Introduction: Camera Jacket

Picture of Camera Jacket
Camera jacket is a concept exploring the idea of discreetly capturing image media in public locations. 
This design has a small digital camera installed in the lining of a jacket with the lens recording through a small opening in the jacket breast. The camera is operated with buttons wired into the jacket cuff, the camera assembly is held in place with hook and loop fasteners and can easily be detached to allow recharging and media recovery. 

The idea originated with the relationship between publicly recording police interactions and the perceived threat presented when a high-profile job is captured and disseminated to be scrutinized by the public. There are more than a few accounts of people recording police actions in public places being detained for their actions. Camera jacket came about as a reaction to these arrests, however this concept can also be used to record many other daily interaction discreetly.
*in almost all Western Countries if you are legally present in an area you are allowed to film anything that is in public view. Restrictions may apply when you are in/on private property*
Regarding Police:
Q: Is recording police actions in your country legal? 
A: In Canada, the UK and the US it is completely* legal to video record police officers (provided you do not interfere) while they are executing their duties. That said, there are plenty of cases that justify why this is a controversial topic: sometimes the person recording gets emotionally involved and provokes police, thereby getting detained and having the recording device confiscated; And sometimes police feel threatened and have misunderstood the law and erroneously arrest/confiscate your media. Neither extreme are excusable, but during conflict it's understandable to see why this happens.
*Canada - source  /  UK - source  /  USA - source

Camera jacket investigates the idea that by hiding the recording device you can minimize your impact on police (mis)interpretation of your actions, thereby avoiding possible altercations altogether. There is an argument that by looking like you are recording police events that it will keep them more honest - The counter argument I propose is you want a more authentic interaction from a public servant, and covertly recording doesn't tip your hand. 
When filming anything, always keep in mind: "is there a reasonable expectation of privacy?" 

This is footage I took of daily observations and a car accident I happened upon:

Here's what I used to make mine:
  • soldering iron
  • needle + thread         

Ready to challenge the system and covertly film stuff? Let's go!

Step 1: Camera Breakdown

Picture of Camera Breakdown

There are no mechanical fasteners on this cheap, plastic camera. The housing was snap-fitted together, so a flat headed screwdriver was easily able to pry open the case and the electronics was removed.

Noting the button configuration on the camera housing I was able to determine the function of the two surface mounted momentary switches on the circuit board. Using a soldering iron, I desoldered both existing camera function buttons (power/photo button and the video record button).  Thin-core wire was soldered to the positive and negative terminals on each button location leaving a long lead on each - about 1m (3'). Mini push button switches were soldered to the other end of the wires, corresponding to the buttons on the camera.

To keep the wires organized I wrapped thread around each wire group. This will also help when running the wires down the arm and through the cuff later.

Step 2: Cuff Buttons

Picture of Cuff Buttons

I wanted the camera to be operable from the jacket cuff. I left a longer lead on my wires to the buttons to account for flex in the garment so the wires didn't constrict movement. This design has the camera on the left breast with the buttons operated on the left-side cuff by closing your hand.

A small opening was made inside the pocket to install the camera and run the wires. Leaving the camera body in the pocket, the wires and buttons were fed through the opening and down the sleeve. A small incision was made inside the sleeve where the lining terminates at the cuff. The buttons were pulled through this opening and fed though another opening to inside the cuff.
Finally, one last incision is made on the outside of the cuff, near the cuff edge, and in the inside seam so the buttons can be operated  without rotating your hand (see picture 2).

Once buttons are aligned, the button leads were bent flat and each button was sewn securely to the cuff.

Step 3: Installing Camera With Hook+loop Fasteners

Picture of Installing Camera With Hook+loop Fasteners

I had originally planned on using the camera housing, but to reduce bulk when installed the camera housing was removed. The hook and loop fasteners were applied directly to the camera circuit board around the camera lens. 

The actual lens of the camera is quite small, around 1mm in diameter. The corresponding opening in the breast of the jacket will be slightly larger. Using self adhesive hook and loop fasteners, I placed the hook side around the lens in a roughly square shape.

