Looks and writes like a pen; real use hard to detect
Hard-to-remove stickers; too-fine thread; Windows-only date setup
The Swann PenCam is, as its name suggests, a fountain-pen sized writing instrument that doubles as a covert still or video camera.
The lens is just above the clip, there’s a small status light on the other side, and on top is an On/Off/ Record button. Unscrew the pen and you find a USB port for charging and data transfer, plus a switch to toggle between still and moving images.
The pen doesn’t show up in iPhoto when plugged into a Mac, but the media can be dragged and dropped onto your desktop.
Still images are recorded as 1280 x 1024 JPEGs, while video is 640 x 480 AVI at 5Mbps. The quality of both is good, not great. Colours are muted and the video is a bit jerky. But it gets the job done, and the audio is excellent. The pen has a 4MB memory and a claimed battery time of 90 minutes.
A couple of quibbles: I know there are legal requirements, but the pen has a couple of stickers that must be removed so it looks like the real thing, and the thread between the two halves of the pen is very fine; considering you have to unscrew it often to get to the USB plug and the switch, this could be more robust.
Also, setting the date and time is a Windows-only operation. I mean, really … in this day and age?
Macworld Australia’s buying advice
Spy gear is polarising at the best of times. Is a camera pen a cool gadget for private investigators, lawyers, mystery shoppers and the like; or is it an easy way for sickos and perverts to get their jollies? I won’t make that judgment call, but if you like the idea then this Swann is well worth a look.