Foreword (About Private Investigators, SpypenHQ and Our Industry)
(NOTICE: As this is one of our more popular pages, we will remind fellow investigators in New York State that P.I Magazine presents the 2012 East Coast Super Conference, hosted by NJLPIA (New Jersey Licednsed Private Investigators Association) at the Tropicano Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, NJ on October 10-12, 2012 . ALDONYS (Associated Licensed Detectives Of New York State) of which we are a member will be co-hosting the event, and we encourage our fellow P.I’s across the state to attend. Click here for more info)
If you’ve read our other reviews and followed this blog for any period of time, you will know it was created initially for fellow Private Investigators (see: Who Reviews These Anyways? and Why Spy Pen Headquarters?) seeking to sift through the ’junk pens’ (there are many – here is our 2012 Blacklist of the most unreliable pen cameras on the market. Remember, if you’ve been burned by a similar retailer selling spycams that are broken or faulty upon arrival, and there are far too many of these, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will investigate and add them to the list).
As mentioned previously, in our industry, reliability is everything. Having a faulty device can and has cost Investigators significant sums of money, time and even resulted in lost clients. I’ve seen it happen time and again where a fellow P.I is getting what he thinks are ‘the goods’ (i.e, recording incriminating evidence favorable to the client and detrimental to the subject) when in fact he returns to the office to review what was recorded and finds to his great dismay, a blank screen. The implications of this are quite significant as any P.I reading this knows: A) He cannot charge for his time as he failed to deliver a product. This is incredibly embarrassing to admit to a client, and utterly non-professional. The P.I firm will send the investigator back out on his own time (could lose days of work) to attempt obtaining the same footage. Which leads to the second issue: B) Opportunities are not always presented a second time. This is the hardest aspect to swallow, as I can personally attest. Using my industry (primarily insurance fraud) as an example, if you catch your subject who is claiming a bad back lifting bags of cement at a Home Depot and placing them in a shopping cart, that is ‘gold’ to the client. Imagine however it turns out nothing was recording. There is a good chance you will not observe the same scenario, even if they paid you to do weeks and weeks of surveillance (which they won’t).
The point is this: There are so many unreliable, knock-off junk pens in the market doing damage to our industry, we’ve elected to create a website mandated to find a standard. Something we professionals can count on every single time while out in the field. This is our job and lively hood, and having to hope a little plastic spy camera we ordered from China is gonna work, is simply too much risk.
The extended ’intro’ to this review is to give some perspective on just why we are so enthusiastic about this new device. This is precisely what our industry needs. This is the standard we have been looking for. Reliability, 720 HD, low-light, life-time warranty, expandable memory, product support, it has it all. We hope any fellow P.I out there reading this takes the time to read this review and see why we recommend it 100%. Believe us, you wont regret it.
We’ve broken the review down into two portions. A small point-form breakdown for our attention-challenged friends, and an in depth review for those Investigators who still do some investigating (that one’s a joke).
Point Form Review – Why Did We Rank This #1 For Private Investigators?
Lifetime Warranty - The second longest warranty in the pen camera industry is 1-year to give you some perspective. Imagine the quality control required to make such a proposition as life-time warranty cost effective. SecuritySystems stands behind their product like no other seller. This is music to the ears of any professional looking to eliminate the risk of losing that once in a lifetime shot.
Flawless Reliability - All three of our test devices worked on time, everytime through months of real P.I work. Highest level of quality control in the industry. This is the most important factor when buying a spy camera pen.
Highest Quality HD Video (thanks to a Sony CLEARVID chip) - A vastly noticeable quality improvement over current market competitors. The other interesting thing about this Sony lens/chip is its greater ability in low-light settings. Video on playback surpassed all our previous benchmarks including the DOD and Brickhouse devices. P.I’s can appreciate how many scenarios involve low-light settings.
Real Customer Service - SecuritySystems actually has a working telephone number that they answer. Emails are replied to within a day. No need to speak Chinese or deal with ‘online representatives‘.
More Than Just A Spy Pen - Permanent surveillance solution. We’ve learned and have verified this particular spy pen is an exclusive proprietary product designed by SecuritySystems.com. Do not be swayed by other claims–we’ve been burned by false advertising on a number of devices (see some of our other reviews or the Blacklist). There is NO other vendor selling this spy pen. They’ve painstakingly addressed and corrected all the flaws found in other junk spy pens. (See our in-depth review below for what we mean.)
