Support for CIF Sensor / USB 1.1 interface / multi Video, Output, RGB and I420 / Multi Output size 160x 120, 176 x 144, 320x 240 , 352 x 288 / 25 frames per second / Small size / CMOS 1/7 lens Focus adjustable from 10 cm to infinity / Win 98se / Win ME / Win 2K / Win XP compatible
After talking to many people and seeing them on webcam, I was feeling a little left out. So with an Amazon voucher, browsed the array of webcams, cameras and other electrical to see what I could buy. Ranging from £6 to £1,500 I had no idea what to expect from "Sweex USB Mini Webcam 100K Pixels" since this was the £6 one.
Arriving at my door it was like pass the parcel, remove the cellophane, one box, two boxes and finally to the contents. A CD, instruction booklet and tiny camera were all that was in the box and I wondered how on earth this thing would be quality wise. What I did first was take the camera, unravel the thick wire and plug it into my laptop - WRONG! Install the drivers first - even for Windows XP!
The webcam is small - a square type shape less than an inch square with a black circle in the middle and a tiny little red dot in the centre. The camera is on a very thick 30cm wire which can be manipulated into the shape you want. It is perfect on my laptop - outstretched it peers over the top of the screen or it moulds round to the side of the screen. This is quite secure although not suitable for using on a moving object or it will bounce around and makes the viewer dizzy. I haven't used my camera on a PC but because the thick wire is short I have a feeling it would be best if there was a USB port on the front of the tower.
This is a very basic webcam with no camera feature - it doesn't take pictures, it doesn't have a flash and it has to be connected to a computer to be used. I'll just say from the start, the instructions are useless! All it tells you to do are install the drivers and that's it even though there are several pieces of software on the disk - it doesn't say anything about how these work or even to install them after the drivers! The manual is 40 pages long but only 3 pages of that are in English.
Putting in the CD, the screen came up with the options (first being 'Install Camera Driver') so I clicked on this and just following the instructions is simple although you don't get asked if you want to save to a specific file (bad since I don't have much space on the main drive). Once this is finished, just plug in the camera to the USB. I use XP so clicking on start I had 'PC Camera (6005 CIF)' with the options of AMCap or VideoCap. Going to the first one it comes up with a square box and to see if the camera works properly click on 'Options > Preview' - up came my face and it was very clear! There is also a capture feature which can be used in conjunction with both Audio and Video but best of all it can set a time limit to stop filming which is handy if not standing by the computer.
The webcam is slightly light sensitive so adjusts to the situation - if too light it will go dark but if too dark it doesn't brighten and I end up looking like a silhouette. The best way to get a good capture is with natural light as this cam even has a problem with just an overhead light. The real time connection is a little slow so even if you blink and look at the screen, you'll see yourself blink.
Since I knew it worked on the computer, I could then try using it with MSN Messenger (7.0). I have another camera but as soon as it connected the laptop would shut itself down and caused a lot of problems. Using MSN Messenger 7.0 even when not logged on I went to 'Tools > Webcam options'. If the AMCAP box is still on it won't work so closed that. Changing the 'White Balance' will make the picture blue so the counter has to be right at the end. On connecting to a conversation with someone, it worked perfectly! They were surprised at the quality too for the price but like I mentioned above there were a few problems with light settings.
The software on the disk consists of: Ulead Photo Express, Ulead Photo Explorer (I didn't install this) and Ulead Cool 360. As you may have guessed, a camera is needed so really these are not suited to this webcam with a photo function missing. A short rundown
Ulead Cool 360 is fantastic. All you do is stand on the spot and take photos turning slightly after each picture. This software almost magically connects all the photos together and creates a 360 degree view of the image which when viewed, just move the mouse to the left and it actually looks as though you are standing on the spot and looking round. If holding the mouse down at one end of the picture and moving it to the other side, the picture spins quickly and does make you dizzy. There are several examples already loaded onto the software which show how it works. (Around 19 photos were taken for it to work). The only disadvantage is it can't be sent to anyone unless they have the software too.
Ulead Photo Express comes supplied with hundreds of high quality photos such as backgrounds, tiles, patterns, little cartoons and even sounds. Although these are provided it is also possible to 'get the photo' from a scanner, digital camera, or even a video capture. By clicking on 'Browse' there is the availability to manipulate photos or do a project such as cards, posters and stationary. The text on this software is medium in size which makes it a lot easier to read and there is so much to be found as it gives the search bar which includes all folders on the computer. The ability to print is also really easy with several different options for tiling or even printing on t-shirts. I don't tend to use this program but I do use the pictures supplied. There is a section for the web such as links and plug-ins. A bit like Microsoft Word, there is a small light bulb which appears offering helpful advice.
If I am using my webcam and want to take a picture, the only way of doing it was to use AMCAP and take a screen shot. I only know how to do this on XP Press shift and PrtSc (Print Screen). This copies the screen so it can be pasted into an application like Paint and the picture cropped so it only shows what was seen in the AMCAP screen at that moment. The quality of screen shots are not perfect but as seen in the picture below, the quality of the camera is still superb in natural light.
For £6 (£5.91 excl VAT) this was a fantastic purchase and worth it just for the Ulead Cool 360 software alone. It isn't fancy and only does the basics but it does do them well which in my book is all I ask. I could have splashed out £1,500 but I got more than I bargained for with this one. I did notice the price of the camera went up shortly after I bought it to £8.98 which is also still great value for money. Highly recommended if you are on a tight budget and just want people to see your face but have good access to natural light.
Chip Type: CMOS
Maximum Pixel (in Megapixel): 30.72
Maximum Pixels (in Megapixel): 30.72
Platform: PC / Mac
Resolution Heigth in Pixel: 480
Resolution Width in Pixel: 640