My understanding of the UK situation (not necessarily correct ;) ) is commercially you have to display signs to comply with Data Protection Regulations and can be fined if you fail to do so. Privately, you do not have to erect any signs as you're exempt from Data Protection Regulations as they specifically affect commercial premises UNLESS you capture part of the street or other public spaces in which case you do need signs.


You cannot point a camera into anyone else's home or garden. You cannot intentionally film the street. However, you can capture part of the street if it's incidental to the point of aim on your own property ie you're filming your driveway and the camera view also captures the street. I think there is an onus to minimise the amount of over capture though. As for filming along the street, obviously a no-no, but again you have the right to protect your property so if eg you' suffering graffiti on the side of your garage adjoining the street, then you can probably put a camera looking along the side of the garage provided you aim it to protect the garage and no deliberately catch the street. That's my understanding and a word of warning to anyone reading it, it's not necessarily correct, so it's not advice and if thinking of installing a camera do your own research or get proper legal advice.



(Edited and added some links to the UK advice).

As our US and Aus friends can see, the EU is a legal minefield.

Personally, If I were a criminal and saw a sign saying I was being filmed, I come back another day with a balaclava. Talk about giving the criminals the upper hand.
 

Will.I.Am

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My understanding of the UK situation (not necessarily correct ;) ) is commercially you have to display signs to comply with Data Protection Regulations and can be fined if you fail to do so. Privately, you do not have to erect any signs as you're exempt from Data Protection Regulations as they specifically affect commercial premises UNLESS you capture part of the street or other public spaces in which case you do need signs.


You cannot point a camera into anyone else's home or garden. You cannot intentionally film the street. However, you can capture part of the street if it's incidental to the point of aim on your own property ie you're filming your driveway and the camera view also captures the street. I think there is an onus to minimise the amount of over capture though. As for filming along the street, obviously a no-no, but again you have the right to protect your property so if eg you' suffering graffiti on the side of your garage adjoining the street, then you can probably put a camera looking along the side of the garage provided you aim it to protect the garage and no deliberately catch the street. That's my understanding and a word of warning to anyone reading it, it's not necessarily correct, so it's not advice and if thinking of installing a camera do your own research or get proper legal advice.



(Edited and added some links to the UK advice).

As our US and Aus friends can see, the EU is a legal minefield.

Personally, If I were a criminal and saw a sign saying I was being filmed, I come back another day with a balaclava. Talk about giving the criminals the upper hand.
You don't have to display signs if you're only recording on your own property, this thread is about hidden cameras filming a shared public space.
 

Will.I.Am

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Thanks for all the responses. Thankfully, here in Victoria, Australia, our particular laws are not as strict as what appears to be the case elsewhere; there are exceptions though.

Firstly, my neighbours would be aware of the cameras, as I would tell them (not that that is a legal requirement). Secondly, the cameras would be pointing down the street, in both directions and at best there may be coverage of the front of my neighbours' properties, only on one side. Coverage of the neighbours' properties would be at the very edge of the monitoring. There are no houses on the opposite side of the street, only wetlands.

My concern is that the cameras would have to be secured away so as not to allow them to be easily removed (stolen) or damaged.

From the looks of this, then yeah, you've nothing to worry about even if you're filming in other people's gardens. Bloody hell lol
 

CCTVCam

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You don't have to display signs if you're only recording on your own property, this thread is about hidden cameras filming a shared public space.
According to the new Regulations linked above, which I added after my initial post, if you encompass public spaces then you do. I was surprised as previously I understood private individuals were completely exempt from Data Protection. However, I think GDPR might have altered this. From the ICO Office Link:

But what if your system captures images of people outside the boundary of your private domestic property – for example, in neighbours’ homes or gardens, shared spaces, or on a public footpath or a street?
Then the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA18) will apply to you, and you will need to ensure your use of CCTV complies with these laws. This guidance refers to them as the ‘data protection laws’.
 
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