I like to 'dabble' with technological equipment, be it the latest gadgets which people can't do without, (although I'm not the type that camps out all night in order to be the first people to get my hands on said products, I usually wait for the right price), or even the silliest of 'toys' that are simply bought for fun
It is one particular piece of technological equipment that I would put in a bracket around the middle of the two examples, as it's not the latest gadget nor is it in the 'silly' category either. This piece of equipment I am talking about is a camera, but not the type of camera that you need a degree to use, nor is it the type that you'll take away with you to try and get that perfect shot to have as your screen saver.
This camera is in fact one that can be used to record anything in a simple way and can also double up as a web cam for those people whose computers have not got one or maybe have broken theirs.
The camera is called the Thumb cam and is made by the well known company called Philips, which would make you think that with a name like Philips you just couldn't go wrong.... Well, shall we see...?
Firstly, let me tell you what this camera looks like...
It's pocket size, being 35mm wide, 25mm deep and 115mm high, weighing in at less than 70g so that it is easy to carry. The internal memory is only 128MB but that should be adequate especially if you are only using this for a web cam.
It has a stainless steal look which curves lovely over the top of the camera, with lovely black sides and camera lens surround.
The camera, which is at the top on the front, is a 1.3MP and there is a nice little sliding feature which covers the lens when it's not in use, protecting it from knocks and dust.
Above the lens there is what they call a viewfinder, (something you don't tend to find on digital cameras these days). This is to look through so that you know exactly what you are taking a picture of.
Below this viewfinder, slightly above the lens, there is a little LED light which blinks when you have set the timer running, blinking away for about 10 seconds so you have plenty of time to get into position before the camera snaps the shot.
When you turn it around you'll be presented with the other end of the view finder window. Then, below this, there's a small, yet remarkably easy to understand little display which tells you everything you need to know.
Then, below this there's the 'mode' button which is there to help with the settings, and finally there's the 'capture' button which, when pressed, either takes a single picture or starts the video feature.
On either side, near the top, there are two little 'gaps' which are designed to take the neck strap, giving you the chance to have this hanging around your neck if you want, (so that's why they call it a neck strap then.??? Clever).
That's roughly what it looks like, but I bet you're wondering how to connect this to your PC? Where on Earth is the USB connector? I can't seem to find it. There's nothing there to help me get this plugged into my computer so that I can transfer my images... what do I do?
Simple. You just pull the bottom quarter section off, with a bit of a tug, revealing the USB connector so that you can now transfer you images... and the bonus is that this section, or as you will now know it, the cap, protects the USB connector when you are using it as a camera.
And here's a few of the specs for those that like the technical mumbo-jumbo...
* 1.3MP image at 1280 x 1024 compressed JPEG
* VGA video 640 x 480 AVI, with 15fps or 30fps 320 x 240 when used as a web cam.
* It has automatic exposure
* Built in microphone
* 10 second timer feature
* Runs on windows 98SE and later as long as your PC minimum specs are 32MB RAM, 100MB HDD space, Pentium II or AMD, or above. You'll also need a CD or DVD drive for installing the software and a spare USB port for charging the battery or using it as a web cam.
As I mention it can be used as a web cam and it has a clamp which attaches to the bottom of the camera so that it can grip onto places such as monitors and the like. You don't just have to use the clamp when you are using the camera as a webcam, you can use it if you want to hold the camera in a position for a period of time.
Apart from the camera you get a USB connection lead so that you can transfer the data onto a PC without taking anything out of anywhere, together with a CD rom so that you can install all the software onto the said PC.
You should also get a basic strap, which is as comfortable as having cheese wire wrapped around your neck, and a simple to understand guide book on how to install everything.
The software that comes on the CD-Rom includes the drivers, plus adobe acrobat reader, Philips photo manager and Philips vrecord, (although I don't tend to use the Philips software itself)
This is a pretty neat looking camera as does exactly what it is supposed to do, it takes pictures in the form of single shots, video footage and it also doubles as a Webcam, which has come in handy at times.
The little clip on the bottom, which is used to grip onto such things as monitor when you're using this as a webcam, is not that strong and can make the camera wobble a bit it a sudden gust of wind passes over your computer, only kidding, it does handle more than a gust of wind. Plus, it can be used as a stand as well so that you can simply have the camera sat on a desk at an angle of about 30° so that the lens points upwards towards your face.
It's the size of the camera that I like as when I need to I can carry it around, either in with my laptop or even in my pocket.
The picture image clarity is remarkably good considering the size of the camera, although the video footage can 'jump' sometimes if and when something moves a bit fast.
I have used it as a web cam and found it to be as good as some of the more expensive ones on the market, with the picture holding it's own. Although I have tried it when using different software and found that the 'syncing' to happen at different paces, but each one managing to keep the mouth and words spoken in some form of timing so that it doesn't look that stupid.
Then there's the quality of the sound picked up from the in built microphone, which is as good as you'd expect, picking up my voice from a few feet away so that there's no need to have your mouth right up to the unit in order to be heard.
The internal battery is rechargeable and can be charged using the USB cable plugged into your PC.
Charging the camera's in built battery takes a bit of time, about 90 minutes or more, and is a simple matter of plugging the device into a USB port on your PC, so long as you have installed the software. That's it, the internal battery should charge up and you're then ready to begin.
I do have to admit that the software was a bit of a nightmare to install, taking what seemed like forever to get to the end so that I could give the camera a test run, and the fact that I set it up on a laptop running Vista made matters even worse, (those who know Vista know how many times you have to hit certain buttons in order for programs to install, forcing you to sit over your PC until the very end).
So how much does this little bundle of technology cost..?
I paid about £12.00 for this when I bought it but I think it sells for around the £20.00 region in some places, which is not bad at all for a camera and webcam all in one nice little unit.
One thing I do have to mention is I was astonished by the size of the box that this small camera came in. it was massive, almost as big as a clowns shoebox. The camera was shown behind a clear plastic window, which was fine, but then there was another 75% of cardboard and plastic added to the side of this which housed the other things even though the biggest of those was the CD which seemed to rattle around inside the pack.
What is all that package in aid of..? My recycling bin filled up that week let me tell you.
In all, if it's a pocket size camera without all the technological mumbo jumbo then this is worth a look at... but if you want something that you have to have a degree in and 'ology' somewhere then keep on looking as this will bore you in the end.
The ThumbCam is the perfect solution for video-conferencing on-line with your laptop, taking 1.3 megapixel snapshots, recording a full ten minutes of video or storing up to 128 MB of your data. Use it anytime! And with simple installation, you will be up and running with high picture quality image communication in a matter of seconds.