Unique AC Adapter and 5ft USB Cord- Another unique feature to this device, allowing for 17+ hours of continuous recording. With the motion activated model, a complete hidden camera system is created. The propriety equipment is perfectly suited for our fellow investigators in the corporate espionage field, monitoring employee theft and behavior.
Motion Activated Model - The implications and possibilities with this are obviously quite extensive. This is an entire surveillance unit.
Extra Slim Profile - Not fat and chunky like most. Also has a useful lens clasp cover. Has a real quality/durable feel.
Still The Only Device In The Industry Without A Flashing Light At The Top - Finally someone fixes this issue. We used to put black electrical tape over the LED on other spy pens, which altered the shape of the device drawing further unwanted attention under scrutiny. Such a simple flaw, it is a wonder SecuritySystems is the only company to have thus far listened to the needs of professionals.
Optional Date & Time Stamping – For Private Investigators, this is an obviously essential requirement for the purpose of gathering court admissible evidence. The fact that some devices do not offer this basic and essential feature immediately eliminates them from use in a professional capacity. Another unique feature to this device is built in duel functionality. That is, Time and Date is optional. Other pen cameras are either always stamped, or never. So if you have use for the spy pen in some other capacity, you have the choice to keep the screen clean and clear. It appears in the very bottom right corner as: 2012-01-15: 11:25:32
Unique Optional Model With Audio Disabled For Use In A Professional Capacity - The only device we’ve encountered designed specifically for the requirements of professionals who must abide by specific recording laws (see current US laws, Canadian laws and U.K laws). Ultimately, SecuritySystems is aware that sometimes recording under specific situations could violate the recording laws and using this evidence in court would be inadmissible. Recognizing this need they have designed the only custom AUDIO DISABLED spy pen. This custom unit records only video. Considerations for use in professional capacities such as this audio disabled model are consistent through all the company’s spy pen versions. It’s really a testament to SecuritySystems dedication to creating the best device possible for true professionals and specialists.
Instructions Are In Plain English – It’s truly astounding (and frustrating) the number of sellers who bundle their spy camera pens with unreadable operation manuals. It serves to illustrate their utter lack of consideration and concern for quality products sold in Western markets. For myself and immediate co-workers who are already intimately familiar with operating these devices due to our numerous reviews, these manuals do not pose a problem (we don’t read them) as their operation is already known to us. However, for other Investigators who are looking for a professional device, be warned: The majority of instruction manuals look like this (click image to enlarge):
(An example of a typical vendor )
SecuritySystems instead delivers a manual in crystal clear, easy to understand English. We were pleased to see such polished dedication present in their offering. It truly demonstrates how greatly the company values their customers. Not only this, but if any difficulties arise in understanding the operation of the device, a simple phone call or email to the company and they will resolve your questions (company is staffed and operated by Americans in America).
100% compatible with latest Mac OS X Lion update (10.7.3): SecuritySystems keeps up to date with both Mac and Windows operating systems. If your office does professional video editing, take note. Easily 90% of all pen cameras we have reviewed are not compatible with Mac whatsoever, and the ones that are function within only specific updates. Please note, all spy camera pens found on our Blacklist, Amazon and Ebay are not compatible with the latest OS X Lion releases, despite claims to the contrary. Our recent testing (February 3,2012) of these devices showed numerous errors and compatibility issues. Save yourself the headache and trouble shooting if you’re a Mac user.
Legit call in testimonials: As investigators we are a naturally suspicious and inquisitive group of people. By extension, we smell out the fake testimonials cooked up by web-masters to legitimize their product. Of course this is nothing new, and a fairly well established practice in modern internet marketing. SecuritySystems has bucked the trend by allowing their customers to leave real voice testimonials via a free 1-800 number. Their are many call-ins from other investigators and law enforcement officers, echoing our sentiments on the professional quality and top-of-class features present in this device. The reason we we mention this, is to demonstrate just how legit this product is and how open the company is to professional feedback. Check out some of the call-in testimonials for yourself by clicking anywhere on this sentence.
