I recently purchased a miniature camcorder to play around with. It is an interesting little piece of equipment. First of all it’s tiny. It’s about the size of those 5-packs of gum like Juicy Fruit or Doublemint comes in. The video it takes is not too bad either. It shoots at 720×480 at 30 frames per second, and the color and general picture quality are pretty good. It uses a Micro SD card for storage and can plug directly into a USB port for downloading. The really surprising part though is that it was only $14 shipped. Really, that’s not a not a typo. It’s $14, and that includes shipping! At this price it’s practically disposable.
I purchased mine for use in an RC plane since it’s so small and lightweight. Also, it’s so cheap that if it gets smashed or lost, it’s not the end of the world. It was simple to just tape onto the bottom of the plane or to cut a hole and have it stick out.
Like any self-respecting engineer, I wanted to know what was inside. Below are some pictures from a quick teardown. The chip count is pretty low, and most components are easy to identify.
There are a couple things about this camera that aren’t perfect though. The date can’t be set properly, so the camera always thinks it’s filming a New Year’s party in 2008. Also, the video is saved as Motion JPEG which takes up a lot of space. This compression is much simpler than something like H.264, so it’s easier for the processor to do in real time. Another thing is the sound can cut out occasionally as you can hear in the following video, but this is pretty minor.
Also, I was cheating a little bit on the price. You do need a Micro SD Card too, which would run you an extra few dollars depending on the size you get. I’m using a 2GB card. It records at around 1 megabyte per second, so that means I get about half an hour of record time with 2GB.
It seems there are different versions of this camera in the same or very similar packaging. I can’t speak for the quality of others, but I am very happy with the one I have.
The unit I bought was sourced off Ebay. You can find it there by searching for something like “gum camera” or “mini dvr”. You can also find this camera at various online spy equipment or random junk stores, however they usually sell them for at least $100.