Review and Use of the Mini DVR Keychain Camera

The Mini DVR Keychain Camera, available from Amazon is literally a keychain-sized camera that is also incredibly cheap at just over $10 with shipping at the time of this writing.  That being said, it’s not the greatest quality camera in the world, and the instructions that come with it could use some translation.  Also, it doesn’t come with a micro-SD card, which you will need to use it.

So like most things you get what you pay for.  For most people, the camera on their phone would be a better option than this one, however, if you’d like something cheap that you can take apart and turn into a time-lapse rig or something, it might be worth a look.  I actually took this apart, as can be seen in some of the pictures and put it together again.  It took a little work, but it did actually work after this even though I had cracked one of the assembly snaps.

To take this little camera apart, I clipped off the keychain and unscrewed the two little screws (here’s a review of the driver that I used).  I then just pulled it apart, breaking one of the snaps.  Inside, I found two buttons with 4 leads coming off.  I didn’t investigate further, but it would seem that one could hook it up in such a way as to be controlled by a microcontroller.  Actually, this has been done before, but honestly it involves a bit too much soldering for my taste.  Definitely a cool idea, but I generally avoid too much solder work if possible.

As for using it in a conventional manner, one presses the bottom button for a few seconds until the light comes on.  At this point you can hold the top (closest to camera) button for a short time to take a still photo.  The light will flash off momentarily and come back on when it’s ready for another shot.  One can also hold the button for a while (1 or 2 seconds maybe) and the light will flash 3 times and turn off.  This means that it’s recording.  Push this button again to stop recording.  When you’re done, you can press the lower (larger) button for a sustained time to turn the unit off.

The video quality isn’t great, and I found that on my unit at least it doesn’t retain the video in the last segment of your recording, and longer videos don’t seem to work at all.  For still photos though, it seems to work well, even if the resolution isn’t exactly off the charts.  So as for a review, if you want something to mess with and take apart, this camera might be good for you.  If you want a small good quality camera, you might want to look elsewhere.

I was originally going to use this as an onboard camera for an upcoming project.  However, given the fairly low-quality of the video and more soldering than I want to do for time-lapse setup, I’ll probably just do something like my “GoAmateur” camera mount instead!

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