Review: Swann Micro-VideoCam Recorder

Somewhere in the back of Archie comics, between the X-ray Specs and the SeaMonkeys, is the natural home of the Swann Micro-VideoCam, a.k.a. the MovieStick, a mini movie camera for junior spooks and aspiring FBI informants.

This camera is about the size and shape of a pack of chewing gum, and weighs just 0.68 ounces. It records videos at 352 x 288 pixels, encoding them in the 3GP format used by many cellphones (the videos can be played on your computer using most media player software, including QuickTime and RealPlayer).

Other than its diminutive size and the fact that it actually does record video, the best thing you can say about the MovieStick is that has an extremely simple setup. Hook up the enclosed cable to your computer via a USB port, and plug the other end into the MovieStick. The computer recognizes the camera as a storage device, and you can click and view videos in QuickTime while simultaneously charging the unit’s lithium battery.

However, unlike Dick Tracy’s wristwatch, this package does not come mission-ready. It needs a Micro SD card (up to 2GB in size). It’s not included, but it’s a necessity for storing video, so you can’t go covert without it.

Also, the MovieStick is oozing with design flaws. First of all, the pinhole-sized lens is located on the long side of the device, rather than the short end, limiting your ability to go truly undercover unless you can figure out how to have it peep out of a buttonhole in your vest pocket.

The camera has a confusing series of lights to let you know when it’s charging, when it’s on and when it’s recording. We couldn’t easily tell which was which, with the result that we inadvertently recorded more than a few videos of the floor.

The MovieStick’s poor video quality isn’t going to make anyone a star, even on YouTube. Its videos are tiny, and image quality suffers if your subject is too brightly lit, too dimly lit, or moving too fast.

On the other hand, the sound was surprisingly clear, about on par as what we get with a Flip Mino. 

Despite making you feel like a much dorkier James Bond, we have to wonder what you might actually use the MovieStick for. Surreptitious low-quality videos of Hollywood screeners? Sly locker room footage? We’re not sure any of the scenarios we can imagine are worth the $119, especially given the high likelihood of getting caught and pummeled.

It might seem like a better deal, though, if Swann threw in a lifetime supply of Whoopie cushions or a couple of Venus Flytraps.

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