We take a close look at the 5 best endoscopes (borescopes) available today. Make sure to read our detailed reviews before you make a choice.
A good endoscope (or borescope, we'll explain a bit later) has become a bit of a "must have" tool for plumbers these days. Once an expensive tool used solely in the medical profession, now we have endoscopes compatible with android devices which are easy to use, effective and very affordable.
Often called 'snake cameras' due to their appearance, these long, flexible wires which a house a tiny camera are perfect for investigating blockages in pipes or seeing behind obstructions. A video image of the scene is shown in real-time on your smart phone screen or on the special display. This enables the user to get an insight into a problem which otherwise would have been hidden from view and remained a mystery.
In today's special StealthyNinjas.com guide we have reviewed the very best android endoscopes on the market, as well as the top regular models that don't require smartphones.
You can quickly compare the key features in a comparison table before reading our detailed reviews of each that follow. Find out which endoscope we recommend and why.
We've also put together a handy buyer's guide for those that are new to these optical devices. We explain the terminology that is used and what features you should be looking out for in a good endoscope.
Endoscopes vs Borescopes
Before we get started with the reviews it's important that we clear something up. What's the difference between an endoscope and a borescope? Well, nothing really.
An endoscope is an optical device used in the medical profession to see inside a patient's body. The camera is inserted in pretty much any orifice (stay with me here) in a process called an endoscopy. It can give a much more detailed picture than something like an x-ray or ultrasound.
A borescope on the other-hand is for non-medical use. It is essentially the same device (usually not as small) but it is used for visual inspection of areas (non-human) that are inaccessible.
Borescopes are commonly used to inspect hard to reach areas like large engines, and also small, intricate spaces like interior bores of firearms.
So unless you're a surgeon or doctor it's more than likely that you are shopping for a borescope. Please note that most of these borescopes are wrongly labeled as endoscopes, so don't be alarmed by the names as they are the same thing anyway. We use both terms interchangeably throughout the guide.
In this section we get down to business and give our opinion on the best regular scope and the best endoscope for android on the market right now.
Get started with the comparison table below. Quickly compare the key features to get an overall picture of what's available. Then move on to our more detailed reviews where we give our opinion on each model. Just click on a picture to check the latest price.
We start with our 3 recommended endoscope cameras for android.
- 11.5 feet cable
- 8.5 mm camera diameter
- WiFi Compatible
- iOS & Android compatible
- 33 feet cable
- 8.5 mm camera diameter
- WiFi Compatible
- iOS & Android compatible
Best for Beginners
- 33 feet cable
- 8 mm camera diameter
- WiFi Compatible
- iOS & Android compatible
Best Scope with Dedicated Screen
- 10 feet cable
- 5.3 mm camera diameter
- LCD screen
- Lithium/ion battery
- 10 feet cable
- 5.5 mm camera diameter
- LCD screen
- AA batteries
The 3 Best Android Endoscopes
Android scopes are relatively cheap and capture HD quality video streamed straight to your phone. In this section we recommend three of the best currently available.
Depstech WiFi *BEST VALUE FOR MONEY*
This endoscope for android and iOS phones easily connects to any modern smart phone using it's WiFi signal. A common misconception about these devices is that they require a WiFi signal to work. This isn't true. They actually emit their own signal for your phone to connect to. Once a connection is made then video streaming may commence (using the special app).
At the end of the 11.5 foot cable sits a 8.5mm diameter camera. This camera size is on the larger size for a borescope for android and is indeed much larger than the biggest of our dedicated borescopes which uses a 5.5mm camera. However, it really depends on your intended use as to whether this is a critical factor or not.
The 8.5mm camera is surrounded by 6 adjustable blue LED lights. These offer an amazing degree of illumination and the fact the brightness can be controlled is a really nice feature that allows more control over the picture quality. The camera records in 3 different AVI format resolutions of 320 x 240, 640 x 480, and 1600 x 1200. It can also take still image pictures saved as JPEG files. The max resolution setting of 1600 x 1200 gives slightly less pixels than that of the 1080p HD we are used to seeing on Youtube, but the difference is negligible (1,920,000 to 2,073,600) and it's still very detailed. It gives a 4:3 picture ratio as opposed to the standard 16:9 widescreen too.
