The best borescopes or inspection cameras have become must-have accessories for tradesmen and DIYers to inspect drains, pipes, and wiring without removing walls and ceilings. They are also brilliant tools for mechanics and car enthusiasts, as they'll give a clear view of the hard-to-reach engine or suspension parts without hours of dismantling.
There is a lot of flexibility (often literally), and the choices have become increasingly bewildering. That's why we've put together this guide to the best borescopes on the market right now.
Whether you're tracing an oil leak, unblocking a drain, or checking wall cavities, the applications for this tiny camera are nearly limitless. We're all familiar with the medical uses of endoscopes, so this is the same concept extended to everyday industrial and repair work.
Borescopes and inspection cameras can come in many forms. Some have a rigid arm with a fixed camera, a flexible arm, a soft bendy wire-like extension, or a mixture.
Borescope accessories can extend the possibilities still further. Tiny mirrors can re-direct the view sideways, for example, while hooks and magnets can help retrieve lost items from hard-to-reach places. We explain what we look for in a borescope at the end, but keep in mind that they are designed for a wide range of jobs and everyone's needs are different. Let's check out the best borescopes.
A rugged inspection camera with decent-quality video, a workshop-friendly build, and a sensible price.
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Best for flexibility
If you need a camera that can literally bend into the right spot, this is the best choice, and still waterproof.
Best borescopes and inspection cameras in 2023
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The Depstech DS500 includes a dual camera design, which not only features a forward-pointing camera but a second looking out to one side (yet it manages this with a narrower probe than the wireless WF028 further down this guide).
It is more expensive than is strictly necessary for occasional tasks, and it also takes inspection in its stride in a way other solutions just don’t. The solidly built handset, not to mention the all-important probe’s dual-lens camera, are all backed up with the ability to record meaning you’ll not need to replace this tool for a long while. As a bonus the accessories are great and the built-in torch is genuinely useful (and has a super-cool trigger switch).
The DS500 is a fine tool, capable of performing its duties even in a rough and tumble environment. The build is confidence-inspiring, always appreciated in the kind of environment where serious work is being done, and we really appreciated the case and addition of a magnet as well as a standard hook – you’ll never lose a screw again.
Read our full Depstech DS500 review for more details
Best for flexibility
A lot of borescopes let you take a look where you can't get your eyes or your camera, but by incorporating an articulation tool this can be more easily positioned to give you exactly the view you need.
The big red handle on the grip can be turned and it pulls the probe's camera head one way or another (on one axis – you can either rotate the whole thing to turn sideways, or opt for a 360-degree option). This can be handy in edging through a gap, or just positioning for the optimum view.
Despite the extra tech, this device also manages to keep costs reasonably low by using your phone as the monitor – iOS or Android. A 2,600 mAh battery in the handle keeps the connection going for up to 6 hours depending on how much you use the 10 LEDs in the camera tip. It also comes with a handy case, which is a good thing for tools that rely on cables.
Best budget DIY option
The Depstech 86T-5M is an excellent value-for-money endoscope that – as long you’re not hoping to connect to an iPhone – provides a solution more than adequate for occasional DIY needs, or retrieving lost items from tricky spots. We liked the simple lighting control and were impressed with the usefulness of the adapters. If we were being picky, the magnet is tricky to use – but ferrous metals need some volume; it’s hard to blame physics.
Remembering this costs little more than a good delivery pizza and is impressive; adding the fun of creative uses through the webcam connection and it seems like a bargain. Bear in mind that his device wouldn’t befriend Apple phones, though that is down in large part to the fruity firm’s resistance to the otherwise all-conquering USB-C connector.
Read our full Depstech 86T-5M review for more details
Best general purpose borescope
The Depstech DS300 has a lot of functionality and easy portability, for a surprisingly low price. The recorded images and video quality, especially frame rate, could be better, but the live display is good quality and operates well whatever the light.
The accessories are useful, and the handset is easy to hold. While there are more expensive, bigger, and very rugged devices available (the DS500, for example), this handset and probe arrangement seems ideal for all but the most aggressively dirty environments.
Read our full Depstech DS300 review for more details
Best Pro Borescope
This is a solid unit with a rubberized grip ideal for holding in one hand, and the protective bumpers in the design are appreciated. The buttons offer image rotation, variable light intensity, and digital magnification, while the 3.5inch display gives immediate feedback, though the 320x240px resolution is pretty modest. A detachable hook, magnet, or mirror end are included and, to help with orientation, the system can also keep the video’s horizon level even as the camera turns.
This makes the Bosch GIC 120 C ideal for plumbers, electricians, and other fitters checking safety issues, attempting to minimize exploratory drilling, or simply removing dropped items from drains. You can store images or videos on the included 4Gb MicroSD card to help when showing customers and preparing reports. The flexibility on power is handy for long jobs away from a charging point; you can either use a 10.8v Bosch Li-Ion battery pack or AA cells (in an included adapter).
Best borescope for floorboards
The Depstech DS450 (and its dual-lens siblings built on the same case) feels as natural to use as a mobile phone. The 4.5-inch IPS screen is about the same size – with the camera cable connecting at the top centre – and is easier to hold vertically. The camera itself is well-lit and provides good visibility, though the LEDs produce a distinctly blue-tinged light. The claimed 1.96-200 inches focal range seems somewhat optimistic though, or perhaps a 2592 x 1944 pixel screen is simply too much resolution for the camera.