After locating the place I wanted my camera lens to view from on the front of the jacket, I made a small opening by poking a bamboo skewer through the heavy fabric. The opening was reamed until the desired width was achieved. Then, with the skewer still inserted, a hobby knife was run along the opening (against the skewer) to trim off excess fabric after reaming. My opening was about 2mm.

On the the inside of the jacket I used loop fasteners around the opening, using the same roughly square pattern I used on the camera. The camera is then fed through the opening in the pocket and affixed to the corresponding fasteners, securing the camera in place with the lens aligned with an unobstructed view through the opening.

Step 4: Closing Thoughts

Picture of Closing Thoughts

After the camera has been installed, the small opening in the pocket where the electronics were installed through should be left open to allow for the camera to be periodically removed for media downloading and camera charging.

The freedom to film and photographing in public is something most of us enjoy and usually don't think much about until it is challenged or taken away. Keeping in mind a "reasonable expectation of privacy", it is always the responsibility of the recorder to ensure they are operating within the boundaries of their local law, and this method of recording should not be used to infringe on anyone's right to privacy. 

It has been suggested that the Patriot Act, Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act, and UK Terrorism Acts may allow police (and other agents  in positions of authority) to challenge what may be recorded in certain situations and places. This is a grey-area - While these acts are good for certain activities, they are not (and should not) be applied to restrict the freedoms we (as law-abiding citizens) enjoy today. 
Camera jacket, when used responsibly, is a great tool for covertly recording your public interactions with the world and a method to investigate your recordings at your leisure. 

What do you think - should filming police in the course of their duties be outlawed? How would you feel knowing a private citizen was filming you when you were out in public?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


monkeytamarin (author)2015-11-29

Could you make this using a Kodak PlaySport Zx3?

PhilipR2 (author)2015-07-09

You could get a sew on badge and insert the camera housing inside it then stitch around the badge to conceal the camera rather than having a hole visible on your nice jacket, just an idea. Funny enough I had this same idea in 2011 after I was brutally attacked and my flat got burgled the same night (they tried to kill my pet too) not only that the police lied about certain things and I wished I caught them at it. I received no compensation for the attack and burglary and not been well since with Serious depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (I had to move out of my beautiful flat and live 250 miles away from family and friends). Corrupt police everywhere

The Lightning Stalker (author)2013-03-31

I would put the camera in the arm or back, so whoever you're recording doesn't say, "Hey, what are you looking at?"

A spy camera in the back of the jacket... It took a moment to sink in, but that's a brilliant idea! I'll bet you could get some super funny stuff that people do when they think no one is looking. Like the afore-mentioned nose picking, or someone checking out your derrière! Artificial J-Lo booty costume, anyone? :-D

PhilipR2 (author)espdp22015-07-09

More to the point you can record someone who decides to attack you from behind

jlms (author)espdp22013-05-21


bac512 (author)jlms2014-09-15

entrapment is coercing or inducing someone to do something illegal. Just setting up a situation where they could choose to do something illegal is not entrapment. (yeah, I know, it's a year old, but, still...) awesome idea none the less.

nstokes1 (author)2014-04-27

This is nice. I could use something like this two people stole over five thousand dollars from me. And I'm disabled and I can't get out. But I know people that she has been bragging how dum I am and how easy it was for her to do it. If I could get a way for one of my friends to record her are her husband talking about it. They both get drunk and start talking. The police are tilling me they know they both are lying but without prof it is my word ageist hers. But I on social security and the money they took from me was all I had in the world. It was what I had left from the government for my army service and disability. I guess it is my fault for not having it in a bank. But I never thought some one would find it. But she cleaned for me and I guess she did more than cleaned for me. She went threw my stuff. She even took my medals that i got for my time in Iraq. I guess she thought they where real gold. Maybe some day I will get video on her to catch her. I know the price will Come down. Are if some reads this and knows where there is a cheap camera with audio. If so email me at

mikeasaurus (author)nstokes12014-04-27

In Step 1 I mention that these cameras were bought from DealExtreme for about $20 USD. Here's the ones I used:

I suggest saving the link and then deleting your comment as it has your email address publicly available, this opens yourself to spam emails. You can PM me if you want more details. I hope this helps!

hud2000 (author)2013-08-01

You should do one where the button can be in your shorts pocket and the camera in a t-shirt so you always have to wear a sweater. What if its hot out?

tylerwyatt (author)2013-07-20

how did you come up with it

tylerwyatt (author)2013-07-20

that looks awesome but hard to make

bowties r cool (author)2013-06-21

How did you post a video?

alyxthegreat1 (author)2013-06-08

This looks so cool!

