Swann – ThumbCam review

mini digital camcorder for fun and security use
Photo of Swann – ThumbCam

Swann has built a steady reputation for providing surveillance and security equipment that ranges from high quality CCTV cameras with infra-red night vision through to relatively inexpensive DIY equipment that you can link to your PC or laptop through simple plug and play.

The ThumbCam, as the name suggests, is one of the company’s smallest creations; a pinhole video camera that can record colour AVI video files of 720 x 480 resolution at 30fps. It genuinely is thumb-sized, measuring a minuscule 55 x 20 x 20mm and, as you’d expect from a unit that is designed to be virtually invisible, it only weighs 20g.

Styled in glossy jet black plastic, the camera has on the left side a mode button and a slot for a MicroSD memory card, with a power button and record button on the right, microphone and LED indicators on the top. The box also contains a USB charging cable (which plugs into the base and connects to your computer), a silicon cover and a selection of wall, magnetic and belt brackets.

Swann has targeted the ThumbCam at two separate markets: those who just want to have fun by attaching the camera to a bike or to clothing while doing sports and leisure activities, and security-minded folk who want to perform some (legal) covert surveillance filming.

Realistically, however, it’s more likely that you’ll use this camera for pleasure rather than protection. For a start, the supplied lithium ion battery will only last for one hour before it needs recharging. Also, you have a maximum of 20 minutes recording time per gigabyte. So as you can only upgrade the supplied 2GB card to 8GB, that means you have no more than 160 minutes of continuous recording if the camera is permanently plugged into a PC.

If you do want to use the ThumbCam for surveillance then your best option is to initiate the sound-activation mode which triggers the camera to start recording if a noise is heard for two minutes (and continues if the noise continues). That way you could have up to 10 hours of battery life before recharging. Bearing in mind this is a fixed lens wide-angle camera with a minimum focusing distance of about 30cm, the picture quality is surprisingly sharp, although exposure does struggle in dim conditions.

Date-stamping your videos is possible but annoyingly complicated and will have to be reset if the battery dies while recording. Finally, it’s worth noting that the supplied installation disk will enable you to use the ThumbCam as a webcam if required.

Company: Swann

Contact: 0203 027 0979

The Swannn ThumbCam tries to combine fun outdoor leisure filming with indoor security surveillance, but while its image quality is reasonably good, battery and recording limitations mean that fun will usually win out.