The Sphere Pen Camera is manufactured for and distributed by Sphere Gadgets whose plant (like all others) is located in China but who claim it is operated by a ‘team of American engineers’. The device itself is a black executive style ball point pen, which feels solid and heavy in the hand compared with some of its competitors. The pen itself writes smoothly in dark ink. Its CMOS lens records at a 640×480 pixels, with a 2 MP camera, which is mid-range in terms of some more top of the line spy pens. The supplied internal 4 GB memory is sufficient for most projects, however for professionals such as myself (Private Investigator – dealing in insurance fraud) who use these devices for extended periods of time, an expandable or higher capacity version would be beneficial. Our testing found that utilizing max recording settings, the device lasted closer to 1 hour and 25 minutes worth of video.
On play back, despite the mid-range resolution, the video turned out crisp and clear, thanks to the Micron Chipset processor which records the data in a smooth 30 frames per second. Other devices at this resolution would stutter noticeably more. We tested with a multitude of operating systems (Windows 7, Vista, XP, and MAC OS X Lion. In addition, we had no problem transferring files to an Apple Ipad 2 as well.)
Still images also turned out above average, however our low light tests proved the lens and sensor suffer just as poorly as other mid-range competitors, which is more so the fault of the small pin-hole lens unable to obtain enough light. In bright light and daytime conditions the Sphere Pen Camera snapped clear JPEG still images at 1600 x 1200 photo resolution.
Copying and saving files to your computer hard-drive is a simple and seamless process. Twist the pen counter-clockwise to separate the pen in two and reveal the USB insert. It is plug and play from here as you attach the USB exposed end into the device you wish to save and view your recordings. No external software or wires and cables required. On our USB 2.0 equipped laptop, the full 4GB memory card took approximately 6 minutes to transfer.
As with all the spy pens we review, a time and date stamp feature is critical for use within a professional capacity. Without it the obtained video documentation is not admissible in court. Sphere Gadgets are well aware of this and have included an easy to use T&DS system with their device, the instructions to set it were simple and clearly explained in the accompanying manual (which, like most pen camera user manuals was replete with ‘engrish’). For legality issues, audio recording has been disabled, which is something you may or may not appreciate, however that is a matter of personal and professional preference.
Some people have complained about overcharging on this device leading to battery destruction however in our testing this was not a problem (note however we never left in on charge for more then 10 hrs straight).
The indicator light is brighter than most professionals would care for, but a bit of black electrical tape over the LED solves the problem.
The Sphere Pen Camera comes equipped with a standard 1-year no-hassle warranty and free technical support. We contacted the Sphere Gadget team and true to their word we got a response back withing 1-3 days.
Overall, the Sphere Pen Camera is a great mid-range choice, offering excellent value in terms of video quality and ease of use considering the affordable price. Memory and resolution could be higher, and no flashing light would be a bonus for professionals. That being said however, given the price range, this is our top choice for the everyday consumer.