Best Value In The Market Today - Considering the lifetime warranty, best-in-class video/audio capability, the incredible quality control/reliability (we encourage you to read our coverage on this below) and the unique functions to this specific device (the permanent surveillance solutions this pen camera is capable of is worth hundreds alone, and would normally require a completely different device) this pen cam offers the best value on the market today. It is our hope other spy pen vendors will follow the lead of SecuritySystems and improve their products across the board, benefiting our industry and all those relying on hidden camera equipment.
We at Spy Pen Headquarters have never once come across such a value proposition. If you have read any of our other reviews or have purchased spy pens in the past, you’ll instantly note the industry standard for these devices range from no warranty, to at best, 1 year. No warranty. To 1-year. What does that say about these products? This is why the SecuritySystems’ pen is our #1 ranked and recommended device. No other company comes close
And take it from us doing all these reviews, dealing with customer care in China where virtually all of these devices are sold and shipped from, is often a hair-pulling nightmare. Half of the time, even if the broken device is still under warranty, it is less headache to simply toss the pen in the trash rather than deal with the multi-month shipping times and agonizing email exchanges. You can forget about getting someone on the phone. This is the reality of the pen camera market.
Thankfully, Bill Mullen, the American behind this device has poured his heart and soul into providing the best device for professionals. Research into what our industry needs (reliability, quality control, continued support) has obviously been done extensively. The company stands behind the spy camera with a truly UNHEARD of lifetime warranty. Unequivocally, you will not find any other company in the pen camera industry offer the support Bill and the SecuritySytems’ team. Trust us, we have scoured high and low and dealt with all manner of vendors. As the expression goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’ and when someone personally offers this level of insurance against defect they’re in it for more than just the money, this is a passion and a commitment. If we our going to put our reputation on the line, both in a professional capacity as well as in regards to this site, you can bet it’s going to be on the vendor who stands behind their product the most.
- TRULY OUTSTANDING RELIABILITY – WORKS ON TIME, EVERY TIME
The pen works on time, every time. This level of reliability is the best we have ever tested (Editor Update: Now 26 investigators with months of in-field professional usage. No failures to date. We have six guys on the on the road who still use other devices, one of whom just recently lost a hugely important file for a new client due to a faulty pen camera (was the Brickhouse model). He’s since changed over to the security systems device.) and it really isn’t a surprise given the extreme quality control the SecuritySystem team implements on every single device sold. Each pen is rigorously tested over and over again at multiple manufacturing stages, resulting in an industry smashing %0.05 defect rate (this figure is from SecuritySystems). Other pen cameras we’ve tested (see our other reviews as well as the BLACKLIST and Problems with Ebay Spy Pens) are in double digit defect rate territory, with many dead on arrival, or faltering days after purchase. If you haven’t owned a spy pen before, believe us when we say the most frustrating thing in the world is having the device fail at that crucial moment, it completely defeats the purpose. Reliability is key, you cannot have devices failing at opportune moments that may never occur again as illustrated in the intro. It is simply too costly, in terms of time, professional reputation, and lost moments. This cannot be reiterated enough as Investigators who have been burned before can attest. The risk is not worth the tiny price savings. This has been proven over and over and over again.
It is important to note the spy gadget industry is in no way regulated with quality standards. The fly-by-night pump and dump Chinese operations from which I’ve personally been burned rely on low price to entice the buyer, offering no warranty, customer service, clear instructions, or a functional device This is a warning to other investigators to do your research. See out 2012 BLACKLIST (click here) for the worst offenders. Remember to email us if you have any additions.
To risk sounding like a broken record, the single MOST important feature of any spy pen is reliability. We cannot stress this enough. Without it, your device is at best a useless paperweight, at worse it’s cost you money and blew the only chance you had at obtaining the video you needed. For us professionals, there is simply too much on the line to risk anything less than the best. SecuritySystems has done a tremendous job of ensuring their product can be counted on every time. Cudos to the company, for producing a device of use to the professional community.
- THE BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE OUT THERE
Communication with Bill and his team is a prime example of what customer service should be: Helpful, courteous, quick, and–with no disrespect intended to others–in clear and plain english. Bill responds to any email inquiries personally and promptly, and also has available a 1-800 number should you wish to speak to him directly. You will absolutely not find this level of openness and communication with any other manufacturer out there, unless you know Mandarin or Cantonese.
