"Honey, I shrunk the vids!" (some low-cost 4K borescope fun)

I recently talked myself into buying this cheap (around 65 CDN) USB borescope off Amazon because… well because I had played around with cheap endoscopes before, but there just wasn’t enough pixels for macro work. This one was the first low-cost that offered a 4K camera.

Anyhow, since it’s raining a lot today, I thought I would give it a whirl.

I discovered right away that the app that the manufacturer created wouldn’t run this - - wouldn’t even install (i had read in the reviews for this to be the case) but I found another one that others had recommended. I believe this is a Windows or Android device only.

So i twiddled around with the setup and did some tests. Hmm… It seems to be more of a physical setup challenge than anything else, but I’m working on a solution.

Image quality? Definitely can see this as a possibility on that front.

Here’s a frame grab shot (unedited) of a poor lady I discovered on the laundry room windowsill. Compression artifacts, as expected. Pretty shallow depth of field. But… well? What do you think?

“Wah-hoooo!”

Last night I ventured out at dusk (kind of trapped a bit by health conditions in the family) to the great out-back-doors (my backyard) and had a great time playing with the new scope.

I think I’ve got the tech settings down pretty well for now and mostly optimized, but it’s the physical setup that needs some work to make it much more field practical.

Nonetheless, I had a great time on my hands and knees sticking the probe into places where the sun don’t shine, as they say. (ahem)

The unit has an auto-focus function which I think, for super macro work, is way too slow and just gets in the way. But I just set it to manual override at the closest focus and that helped make it much more useful.

I also learned from an earlier in the day trial that for small, actively moving targets, like small insects and such, it was best to try and shoot steady, short (say 10sec or less) video clips that you can scrub out some decent frames from, rather than just shoot stills and miss something while looking for the shutter button on the tablet.

But I was delighted that for the most part, the camera’s tiny size, and the stiff cable seemed to create far fewer flushed-flights than holding even a small regular camera did. I think I need to work out a way to attack the camera assembly to a rigid stick of some sort to prevent the camera wobble that comes from being on the end of a stiff cable.

But the real fun, for me, anyhow, was when I started to just slowly push the camera head along at ground level through grass, mulch, along a wall bottom. You quickly develop a really neat sense of being a shrunken explorer in a miniature world, and it’s… well, a real kick!

The camera head has 4 tiny led lamps that you can control from a slider near the plug into the tablet. I kept that pretty low most of the time, to avoid startling the natives.

There were some camera-end attachments included in the kit that reflect more it’s intended function of a pipe/engine inspection tool: a hook, a 45 degree mirror, and a magnetic collar. I actually did use that last one as it extends further from the camera and thus adds more protection to the camera head itself.

But mostly, I just had about a half hour ride through the micro-bush. Wow, there is so much to see down there!

Some of it was quite busy, and a lot of it just enticingly out of visual detail range, but obviously active. Even the little 2 mm range ants are like little restless speed demons (most of the time, just a blur of motion).

I hope to get back down there again soon, and to come back here to share some frame grabs from my video scrubs, but yeah – definitely a hoot to play with!

Has anyone else had any experience playing with these devices? What did you think?

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I got one recently with a 5m line, intending to run it out my window and near the nest of a Common Tailorbird that’s right near me. Unfortunately, the one I got has a rez that’s way too low to be useful though (that info wasn’t in the product description - the local equivalent of Amazon is even looser with product descriptions).

One of other annoyances is that the lens housing doesn’t have an indicator on it to let you know which way is right side up, making using it either static or in hand annoying.

Have to see if I can find a better one where I am.

Looks promising! What app did you use? I have an older USB microscope. It used to run well on my old android phone. But I got a new phone earlier this year, and haven’t found a compatible app yet.

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Yes! I think that the scope manufacturers, particularly of these high-rez newer models, should be aware of the potential market that exists within the naturalist community. Right now, we are really adapting the tech from an unrelated area (mostly plumbing and engine repair) to fit our needs.

To that end, I am going to design a kind of reverse selfie stick to take with me on my excursions. Something that I can slowly extend into a suitable photo range and it would be fixed and marked regarding orientation. It would also need to have the camera unclip easily for those times you just want to set it on the ground, but maybe with a heavy, compact camera tube holder to stabilize and orient things.

For the software side, like to see voice support for shutter or maybe even front camera facial gesture control (like shut eyes or nod or something to shoot/rec) and a better focus controller too. Microphone at camera level? That would be cool.

I think we’re heading this way, it’s just that nobody has put all the pieces together yet.

It’s called ‘USB Camera Pro’, on Google Play.

Here’s some screen grabs:

It has a lot of good tech controls and seems to be built, or at least to pickup, all kinds of USB camera hardware. And it has lots of tweakable settings (for instance, by upping the bitrate, I got cleaner photos).

I wish that the shooting and focus controls were better placed though. Tough to adjust these as a centered screen overlay!

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