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Pick of the Camera Reviews

(Click the pictures for reviews & links) 

ACTION CAMS

Yi 2 - Best Budget 4K 

Gitup Git2 (My Pick)

Xiaomi Yi

Dazzne P2

SJCAM M10+
 
DASH-CAMS (CAR DVRs)
 
A119
Yi Ultra 2.7K
   
    MINI CAMERAS
Mobius (also works as a Dashcam)
Polaroid Cube+
    HELMET CAMERA
Sena Prism Tube

My favourite USB battery power Pack

This is the excellent USB power pack I use when I travel.

2 x 2.1amp outputs. 8400mAh capacity.

Two digit Led display shows battery level

 

What SD CARD should I buy?

If you want an SD Card for your camera - these are the ones I use and recommend. 

I'd strongly recommend not to buy any SD cards off ebay - I've heard about too many issues with counterfeit cards - often sold on by unwitting resellers. My inbox regularly gets messages from people who bought a £150 camera then cheaped out and bought a £3 memory card on ebay - Then when it doesn't worth they blame the camera! It doesn't make any sense. Good memory is cheaper than it's ever been - see the links above.

A lot of HD cameras will not work properly with cards larger than 32GB (cards over 32GB are usually SDXC rather than the SDHC standard used by 32GB cards. SDXC cards use the ex-FAT system rather than FAT32 - in short they are a different standard). - so don't just buy the biggest card you can afford - read the specs in the manual to see what it accepts.

UK & US LINKS & PRICES BELOW

RECOMMENDED CARDS (for action cams - see dashcams below)

CLASS 10 UHS-1 CARDS (For HD Cameras)

 

U3 CARD (For 4K cameras)

 

 

SPECIAL DASHCAM CARDS

The SD card in a dashcam is re-written over, more frequently than in other types of cameras. Some manufacturers void their guarantee if an SD card was used in a dashcam. So, no surprise, there are special High Endurance SD cards made just for dashcams...here's some.

 

VERY IMPORTANT. These links take you to the product, however Amazon have three different ways of selling. There's Amazon Direct - This means that you are only dealing with Amazon themselves, then there's other sellers that use Amazon's facilities - these show as Fulfilled By Amazon and finally there's Market Place sellers that advertise on Amazon, but operate independently.  I strongly recommend that you only use the first...the Amazon Direct - Sold By Amazon option. Even if it appears that you are paying a couple of £/$ more it is more than likely you are comparing the price of a real item against the price of a fake.

To give you an idea of the extent of the fake goods problem. In a 2016 survey by Apple - 90% of the 'Apple' chargers sold through Amazon - using the other the two methods..which includes the "Fulfilled by Amazon" option -  were found to be counterfeit....90%! 

            

 
« How To Shoot Yourself in the Face (& other tips). | Main | Belkin CarAudio Connect AUX with Bluetooth »
Sunday
Oct142012

720p Spy Pen Review (2012 h.264 Version)

Here is my review of the first 720p h.264 HD Spy Pen. This covert camera records pretty decent footage, and is leaps and bounds ahead of the 1280x960 mjpeg 'HD' Spy Spy Pen that I reviewed a couple of years ago.  The live video-out function might also result in this camera getting some use outside of its intended (and unlikely) spy pen purpose.

I believe that this pen is related to the 808 #18 camera from the fact that it is distributed by the same sellers on ebay. It is therefore likely that the firmware could be updated, and the small time stamp removed, although at the time of writing I cannot confirm this.

If you buy this pen and want to change the time, it uses the familiar technique of copying a text configuration file to the built in memory. You can dowload an example file here. All you need to do is edit the contents to show the correct time and date and then copy your updated file to the pen. The time is updated when the pen is next switched on. 

I mentioned in the video that this was a difficult review to shoot because I kept accidentally pressing the on/record button in transit and filling the memory up with footage of the inside of my bag or pocket. Every time this happened, the day's shoot had to be abandoned so I could return home, attach the camera up to my computer and empty the card out. After this happened twice I ended up taping a protective cap over the pen to stop it happening again. This is the only time that I've had a problem like this with a camera, and it was caused by the fact that the camera only needs one brief tap for it to both switch-on and automatically start recording. The fact that the memory can't be removed or swapped out also contributes to the problem. There is also no way to tell if the camera is on or off by looking at it. I know that this is so that it can't be detected as a camera....but it also makes it very hard to use as well.

If you want to buy one, here are a few links to stores on ebay.

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Reader Comments (38)

Love your sense of humor :)

Does the camera charge and record at the same time ?

I know you tested this while you were streaming, but i'm not sure if the camera was really charging while recording.


Thx a lot
Regards Sam

October 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSam

Does the charging USB cable work to charge and record with the Y3000 ?

Still looking for a fuctional cable for the Y3000, so maybee this will work.

Thanks a lot

October 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBowi

It does charge and record at the same time. It's not possible to power it without also charging it. As far as the lead fitting the Y3000, my Y3000 was tested to destruction a long time ago and I don't have it any more, but I'm pretty certain that its plug was smaller and squarer than this one.

