The 10 Best USB Borescopes & Endoscopes
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in January of 2017. An extendable camera has many useful applications, whether you're a plumber who needs to assess blocked pipes, a mechanic that's inspecting a broken engine, or an engineer who's fixing microchip circuitry. These USB borescopes and endoscopes can help you quickly find lost items or see what's going wrong inside your various appliances. Of course, you should never push one into any human orifice. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 19, 2020:
Several audiologists and physicians warn that it's unsafe for non-professionals to insert endoscopes or other invasive tools into bodily cavities. With this in mind, we've removed the Cakler Otoscope, the Depstech HD, and the Soonhua Removal Tool from our list, since these devices are designed to be used inside the ear. We've replaced these with an assortment of USB borescopes and endoscopes that are still very useful in the external environment.
One new addition to our list, the Teslong 3rd Generation, is a particularly good tool for professional engineers and repairmen. It offers a high definition camera and comes with detachable accessories to help fix or remove parts as necessary.
In this update, we replaced nearly all of our previous recommendations, since many are currently unavailable or have been updated. One of these new and improved models is the IPS IP Wireless, a wifi-based endoscope that's three times longer than its predecessor, the IPS IP Smart. While the older version had to be plugged into an external power source, the upgraded version is wirelessly powered by a rechargeable battery with a 2-hour life.
The Depstech Wireless has also been replaced since our last update. The updated Depstech Upgrade not only sports a unique yellow finish, it also has a much higher quality camera, is better suited for illuminating pitch-black spaces, and has a greater range of focus than before.
January 30, 2019:
Added multiple models to the list, as there are more options on the market than in years past. For borescopes, we focused on an ability to easily navigate cramped quarters and usefulness of attachments, while comfort was a key concern in our analysis of endoscopes. Clear picture quality and bright lights were of paramount importance in both categories.
The Borescope Or The Endoscope?
What makes a borescope so useful is its flexibility and the length of its camera cable.
When camera technologies were significantly more expensive than they are now, borescopes and endoscopes were more clearly different in design. That's because, traditionally, the endoscope was a type of borescope that was significantly smaller because it was designed to fit inside the human body. This process, called an endoscopy, would allow physicians to see inside a patient in search of everything from cancerous cells to swallowed pennies. The endoscope is still technically a type of borescope, but the distinction between the two has become increasingly meaningless as camera sizes have gotten smaller and the handheld apparatus used to look through the camera has become more uniform.
While many of the endoscopes on our list could theoretically be used for medical procedures by professional physicians in a controlled environment, we're not here to recommend any model for private medical intervention of any kind. Call it a disclaimer. If you really want to stick one of these models where you know you shouldn't, you can't hold us responsible for any negative consequences.
What you can use any of the models on our list to achieve is gaining a closer look at a variety of implements, whether they're inside the engine block on your project vehicle, or even among the inner workings of a complex piece of electronic hardware.
What makes a borescope so useful is its flexibility and the length of its camera cable. You can feed the camera tip of your borescope through any opening large enough to fit the diameter of the camera head and the cable. That allows you to see down through pipes in search of a clog, or through any other conduit that the human eye cannot reach. What makes the borescopes on our list particularly useful is the fact that they don't rely on a single video screen to show you what the camera sees. Because they rely on a USB connection, they can easily be plugged into any phone, tablet, or computer that has a USB input or that you can use with a reliable USB adapter.
Not only does this give you more options for viewing whatever the camera picks up, it also helps to ensure that if something goes wrong with your view screen — if you drop your phone, for example — you don't need to invest in a whole new borescope or spend a lot of time and money to get it fixed.
How To Choose Among USB Borescopes
Because the technology has become so uniform in recent years, being able to tell which borescope or endoscope is superior to the next has become increasingly difficult. Older models that came with their own video screens and camera controls provided consumers with a handful of extra features to compare when selecting a borescope for their own use. Now, however, most of the models on the market that include a USB hook up all appear to be long, black, and reasonably effective.
Even if you’re trying to save money, it’s always smart to have more reach in your cable than you think you need.
Fortunately, there are still just enough differences among these cameras for you to make an informed decision as to which one is right for you and your budget. Quite possibly the most important among these distinctions is the rigidity of the cable. Many of the options on our list are on the flexible side, which provides users with a tool they can maneuver through almost any maze of tubing that stands between them and what they want to the camera to see. But in some situations, it’s more important to have a camera that can stay still at an odd angle, or push through a thicker material where a more flexible camera cable would merely bunch up.
Camera resolution is also important. Most of the options on our list provide some form of HD video feed, either at 720 or 1080p. If you are only using your borescope to create a live feed to help you manually interact with electronics or to help work on the intricate parts of an engine or similar mechanical system, then higher resolutions might not be needed. However, if you plan on capturing the video on your phone or tablet and reviewing it later, or even using it as a teaching material, you’ll want that resolution to be as high as possible.
A couple of final considerations when comparing one borescope to the next will be the length of the camera cable and the adaptability of its system. Even if you’re trying to save money, it’s always smart to have more reach in your cable than you think you need. As for adaptability, you can easily invest in a number of USB adapters that will allow your borescope to attach to a variety of monitors, but if it happens to come up with such an adapter, then that’s one less purchase you have to worry about.
A Couple Uncommon Uses For A Borescope
Just because most people use their borescopes for different kinds of nuanced labor, that doesn't mean that you're limited to that same usage pattern. After all, these are high-resolution cameras attached to significant lengths of cable. With a little bit of imagination, you can find some pretty interesting uses for a good borescope.
With a little bit of imagination, you can find some pretty interesting uses for a good borescope.
A significant majority of filmmakers nowadays has become obsessed with resolution. They want their films to look as sharp as possible, even if that makes the image seem less than realistic. Some more experimental filmmakers, however, have found good uses for cameras at which the aforementioned group of cinephiles would turn up their noses. A borescope makes a particularly interesting choice for an independent film, especially if you're trying to imply the vision of a character under the influence of narcotics, as Werner Hertzog did through Nic Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call.
Another particularly interesting off-brand to use for a good borescope is as a spy cam. because you can easily feed these little cameras through holes in walls and other obscure places, and because they are so small and hard to detect with the human eye, they make decent hidden cameras. You can actually save a bit of money compared to investing in an expensive nanny cam by attaching a borescope to a computer with a large hard drive and letting it record whenever you're out of the house.