Under the Radar

Get Your Spy On With Swann's HD PenCam

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Swann is well-know for their home and commercial security camera systems (they claim to be the global #1 brand in DIY video surveillance). They also have a line of radio-controlled toys and a few miniature James Bond-style security products, headlined by the HD PenCam

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That Mini Video camera includes some wearable cameras that are obviously cameras, but the PenCam aspires to some straight-up hidden-camera spy action. The pen part works like a normal pen and you get a few refills. There's also a mini USB cable for charging the camera.

 

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The pinhole camera is on the front just above the clip, so you can conceivably stick it in your front pocket and take secret video as you wander through your enemy's home or place of work. There's an internal switch just above the USB connector that allows you to switch between video and still photos.

The PenCam has 4GB of storage built in, which should get you over a half hour of 720p footage. You should get around 45 minutes of recording time off a single charge and a full charge takes around 90 minutes. That proved to be true while I was trying it out.

How does the video footage look? It's a million times better than the images you see from security cameras on TV cop shows but it doesn't look nearly as good as what you can get from a current generation Galaxy or iPhone. Let's just say it's easy to identify anyone you film with the camera and it's good enough to play back in an interrogation or a court deposition.

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It's noticeably bigger than a regular pen, so it might stand out in a pencil up on a desk and it's would definitely be the most noticeable thing in your pocket protector. Swann has an important disclaimer about customers being responsible for following the laws regarding surreptitious video recording in their jurisdiction: make sure your plans to film a video exposé of the terrible customer service down at the DMV aren't illegal where you live.

The Swann HD PenCam works well enough to be part of your arsenal if you're a private detective and it would make a great (if expensive) gag gift for a gadget-obsessed friend or family member. There are cheaper models available without the built-in storage (bring your own micro SD card) or with a lower resolution.

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