Swann Communications Digital Private Eye
- Security functions work well, unobtrusive, good value
- Image quality a little lacking, no video record mode by default
While those after a webcam will be disappointed, consumers looking for something to give them a little extra piece of mind will be pleased with the Swann Digital Private Eye.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
Jumping on the ever growing bandwagon of do-it-yourself home security devices, Swann's Digital Private Eye is a nifty device for those after a slightly more covert surveillance system. We were disappointed that it didn't record video footage, but the still image capture worked well, and should satisfy most users.
The thing to note about this particular device is that it looks a lot like an alarm scanner, rather than a camera. The camera itself is a pinhole unit that peaks out of a tiny space in the chassis. Whenever the sensor detects movement the camera jumps into action, snapping a shot every three seconds until the motion stops. These photos are recorded onto an SD card.
The sensor itself is housed in a curved, plastic section towards the bottom and it operated really well in our testing. It has a viewing angle of about 60 degrees, and a range of about 4.5 metres. It continually picked up any hints of movement within this space, impressing us with its accuracy. Our only complaint is that whenever the Digital Private Eye detected anything, its small LED would light up, revealing to any potential suspects that they've been caught. We'd much rather no warning was given.
We felt the quality of the pictures captured was satisfactory, if not outstanding. The Digital Private Eye has a maximum resolution of 640x480, which is fairly standard for cameras of this type. The pictures won't win any photography competitions, but they are more than adequate for identifying people.
In addition to the security features, the Digital Private Eye also operates as a traditional webcam. Bizarrely however, in the default software we found no options to record video files. You can capture still images in JPEG format, but there is no option for video mode at all. This is particularly strange, considering there are options to change the speed, resolution and colour space of the footage. We tested in with an MSN webcam conversation and everything operated flawlessly. The image quality wasn't the best, with some noticeable pixilation and extremely bloated colours, but again, it was more than adequate for basic conversation. We'd recommend finding a piece of third party software if you're looking to record video files.
The Digital Private Eye connects to your computer via a standard mini-USB cable, although the process is a little strange. If the unit is switched off, connecting it will open the SD card as a removable storage device, but if device is on, it will function as regular webcam. We found this a little irritating at first, as you have to disconnect and reconnect the rather stiff cable to switch between the two modes. The device runs off AC power, although an adapter to externally connect a 9V battery is also provided.
All in all, this is a fairly useful device. Those purely after a webcam will be disappointed by the combination of pixilated video and no default video mode, but people wanting a cheap security solution will find everything they need in the Digital Private Eye.
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