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The Battle of the Inspection Cameras?

Posted by Toolstop Katy on 7th Mar 2011

We thought it would be fun to lay out 4 inspection cameras from different manufacturers and place their specs, features, and possible unique points side by side to help you decide which would be best for you.

In no particular order we have:

DeWalt DCT410S1, Stanley FMHT0-77421, RIDGID micro CA-100 and Milwaukee C12IC.

The purpose of each of these inspection cameras is simple and the same across the board; to allow you to inspect places not obviously visible with the naked eye.

For example, you’re a mechanic who’s lost a nut down inside an engine block. Or you’re a plumber dealing with an unseen blockage.

The inspection camera you choose, therefore, will need to allow you to flexibly see where your eyes currently can’t. If that makes sense. And you also want to be able, in some way, to interact with whatever the camera has inspected. More on that later…

For the most part, each of our 4 inspection cameras will do the job just fine. Each has a flexible arm of around 3 feet or 1 metre in length, with a camera at the end. Each benefits from powerful LED lights affixed around the aperture of the camera, thereby illuminating the area you’re inspecting. And each is waterproof, which is essential if you plan on dropping the arm down a toilet or drain.

However, as you’d expect, not all inspection cameras are created equal. So, let’s take a bit of a closer look at the spec of each.

First off, how are they powered?

This is an important question, and that’s why we’re addressing it right at the start. The RIDGID and the Stanley are powered via common or garden AA batteries.

This could be a big plus point for you as it means you don’t need to worry about being near a power point to recharge the device.

Alternatively, though, it does mean you’re going to need to keep a stock of AA batteries lying around, and we’d recommend stocking up on the high powered variety as they’ll be powering the camera, the screen and the LED lights.

With the Stanley and Ridgid models, the power is from supplied AA Batteries. If you’re only likely to be a very occasional user of the inspection camera, the AA battery option may be the best one for you.

The Milwaukee comes supplied with 1.5 AH rechargeable pack, and it’s lithium-ion too, which is a bonus.

Yes, you’ll need to be prepared to recharge the device, but Milwaukee state a 30 minute charge time coupled with “high run times”. Judge this on it’s merits; if recharging isn’t an issue for you, then perhaps the Milwaukee C12IC scores some points here as you’ll never need to remember to bring AA batteries with you!

The DeWalt is running in a different class in the power stakes, however.

They’ve brought the DCT401S1 into their fabled 10.8v lithium-ion sub-compact range. So, if you’re already a DeWalt user and have already bought into this range of tools, you could buy the naked version and use one of the 10.8v batteries already in your kit. Run time is likely to be fantastic, as you’d expect from a 10.8v li-ion offering from DeWalt.

However, the inclusion of the rechargeable battery does impact on the DCT401S1‘s price tag.

The matter of what, exactly, these batteries are powering has to come into play next.

Obviously, we’re looking at functionality with an inspection camera; we need to be able to inspect, and see – via the camera – inside objects we’re inspecting.

Hence, the quality of the images captured by the camera and how these images are displayed to us is important.

How do the 4 cameras in our consideration stack up?

The Milwaukee has a 2.4″ display offering a respectable resolution of 320×240 pixels.

With the Stanley FMHT0-77421 3.5-inch colour TFT-LCD screen 640×480 pixels.

The RIDGID micro CA-100 and DeWalt’s DCT410S1 also boast 3.5 inch screens. Size isn’t everything, though, it’s what’s on display that counts.

And the DeWalt just pips RIDGID here, weighing in with an impressive 320×480 pixels against RIDGID’s 320×240.

In real terms, these 3 inspection cameras are going to give you a lot of “screen real estate”. However, the Stanley is going to show you more detail.

The Stanley FMHT0-77421 and Dewalt DCT410S1’s screens are detachable.

This is where DeWalt are innovating. As you can see from this image, the detachable screen will wirelessly receive images transmitted from the camera.

In practical use, this could be a huge boon for you as it allows detailed analysis of the images received from the camera arm while “on the ground”. As the photo shows, rather than trying to scrutinise what’s on the screen while perched on top of a ladder, a colleague can view the screen while you’re using the camera arm.

Image the practical uses this could be put to; underneath car chassis, inside tight ventilation shafts, etc.

That being said, the RIDGID micro CA-100 as well as Stanley FMHT0-77421 have a dose of innovation too via the ability to rotate the images on the screen.

Again, this is most easily understood when demonstrated on the job site.

Rather than trying to twist your neck – or arm – in order to get a clear view of what the camera is seeing, you can rotate the image on the screen through 360 degrees.

RIDGID have also paid close attention to customer feedback when developing the micro CA-100, their third generation of SeeSnake micros, as is borne out by the balanced ergonomics of its design.

So, comfort and ease of use seem to be the way forward with RIDGID, while DeWalt have gone all “next generation” with their wireless screen.

Other factors to keep in mind when choosing from one of these inspection cameras is accessory packs.

Ideally you want to be able to deal with the problem that the camera is inspecting, right there and then.

So, for example, that nut that’s dropped down inside the engine block; the camera has identified exactly where it is, but how will you get it out? Having a magnetic “hook” to draw the problem out is ideal. As is a hook. Or indeed a mirror for further improving your scope of vision.

DeWalt’s DCT410S1 comes with a “kit box” that includes, along with the “fast charger”, a hook and a magnet, both of which are fitted to the head of the camera.

RIDGID go one better with the micro CA-100. Obviously, you’re not getting the charger as it runs off AA batteries (which are included), but you do get a hook, a magnet and a mirror.

The Stanley FMHT0-77421 Fatmax comes with a hook magnet and mirror.

Milwaukee does not supply such accessories.

As with any tool, often it’s horses for courses, and we all know that existing brand loyalty plays as much of a part in our final choice as anything else; if you’ve already bought into DeWalt’s 10.8v range, then the DCT410S1 is a shoo in.

Milwaukee’s lithium-ion rechargeable battery may be a hook for you. As might the Stanley price point. Or you may simply have to have the latest on offer from RIDGID, hence the micro CA-100 will be in your basket at the checkout.

The Stanley Inspection Camera offers great features such as detachable screen with great resolution at a decent price and the AA batteries may suit some users.

Either way, we’d love to know what you think of this “battle of the inspection cameras” and which side you fall down on. Let us know!