The excessively tight USB socket which connects the camera cable to the main unit and the slightly squidgy buttons are an annoyance, but the 3,300mAh battery supplies a very practical five hours' worth of working time. The in-body torch is nice to have too.
Best all-in-one inspector
This is a neatly-designed inspection camera, made for the DIY market by one of the best-known names in power tools. The flexible camera winds neatly around the chunky main when not in use, and there is a built-in screen for convenience. The camera can store up to four images internally, but you can add to the memory with a microSD card, giving up to 32GB of extra storage.
There are limits, though. The 0.95m (3ft) cord will only be suitable for some jobs, and the 2.3in screen will not reveal a great amount of detail. However, you do get a magnetic head, hook, and mirror attachments in the kit.
Best cheap wi-fi borescope
The wireless approach has long been a customer favorite because it’s cheaper and more portable than buying a whole new device with a screen, plus it welcomes Android and iOS devices equally. The WF028 is an effective – and reasonably priced – example of this approach and provides all the features you realistically need. The build quality and rigmarole of connecting to the phone wouldn’t make it our choice for daily use but it is a very handy tool to have at home for occasional use.
We’d also have preferred to see a slightly narrower lens unit and a USB-C charging port in this day and age. In comparison to a device like the Depstech DS500 above, the WF028 isn't designed for heavy usage. However, this is a great choice for a quick emergency inspection, or retrieving something in a hurry.
Read our full Depstech WF028-5M review for more details
Best USB inspection camera
This is a ‘does what it says on the tin’ device, no more, no less. The VGA resolution is somewhat disappointing, given it is advertised as 2 megapixels on Amazon, but it can also be had for the price of two or three cups of coffee (at London or New York prices, anyway).
Even at this price, it still comes with adaptors for traditional, micro, and Type-C varieties of USB, and Mac OS and Windows 10 are both capable of recognizing the camera too.
You don’t need to service an additional battery-powered device or connect anything to Wi-Fi – it draws its power from the host device down the semi-rigid flex straight to your device and sends the picture back the same way. The small box at the user end of the cable includes a dimmer wheel for the LED, and the always useful key hook and mirror accessories are included, although they are a little wiry.
Best for guns and rifles
If you’re serious about keeping your guns in excellent condition, the best possible tool is a dedicated borescope, which will allow you to examine the barrel for carbon, copper, and powder build-up and other damage. This, in turn, lets you better manage your cleaning and potentially save money without taking risks.
At 26 inches long, the NTG100H will fit inside any barrel of 0.2 calibre and above. To view the barrel wall, you can attach the mirror head, but there is a locking collar needed for this which is easily misplaced (though two spare mirror heads are included, which seems generous).
In terms of viewing, you connect via a cable to a Macbook, Chromebook, or Windows PC and use the built-in camera software – this does restrict movement a little, though it is long enough. Measurements along the side will help you precisely pinpoint any issues you locate with the probe and there is a white collar you can slide to mark the spot.
Best for long runs
With 12 built-in lights, this versatile but pricey video scope has an exceptionally long, strong fiberglass core that packs away into a spool.
It might not look like much, a kind of coated wire-frame arrangement, but it’s actually much easier to grip than, say, the plastic spools common on extension leads. That thoughtful quality extends to the highly durable display which is both waterproof and oil/chemical resistant too. You need to worry about delicate touch screens, as the controls are all on robust buttons around the display.
Images can be recorded as stills or video to the SD card, or output via the analog connector. Admittedly the design features what feels like a historic connector – the Mini-USB – but this is a professional tool with a professional price and the cost of a USB adapter is hardly relevant.
What is the difference between a borescope and an endoscope?
A borescope is used for a wide variety of inspections, while an endoscope – while similar in concept – is for medical inspections. Borescopes can be used to inspect machinery and engines, pipes and gun barrels, and hidden areas inside the home live cavity walls. Endoscopes, by contrast, are used to inspect body cavities and organs.
What kinds of borescope are there?
The main differences are the softness of the tube. These are rigid, semi-rigid, and flexible. Rigid is good for things like gun barrels, while flexible can be directed. These are sometimes called fibrescopes (a reference to optical fibre.) Other names are inspection camera and even 'burner cam' (the camera pushed round into the hot and dangerous parts or machines).
The best borescopes: What we look for
1. Camera resolution: the more the better, though remember these cameras must be tiny to be useful. Be aware that some makers 'upsample' resolutions to make it sound better than it actually is (a common way is recording higher resolution video than the camera's sensor can make use of).
2. Screen size and resolution: the bigger and better the screen, the easier it is to get a proper view of what you're looking at.
3. Magnet tips: perfect for picking up small metallic objects that you wouldn't be able to extract any other way.
4. Mirrors: to get a sideways view in tight spaces where you can't turn the camera.
5. Hook attachments: a useful tool to extract small objects in confined spaces.
6. Battery life: the longer the better – you may be working away from a charging source for some time
7. Memory card storage: most borescopes offer fixed internal storage but some have removable SD cards – useful if you need to offer images to a client.
8. Wi-Fi: this could be handy for viewing footage on your smartphone at a safe distance from the actual dirty work