Modify a Toy Spy Camera for Other Applications




About: My name is Jason Poel Smith. In my free time, I am an Inventor, Maker, Hacker, Tinker, and all around Mad Genius

Being able to hack and modify random objects is an essential skill. Budget and time constraints often make it necessary to build a project using only the materials that you have at hand. Here is a simple example.

Let's say that you are a spy and you need to get a video recording of the secret documents being handed off to an enemy spy. You have a pair of video sunglasses. But a large pair of dark sunglasses would look very suspicious indoors. So you need to quickly modify them so that your hidden camera can be used in a variety of situations. Here is how you might do that.


Step 1: Open Up the Housing of the Spy Glasses

There are three main ways that electronics are typically held together. Parts are either glued, snapped in place, or fastened with screws. These glasses use some of all three.

The temples of the glasses contain the battery and the circuit board. These were held in place with small screws. The temples where attached to the rest of the frame with more screws. The bridge of the glasses contain the camera. The two parts of the frame were screwed and snapped together and needed to be pried apart. The camera and the wires inside the frame where glued in place. Fortunately, they could be gently peeled away from the frame.

After disassembling the glasses, you are left with a small pin hole camera that can be remounted in a different housing to meet your needs.

Step 2: Add Extension Wires for the Microphone (optional)

If you want to record sound with your video, then it may be convenient to have longer wires for the microphone. This would let you place the microphone in a better location for capturing important sounds. 

To do this, all you have to do is cut the microphone wires in the middle. Then strip off the insulation from the ends. Select a long piece of wire to act as an extension wire. Lastly solder it between the two halves of the microphone wires. It is always a good idea to insulate the solder joint with either heat shrink tubing or tape.

Step 3: Remount the Circuit Board So That You Have Easy Access to the Buttons

At this point you can remount the parts in any housing that you find convenient. However, the original housing for the circuit board (the left temple) is already very efficient and it provides an easy way to activate the buttons. So I decided to use that.

The only modification that I made was to cut off the ear piece. The ear piece was unnecessary and made the housing take up more space. The housing is made of cheap plastic. So you can use just about any cutting tool to remove the ear piece. 

Then remount the circuit board and screw on the cover.

I attached the battery to the side of the housing with double stick tape. Then I attached the loose wires to the housing with a piece of masking tape.

Step 4: Button Camera

One of the classic ways to conceal a camera is behind a button. So find a shirt with dark (preferably black) buttons. At the bottom of the shirt there is usually one or two spare buttons that they put on the shirt in case you lose one. We can use one of these to help us disguise the camera. 

Start by cutting a hole in the center of the button. Then using a file, widen the hole until it is wide enough to fit around the camera. If you are impatient, a drill can speed up the process. Then use a marker to color in the cut area so that it is the same color as the rest of the button.

Slide the camera through the button hole and secure the wires in place with tape. Then attach the button to the camera with glue. The circuit board can either be tucked into your pants or held in place with tape.

Because the button is not holding the shirt closed, it may pull open when you move. If this happens you can use a strip of tape on the inside of the shirt to keep it closed.

Step 5: Headphone Cord Slot Camera

Many backpacks, shoulder bags and jackets have built in holes for head phone cords. These can make another great place to hide a camera. Just cut a small notch out of the center of each flap and you will have an opening that is wide enough for the lens. You can then secure the camera and the circuit to the inside of the bag with tap. 

Step 6: Camera in a Box of Snacks

An ordinary box of snacks usually doesn't attract much attention. So it can also make a good disguise for a camera. Just poke a small hole in the side of the box. Try to make it in a location that is dark color so that the hole will not be as noticeable. Then tape the camera to the inside. 

Step 7: Book Camera

Books with hidden compartments are a popular spy project. This can easily be adapted to house a camera. Start by drilling a small hole in the cover of the book. This works best if the cover has large dark areas that can help to conceal the camera hole. Try to make it look like the hole fits in with the pattern on the cover. In this case I made it the eye of a moose. 

Then inside the book, use a sharp knife to cut holes for the camera and the circuit. If the book is too thin, you can combine multiple books together to make a larger secret compartment. Here is a good example.

After the camera is in place, use a marker to color in the cut portion of the cover so that it is the same color as the area around it. Lastly hide the book in an inconspicuous place where it can record any important happenings. If the book itself is in shadow, it will help to make the camera hole less noticeable. 

Step 8: Test Footage

Here is some simple test footage from the camera. There are a few things to be aware of with the camera that I used in this project. First of all, I am sorry about the quality. This camera only shoots in 320x240 resolution. Also its white balance is not the best. Also it tends to blur with even the slightest movement. So for best quality, I recommend using shooting with the camera as still as possible and in a well lit room. 

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    38 Discussions


    12 months ago

    Good idea , had never thought doing this.

    By keeping the camera a still as possible. The video from this camera gets fuzzy with the slightest motion because the refresh rate is so slow. So you need to do everything possible to minimize the camera movements.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Instead of recording could the signal go directly to a monitor so you could use it as security camera?

    1 reply

    You can do that on some types of cameras. But this particular model isn't designed to be able to hook up an external monitor.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I have some old phones all of them with camera.

    Is tere any possibility to desmonot and use the canera ? with control from the phone? it will be very ineteresting to reuse them.

    Thanks in advance

    2 replies
    BaTcH MasTeR 1013miky

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah you could do that but you would probs need a remote control device driver installed in your phone first then You would need to conveter it....Long Story Short PAIN IN THAT ASS BUT yes

    That will probably be very difficult. Phones are very compact in their design. The wires and solder connections tend to be very small and hard to modify. But don't let that stop you from trying.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    better watch out. there was just a story online yesterday where a special needs kid was getting bullied so he made a 12 minute audio recording of the bullying in school on his ipad to show the principle. the school made him delete it, called the cops and he was prosecuted for secretly making a recording without the other people's consent. the judge agreed and found him guilty.

    6 replies

    So, if you have a car camera and get into an accident because someone else's fault, you could be found guilty and the person who caused the accident could get away with it? It sounds like it is easier to shoot with a gun than with a camera!

    J,R,D, Ltdfixfireleo

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You have to be aware of the laws of your area. In some places it is legal, in others (like what you quoted) it is not.

    Ray from RIrfakhre

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It is unfortunate that you cannot defend yourself by documenting this kind of BS.... To me bullying is the worst offence....!!!!

    fixfireleoRay from RI

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    i agree completely. it's almost like the courts are saying kids should just take a gun to school and start shooting rather than try to get the schools to put a stop to it.