When looking for a webcam or digital camera in order to produce a good quality video product, you will need one that is USB based or has firewire capabilities (preferred). That is one which can be connected to your desktop or notebook computer. Then you have the ability to run different software applications that you wish to use, for example, video conferencing, and surveillance monitoring or even just for your own entertainment.
When looking for a good webcam, you may want to take a closer look at those produced by Creative WebCam or Logitech Quick Cam. These companies offer a variety of different types of cameras, all of which are readily available. They offer low resolution instant messaging ones through higher resolution devices. They start at around $30 and can go up to as much as $150 for those with a pan and tilt control. However, there are some things which you should consider before you purchase your webcam.
These webcams are specifically designed for use with your desktop or notebook computer. They can either sit on the table or rest on a monitor. There are even some which can clamp onto your portable notebook screen, while others offer an adjustable base so that they can be used with both kinds of cameras.
Image and Resolution
The more simple types of webcam have a resolution of 352 x 288. This is good enough for basic video conferencing. Also, most webcams offer the user basic live video and still image capture at up to VGA resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. But there are some which use 1.3-megapixel image sensors, which offers higher quality and sharpness (this is extremely useful for still image grabs). There are also others which are “software enhanced” in order to provide you with the highest resolution possible. However, most webcams offer full rate video capture at 30 frames per second. So this should be no problem for many computers today which come with a USB 2.0 interface. While there are others which offer you better sensitivity in low light and these are particularly good for video conferencing when sitting in a dark room or for use as a surveillance tool in the evening.
Lens and Focus
There are some webcams which come with fixed focus, while others will offer the user a manual focus ring. These are particularly good for focusing on a person’s face, for video conferencing or to focus on something in the distance. There are others which can offer the user a wider angle lens (around about 76o). This is great if you want to get a large group of people into the frame or you want to see the full vista of the scenery outside your window.
There are some webcams which come with a built-in microphone (so you will need no other equipment).
In order to produce higher quality video, you will need to purchase a camera which supports the faster USB 2.0 high-speed interface. Most webcams and digital cameras today will also support the much slower USB 1.1 interface, but the resolution provided by this is much lower.
Motorized Pan and Tilt
Normally the more expensive types of webcam which cost around $130 come with a motorised pan and tilt.
Unfortunately, consumer webcams do not have an optical zoom lens, but they do offer digital zoom (up to 4x) in order for you to enlarge an area of the captured frames. This is especially useful for remote viewing. Say, for example, when the video being transmitted over the internet is actually of a lower resolution than the captured video frames.
Web Cam Software
You will often find that most webcams will include a Windows driver that supports the standard Windows video interface. These are compatible with most Windows applications.
But apart from the driver software, these cameras will also be provided with other software bundles. They may well include video monitoring and capture, video instant messaging, video e-mail, video editing, video conferencing and video surveillance.