How many times have you found yourself bent over an engine trying to shine a flashlight through a very dense collection of pipes, tubing, belts, metal housings and everything else you will find packed in tightly like an apartment near downtown Tokyo? You can’t always get a perfect view, and good luck trying to use your smartphone’s camera.
The same troubles can be applied to so many tasks around your home or business, like taking a peek inside a wall, inside of a pipe, under heavy equipment and so forth. It can be quite aggravating when you don’t have the right equipment. Thankfully the solution is simple, and quick affordable (and fun at times): a borescope.
A borescope is a snake tool with a camera at the tip that allows you to get into those dark hard to reach places that your own eyes can’t get to, and the company Depstech offers a wireless model that pairs to your phone via WiFi for less than $40 (if you snag one from Amazon at least). They actually have two models within this price range, each with a different length, but we are going to focus on the longest one (33ft).
Starting with the tip, it features a 2MP camera surrounded by a tiny ring of LED lights. From there, the head that contains the camera gives way to the snake portion that is 33ft (as mentioned) long until you get to the body of the unit. The body features all the electronics that make all magic happen, and broadcasts it’s own WiFi network for a mobile device (iOS or Android) to connect to.
The body features a micro-USB port for charging the camera with, and on the side there is an easy to find on/off switch and a scroll wheel that controls the intensity of the LED right around the camera. That is all and it really is as simple as it sounds.
You start off by downloading an app to your phone (or tablet) that can be found in either app store (iOS/Android) under the name “WIFI View”. This seems to be somewhat of a generic all-around WiFi camera app that works with various WiFi cameras. Once it is downloaded, you will turn the camera on via the switch on the side of the body section and wait for the WiFi light to light up showing WiFi is started. Then find the network on your phone or tablet–it will always begin with “Jetion_******” (the asterisks stand for random characters). Once you connect to the network, the password it asks for will be “12345678” and you are connected. Now you will open the app you just downloaded (always join the network from your phone/tablet directly and not from within the app’s settings).
The app is great as it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure anything out. It opens right to the view screen, and as long as everything is connected, you immediately see an image and will be ready to go. To the right of the image (overlayed) are four icons that are self explanatory. The top is will take an image of what’s on screen, the second will begin recording (or end recording), the third will send you to your current gallery and the last takes you to the app’s settings. It defaults to 640×480 resolution when you first begin using it, and can you can change it via the settings screen if you like, as high as 720p (resolutions supported include 1280×720, 640×480 and 320×24). You can cruise around the settings a little more if you like, but you really don’t have to.
If you do not get any video on your screen, there are some claims that certain Android phones have trouble using certain WiFi camera unless you disable your data connection (cellular). It is odd that this would pop up as a something that would cause any trouble, but there are enough cases for us to believe it is true. If this happens to you, simply go to your shortcuts in your device’s notification screen and disable your data to see if that fixes anything. Thankfully, we tested it against multiple Android phones and couldn’t reproduce this problem–so hopefully it affects a very small minority of users.
The quality is impressive, as you can see in the video above. The video was taken using the apps default settings (640×480 resolution). It shows how well the video looks when it is at mid-resolution. Also, our techs forgot to hit apply when choosing 720p, so they didn’t realize they were in 640×480 the entire time (I have to call them out on that one).
There is also very little lag to what you are doing and what you see on screen. In fact, it was barely noticable when trying to measure it. This made for a smooth experience as you are quickly in and out without being thrown off by latency in the video on screen.
The best distance for focus is around 1-3 inches from any given object or surface. We had noticed this ourselves but Depstech was also kind enough to point this out. There is no auto or adjustable focus. I’m sure the price would begin to go up quickly if these features were added.
It doesn’t offer any image stabilization though (at least that we could notice), so you will want to keep your movements smooth else your video is going to look like you tossed the camera into a blender. As long as you move smoothly, you will be fine though.
Bendable is the snake that leads the head! This is helpful since it won’t just clump up anywhere. The snake is quite firm and bendable, which means you can only assume the wire inside is of a high gauge to pull that off, or it has a special metal housing or something to pull off the shapeable bend with. Regardless, this helps greatly when it comes to fishing it through small areas, like a pipe (however you can hit resistance when going around tight corners of course).
The LED light is bright, or at least it can be. The scroll wheel to control it takes it from off to bright with a slight difference between low and high. You’ll find yourself playing with that a little at times, but it does seem to always get the job done.
Wireless distance is also pretty nice as it pretty much always works as long as you keep the phone nearby. We never lost any signal during our testing of it–given they were never any further than about 10 ft from the action. There were no issues experienced when trying to connect or make use of the device. That’s a big statement right there!
The instructions are relatively simple to read through, although once you figure out the name of the app, the SSID of the network and the password (despite reading it there, here or on their website), you pretty much can figure the rest out yourself in just a few seconds. It is very user friendly and does exactly what it is supposed to.
To make things better, the camera/snake is also waterproof, just in case it needs to get a little wet to pull off any given task. It won’t take a deep dive or anything, but it can withstand about 1 meter in depth at up to about 5 minutes. Anything further than that is risky, but having the ability at all is a plus.
It comes with two USB cables, one for charging via a normal USB port, and one that has a micro-USB connector on both ends so that it can charge directly from your phone/tablet (assuming that it also has a micro-USB port of course). It can operate for up to an hour on a single charge which isn’t bad.
We do have to point out that you have to care with how you charge it. It doesn’t make use of any energy regulation for protection, so make sure you charge it using a wall adapter that supplies 1A or less or using a computer’s (or phone/tablet) USB port. You don’t want to fry the device by sending it more energy than it is rated to take if it doesn’t have the ability to regulate the draw to exactly what it needs.
Beyond the cables, it comes with three small accessories that can be added to the camera. They can be applied by first removing the sleeve that is on the end of the camera by turning it counter-clockwise to reveal the threads underneath (the sleeve simply protects the threads when not in use). The accessories can then be screwed onto the camera. You get a small hook in case you want to use the snake to grab onto something like lint or any other small material that might be clogging your path. There is a magnet tip so you can collect something small and metal, and a small mirror that allows you to change the direct of what the camera is seeing off to the side.
This is a fantastic borescope tool that really gets the job done. The resolution is exactly what you need to get a good image with, especially for the price. It offers plenty enough snake length at 33ft and the LED light is nice and bright. An hour of use on a single charge is pretty good and we experienced no issues at all with the connection and recording. In fact the only trouble we found was that it was tough getting around corners at times due to the amount of pressure it takes to bend and shape the snake once you are already in motion. For the current price, we find this to be a *must have* for any specialist (mechanic, engineer, technician, etc) or anyone with a tool collection in their garage.
|Buy from Amazon|
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
Resolution: 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240
Camera Diameter: 8.4mm
WIFI Transmission Distance:15Meters
Battery Capacity: 600mah
Focal Distance: 3CM-6CM
Power Supply: DC 5V
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