Monday, September 22, 2008

Shopping Guide for Webcams

While you’re webcam shopping, it’s a good idea to review the list of features published for each webcam you’re considering. Compare that list with the following items to get the most flexibility out of videoconferencing with Skype:

  •  Wide field of view
  •  Microphone included with camera
  •  Microphone contains noise cancellation capability
  •  Minimum lens distortion
  •  Low light boost
  •  Manual pan and zoom control
  •  Face Tracking software
  •  Avatar creation software included
  •  USB 2 enabled for fast transmission
  •  Wide-angle lens

The less you have to fiddle with your webcam, the smoother your video conversation will be. A webcam with a fixed focus nails you to the chair. You can’t move out of range, reach for a book, or lean back in your chair without slipping out of camera range. A webcam with a wide field of view that tracks your movement, keeps your features on-screen even in dim light, and doesn’t distort your features makes video chats a more natural activity.
Webcams with built-in microphones, especially noise cancellation microphones, give you a definite advantage. Microphone webcams eliminate an extra piece of hardware with extra wires that take up precious USB ports on your computer. If making a video call forces you to plug in a webcam, a microphone, and headphones as well as deal with the tangle of wires, plugs, and devices, you may just decide to forego the whole experience. One good webcam combines all these devices, simplifying the setup and letting you concentrate on what you want to say, not what you need to plug in to say it.
Often, you can take advantage of your webcam’s noise cancellation microphone even if you don’t enable video. You can choose your webcam as the sound input device in your computer’s sound control panel and not even have to set up a separate microphone! To do so, follow these steps:
  1. Choose Start➪My Computer➪Control Panels➪ Sounds and Audio Devices➪Audio.
  2. In the Sound Recording section of the Audio window, click the drop-down list and select your webcam.

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