October 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Hey man, any chance you could take a picture of the pen beside some normal pens? These things always look so huge in pictures and video, but I'm not sure if they actually are as big as it seems. Something I've been curious about for a while.

October 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKyosho

Nice review Techmoan, but does it work as a pen? ;-)

October 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVoyager03

It will write, but due to the size of the ink cartridge, not for very long.

October 15, 2012 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Did you see this techmoan? Looks interesting. I wonder if its an actual 1080p camera or if it has 720p 60fps capabilities...

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-FULL-HD-1080p-Key-Chain-Camera-720P-60-1080P-30-DVR-Time-Track-no-/150924507954?pt=US_Surveillance_Digital_Video_Recorders_Cards&hash=item2323cd3b32

October 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCody

I'm pretty much done with the Keyring cameras now. They could put a 4k sensor in there and it wouldn't attract me. I think the keyring case design is an anachronism now. I communicated with the manufactures two years ago who advised that they were going to start putting their cameras in sensible cases, but instead they just keep changing the insides. The 'Spy camera' design makes even less sense now that many Chinese companies are no longer allowed to sell any spy gadgets. What they should do is put their cameras in a torch style case like the ACT20. The ACT20 has a great case but a crappy sensor. By the way, I have another video about the ACT20 coming soon.

October 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Why arent chinese companies allowed to make spy cameras any more? What is this pen if not a spy cam?

October 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermatt

You might want to email the Chinese government that one, I'm sure they'll be happy to give you a response.

October 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

I mean - where did u get that info from - ebay is full of chinese spy stuff

October 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermatt

I've been doing this stuff for a while now. A couple of years back Chinese retailers were forced to remove the spy equipment parts of their site.
Here is a news article about the ban.

October 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterTechmoan

Cody, I was following the discussion on keychain cameras pretty closely a few months back. There was a 1080p / 720p60 model at the time and I think this is probably it. It did seem to be genuine 1080p though obviously the quality doesn't match more expensive cameras. There was also an encoding issue experienced by many users which is hard to explain in few words but resulted in inconsistent video quality. This issue would seem to be the reason this cam didn't really take off and unfortunatly it might be insurmountable considering the limtations of these cheap componnts. H.265 might change this, but for now 1080p just doesn't seem doable for under sixty bucks. The 720p60 mode was found to just duplicate every frame, so file size doubled but playback was no better than 720p30. It might not be the same camera and firmware might have fixed these issues by now, but I don't think either is likely.

November 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

Just so you know, absolutely nobody will EVER notice you are wearing a pencam, as long as you look 'nerdy' enough, I guess - I've used my pencam scores of times, even when I happened to bump into somebody I knew and talked to them for a few minutes (and the pencam was in my shirt pocket, already on), they didn't notice. But the thing that most tells me that nobody will ever notice it is the fact that even when I'm wearing one and filming, I have never, not once, looked at anybody else and looked at any pens they might have in their pockets, and thought 'Is that a pencam'?
These things are pretty amazing, and very useful for covertly recording the police when they are, how shall I say it, overstepping the mark with members of the public.

January 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie's Aunt

Have Amazon uk Same These Produces<<plz whats name salesman <<< First Real HD Spy Pen (h.264)
ty

April 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersultan

You've got useful reviews, but I want to add some tips about this pen. First of all, it can be disassembled. The first ring on the top covers a spring. You can stretch it to make it harder and avoid casual activation and the ticking sounds that you mentioned and. My pen also had some videos recorded casually during delivery :) The second ring on the top hides the device itself. You can move it out by pushing on the usb cable (not pretty much easy but possible) and you'll see a 130mah battery and a 4gb kingston TF card which can be replaced with the one of larger size (but the TF slot is not standard, the card is kind of glued from the top of it with a kind of sticker). However, I don't suggest you to open the pen without a reason because all this stuff is so small and fragile and can be damaged easily. The other thing is that the writing part is replaceable. Just unscrew it with the appropriate philips ("+") screwdriver, shake it off and replace it with a new one (it's standard but short, so you can use a one from an old pen with little ink left), then screw it back to its place. Have a nice spying time! Personally I like 808#16 more because of better video quality and a standard usb cable, but unfortunately they don't produce them as pens.

April 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnatoliy

I bought this from my local dealer in Malaysia... https://forum.lowyat.net/index.php?showtopic=1927665&view=findpost&p=60739432

I also notice you could use this Ez Configuration #18 1.0.0.6 software to configure the setting in this Spy Pen... http://2kool4u.com/minicams/Ez_Configuration_18.shtml

I wonder if the Key Chain Cam 808 #18 later firmware is compatible with this Pen Cam H.264... http://www.2kool4u.com/minicams/keychaincam720P_18.shtml

June 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRodney Yeo

Dear Techmoan,

Did you experience a problem with the SpyPen Cam producing a 5KB AVI file at every last video recording which is corrupted?

Please see this forum thread post Post #118 for more info...
https://forum.lowyat.net/index.php?showtopic=1927665&view=findpost&p=60928287

Thanks.

