June 5, 2014 at 1:00 am

Soup It Up

Stealth video recorder looks like key fob

RemoteCam packs microphone and lens in a car-like device

The HD RemoteCam comes in a box with cable and instructions. The device is actually slightly smaller than this auto key fob. (Larry Edsall / Special to The Detroit News)

Maybe you’ve dreamed of being the next famous automotive spy photographer, heir to Detroit’s own Jim Dunne or perhaps to Brenda Priddy, ranging across the western deserts to spot camouflaged prototype vehicles.

Or perhaps your mission is even more clandestine. The news release announcing the product we’re featuring this week noted that it is “great for lawyers, law enforcement, mystery shoppers, covert surveillance or YouTube fun.”

That product is the HD RemoteCam, a device that looks like the typical remote key you use to unlock the doors of your car, truck, sport utility or crossover. But instead of technology that talks to your vehicle’s locking system, inside the HD RemoteCam are a microphone and a fixed-focus lens and high-definition camera that captures AVI video images as well as still photography.

Sure, you can do all of that with a fancy digital camera, or even with a smartphone, but what makes the HD RemoteCam different — covert — is its spy-like automotive disguise, the fact it is housed in what appears to be just another car remote key fob.

The HD RemoteCam is produced and distributed by Swann Security, a “global leader in security monitoring” based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Swann was established in 1987 and focuses on do-it-yourself surveillance systems, including infrared night vision and wireless connectivity and remote notification technology.

Technically, the full-color, HD camera captures 1280x720p AVI video, or you can shoot photos that are 1600 x 1200 pixels. The difference between shooting photos and video depends on how long you press the button on the remote.

The remote includes a 2-GB microSD card that can store 20 minutes of video or a bunch of 575-kb photos. A short cable connects the unit to your laptop for charging and for downloading or deleting the images.

Using the camera takes some practice.

There’s no viewfinder through which you see what you’re shooting.

We tried the camera at a strawberry festival and got a lot of photos of treetops and sky. After seeing the results of our initial effort on a laptop screen, we tried again the following day in the front and back yards at home and finally figured out how to aim the camera, and also how far or close we needed to be to a subject to capture it on the fixed-focus lens.

Once you figure that out, however, the audio and video are startlingly good. You get sort of a widescreen view and hear whatever everyone within an impressive range is saying.

And unlike a bulky digital camera or even your cell phone, you can use the HD RemoteCam without being obvious. For example, simply attach it to your car keyring, aim and capture words and pictures just like Jim, Brenda or that spy of spies, Bond, James Bond.

The HD RemoteCam retails for $69.99 and is available at Amazon, Fry’s, Tiger Direct and B&H stores. For more information, visit the www.swann.comwebsite.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.