In multicultural Australia, the opportunity for home cooks to expand their culinary horizons is too tempting to resist.
Creative Labs Live! Cam Video IM Pro
- Decent quality image, wide range of controls, fun
- Maximum resolution is software enhanced
A great webcam that offers reasonable image quality and all the features you'd expect out of such a device.
Price$ 89.95 (AUD)
The lengthily named Live! Cam Video IM Pro is one of Creative Labs' mid-range webcams. It's got a heap of functionality and decent video quality to boot. Anyone looking for a simple to use webcam that includes some fun extras can't go far wrong with this product.
The heart of the Live! Cam Video IM Pro is a 640 x 480 VGA sensor. This is used to good effect for video and stills. Images can be scaled by Creative's software up to 1280 x 960 (1.3 megapixels), and they don't look too bad. Video can be captured at the native resolution of 640 x 480 at 30fps, or scaled to 800 x 600 which drops the frame rate to 15fps. Video is clear and sharp, with few signs of blurring and a good colour balance. Creative include a wide range of controls, such as gamma, backlight adjustment and exposure, which is useful for anyone using the webcam in low light.
If you don't want to use Creative's software then the webcam is fully compatible with MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and others. Creative even bundle a clip-on microphone so you can engage in voice conversations. However, it's Creative's software that provides the most fun. This allows a whole host of extra features that you don't find with cheaper models. In addition to JPEG photo capture, and WMV or DiVX video capture, Creative offers motion detection, remote monitoring and time-lapse video.
To spice up the video capture, Creative includes a whole range of video effects filters. These range from bizarre psychedelic motion filters to the ability to superimpose your head on Ayers Rock or the Eiffel Tower. We were even able to get into the Christmas spirit with Creative's 'sparkle' filter! If you get bored of the twenty or so filters that come bundled, it's possible to download more for free from Creative's website.
The motion detection feature is similar to those we have seen on other devices. Areas can be set on the screen to monitor, and when motion is detected an alarm sounds and the camera starts recording. It can even be set to email stills of the intruder to a give email address. If you're really feeling adventurous then it's also possible to configure the camera to be viewed remotely over the Internet, though you'll need your own website to do so. Face tracking is also included, though its usefulness is debatable. The idea is that the camera zooms into the area of the screen that contains the user's face, though we found it wasn't entirely accurate and would constantly zoom back and forth all over the place.
One other fun feature is the ability to record time-lapse video. In this mode the camera takes a still shot at give intervals, and then merges them into a WMV video. This is perfect for taking those long shots of flowers blooming you might have seen on nature programs, or the high speed cloud movement sometimes seen on weather forecasts such as Channel 10's Skywatch.
Overall it's hard to see what else anyone could really need from a webcam; Creative has done a great job at including a multitude of features with respectable image quality.
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