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SleuthGear ZoneShield Night Vision SC8000 clock radio camera review

on October 6, 2013 11:00 am

SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-01

If you’ve ever wanted to covertly record something in your home or office but didn’t want to leave an obvious camera out in the open, then the ZoneShield Night Vision SC8000 clock radio by SleuthGear just might be the thing – hiding in plain sight, disguised as an ordinary desktop clock.  But is it convincing enough to pass as an innocent appliance?  And, what does the video look like?

Note: Click images to enlarge.SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-02

Inside the box, you’ll find the all the accessories you’ll need:  12V power supply, video cable, remote control, battery, 4GB microSD card and SD card adaptor, USB card reader, instructions, and a small CD-ROM with the Windows video viewer.  Sorry, no Mac.

Specs

  • IR emitting LED diodes at 940nm
  • Image Sensor: 1/4″ micron sensor
  • Resolution:740×480 pixels
  • S/N Ratio: >45 db
  • White Balance: Auto Tracking
  • Video System: NTSC
  • Sensitivity:>11.5V/lux-s @550nm
  • Video Compression H.264
  • PC Compatible: WinXP, Vista 32bit, and Win7 32bit, Win7 64bit
  • Choose from three Time/Date Stamp Formats: 1)yy-mm-dd, 2)dd-mm-yy, 3)mm-dd-yy
  • Control IR remote control
  • Firmware Upgrade through Micro SD card
  • Operation temperature 0~+50℃
  • Playback Fast Forward, Backward: x2/ x4/ x8, Frame by Frame
  • Playback mode via device itself or Secure Play back with bundled software
  • Playback Search By Time, By Event
  • Record Resolution 720×240 (NTSC) / 720×288 (PAL)
  • Recording Frame Rate 6/8, 13/15, 25/30 fps
  • Recording Quality 4 Levels adjustable (Super, High, Normal, Standard)
  • Recording Storage Micro SD card (support SDHC) up to 32GB
  • Video Compression H.264
  • Video Recording Modes: Continuous, Motion, and Scheduled Recording
  • Power: 110-220 Volt

SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-03

Once plugged in, the time appears in red LED numerals, just as you’d expect a clock to do.  That’s about it.  The front face is a little spartan, without branding, which makes it look a little cheap, in my opinion.  The four screws in the front make it look like a kit project.

SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-04 SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-05

The video cable plugs into the small 1/8″ silver-ringed jack in the lower-left of the back panel.  There’s also a wire antenna for the radio.  I was surprised to find the AM/FM radio actually WORKS.  Nice touch.SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-06 SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-07

The microSD card lives inside a tiny slot under a rubbery flap.  SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-09

This is the credit-card sized remote control.  Batteries are thankfully included.SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-10 SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-11

I have a bit of a gripe with this one.  The sales literature and exterior box lead you to believe this clock radio cam is made in the USA.  Flip the clock radio over, and you’ll see the familiar “MADE IN CHINA” sticker.  Huh?  Read the box again.  “Designed in Nashville, TN with American Made customer service”.  Yes, the CUSTOMER SERVICE is American Made.  Now I get it.SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-13

After a while, I noticed the LED display became dim and hard to read.  Normally, in some clocks, the display might dim when the ambient light is low, via photocell sensor.  However, it was quite bright where I took these pictures.

SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-14

Photo of a TV monitor, taken by my iPhone.

I found the menu setup to be primitive and slightly Byzantine, with all the modern touches of a 8-bit video game.  Here, you can see the list of recordings.  If Tivo had been invented in the 80′s, this is probably what it would look like.

Testing

I decided to conduct two tests:  One in total darkness, and the other one in an office setting during the day.  Can you spot the incredibly handsome thief?

SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-16

This screen grab is from the PC app, included on the CD-ROM.  It’s pretty easy to navigate.  Even though there is a volume slider at the bottom of the screen, I’m not sure the clock radio camera records audio.

I could not figure out how to export the video, so I resorted to using my iPhone to shoot this video clip off a tiny LCD TV screen.  (Any noise you hear is background, captured by the iPhone).  The aspect ratio is stretched, which is a function of the LCD TV screen, not the camera.

As expected, the images are grainy and without detail.  However, it’s good enough to see that someone blurry and handsome has swiped the iPad off the pillow.  What you may not realize that this was shot in COMPLETE darkness.  There’s a bit of a spotlight effect in the center of the image.  This is from the array of bright IR LEDs hidden behind the clock radio face.

A note about the IR LEDs use for illumination:  I could not see these things.  Some “night vision” cameras use lower-frequency LEDs that are slightly visible to the naked eye, as a dim red glow.  These are 940nm wavelength LEDs, which are far less notiecable to the human eye – a nice touch.

SleuthGear ZoneShield NV SC8000-17

In this screen grab, our handsome cat burglar purloins a balloon animal sculpture and is caught!  As with the night scene, both were captured by the built-in motion sensor.

And, another iPhone-from-TV video.  This time I remembered to set the TV screen to a standard 4:3 aspect ratio.  The detail is much better when there’s light, and colors aren’t too bad.  That’s a yellow highlighter in the foreground, and a royal blue “Star of Life” emblem on the cabinet doors on the right.  The balloon animal is orange.

The ZoneShield Night Vision SC8000 can record up to 50 hours on a 64GB microSD card on low settings, and it will overwrite the oldest file.  If you can overlook the DIY-kit clock appearances, the slightly primitive on-screen interface, mystery LED numeral dimming and slightly vague “made in America” labeling, the ZoneShield NightVision SC8000 is actually quite simple to use, and just plain works, day or night.

 

Product Information

Price:$429 (MSRP), introductory price $399
Manufacturer:SleuthGear
Retailer:Available via Amazon
Requirements:
  • NTSC (model SC8000)
  • PAL (model SC8000E)
Pros:
  • Fully functional clock radio
  • 940 nm IR LEDs are less detectable by the human eye and provide zero-light recordings
  • 4GB microSD card included
  • Can view/setup directly to any TV with a composite input
Cons:
  • For a gadget-minded person, it's not very convincing-looking as a clock radio
  • No obvious way to export video
  • Viewing app is PC only.

Comments

  1. 1
    RainyDayInterns says:

    Did they really need to put the “Clock Radio” label in front?

  2. 2
    RainyDayInterns says:

    Also…have you tried putting the MicroSD card into a reader attached to a Mac instead of exporting?

  3. 3
    Andy Chen says:

    Yes, I put it in a Mac, PC, everything.

  4. 4
    RainyDayInterns says:

    That’s too bad…so it is some kind of weird proprietary video format? That definitely makes no sense in today’s market.

  5. 5
    Sylence says:

    I’ve used a SleuthGear Product before and found the proprietary video files are added security benefit. Bad enough if someone actually discovers your hidden camera, another if they can simply play back your video files. The included video software allows for export via the “backup” option, and offers a selection of video formats to export to. Exported files can be played on PC or MAC. You can also playback files directly on a TV, which for some is an easier option.

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