This device is equipped with a genuine Sony Clearvid cmos chip. Every other spy pen we have reviewed, including the Brickhouse Spy Pen (which we ranked highly, but does not record in the same level of quality as the SecuritySystems device) use knock off variations. The Sony Clearvid cmos chip reduces the picture noise ( fuzziness) that can ruin your footage when you shoot in low light. Professionals needing covert video take note: This unique Sony sensor uses larger pixels to capture more light and a higher density of green pixels to increase resolution and widen the dynamic range, resulting in brighter, crisper images. The video we obtained is noticeably better than even the more expensive DOD PH720HD Pen Camcorder, with a smooth 30 FPS at 1280×720 pixels (640×480 and 352×288 are also recordable options). The low-light video recording ability provided by the Sony Clearvid cmos chip is reason enough to make this your default spy pen, especially if you work in a professional capacity. In terms of video quality, the SecuritySystem HD Pen is best in class, period.
- CAN RECORD FOR 17 HOURS & PROVIDE A PERMANENT-POWER SURVEILLANCE SOLUTION
This device is the only spy pen that has expandable memory as a standard option. Finally. I am sure other investigators can relate to being infield and obtaining top-quality footage of their subject only to forget the following day that they did not download the data to their PC. This means we would either have to overwrite the data, or not obtain new footage. With expandable memory, we can have multiple memory cards on hand to store data and have back up space if a situation such as this arises. And it often does since the reports we write require us to go over the footage we obtain with a fine tooth comb, of which we often do not do until days later. The SecuritySystem device offers a solution to this infield professional problem.
With a 32GB card one can record up to 17 hours of continuous footage (conveniently broken down into segmented 1 hr files). This is possible due to the SecuritySystems team devising a unique proprietary AC adapter that plugs into an outlet and directly into the pen via a long USB cord. The resulting possible applications based on this feature are immense, and suddenly this spy pen is now also a true surveillance system. No other device we have come across offers any other power option besides the built in battery. With this feature you can leave the pen on, hidden on a desk or shelf running continuously (the pen also has no flashing light when recording -SEE BELOW). Again, utterly unique in the market, this device caters to a far broader range of professionals and power users alike. With the MOTION ACTIVATED version (COVERED BELOW) you have a home monitoring system that costs thousands less. There is no competition to compare to this device, because none of the competition offer features like these. This pen is truly unique.
- REMOTE (MOBILE) 30 HOUR POWER SUPPLY OPTIONAL ADD-ON
Yet another completely unique option that adds incredible value to SecuritySystem’s HD Spy Pen is the optional remote power supply add-on. For Private Investigators such as myself and my team, this is the infield out-of-box practical thinking other pen camera makers are failing to grasp when catering to this market. Think about it. A 30 hr PORTABLE charging station. With a 32GB card, this device becomes a fully mobile wireless surveillance unit capable of recording 17hrs of straight footage.
A recent application we had for this feature–without divulging too much information–was a corporate fraud case involving the theft of high-end car batteries at a distribution warehouse a few months ago. Early in the AM and prior to the factory workers arriving for their shift, we hid two of these devices; one in a pen cup holder and the other on a shelf. The devices successfully documented the two employees responsible for the theft ring and was used in their prosecution. No other pen camera we have ever come across could do this for these reasons: 1) They have a flashing light which obviously hinders discretion. 2) The Sony Clearvid CMOS chip allowed for superior video capture given the dim lighting conditions 3) 32 GB expandable memory allowed for significant recording time and 4) the industry unique remote power supply. Other pen cameras would last only as long as their battery. They have no other option.
This feature also goes hand in hand with the expandable memory capability. For most P.I’s, we have enough gear to charge every evening before work and don’t need another. Having a 32 hour reserve charging pack on hand from which we can charge and recharge the pen throughout the week is HIGHLY convenient and cannot be understated. No other spy pen has anything remotely similar. The fact that Bill and his team listen to and understand the needs of professionals and power users alike separate this device into a class of its own. Why other manufactures don’t pay attention to what we need and what works instead of churning out disposable, unreliable, 1-year or less warranty devices remains a mystery to us. There is a high-end market out here for professionals and users who need functionality and consistency, and SecuritySystems has clearly done their homework and set a new benchmark for spy cameras catering to this crowd.
