Swann Digital Private Eye

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A security system for your home can be very expensive to install and difficult to operate. For those of you that have a do-it-yourself attitude, you can buy kits and wire the system on your own, to save a lot of money. But, if you just want a quick and dirty method of monitoring an area, one solution to consider is the Swann Digital Private Eye.

swann digital private eye camera

Hardware Specs

Imaging Sensor: 1/ 4″ Color CMOS sensor
Lens: F2.0/f3.6(4G+IR) pinhole
Resolution: 640H x 480V (4:3)
Responsively: 1.9V/lux-sec(550nm)
Dynamic Range: 60dB
S/N Ratio: 45dB
White Balance: Automatic
Exposure: Automatic
USB: 30 frames per-second
Power Supply: 8~14VDC
Current Consumption: Standby@12V~50mA, Max.(Alarm)@12V~50mA

swann digital private eye camera

Package Contents

Digital Private Eye
Instruction Manual
Driver CD (required if connecting PIR direct to PC)
AC Power Supply
USB Cable
9 Volt Battery Snap Cable

The Digital Private Eye is a do-it-yourself kit that will allow you to monitor an interior area by taking digital images every 3 seconds when motion is detected.

swann digital private eye camera

The main module of this kit is a White plastic motion detector with a pin-hole camera built into it. The module is approximately 5 x 2.5 x 1.25 inches. The module resembles motion detectors that are used to turn lamps on and off, so it might not be noticed in a room. The pin-hole camera is hidden in the W of the Swann logo on the front of the module. An LED on the top of the module blinks Green when motion is detected.

swann digital private eye camera

On the Right side of the module, you will find an SD memory card slot and a mini USB connector. The camera built into the module saves images to the SD card and can support up a 1GB card, which can store up to 30,000 images. A 128mb card is included with the kit. The USB connector allows you to use the module as a card reader and also as a web cam for your PC.

swann digital private eye camera

On the opposite side of the module, you’ll find an On/Off switch and a manual shutter button.

swann digital private eye camera

The Digital Private Eye can be powered by the included AC adapter, or a 9V battery (not included). If you want to monitor an area that has a power outlet, your best bet is to use the AC adapter. It has a 13 foot long cable that should make it easy to set up. If the area / room has no power outlets, you can use a 9V battery. It connects to the module using the included short cable with a 9 volt snap connector at one end. The battery will hang loose though as there isn’t a built in receptacle to store it in. A long life lithium 9V battery will last up to 7 hrs.

During my testing, I had some issues getting the Digital Private Eye to even take pictures. For all appearances, it was working as the LED would blink when I would walk in front of it. But, when I would take the SD card out to check for pictures, it would be empty. I even tried pressing the manual shutter button on the side during these tests and still, I would not find any images on the card. I finally decided to read the instructions (horrors!) and noticed a sentence that said that you were supposed to wait at least 30 seconds after plugging the camera in, before switching the power switch to the On position. Once I paid attention to that little bit of info, the camera started working better. Here’s an example image.

swann digital private eye camera
Click thumbnail to see full size image

Images are captured every 3 seconds when motion is detected up to 15ft from the motion detector. The images have a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and the quality is ok. Unfortunately, the images are not correctly time and date stamped. Each image has the same time and date. This makes it difficult to determine when a specific image was captured. It is also important to note that this camera can not take night vision images even though it can detect motion in the dark.

The Swann Digital Private Eye is a security tool that while easy to use, lacks features that would make it a more useful. If this product had time and date stamping and the ability to capture images in low or no light, I would be more excited about it. As is, I think the price tag of $145, is a bit high for its feature set.


Product Information

  • Easy to setup
  • Runs on AC or 9V battery
  • Detects motion up to 15ft away
  • No time / date stamping
  • No night vision images

6 thoughts on “Swann Digital Private Eye”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Nice idea, but badly implemented and over priced. You can connect a battery, but it dangles outside the case? Really poor execution considering you can do the same thing with any PC, webcam, and free software.

    We were having a problem with medication disappearing on days when my wife went to her part time job. It had to be someone with a key since there was no sign of forced entry and it had been happening over the course of a couple of months. A couple of our neighbors have a key for when they watch our house when we’re gone, but I couldn’t accuse anyone without proof. I set up two laptops and a desktop with webcams. I used Dorgem software (google it) on each. The software starts up your webcam and can be used to detect motion. I set it to save a file every second when motion was detected and to email me at work. I shoved the laptops underneath a bed and behind a couch. I ran the webcams out to where they had a view and disguised them so they weren’t obvious. At the end of the day I checked the pictures to discover two things: 1. my cats have ADD and spend way too much time scurrying around the house, and 2. my next door neighbor likes my meds. I got decent shots of her coming in the front door, going upstairs, and rifling through our bathrom drawers. When confronted, she denied everything and said we were being terrible friends. That’s when we pulled out the photos. Nothing beats getting caught on camera! It was all done using webcams I already had and free software. The $145 the Swann camera would have cost went towards getting new locks instead.

  3. mjd1969:

    Wow, great neighbors you have there!!! Your webcam idea sounds like a good one. The Swann Digital Private Eye could be a lot better with several tweaks…

  4. Julie: Did you have any luck getting a solution response from the company? I bought The Swann Digital Private Eye and was surprised that the files are not properly date-time-stamped.

    [Edited at March 17, 2008 13:11:55 PM.]

  5. canino:

    No one from the company commented on my review and the time/date stamp issue.

    I’m currently looking for another security system to try out…

  6. I Bought the product thinking it would be a great deal. I now realize it was an over-priced piece of garbage. When I hooked up the 9V Battery to the AC Adapter, the cord melted. Yeah, It melted. I cannot believe someone would sell such a no good product to anyone. This is terrible and I hope no one else has the misfortune of buying this.

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