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Swann PenCam review: Swann PenCam

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The Good The convenience of a camera, matched with an always-useful ballpoint pen. The pen is pretty good too. Novel idea. Footage is decent if pen is held still enough.

The Bad Recording light can be visible during filming. Ability to be used as an actual spy camera is debatable. Sound quality is terrible.

The Bottom Line Channel your inner Maxwell Smart, Agent 99 or John Steed with this pen that doubles as a camera. But don't expect to be as undercover as the real deal.

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7.5 Overall

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I spy with my little camera eye something beginning with ... P! This is the PenCam from Swann, purveyor of surveillance tools, including, but not limited to, monitoring systems and toy helicopters. This version of the PenCam (of which there are several floating around online) is the latest, sporting 4GB of internal storage on a convenient USB key that unscrews from the main pen component.

While we're not usually ones to review stationery here at CNET, we are able to say that the PenCam looks and feels like a good-quality ballpoint model should. It has a clip that can easily slide onto a shirt to covertly film conversations, as well as refillable ink wells, three of which come with the camera in the box. Along with the pen itself, you also get a USB extension cable, a software CD and an instruction manual to decipher the intricacies held within.

At the top of the pen is a single button, which, when held down for three seconds, turns the unit on, as indicated by a single glowing orange LED. Recording commences when the button is pressed once and the light glows blue. Now, we're not sure about you, but there's something just a tad suspicious about a glowing blue light emitted from someone's top pocket when ensconced in deep conversation. Take note, dear readers — never disclose any personal or incriminating material to someone when you see a blue LED.

Given the tiny lens on the pen, it's to be expected that it can only film at VGA resolution (640x480) in AVI format. The internal 4GB storage can hold approximately one hour of footage, with the internal battery outlasting the total capacity at 90 minutes on a single charge. It can also take still JPEG images.

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