The camera is fixed focus. This means there's no zoom feature and it must be situated at the optimal focal distance of 1.2" - 2.36" from the target to get the clearest image. That gives just over an inch of wiggle room to get the perfect picture.
Depstech make a big deal of their new processor which allows a video frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps). While this is an impressive frame rate for something so small, it is the modern standard for these devices. Gone are the days of stuttering 10 fps videos which were jarring to watch.
On the note of the actual cable, it's described as being semi-rigid. This means it's stiff enough that it won't bend when held outstretched, but upon coming into contact with a solid surface it will become pliable. Think of it like a pipe cleaner which is strong enough to hold it's own weight, but not rigid enough to resist slight pressure. This makes it perfect for navigating tight and twisty spaces.
The camera images are transmitted wirelessly to a smart phone device. A specific app must be used and it offers control over the video quality being received. It can actually stream to up to 4 devices simultaneously which is a really nice touch. Especially if you're seeking the second opinion of a specialist.
The camera is Ip67 waterproof. Protection of this level means the camera can be submerged in water of up to a meter deep for up to 30 minutes. It's also completely resistant to dust.It also comes with three useful utility tools. There's a hook, mirror, and magnet that can be used to help unblock pathways and remove obstacles. These attach simply onto the end of the cable.
Bottom Line: All things considered, probably the best android endoscope currently available. A great combination of value for money and performance.
Depstech 1200P *BEST OVERALL CAMERA*
This endoscope has a few less options than most with regards to cable length (only 5 or 10m), but it more than makes up for this with an incredible focal range.
Focal distance is a bit of a problem for borescopes. They are designed to take detailed pictures in dark, enclosed spaces, but in order to do so they must get very close to the object. Typically they have focal distances of between 1-3 inches, meaning that you must be within this range to get a focused video.
However, the 1200P from Depstech makes light work of this "industry standard" with a whopping 15.7 inches of focal distance. There's no need for any expert camera work here, or need to get up close to the object, simply get within 15.7 inches and you have a clear picture. Now that's not to say that at this distance you will be close enough to get the answers that you need, but it certainly makes life a whole lot easier.
And there's another reason this camera stands out in a crowded marketplace: the battery. Generally speaking, these borescopes for android give about 1 hour of battery life. The Depstech 1200P uses a 1800 mAh battery that extends this to 3-4 hours. That means you can be a lot more liberal with your recording and not be constantly working against the clock.
The 8.5 mm camera backed up by 6 manually adjustable LED lights and outputs a maximum of 1200 x 1600 resolution. As we mentioned in our first review, this gives just very slightly less on-screen pixels than 1080p HD. But, it does give a very sharp and detailed high definition video quality. Like the other Depstech models it gives a slightly old fashioned picture ratio of 4:3.
We probably should have mentioned this earlier but it's WiFi enabled too. Switch on the WiFi transmitter on the battery pack and then connect to the signal with your phone. Then through the specialized app you can see whatever your camera is looking at on your phone. Recording in this way is really convenient and allows you to immediately share your videos or pictures with clients or friends.
Bottom Line: That huge focal distance makes this the most forgiving and easy to use iPhone borescope (or android) on the market.
BlueFire WiFi *BEST FOR BEGINNERS*
This borescope for android from BlueFire is another that makes the most of recent technological advancements in wireless technology. Using a self-emitting WiFi signal it is able to stream live video to nearby smartphone devices (both iOS and android).
It comes in 4 cable sizes starting at 3.5 meters and reaching as long as 15 meters. Like almost all android borescopes like this, the cable is semi-rigid and won't 'flop'. We compared the rigidity of the last model to that of a pipe cleaner and the same remains true for this camera.
