Swann PenCam review
Spy pens, bugs and hidden cameras used to have a certain cachet – they were the sort of thing you'd imagine James Bond using, or maybe George Smiley. Now, they're mass-produced in the Far East, rebranded and shipped over in time to be sold as a rather pricey stocking filler. It's just not same.
Swann's PenCam is a fairly typical spy pen. It's bulky and not entirely subtle looking, especially when the LED recording indicator on the back is switched on, but we've seen uglier pens. You might get away with using it to record conversations from your top pocket, assuming your shirts have load-bearing pockets.
A button on the top of the pen switches it on and also puts it into record mode. Video is recorded through a lens just above the pocket clip. The quality of the 640x480 AVI video clips isn't actually too bad, and there's 2GB of built-in storage. If you want to get at your stored video, all you have to do is unscrew the barrel – the recording top half has a USB connector concealed inside.
With the camera/USB stick unit taking up so much space in the body of the pen, the amount of room available for the ballpoint's actual pen unit is tiny. If you want to change the refill, you'll need to unscrew it from the inside using a Philips screwdriver. Three replacements are provided, which good since we had trouble locating refills on sale in this country, although some overseas stockists are prepared to ship internationally.
To be honest, you probably won't need replacements, as the pen itself in uncomfortably heavy to write with and the novelty of stealthily capturing mediocre-quality video from unhelpful camera angles is unlikely to outlast your first refill.