Awesomely Tiny Spy Camera, 720×480 30fps AVI Video DVR Stick – All In One

Posted on Dec 19 2008 - 4:16pm by L.

Spy Camera DVR

Here is a pure gold rarity "“ a cheap spy DVR camera that doesn't suck! I've been looking for a good portable Spy Cam for a long time (ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies). Anything that met my 640×480 avi video requirement was simply too big, required big batteries, or High Level Spook Clearance (I jest – don't taze me Bros), and anything that was close to portable has been pure ass in terms of resolution and/or frame rate. Sifting through piles of crap was beginning to wear on me, until I came across an item that seemed too good to be true.  Read on for a detailed review.

A new ebay listing advertised exactly what I wanted, a 640×480 30fps lithium ion rechargeable battery powered USB connecting microSD card (4GB and 8GB) discreet DVR Spy Cam. Skeptical as always, I checked out the sample vid and their ebay rating. My expectations were low, but the only consistent complaint that came up was horrible communication and poor instructions, no negatives on the actual technical prowess of the gizmo, errr gadget… Being an avid exploiter of cheaply made Chinese crap I was not intimidated by that. I boldly ordered the gizmo and received an email that my toy shipped from Hong Kong by mail. Mere six days later I received the Hong Kong Air Mail package which contained a sturdily constructed Spy Cam DVR USB stick thingie. It came with a 4GB microSD card, USB adapter (for charging and offloading) and the tiniest MicroSD/USB reader I ever seen. The piece de resistance was a User Manual, written in an abhorrent parody on the English language, yet close enough to be usable. Right off the bat I noticed a couple of "typos" on the unit itself. The switch that was supposed to select between the Audio and the Video (with Audio) recording modes was instead labeled RECORD and REPALY (WTF?!) accordingly. Funny thing, the manual also referred to those buttons by RECORD and REPALY (again WTF?!). That aside, the unit performed flawlessly, recording voice (with a super sensitive mic) or video with voice in beautiful 640×480 resolution and storing it on the microSD card in a usable format. I was able to get solid hour and a half of video on a single battery charge. The unit was small, durable, and even came with a clip that allowed it to be attached to a pocket. The happy Chinese Spy Stick is guilty of excessive LED lights use "“ it's supposed to be a friggin Spy Cam, not a Christmas tree, It also requires a fair amount of light for optimum quality, no real surprise here since most pinhole type cams get grainy at low light level. In conclusion, if you are man or woman enough to navigate past the crappy manual and the mysterious REPALY label, for about $22, this little Spy Cam is a total gem.

Spy Camera DVR All In One

10 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. spyDUDE December 20, 2008 at 2:41 pm -

    FYI. On the amazon $54 link, make sure and click on the “used and new” button on the right side of amazons page. The main price is almost $300, but it is much less if you do what I mentioned.

  2. Macgyver January 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm -

    I’ve recently got one of these 640×480 versions of the cam stick after being less than impressed with the picture quality of a 355×288 resolution version. I highly recommend the larger resolution cam – Mine shoots at 19fps stangely, but the picture and audio quality are superb. I got it off ebay for $48USD via an auction.

  3. Spy_vs_Spy February 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm -

    Just a little update for anyone who stumbles across this review and is sitting on the fence thinking about taking the plunge.
    1. You can do an ebay search for “640 480 spy stick” and find auctions that have a B.I.N. for $46 shipped, and they come with a 4Gb microSD card.

    2. The plastic clip can be removed for more discrete mounting (hiding). Just undo the 4 screws on the side of the back cover, and you’ll expose two screws that hold the clip in place. Remove those two and reassemble.

    3. Some information extracted via VLC about the media.
    Stream 0
    Codec: MJPG
    Type: Video
    Resolution: 640×480
    Frame rate: 19.980419

    Stream 1
    Codec: ARAW
    Type: Audio
    Channels: 1
    Sample Rate: 8000 Hz
    Bits per sample: 8
    Bitrate: 64 kb/s

    4. The files actually appear as AVI, not 3gp. Note, that 3gp and AVI are media “containers”, not anything to do with compression. The video codec is the outdated (though still used) MJPG, which is a bit of let down since 3gp (as was stated the cam stick uses) typically uses h.263 compression. Think of it like this – in terms of technology, MJPG is like using floppy disks in 2003, h.263 is like using CD’s, and h.264 is like using DVDs. Ideally I’d love to see the newer h.264 codec used as this allows excellent compression with little loss.