Actually, that's not the end of the similarities with the previous Depstech camera that we reviewed. It too gives a choice of 3 resolution settings that can be streamed to your phone. It uses the same lower settings of 320 x 240 and 640 x 480 but the high resolution setting is noticeably lower. It shoots at 1280 x 720, which gives a pixel count of 921,600. This compares to the 1,920,000 on screen pixels that the Depstech camera can display. However, this does give the modern 16:9 picture ratio that suits online video sharing. If sharing your videos on platforms like YouTube is a possibility then shooting in this ratio is something you should consider.
The camera diameter of 8mm is about as small as you'll find in a smartphone compatible device like this. Six adjustable LED lights are used to illuminate the picture and give a good degree of control over the lighting.
The camera has a fixed focal length and doesn't have the ability to zoom. The focal distance of 1.18" to 3.15" gives almost two inches of range which is really good compared to most of the competition. The focal distance is the distance from the lens to the object at which the picture is in focus. To have almost 2 inches to play with here gives a good degree of flexibility and ensures you don't have to be too intricate with your camera placement. Basically the larger the focal distance is, the easier it is for you to get focused pictures.
The camera probe is IP67 waterproof so that it can be used to inspect things like water pipes and drainage systems. Like the previous model we reviewed, this degree of waterproofing means it can survive water of up to 1 meter deep for up to 30 minutes at a time.
The Best Dedicated Endoscopes
Dedicated endoscopes are the all-in-one specialists that include an LCD screen and don't require a smartphone. They generally have smaller cameras and much longer battery life. In this section we recommend three of the very best.
Teslong Industrial *BEST DEDICATED ENDOSCOPE*
This dedicated scope from Teslong is the first of our non- android endoscope reviews. These types are considerably more expensive than the smartphone based competition and that can be contributed to three main differences:
- The inclusion of an LCD screen
- A smaller diameter camera
- Zoom function
- A larger battery
The camera measures just 0.21 inches in diameter (5.3mm), which is just tiny and compares to a minimum of 8mm in the android models. These dedicated models are better suited to the more intricate tasks where the camera and cable need to be as narrow as possible. The shorter 3m cable that this model uses is much more manageable for these tasks too (a one meter version is also available).
The trade-off here is with image fidelity. While smartphone borescopes can make use of high definition phone displays, the LCD screens that these dedicated devices use just aren't capable of such feats. It can be argued that it just isn't necessary when using such small screens, but I'll leave that up to you.
The camera is illuminated by 6 LED lights which are manually adjustable according to the current situation. It records straight to a TF memory card (MicroSD) with the live action being shown on screen too. The camera comes with an 8GB card but can manage cards of up to 32GB.
The camera has a relatively short focal distance of 1.2" to 2.4" (a short focus 0.4" model is available) but crucially has the ability too zoom in on the object. This is something that android cameras can't do and it makes life so much easier.
We mentioned the battery capacity as being a reason why you might choose a dedicated borescope, and this model doesn't disappoint, with the 2600 mAh capacity lithium-ion battery giving 6 hours of continuous use. That's more recording time than you'll get from an android based model. The fact the battery is replaceable offers potentially more recording time too, should you have a back-up.
Both the main body and the camera probe are waterproof, though to different degrees. The camera is rated as IP67 waterproof, which allows it to be submerged at a depth of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. However, the body is only rainproof and won't survive a dunking.
Like most inspection cameras the cable is semi-rigid and will hold its shape until presented with an obstruction. Upon encountering a bend in a pipe for example, the cable will bend too and follow the pipe's path. It actually comes with some detachable accessories that turn it into a utility tool too. The magnet, mirror, and hook attachments make it much more dextrous than your average camera.
Bottom Line: Excellent battery life and a 4x zoom make this one of the best borescope cameras around. Oh there's a 12 month warranty too.
The Teslong Classic is a dedicated borescope that has a slightly different slant on design. It too has an LCD screen to view the action, but this time it is situated at the end of a handle with the camera and cable protruding from the other side of it. This intuitive interface design means that you are always directly facing the action. The one handed ergonomic grip is adjustable and makes handling the camera body that bit easier too. With the buttons positioned at the top of the grip, your other hand is free to guide the borescope cable.
