To the casual observer, the Keychain Camera looks no different than a car alarm remote.
However, it has the capability of capturing quality video and sound as well as decent low-res photos.
It was sent to me for review by Photography is Not a Crime reader Randall Thomas, a New York photographer who’s been arrested twice for either photographing or filming federal buildings.
He is now selling these devices at $45 each.
The camera is apparently made in China with instructions written by Chinese who are not too versed in the English language, so the instructions are not very clear.
So I contacted Thomas who quickly clarified the instructions. It’s really not that hard to operate.
However, unlike other keychain cameras on the market, this one requires the use of a micro memory stick, which I had to buy for $20 at my local Walgreen’s.
And then for the memory stick to actually work, it needs to be formatted on your computer. And it requires this each time you download photos from the stick onto your computer or else it might work again or it might not.
The camera is marketed as a spy camera and it is just that. It works best when you turn the video camera on, lay your keys on a counter with the tiny lens pointing in the direction of what you want to shoot and just let it roll.
Like most cheap video cameras (and some expensive ones), It doesn’t work very well in low-light situations but it works surprisingly well in well-lit situations.
Because there is no view finder or no image screen, it can be difficult ensuring you are pointing the camera in the right direction. But I guess that takes practice.
The above video is compiled of three separate clips I shot with the camera, including a walk to my local liquor store for a bottle of Old Irish Bushmills Whiskey, a clip of several Miami cops drinking coffee outside my local Cuban joint with one of them performing a magic trick to his peers (and it’s so obvious the lighter ends up in his left hand) and a clip of me pumping iron at the gym in my building.
I did shoot other clips hanging out with friends inside a couple of bars but they were way too dark to post. And some of the other clips I shot were too bouncy because it can be difficult maintaining a steady hand with such a small camera.
The bottom line is that the camera does serve its purpose as a spy camera, which of course means, it can get you in trouble under wiretapping laws in certain states.
Unfortunately, the camera would not serve to protect me if I’m getting harassed for taking photos because it would require me to pull my key chain out, turn the camera on (which can take a few long seconds) and then point it in the direction of the cops, which would probably make them even more suspicious.
On one evening, I was out with friends and I used the Keychain Camera to film a couple of musicians that were performing. I walked up to them and pointed the camera in their direction and they were kind of freaked out and asked what I was doing.
Had I been recording with a normal looking camera, they would have probably ignored me or played to the camera. But it just looked weird for some guy pointing what looked like a car alarm remote at them.
Maybe they thought I was trying to shut them up or something.