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Spy Cams: Defining Technical Specifications

Spy cams may be small devices that are easy to operate but they utilize complex digital technology to function. When shopping for the right spy cam, it is important to fully understand a spy cam’s technical specifications in terms of what they mean and how they will affect its video and image output.


Video Resolution
Video resolution is a term used to describe the pixel density of a video image. A pixel is a minute, single dot that is the smallest unit or component of an image. An organized array of pixels makes up a digital image. The resolution of a video is measured pixel density, which is the number of individual pixels present per inch.

A standard video resolution found on many spy cams is 640×480. This indicates that in every square inch of the image there are 640 pixels horizontally and 480 pixels vertically. The higher the resolution (or the more pixels crammed into a one-inch space), the more crisp and well-defined a video is.

Image Resolution
Resolution for still digital pictures is typically measured in megapixels (MP). A megapixel consists of one million pixels so a spy cam with a resolution of 2MP takes photos that have two million pixels. Similar to video resolution, the higher the image resolution, the better the image quality will be.

Image Sensor Type

Image sensors are microchips that enable digital cameras and other imaging devices to capture images. There are two primary types of sensors: a charge-coupled device (CCD) and a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor active pixel sensor (CMOS). Both types produce images by capturing light and converting it into electrical signals but they differ in how the conversion actually takes place.

The image sensor is essentially responsible for the resolution and overall image quality of the camera’s output. The general consensus is neither sensor type is superior in quality; both can deliver decent quality images. However, CMOS sensors are cheaper to manufacture so they are most often found in mini cameras.

Lux Rating
A lux is a standard measurement used to define one unit of illumination or light intensity. A spy cam needs enough light, or a certain number of luxes, to adequately capture an image – not enough light will just yield a completely dark image.

Many products of this type have a low lux rating of one. One lux is equivalent to the light perceived by the human eye from a full moon overhead at tropical latitudes. A spy cam with a lux rating higher than one will require more light to sufficiently capture video and is not likely to perform well in low-light conditions.

Frame Rate
Frame rate refers to how rapidly a spy cam (or any imaging device) can record independent consecutive images, known as frames. It is measured in frames per second (FPS) which indicates the total number of frames captured every second. Frame rate directly affects the smoothness of a video during playback. For example, video captured by a spy cam using a frame rate of 25FPS may some perceptible skips or jumps. On the contrary, video from a spy cam with a frame rate of 30FPS is likely to play more smoothly.

Store Consumption/Storage Time
This simply refers to the amount of recorded footage a the camera can store on its internal memory card. Store consumption is typically measured in minutes per gigabyte (e.g. 30 minutes per GB).

Understanding the general technical specifications of spy cams can help you understand exactly how they function and their full capabilities so you can select one that meets your expectations.