Like other digital inspection cameras in its class, the camera lens is tiny. Just 5.3mm in diameter to be precise. But unlike the Teslong Industrial model that we previously reviewed, this one is actually capable of recording HD video. It's the lower end of HD at 1280 x 720 but it's good enough to produce a crisp and detailed picture on-screen. It also offers recording at resolutions of 320 x 240 and 720 x 480 and these are great back-up options if space on your memory card is beginning to dwindle. There's also the option to take high quality photographs too.
But, this high quality picture fidelity does come at a cost. The battery life just doesn't compare to that of the Teslong Industrial. It's more on par with the kind of battery life you would expect from an endoscope camera for android. It uses 4 AA batteries instead of a heavy duty lithium-ion pack. So, battery life or HD video? There's a choice to be made with dedicated cameras like these.
The camera has a fixed focal distance of 1.2 - 2.4 inches. This is the distance the lens needs to be from the object to get a clear and focused picture. Unlike the Teslong Industrial there's no zoom mode to help get that perfect picture.
The screen is a 3.5 inch QVGA LCD color screen. While it's no match for modern smart phone screens, it's big and clear enough to be easy to use. The angle of the screen is adjustable (as is the handle) which makes it quite comfortable to use. It records to a TF-card (an 8GB disk is included) which can be removed and upgraded if need be. Recordings can also be output to a TV or monitor directly from the camera using the AV output port. This gives the option of watching in real-time on a large screen.
As is the standard for almost all borescopes, android or dedicated, it's IP67 waterproof and uses 6 dimmable LED lights to illuminate dark pathways.
However, unlike the android models this one comes with a no-quibble 12-month return or replace guarantee.
Bottom Line: HD quality video recording makes this a camera that stands out from others in its class. Not using long lasting lithium-ion batteries is an opportunity missed, but if you have a steady stream of rechargeable AAs then you can work around this.
This is where we summarize our reviews and give a brief run-down of our findings.
If you're still unsure whether an android-ready or dedicated version would suit you best then please check out our buyer's guide a bit further down the page.
If we were looking for the best endoscope for android we'd choose the Depstech 1200P. It's got amazing battery life for an android camera and the huge focal range means getting that perfect picture isn't as much work as it might be.
If we were looking for value for money then we'd choose the Depstech WiFi model. HD video and the ability to live-stream to multiple devices at once are amazing features made even more remarkable by the price tag.As for the dedicated devices, our top pick is the Teslong Industrial. Huge battery life and a 4x zoom make this the best dedicated scope in the business.
Recommended Reading: Don't miss our awesome guide to wireless surveillance cameras next!
In this section we explain the key features that you should be aware of when purchasing an endoscope.
Android or Dedicated Screen?
The first big choice you have to make when purchasing an endoscope is whether to get an android/iOS compatible device that connects to your smart phone or one which is an all-in-one tool with a dedicated screen.
They each specialize in different things so it's important to know what the main differences are and which type is best suited to your intended use. Let's start with the dedicated endoscope cameras.
The pros and cons of dedicated endoscopes
These are the traditional all-in-one endoscopes that consist of a snake camera attached to an LCD screen. There's no WiFi signal to worry about or any threat of connections "dropping out".
These big advantages with this type of borescope camera is that they tend to have a longer battery life and the camera diameter is usually much smaller. The camera size makes them better suited to more intricate tasks than their endoscope for android counterparts.
They don't rely on a wireless WiFi signal either, which can be finicky at times. In our opinion, dedicated endoscope cameras are more reliable devices.
However, they aren't without their flaws when compared to smart phone borescope/endoscopes. Smart phones are generally very expensive devices capable of displaying very high resolution images. The small LCD screen of a dedicated endoscope can't match this kind of picture fidelity. Therefore the image resolution (picture quality) of these devices isn't as good.
There's also a matter of the cost. Dedicated devices obviously include a screen which adds to the overall cost. Generally speaking they cost at least double the price of android borescopes. However, they do tend to have longer warranties.
The pros and cons of android scopes
Android borescope/endoscopes are much cheaper than their counterparts. The fact that they don't include a screen really affects the price.
By making use of a high fidelity smart phone screen they are also able to produce much higher resolution video. They can typically record at 1600 x 1200 resolution at 30 frames per second. Is the difference really noticeable when you're viewing something on a small screen though? Well, that's open to interpretation.
