IMGP0177There comes a time in every person’s life when some serious undercover work is needed. Whether it’s for some detective work or if you just need to secretly record an event, you need something that will get the job done without drawing any attention to yourself or what you’re doing. In these situations, large cameras just aren’t going to cut it and even using your mobile phone could make you seem very suspicious. That’s when something like the Swann HD PenCam comes in handy. This is a mini video camera crammed into the form factor of a working ballpoint pen that can shoot 720p HD video. That means that most people would see this as just an ordinary pen but in reality, you hold in your hand a very stealthy video recording device.

Design and Usage

At first glance, the Swann HD PenCam just looks like one of those classy looking ball point pens you see executives using. Once you remove all the stickers from it, you can’t even tell it’s something other than a pen. The HD PenCam I received from Swann was their limited edition cool grey barreled pen with gold trim. This is an 8gb unit and will work with both Windows and Mac platforms. The pen itself is a bit thicker than most pens but not thick to the point where it looks out of place and comically large.

IMGP0182The HD PenCam works like any other ballpoint pen. Twist the bottom gold portion and the pen will pop out. You can use it like you would a regular pen. To turn on the recording feature, hold the top button for about 2 seconds and a orange/blue LED will appear on the side. Wait for the blue to disappear leaving just the orange light which means that it is now in standby mode. Tap the top button again to start recording and you’ll know it has started because the orange light will now turn blue. Tap it again to stop recording and the light will turn back orange. The pen will shut off itself in standby mode if you don’t use it for 30 seconds.

To transfer files, you must unscrew the middle portion of the HD PenCam which will reveal the USB plug. Plug this end into your computer and it the HD PenCam will show up as a removable drive allowing you to browse through its file system and look at and photo and videos you may have taken. And yes, you can also take photo with this. You just have to switch the HD PenCam into photo mode.

Video quality on the HD PenCam is pretty good for what you will be using it for. It’s pretty clear considering how tiny the camera is and audio seems pretty decent too. Don’t move the pen around too much however as there is no image stabilization. That means that any tiny movement you make with it will cause the picture to move around a lot. I am happy to see however that it records in a standard AVI format so it can be read by any computer without need to install any exotic codecs.


  • HD video camera & DVR housed in a real, working quality ballpoint pen with limited edition blue barrel
  • Shoot color AVI videos at 1280 x 720 resolution at 30fps or high res JPEG images
  • Create video evidence with time & date stamping & upload to your favorite website including YouTube, Facebook & more
  • Easy backup – record up to 90 minutes & use USB memory stick to upload to PC
  • Long-lasting built-in battery lasts 45 minutes & recharges via your PC’s USB port
  • Compatible with Windows 7/Vista/XP, Mac OS X, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer & QuickTime Player
  • Perfect for lawyers, sales people, law enforcement, mystery shopping, covert surveillance or Internet fun!

Final Thoughts

Obviously the Swann HD PenCam allows for some pretty covert usage. You can’t really tell it’s a camera at all unless the subject you are filming happens to see the glowing blue or orange LED light so you’ll have to make sure you have this well hidden. Also, make sure you remove any stickers from it as to not draw attention to the fact that this HD PenCam is more than just a pen.

As for video quality, it’s good enough for what you’ll be using the HD PenCam for. You won’t be using it to make any feature films but you will be using it to keep record of certain events.

When you purchase the Swann HD PenCam, you get a USB extension cable (do not need to use), three additional pen refills, and an installation disc for some software that you may or may not really use as you can transfer all videos and photos without installing anything. The HD PenCam (SWVID-PENGY8) retails for around $79.99. The version I got is a limited edition one, but they are still available for purchase.

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