Special Agent Tracy here with a new toy for the utility built. Something to get the one up on the bad guys with, or at least something to help make sure you don’t miss anything during the mission briefing–a spy cam! Although I’m not actually an agent of any kind, I am a proud geek that loves to play with her toys and can’t resist the urge to play with an actual “spy cam” that seems to work quite well.
The Conbrov Mini Spy Cam is disguised as a key fob that would normally be used to lock and unlock the doors to your vehicle with. Thankfully, it is also similar to the size of most of the fobs out there, so it passes quite easily as one. It is both the size, shape and for the most part, weight as one.
It is black with a chrome colored loop on one end so that you can attach it to a pair of keys. There are two buttons on its face with the icons of a lock–one unlocked, one locked (typical right?). The lock button triggers the power of the unit on and off. It takes a long press of about two seconds or so to accomplish the task either way. Once it is powered on it will immediately begin recording. The unlock button will turn motion detection on and off.
The only way to know any of this, you would have the flap open that is located on the side with the key ring loop. There is a small LED light that will let you know when it has turned on or off. This way there is no noticeable lights externally that could be noticed by others. In this same area where the light is, there is the slot for an microSD card (required but not included), a micro-USB port used for charging it (cable included) and a small white switch that is used to enable or disable audio recording.
It is important to point out that audio isn’t something we were able to test out as audio seems to be disabled completely on this unit. It came with a small card stating that sellers are not able to sell a hidden camera devices on Amazon that is capable of recording audio (thus, we have assumed this is one of their Amazon versions of the unit). Also, the area above the switch does not have “Audio” printed as the instructions show in the images. Supposedly though, if you buy the camera directly from Conbrov’s website, it will also be able to record audio.
Update to the above paragraph: The unit does indeed allow for audio, you just have to jump through a hoop to get it working if you got a model without. You can get there by going to the product’s page where there is a tab to troubleshoot the audio with a firmware update. It’s odd but it at least only takes a few moments. You start off by deleting everything off of the microSD card or formatting it fresh. Then you download the updated firmware here and unzip/unrar (if you need WinRar, you can find the trial here) the bin file inside (“DestBin.bin”) to the card’s root directory. Slide it back into the camera and turn it on. It will flash red a few times and then a few seconds later it will flash blue a few times and then go away. Wait a few seconds just to be sure everything is silent (the unit is off at this point) and then remove the card. Erase the bin file or format the card again to be sure and then you can re-insert it and use the camera normally, only now the audio will work.
The microSD slot will take a card up to 32GB in size (formatted as FAT32) and the instructions state that it requires an 8GB card minimum. We did find that it will work just fine with a 4GB card as well–so it may be an assumed requirement based on total recording time on a single charge with non-stop recording. You could go with something as big as 32GB to make sure you have enough space, or, you can edit the text file it places on the card (second line, yes or no) to enable the ability for it to write over old files if it runs out of space, allowing for continuous recording (this is common with devices like car cams). That same text file is used to set the date and time if you need it to be accurate.
Picture quality is fantastic. It records in 720p and it doesn’t feel too compressed at all. The picture is near the quality of a 720p IP camera that you’d use in your house or business. Even better, when it gets too dark (lower than 20LUX, like if someone turns off the lights or the sun goes down and the camera is in an area that isn’t lit up, etc), it will automatically switch over to night vision (black and white) so that you won’t miss anything. The night vision will work up to 15ft from the camera before things are too dark to see.
Clarity of a normal well-lit room comes out great and the files can be imported into your favorite software to edit or combine things without any format errors. It really does look nice for such a small little camera. Comparable to some entry-level smartphones even.
The motion detection will allow you to limit record times to just when it detects motion within its field of view. Normally you get around 5 hours of record time on a single charge (2 hours if night-vision is on). With motion detection enabled, you are able to extend battery life as it will only records when it needs to. They claim (via Conbrov website) it will work for up to a year on a single charge in such a scenario, although I would assume that is assuming it only captures motion a few times a month. You can, however, keep the USB cable plugged into the wall or a battery bank for continuous power (although it won’t be so secretive if you did).
User-friendliness is definitely on their side with this camera as well as picture quality. I am sad we couldn’t experience sound quality, but I am sure it would be somewhat decent if comparable in any way to the picture. We did find that the rubber flap that hides the ports is a little too easy to knock open. So if someone bumped into it just right, it could reveal the flap, making it not as much of an ingenious little spy. It would be better if this flap was harder to get into for this reason alone.
In a final note, I’d like to point out that we always recommend staying far away from inappropriate use of such tools. Think of it as a nanny cam or personal recorder and NOT something to hide in the girls locker room or shower. In many cases, not abiding by these cautions can be absolutely illegal and even a felony charge. So keep it clean!
Ending October 30th, 2017, Conbrov is giving away two of their T16 Mini Camera’s (another model/option they offer). Entering is easy, just click here to visit the giveaway page and submit your entry. They will be choosing the winners on November 1st. In the meantime, you can snag yourself a 10% discount on any camera via their website with the coupon code “conbrovt16”.
Fantastic. Wonderful picture quality and very easy to use. The option for motion control and night vision really add to the mix and it really does look like a key fob–especially if you add a few keys to it that you don’t use. The fact that we couldn’t test out the audio without having to jump through hoops was a bit of a drag and the little flap doesn’t always stay closed tightly when bumped or moved around. However, beyond that, this is a useful little camera with a lot of potential.
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