Tool Review: Milwaukee M-Spector AV M12 Inspection Scope

Photography & Video Workshop
Tool Review: Milwaukee M-Spector AV M12 Inspection Scope

The Milwaukee M-Spector AV M12 Cordless Multimedia Camera is a rugged, digital inspection scope that helps you see things you’d otherwise need x-ray vision to espy. Take, for example, the wand of my vacuum cleaner:

I’ve had a strong suspicion there was a doll head lodged in there, but the M-Spector proved me wrong. Analog, optical borescopes have long been used to see inside of tubes. The M-Spector adds quite a few features, such as the ability to snap photos and shoot video (and audio) of your inspections.

Here’s another neat trick, I used the M-Spector to help me fix the ice machine in our freezer, letting me see deep into a corner without disassembling it:

A laptop with a webcam and flashlight would do in a bind, but the M-Spector is purpose-built for the job, sporting a bright LED at the business end of the cable, and a heavily ruggedized construction.

The provided 17mm diameter cable is small enough to snake into tight places — I fished it into a conduit to see which CAT-5 cable was binding on the others. The cable can be detached from the unit for compact storage, and there are eight- and three-foot extension cables available. I’ve seen other manufacturers offer a small hook or magnetic tip accessory, which Milwaukee does not. Might not be too hard to improvise, and could be useful for grabbing lost parts.

The M-Spector stores images and video on an included 2GB SD card, so you can later view media on a computer. You can also hook a USB cable directly to the device. The images weigh in at 1280 x 960 pixels, and while they aren’t as clear as I’m used to from my cell phone, they are just fine considering they’re being taken in a small, dark place 40″ away from the sensor.

The controls are simple; the primary adjustments you can make are to increase/decrease the LED brightness and camera zoom. You can also flip the image 180 degrees, in case things start to go upside down on you. I would like more granular control on image rotation, since it can get disorienting when you’re snaking the cable into position.

The large center button is used to snap a picture or start and stop recording in video mode.

Running off of the M12 series 12V lithium-ion battery pack (with included charger), the M-Spector has an estimated 12 hours of active run-time. If you’re already using other tools in the series you can swap batteries among them.

I think the M-Spector will find most of its use when I’m doing wiring work, but it’s also incredibly handy for other household repairs and project work. Plus, it sure is fun poking around under furniture and inside machines. This is the kind of tool to let your friends know you’ve got, so they can borrow it before they go ripping open an entire wall.

Milwaukee M-Spector AV M12 Cordless Multimedia Camera MSRP is $399 but I found it on Amazon for around $236 to $299.

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John Edgar Park likes to make things and tell people about it. He builds project for Adafruit Industries. You can find him at and twitter/IG @johnedgarpark

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