- NO FLASHING LIGHT WHILE RECORDING
This pen camera was obviously custom designed for Private Investigators and under cover Law Enforcement Officers who specifically needed a high-end device that did not have a bright LED light flashing during the recording phase. In previous devices we reviewed and utilized, this was a constant problem, one that was solved with black electrical tape covering the diode, however it was easily rubbed off and altered the profile of the device lending it to more scrutiny. Not good. The SecuritySystems HD Pen solves this issue by placing the diode mid-pen (an LED is necessary to let you know in what mode the device is set) however it does NOT flash while in operation. One would think other spy pen manufacturers would consider this issue, but Bill and the SecuritySystems team consulted with P.I’s and LEO’s prior to designing the pen, and identified this simple problem. Other pen camera makers need to get with the program and understand what we, their market, want and need in a spy device.
SecuritySystems also distributes a motion activated model ($30.00 more than base price) which shares all the quality features of the standard edition plus a motion activated sensor. As you can imagine, combined with the AC adapter all models come with or the optional portable power supply, this product enters the realm of professional motion activated surveillance systems that can cost literally thousands of dollars. Considering other pen cameras we reviewed (such as the DOD PH720HD Pen Camcorder) are in the same price range yet have none of these features, it becomes clear why we think this spy pen is in a whole class of its own.
The motion activated sensor is highly responsive and the best value we have seen for a covert activated surveillance system, let alone the fact its primary capacity is as a spy pen. I recently recommended this product to my younger brother in Florida who operates a nightclub. He’s installed the device in the backroom office to keep an eye on employees entering when he is not present. To date he is extremely satisfied with the device, and tells me he wants to buy one for his home for monitoring his house keeper.
- PREMIUM BUILD QUALITY w/ EXTRA SLIM PROFILE
The profile on this pen is extra slim, giving it a far more realistic look, with a premium quality feel to it. You feel like you are holding something of value. Some of the other devices we have reviewed are comically large with a chunky plastic build looking wholly unrealistic (the SecuriX pen camcorder comes to mind). Not the case with the SecuritySystems’ model, which also sports a handy sliding door to conceal and protect the lens with while it rests in your pocket or elsewhere. The clasp slides up and down firmly and tightly and does not feel cheap or flimsy. For Private Investigators who have to toss their equipment around during surveillance, this added feature is great for protecting our investment. Overall we were very impressed, and despite sounding like a broken record we wonder why other manufacturers don’t aspire to similar levels of quality.
- EASY TO USE SOFTWARE ON WINDOWS AND MAC — PRINTED MANUAL IS IN PLAIN & CLEAR ENGLISH
The time and date stamp is simple to program and clearly explained thanks to the well written user manual. For P.I’s, time and date stamp is an essential requirement when submitting as evidence. Fortunately SecuritySystems has implemented an extremely simple and effective means to this end. We would also note it is entirely optional if you wish for this feature to display or not. In addition, this pen is compatible with every interation of Windows we tested( XP, Vista and 7) as well as Mac (we tested OS X Lion). Flawless instillation, simple to operate, time and date stamp.
The SecuritySystems HD Spy Pen (link) is quite simply the best device we have yet encountered or reviewed, and by an exceptionally large margin. For professionals, there is no better choice in the market today.
After extensive testing, we have concluded and feel comfortable not only putting our reputation on the line as a credible review source by recommending this product to professionals, but we are also willing to risk the quality of results our fellow Private Investigators will obtain for their clients with this device. We are so confident with this product after months of in-field use, and after acquiring extensive experience with the spy pen market as a whole through our other reviews, and seeing first hand what else is available.
SecuritySystems’ HD product is the gold standard we’ve been searching for, and our absolute top recommendation to other investigators everywhere.
The lifetime warranty is truly unprecedented and a bold statement on the quality and dedication the SecuritySystems team and Bill have put into this device. Actions in this case do speak louder than words. Combined with the flawless reliability, crystal clear Sony Clearvid Chip, outstanding build quality, attention to detail for professional requirements (no flashing light while recording, expandable memory, AC power adapter, lens clasp, optional date & time stamp and portable power supply add-on) this is the de-facto spy pen for Private Investigators and anyone else in the market who needs something that works on-time, everytime and at the best quality. We believe you cannot go wrong with this device.
Cheers, we hope you found this review helpful. Feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com or post in the comments section below.
-Tim and the SpypenHQ staff.
To visit SecuritySystems for yourself, CLICK HERE