Using a wireless signal to transmit video to a smart phone is a really convenient tool. Having the pictures and videos on your phone makes it really easy to send them on to clients. With some models you can actually transmit multiple live video streams to different devices too, which is a useful option to have.
As for the downsides, the big two are the battery life and reliance on a WiFi signal. Battery life and therefore recording time is generally much less than with the dedicated endoscopes. This is mainly due to the fact that they have to transmit their own WiFi signal.
We previously proclaimed the use of a wireless WiFi signal and smart phone as being a big positive, and for the most part it is, but it's not perfect. Wireless signals aren't always the most reliable, and then there's the issue of receiving calls or messages while recording. One last point is that the apps needed to record on your smart phone aren't always of the highest quality.
The quality of the video or image that you receive really depends on two factors. There's the image resolution and the frame rate. Let's take a look at the two of them and how they affect digital inspection cameras.
Resolution - the resolution of a picture directly affects the amount of detail that we can see in a picture or video. The resolution is basically the number of pixels (the tiny dots of colors that make a digital image) that we can see on-screen.
High Definition (HD) video starts at a screen resolution of 1280 x 720. This describes the amount of pixels we can see. There are 1280 horizontal pixels and 720 vertical pixels which give a total of 921,600 or 0.9 Megapixels on screen in one frame.
Android borescopes can typically handle resolutions of even higher than this, which gives a very crisp and detailed image.
Frame Rate - a video is made up of a series of still images that are played at such a speed that our brain is unable to tell that they are unique images. The frame rate describes the speed at which these images are played. The human brain struggles to tell apart images shown at a frame rate of above 10 frames per second (fps) but we need to go much higher than this before a smooth video motion is perceived.
A typical frame rate of an endoscope for android would be 30 fps, which is excellent. Keep in mind that Hollywood movies are generally shot at 24 fps and they look pretty good to me!
The focal distance of a camera is the distance at which the lens must be from the intended target of the picture to produce a focused image.
Should the lens be out-with this range then the picture will not be clear. The focal distance for digital inspection camera is generally very short. That means you must get very close to the target to get a good shot. Ideally, we want the focal length to be as large as possible so that we have plenty of "wiggle room" with which to get a good picture.
Consider your typical use for the camera and how achievable it would be to get the camera this close to the target. If this is a worry for you then there are cameras with zooms (see the Teslong Industrial) or large focal ranges (see Depstech 1200P) are available that can make life easier.
If you work in a team where multiple people need to see the recordings then an android device would make life so much easier for you. They are able to show live video streams to multiple people simultaneously. The fact that the recordings are saved to your smart phone too, means that they can be sent via e-mail or messaging services to clients at the press of a few buttons.
Some dedicated endoscopes have AV outputs which allows you to see the live video on a large screen like a TV or monitor.
The waterproof rating for these devices is generally IP67. This means they can withstand being immersed in water of a maximum of 1 meter depth for up to 30 minutes. This describes the camera and cable only and doesn't cover the battery or body.
Brief History of Endoscopes
The first endoscope was designed way back in 1806 by a German fellow named Philipp Bozzini. It didn't even use electricity and relied on reflected light. Using a tool to examine the internal workings of the human body was such a revelation at the time that the invention was actually disapproved by prestigious bodies such as the Vienna Medical Society.
The use of electricity in endoscopes didn't appear until nearly 60 years later in 1865. Though, actually being able to use small bulbs that allowed internal lighting wasn't common until 1908.
From this point on, as endoscopes became smaller and more flexible they were used in more and more medical procedures. Today, they are still a crucial tool and thanks to advancements in technology, a whole lot more sophisticated than the remarkable but rudimentary design of 1806.
That's all for our guide to snake cameras. If you have any questions then let us know down below and we'll be sure to get back to you soon. If you're eager for more guides on optics, make sure you don't miss our latest post on monoculars.
If you want to see more posts like this then don't forget to follow us on Facebook where you can stay notified of all the latest news here at Stealthy Ninjas.