    5. Audio quality is high, in that the microphone seems to pick up very well, although there seems to be a clipping effect every 2 or 3 seconds where for a split milisecond the audio drops out. This can get a little annoying if you were concerned about perfect audio. Also, there is a noticeable constant background “flickering” hiss/hum sound. I don’t know why its there, but it could be something to do with the internal circuitry not so much the microphone.

    6. The video quality is about as good as you could expect from a 1.3MP webcam over skype or some such. To clarify, that isn’t the image you see of yourself, think of the image you get from your friend sending to you. The camera is rated as .3MP, which does handle 640×480, although just barely. Up close things look great, but you start to lose clarity exponentially it seems as things get darker and farther away. Such is life with a pinhole camera. All in all though it does make a great SPY camera, and you could definitely snag some great moments, though they won’t be in High Def.

    7. Newer models ship with a label that says “DV” and “REC” instead of “REPALY” and “RECORD”. They still operate between voice only and movie mode.

    8. You can probably search utube for sample clips, if you do a search for “spy stick”. But the compression utube uses to stream videos downgrades the experience just a little bit more than what I think you’d see in person.

  4. Gene L. February 4, 2009 at 3:19 pm -

    Thanks for a super lengthy comment. Please note there are TWO distinctly different versions of this spy stick. Both are capable of 640×480, but only one gives you 30 frames per second – verified with GSPOT. Also considering you can get 8GB high speed micro SD for 11 bucks shipped – try and find this without any memory – seen them for about $30. Again – make sure you get the one thats 30 fps – anything less is ass.

  5. Gene L. February 4, 2009 at 3:23 pm -

    One more thing, the audio on mine is flawless, but the mic is sensitive. The hum you are getting on yours might be result of some unshielded RF close by.

  6. InfoTECH February 4, 2009 at 4:26 pm -

    To read about the comparison of MJPEG and MPEG (or h.263 / h.264) read here:
    http://www.isc365.com/Why_We_Like_MJPEG_Compression.aspx

    It’s interesting because it claims that MJPEG is better than H.264. This is a strange claim. If you want to do Intra-only coding (i.e. no motion compensation), you can use H.264 in Intra mode. Detlev Marpe demonstrated that H.264 in Intra mode has similar performance to Motion JPEG2000:
    http://www.f4.fhtw-berlin.de/~barthel/paper/spie03_marpe_et_al.pdf

    Note that Marpe includes actual results, unlike the article above. So, even in Intra mode, H.264 will significantly out-perform the older MJPEG standard. Using Intra and Inter coding (i.e. adding motion compensation) will increase the performance dramatically, even if there is a lot of camera movement and detail in the scene.

    If in doubt about competing claims, ask for rate-distortion results and independent subjective test results. For example, see this site for some third-party codec comparisons:
    http://compression.ru/video/codec_comparison/mpeg-4_avc_h264_2007_en.html

  7. Spy_vs_Spy February 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm -

    Thanks Gene,

    Any online spy shop is way overpriced for these, but ebay seems a good hunting ground for them. You can also find them under “spy gum” as well as “spy stick” – I suppose because it is designed to fit in a pack of gum.
    You’re right about the memory being so cheap, especially since they send you a generic manufactured chip, you could probably pick up a similar one of equal size or larger (up to 8GB) for cheap. The only thing is, the battery on mine only lasts about 1.5 hours and it takes a while to recharge. During that time its already plugged into a USB port of the computer and I usually offload the video clips, so having 8GB isn’t that helpful.
    As for the two versions, I know there is a version that shoots 640×480 stills and 252×288 movies. This version comes with either a 2GB or 4GB microSD card and usually has a sticker on it that shows “2GB” or “4GB”. They are about $30 for the 2GB and $35-$40 for the 4GB. The other version is the one that shoots 640×480 video, and shows a sticker of “AVI 640×480 MicroSD Card > 8GB”. It is usually about $49
    I myself have the latter one. The next time I reboot into windows I’ll check out GSPOT, but I trust VLC that the frame rate is only about 20fps. I wonder if there was a version change and maybe we were shipped different revisions? I’d like to compare notes with you on that. I think mine had a sticker that read “QC 1/08” on it.

  8. BGRT May 6, 2009 at 9:50 pm -

    Gene, if you have a link or search string for the 30fps version, please post. Everything I see is 20fps or 30fps at crappy resolutions.

  9. imran July 31, 2009 at 12:16 pm -

    sir ,
    i want to buy this product.first you tell me its features, its real price and discount rate,delivery rate.etc thanx

  10. Bryan Hicks August 2, 2009 at 1:41 pm -

    how long does the battery last before it dies in the middle of recording?

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