Rodney

June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRodney Yeo

Kindly see thread review Post #117 and #118 for two different firmware bugs issue with the SpyPen Cam #18 HD720p

https://forum.lowyat.net/index.php?showtopic=1927665&view=findpost&p=60927850

June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRodney Yeo

Sorry,
I'm about to buy the pen based on your review. But the same page offers this: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Professional-1280x720P-HD-Spy-Camera-Pen-5MP-Mini-Video-Recorder-DVR-H264-8GB-/161091641410?pt=US_Surveillance_Digital_Video_Recorders_Cards&hash=item2581cf6042

with a supposedly higher res. Any thoughts?

September 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIris

Iris, I have this pen, it's a new version of the same pen, it can hide lens with a plastic cover which turned out to be more problem than I expected because I sometimes forget to open it or it closes intentionally and spoils the video during the process. The resolution is the same. It has 5MP sensor but writes HD 720p video. The pen is based on 808#18 that CAN make photos, but this pen CANNOT make photos, so 5MP is never used. However, the firmware seems to have bugs. It writes only one video and needs to be completely turned off and on to start again, but I've got a better MOV firmware from the seller that fixes this problem. However, only MOV firmware is fixed, AVI firmware still has that bug. There are other problems unsolved: no division of clips by length, it writes until the battery drains off no matter what length you specify in the setup utility, but if you don't stop the video before that moment, the video will be corrupted and you will not be able to see it. Besides, the holes for the LED and reset button are displaced from the center which causes problems when you need reset the camera or position the pen to the center. I've asked the seller, he said all these pens are like this. If you don't use a secure case, the pen will most likely turn on by itself and drain out the battery, and when you want to make a video, you will find out that the pen doesn't work, although it was fully charged in the morning. I found this pen to be NOT reliable, I relied of it several times but there was a 90% chance that something would go wrong and I won't get the video, so I prefer 808#16 since it always works as it should, however, it's not a pen.

September 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnatoliy

Thank you so much, Anatoily! I will get the other cam pen, then. Thank you!!!! :)

September 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterIris

Iris, it's not an easy task. I've got another true HD pen that writes MJPEG 720p video, it's even more expensive than this one, but the quality of the video is noticeably lower (a lot of noise even in the sunny weather, overexposure (shadows and highlight) problem, slow reaction of the sensor to fast actions). However, it has a very reliable hardware and never spoils the video even if the battery is drained out. If we could get this hardware reliability plus the video quality of #18 pen, that would be a really worthy pen. Maybe it already exists somewhere, but I don't have so much money as Techmoan, so I stopped this "buy and throw away" game, because there are a lot of pens around and there's no way to evaluate their quality before buying them, while their price is over $50 in most cases. Maybe you will be more lucky to find something worthy.

September 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnatoliy

Regarding this post:
>I bought this from my local dealer in Malaysia... https://forum.lowyat.net/index.php?showtopic=1927665&view=findpost&p=60739432
>
>I also notice you could use this Ez Configuration #18 1.0.0.6 software to configure the setting in this Spy Pen... ->http://2kool4u.com/minicams/Ez_Configuration_18.shtml
>
>I wonder if the Key Chain Cam 808 #18 later firmware is compatible with this Pen Cam H.264... >http://www.2kool4u.com/minicams/keychaincam720P_18.shtml

Do NOT use the firmware from this tool. It'll brick your pen camera. It must be just for the #18 keychain models. I think it puts it into still photo mode (but doesn't capture anything) and you can't get out unless you replace with the correct firmware.

Here is the original HD Pen firmware provided to me directly by eletech086 today:
http://www.sendspace.com/file/x4y9bo

It includes both the .avi and .mov firmware as well as a proper configuration utility. All of it worked perfectly and saved my camera!

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPoquitocam

spy camera pen | spycamerapens.com

January 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike Charles

No way can I work out how to set the pen up. Can someone explain in simple terms how to do it on my Windows 7 PC and also how to convert to Mov format so I can playback on my ipad.

Many thanks.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTony

i got a spy pen camera from amazon. the video quality seems to be really good and it lasts for like an hour. I'm happy with it. i got my item here:
http://www.amazon.com/Spy-Pen-Camera-Premium-Tiny/dp/B00JGR0TVI/

totally worth my money! :)

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjesue

Hi Techmoan,

I would love to know the specifications of the correct usb cable for recording & charging at the same time with the Y3000. Bought one set already but to no avail...

September 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStefaan

As said poquitocam, I updated the firmware of my pen with keychain one and now it doesn't work.
Do anybody know where download the original firmware of this cam?
The link he posted is broken.

thanks

November 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterabor

Dear Techmoan

Please inform if it's possible to somehow change the "glued" 4 GB flash card to bigger ex. 8,, 16 or 32 GB?

And how to do it technically- to remove the original 4 GB card and put in a bigger one??

Or it is absolutely impossible?

And please give me link to seller with sellers name and kontakt info.

Thanks in advance for fast answer

Regards Edgar

August 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdgar

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