Webcam for windows?
July 13, 2005 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Cheap webcam for windows?

I have an iBook (and will be purchasing an iSight soon). My girlfriend lives across country and is on a pc running xp (she will eventually switch to a mac).

Since she won't be using a pc much longer, any suggestions on a cheap webcam to make chatting visual? Obviously, you get what you pay for, so we're just looking for something easy to use that will get the job done until the switch.
posted by gtr to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can get a Veo for under $25 usually.
posted by Kellydamnit at 5:18 PM on July 13, 2005

Oops... forgot the link
posted by Kellydamnit at 5:19 PM on July 13, 2005

If she already has a digital video camera with a firewire connection, she can use it as a webcam.
posted by fatbobsmith at 5:53 PM on July 13, 2005

Unfortunately for Windows I doubt there's much difference between a cheap webcam for Windows and an "expensive" one. The PC WebCam experience is so lame that you'd probably be happier with email or IM or Skype until your girlfriend gets a Mac.

I routinely use iSight/iChat between colleagues where I work, and have tried to set up our PC at home with similar capability, and nothing comes remotely close to the experience you get with an iSight.

For the home PC I ended up getting a Logitech QuickCam Pro ("expensive" at $100), but it sucks. The frame rate is lousy (even with USB2), and image quality and sound cancellation are poor. Before that I tried a Creative WebCam Live! Ultra and it was worse, and installed all kinds of software I didn't want.

So when you say "get the job done" it depends what your requirements are. If herky-jerky, dark, noisy video and cavernously echoing audio are OK with you, then there are solutions. :-)
posted by ldenneau at 6:13 PM on July 13, 2005

There are a huge number of possibilities of using existing equipment. Does she have any sort of digital still or video camera already?
posted by krisjohn at 6:22 PM on July 13, 2005

Check out ebay. last time I checked (and purchased) you could get 640x480 (non-interpolated) webcams for $5 plus about the same in shipping.

The frame rate is lousy (even with USB2)

I would have thought the framerate bottleneck would be the internet. USB/Firewire bandwidth dwarfs an internet connection to such an extent I'd assume even after image compression the bottleneck is still the internet. Now I'm curious - what kind of image size and framerate and connection speed are we talking about here?
(I haven't ever used my webcams for chatting, just things like motion sensing frame-grabbers, so I have no ballpark here)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:52 PM on July 13, 2005

-harlequin-, the end-to-end frame rate is of course network-limited, but the frame rate is poor even on the computer the PC webcam is attached to (2.8GHZ Dell P4). Like 8-10 FPS at full-resolution on USB2. I've actually attached my iSight to a Firewire card on the same PC and the iSight data throughput is much faster (but the video is garbled slightly). The iSight isn't supported on XP, but some folks claim they've gotten it to work, but without sound. I tried it and couldn't get the driver to cooperate.

I've iSighted from Hawaii to the East coast and it works better than between my Mac and PC in the same house over 100Mbps Ethernet. The PC sees sharp, high-framerate video from the Mac, and the Mac sees slow, out-of-focus video from the PC.
posted by ldenneau at 7:11 PM on July 13, 2005

pricewatch is showing them for $11
posted by psychobum at 7:20 PM on July 13, 2005

If she already has a digital video camera with a firewire connection, she can use it as a webcam.

Any more info on this? Can this be done via USB2.0?
posted by Who_Am_I at 7:23 PM on July 13, 2005

Any more info on this? Can this be done via USB2.0?

Digital video cameras don't typically have USB 2.0 connections because the standard for DV is Firewire. This is largely because USB requires a host (i.e. a computer or some other "consumer" of peripherals), while Firewire can be peer-to-peer.
posted by kindall at 8:16 PM on July 13, 2005

This is a pretty good evaluation of many of the webcams out there. I personally got the Ezonics iContact Pro and am very happy with it. Sightspeed, which is compatible with Mac and Windows, has excellent video conferencing performance.
posted by blueyellow at 8:20 PM on July 13, 2005

Wow, thanks for all the responses. Lots of good info I'll be checking out.

(krisjohn, no she doesn't have that type of equipment, but I'll keep that idea open for later since I do)
posted by gtr at 10:26 PM on July 13, 2005

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