Kilpers (author)2013-05-18

got it

Kilpers (author)2013-05-18

where did you get the cheap camera from? i cant find it anywhere

mikeasaurus (author)Kilpers2013-05-18

There's a link in the intro step, under the video, listed in "materials". I bought it through DealExtreme.

blkhawk (author)2013-03-26

The activities of police officers should be transparent to the public. Therefore a police officer should not object to someone filming them. Although I commend the work of police officers I have to say that in many cases by filming them some acts of police brutality by some rotten apples have been brought to justice. If a police officer is following the guidelines then he or she should not fear the objective eye of a camera.

onrust (author)blkhawk2013-04-26

Here in Mesa Arizona the police department is testing cameras worn by officers.

HollyMann (author)blkhawk2013-03-26

I agree!

Theuncannie1 (author)2013-04-06

Since we all know that there really is no "Privacy" anymore, what does it matter? There is no place and no thing you can do that someone doesn't know about. I like knowing that things like this might help us make our streets safer, think of the mugger whose face is clearly in the video of his actions! It may help keep our police officers honest and following the law - presumed innocent until proven guilty. But, I think I'd REALLY like to see it in Washington, DC - those politicians need to be closely watched, and those lobbyists too. Think of the Stink a Utube video of a few of their 'deals' went viral! Oh.... Can I, Can I? humm? Hummm?

ROD917 (author)2013-04-04

Great project. I am a retired police officer in SC. I don't see any problem with recording the police in public. Keep them honest and if they break the law well they should be charged. Just because they are the police doesn't mean they are above the law.

Eh Lie Us! (author)ROD9172013-04-04

ROD917, i agree with you about being vigilant in the balance of power but some places (cities/states) it might be illegal to record the police. i recommend a site like to check your particular area.

mikeasaurus (author)Eh Lie Us!2013-04-04

Please check the sources in the intro, it's completely legal to record police (and any public servant) in the course of their duties. Make sure you don't interfere and you are not on private property.

Eh Lie Us! (author)mikeasaurus2013-04-04

I hope that you're right.

espdp2 (author)2013-04-02

A really useful 'ible. Thanks for posting this!

woodNfish (author)2013-04-01

Internet video is an important tool in the fight against abusive authorities especially in the USA which has turned into a survelance police state. Thanks for posting this Instructable.

schaipinyo (author)2013-03-31

spy is my life....

wolfgang64 (author)2013-03-31

Very cool! I have seen things that I would have liked to take issue with that would have changed if I had pulled out a camera and started filming. I still have never seen one like this for sale. Can you tell me where to source this?

babybayrs (author)2013-03-31

wow! Surprisingly clear scences, better than my naked under the sun photo taking skill.

WWC (author)2013-03-26

Good idea.
How do you know if the camera is recording or not?

mikeasaurus (author)WWC2013-03-27

There is a small blue LED on the circuit board, but inside the jacket you can't see it. With only 2 buttons this camera is faily foolproof. However, I thought about adding an opening in the inside of the jacket so you could open the jacket and discreetly see if it's on, but I've never had a problem with it so decided against it.

If you wanted, you could always wire a circuit to the LED that would monitor the voltage of the LED and trigger a small rumble motor when a third button is pressed.

Something like this for the motor, and a simple comparator circuit (with the third button controlling the power to the comparator) on the LED line.

