Swann’s spy gadget range: Little brother is watching you!

Q would be proud. Those clever spy gadgets so beloved of 007 are now appearing on the consumer market – and here’s Swann’s first – a video camera and DVR concealed in a real, working ballpoint pen.

The Swann PenCam DVR-421 lets you shoot AVI 640 x 480 VGA colour footage, save it to a built-in 2GB memory and then upload it to the likes of MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Photobucket. Swann reckons it will appeal to sales people, lawyers, mystery shoppers, law enforcers – or just anyone wanting a bit of web-based fun. Teachers beware, we say!

Spy-Pen

Just click the top of the pen to start recording. It can record more than an hour’s worth of film at a time, and the built-in battery can last for up to 90 minutes of recording. The PenCam can be recharged via USB.

The Swann PenCam DVR-421 costs £49.99 and is being sold at Screwfix, Maplins and Costco.

And if you’re out and about, when walking around with a pen might look a bit odd, how about the RemoteCam, designed to look like a car remote key fob?

Swann-Remote-Cam

Stealthily capture still images and full colour AVI files at a resolution of 720 x 480. Still images are saved as 1280 x 1024 JPGs. £49.99. Available from PC World and Screwfix.

And for action fans who are not interested in covert filming, but do want to capture their sporting achievements, Swann has released the ActionCam. The 60g camera is designed to capture footage easily at the push of a button, and is specifically designed for high-impact sports – cycling, jogging, rowing and skiing for instance. It can be attached to handlebars or a helmet with the bundled attachments, and also has a suction cup attachment. The ActionCam has been made to be rugged, has a weather-resistant case, built-in microphone and can capture the event despite vibrations and bumps. It costs £79.99.

The ThumbCam, meanwhile, is also built for recording on the move and comes complete with attachments to fix it to bike handles, helmets and so on. A protective silicon cover protects it from bumps and the elements. You’ll be recording onto its 2GB SD card, and have 40 minutes of recording time – but upgrade to an 8GB SD card to increase that to 160 minutes. You can back up your footage by inserting the card into your PC or connect directly via USB. The price? £49.99.

Magnum IP: Remote surveillance with Y-Cam Bullet and TP-Link TL-SC3130

I was really excited about testing the Y-Cam Bullet IP Security Camera. All that spying I could do, I thought, checking up on my husband, son, maybe the cat and even the guinea pigs, while I sat at a desk in London (I know, I really need to get out more).

Y-Cam

I was even more excited when it arrived. It’s a really solid piece of kit, with a long tubular design and a ring of red infra-red lights surrounding the lens, with a detachable sunshield. With its sturdy metal casing, and its waterproof casing for the cables, it bodes well if you plan to place the camera outside. I didn’t actually put mine through the rigours of the last couple of weeks in the Bucks countryside, which is a shame, because it would have been buffeted by high winds and lashed by horizontal winds – yes, just another average English summer.

Y-Cam has made quite a name for itself with its entry-level IP cameras at affordable prices, but with plenty of features to satisfy most private and small business users.

And I was hugely impressed that it was compatible with Macs, as I seem to spend much of my time cursing the lack of Mac-compatible gear at affordable prices. Sadly, this is where I was let down. Yes, it is compatible with Macs, but after an evening of fruitless clicking and cursing, I discovered I need to download some updated software. That done, I tried again. Nothing would let my Mac see the Y-Cam on my Macbook. I tried connecting directly – nope. Happily, the Y-Cam support is excellent, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we established what I needed to do (be aware that the instructions don’t necessarily correlate with the correct version of Mac OS X, which hampered me somewhat).

Once I had the camera up and running, the fact that it runs wirelessly is fantastic, and it’s easy to set up remote viewing from any browser – or even mobile (as long as your router supports UPnP).

So, how was the image once I could see it on my screen? I have to say excellent. Unlike its predecessors, it doesn’t change the colour cast on daylight images because it is set up for night-vision mode. So, I suspected I would be disappointed once it went into night mode – no, still an excellent view, although that ring of red infra-red lights will be no good if you’re hoping to film covertly!

Outdoor footage is also pretty decent – not that there’s much to see at night in our village – just a few cats on the prowl and the odd hedgehog – and it’s a shame the two-way audio facility is not compatible with Macs as I’d have liked to try it out.

Another feature that will be of particular interest to businesses is the ability to record to microSD card. You can choose four kinds of recording; Video on alarm, snapshot on alarm, continuous video recording or snapshot recording. You can also set the camera to record all footage to a remote FTP server, which is great if your security footage is important.

At £295, the Bullet is another highly affordable, well-constructed security camera from Y-Cam (just be aware of the limitations if you’re using a Mac).

More details from Y-Cam

In the same vein, the TP-Link TL-SC3130 two-way audio surveillance camera is designed for indoor use, but has the added bonus of offering the facility to watch your camera’s real-time video through an MSN window, which makes remote viewing really simple. With motion detection, email alerts, two-way audio and dual streaming, the TL-SC3130 offers quite a lot for its £55 price tag – although it can’t compete with the Bullet in the style stakes.
Full details from TP-Link