As the media constantly reminds us, cameras are everywhere these days and they keep getting smaller and more powerful. Just a few years ago, it would have been laughable to suggest that a pen had a camera inside it, but not today. The digital pen camera is a new type of gadget that has earned itself the dubious nickname of the “spy pen”. While it can be used for covert surveillance, there are many less sinister uses for it, such as taking notes during meetings. Powered by a tiny rechargeable battery, the digital pen camera is capable of taking still pictures and recording video, which can be uploaded to a computer for viewing.
The key element of a digital pen camera is a tiny pinhole camera, which is located either in the tip or the other end. There is also a USB plug that is accessed by twisting the pen body apart. The plug is used to charge the battery and also to transfer pictures and videos. If a computer is not available, the pen can be charged from a standard USB wall charger. The battery has enough power for one or two hours of video recording, although this may be limited by the available memory, depending on how many files are already stored on the pen. Typically, pictures are saved as JPEG files and videos are saved as AVI files.
There are many uses for a digital pen camera besides spying, which is illegal in many countries anyway. It can be used for capturing fun moments at parties, weddings, and other events. It can also be used to as a web cam, by simply removing the camera section and plugging it into a USB cable that is connected to a computer. Of course, a regular webcam has better video quality, but a digital pen camera is easier to carry around. The models with the camera in the tip are used for recording notes as you write them, but they require special paper that is more expensive than normal paper. Some models even have a microphone for recording audio along with the video.
On the outside, a digital pen camera looks like any other executive pen. It’s thick and heavy but not in a way that makes it uncomfortable to write with. A stylish design with gold and silver trim helps make it look like a normal executive pen, and it also serves to draw attention away from the camera lens. The clicker at the top of the pen is actually a button that turns the camera off and on, but unless someone was paying particular attention they would not notice it. A digital pen camera looks so normal that many people would be shocked to learn it has a camera inside it, so it’s a good idea to announce the fact before someone discovers it and starts making damaging accusations.
It’s fair to say that a pinhole camera is not the best choice for shooting high quality video. Even compared to a cheap webcam, the most expensive digital pen camera does not produce great pictures and video. The resolution and frame rate are typically very low, but there are a few models with surprisingly good values for these. However, even the best models are no substitute for a proper digital camera. The capacity of the flash memory is quite good and matches the flash drives currently available. Even if the camera is never used, one of these pens makes a great alternative to a flash drive.
Perhaps the most surprising feature of a digital pen camera is that it can actually be used for writing. There is enough room in the front of the pen for a replaceable ink cartridge. Most models take a standard sized cartridge, which avoids the need to use an expensive custom cartridge. The only drawback is that they can not be retracted, but that can also be a good thing. There are few things more annoying in the workplace than someone who constantly clicks their pen. If they happen to be in denial about it, you can always record them with your digital pen camera and play it back for them later.