WWC (author)killersquirel112013-03-31

Something along that line would be good for me. I would probably press the button and not sure if it was on so press it again then not know if it was on so i press it again ect. At that point there is no way to really know if it was on or off unless i looked in my jacket to see if the LED is on or not. ha.

gomiboy (author)2013-03-31

Nicely done! I'm surprised the video is so clear/unobstructed, especially with such a tiny opening. If I were to do this, I might try to add a grommet (and a matching one on the other side) for the camera lens, but I'm not sure I need to improve on this design.

dalebor (author)2013-03-31

Since the lens opening in the jacket is so small and the lens opening on the camera is even smaller how do do you align them? From your description you cannot see the position of the lens when inserting the camera in the pocket. You're going by feel. Does it work?

TedRobotBuilder (author)2013-03-31

Nice instructable!

Some people in the USA have been charged with “wiretapping” for recording police in public. This can happen if you record what someone is saying without their permission. You can avoid this by not recording sound when you take video in public. So, be aware that recording someone’s voice in public, without their permission, can be considered illegal wiretapping in some states.

TedRobotBuilder (author)2013-03-31

Nice instructable!

Some people in the USA have been charged with “wiretapping” for recording police in public. This can happen if you record what someone is saying without them permission. You can avoid this by not recording sound when you take video in public. So, be aware that recording someone’s voice in public, without their permission, can be considered illegal wiretapping.

depotdevoid (author)2013-03-28

Well done Mike, I'm surprised the hole in the jacket is so small. Makes you wonder about how often you're already being recorded out there, both by private and public parties.

On the subject of being filmed in public, have you read "The Transparent Society", a nonfiction book by David Brin? He talks a lot about surveillance, both by the government and by citizens. As the ability to record and process day to day life becomes cheaper and cheaper, so do the perceived need of law enforcement to do so, and the actual need of citizens to record right back. I like Brin because he takes a generally positive view of the future, proposing potential problems technology could create, while at the same time presenting potential solutions to it. In his novel "Earth", government surveillance is pretty much universal, but at the same time everyone has their own recording devices, keeping an eye on law enforcement (much like your jacket.)

Personally, I always assume both that I'm being recorded at that I have the right to photograph/film as long as I'm in a public place. It's not steered me wrong yet, but I don't do a lot that's going to put me on Johnny Law's radar, except for a bit of geocaching here and there.

Johnkaye (author)depotdevoid2013-03-31

Excellent project Mike. The "Transparent Society" was published in 1999. Surveillance has expanded so much since then. Reference a Wired Magazine cover article in 2012 about a government data collection site in Utah capable of intercepting every transmitted communication in the world. It is also tied into surveillance cameras public and private that transmit over the internet. A good science fiction book on our brave new world is "The Traveler" by John Twelvehawks. He writes of living in a virtual Panopticon. A Panopticon is a round prison with the guard tower in the center. No prisoner knows when they are being observed so they behave. Remember if you have ever changed your legal behavior in public because you may be under surveillance then you are no longer free. The need for this Instructable is but one example.

gkern (author)2013-03-31


f5mando (author)2013-03-31

Brilliant! Thanks!

stremblay (author)2013-03-28

sooooo coool!!!!!
thanks a lot man!!

westcoastbuilders (author)2013-03-28

It looks like you are in Vancouver / Delta area. When the Olympics came to town the city of Vancouver installed a good number of PTZ cameras for security. When the Olympic ended, those cameras stayed in place so in most major areas downtown you are already on Camera whether you like it or not! Nice work on this counter surveillance project!

hahaha they left the cameras hahahaha control freaks!!

zjschafer (author)2013-03-28

Thats awesome.

pretty cool idea.

pretty cool idea.

dworley (author)2013-03-27

Well, this is ultra rad. Super useful when engaging in a bit of civil disobedience.

ray74 (author)2013-03-26

I think we are all on camera a lot more than we realize. There are cameras all over that feed to who knows where. I think in public anyone should be allowed to take photographs or video. I think that often times the people who do not like something the most are the same people with something to hide. I like your covert idea because you can collect video or images in a way that is more safe for you. Often times I bet you will get a more real to life video because people do not realize they are being recorded. Watch out for nose pickers.

There is a saying... Keep the honest people honest.

Thanks for sharing :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
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