iBook meet iSight ... Sorta
Those darn MacBooks and their darn built-in iSight webcam. Why can't I have an integrated webcam
for my iBook G4? Now I can, sort of. Ecamm's Image USB Webcam doesn't actually meld into the
frame around my iBook's monitor, but it does sit neatly atop its top edge, and the iMage's white
plastic body makes it look like it was always supposed to be there.
Ecamm touts the Image as the first driverless webcam for OS X, with plug and play functionality over
USB 2.0. That's true, but
when I did the first thing most any OS X webcam user would do and fired up iChat, I got an error
message saying that the camera was in use by another application. Hmm. Turns out that while the
Image is technically driverless it needs a plug-in to work with iChat. But it does work right
out of the box with many non-Apple applications.
Once I dowloaded and installed the plug-in (a quick and painless process), I fired up iChat
and had a few video chats with one of the Ecamm guys and a few friends. If you've never done it, video chatting
is a weird experience. But that's a story for another time. Image also worked with Skype right
out of the box, and is compatible with iMovie, Photo Booth, and a host of other apps.
Image worked well for the most part. It's switchable 640x480 and 320x240 resolutions are capable
of video at 15 fps, not 30 like some fancier webcams, but that's plenty for most people's needs. I experienced a little
bit of graniness in less than optimal lighting conditions, but so long as I was in a room with decent
lighting, the results were totally acceptable.
What's really nice about Image is its industrial design. The folding plastic housing mounts easily
atop my iBook (or most any laptop) screen, and stays in place without the need for any permanent
or even semi-permanent attachment - a built-in magnet helps in that regard. Image also has a standard threaded screw tripod mound and screw
holes for permanent installation on a wall.
At $59.95, the Image USB Webcam isn't the cheapest option out there, but it's also less expensive
than many Mac-friendly solutions. Of course, Apple's iSight offers full 30 fps video capture and
better image quality, but it also sells for $149. If you want state of the art, you might not
be satisfied with Image. But if you want a good webcam with a Mac-friendly design and technical
support, I'd definitely recommend checking out Ecamm's solution. It comes with a five-foot USB
cable and carrying case, to boot.
The Ecamm Image USB Webcam sells for
$59.95 direct from Ecamm Networks. A 600 MHz G3 or better processor, USB 2.0 port, and OS X 10.4.3
or later are required for use with the camera.