Kensington is well
known for Macintosh peripherals such as trackballs and optical mice, most of which
are top-of-the-line products and a welcome enhancement to any Mac system. For this
reason, I was very excited to get a chance to use and review Kensington's USB VideoCAM,
their entry into the desktop video camera arena. The VideoCAM comes in three flavors:
VideoCAM [$39.99], VideoCAM VGA [$69.99], and VideoCAM Super VGA [$99.99]. The low
end provides 400 x 300 ppi (CIF), the medium provides 640 x 480 ppi (CIF), and the
high end provides 800 x 600 ppi (SVGA) along with CMOS sensor technology. The high
end is not supported on the Mac platform. This review was done on the low end unit.
- Good quality image
and video capture
- CIF 400 x 300 ppi
(4.9" x 4.0" window)
- E-mail color snapshots
or chat face-to-face with intuitive, powerful software
- Tethered camera with
6-foot cord plugs into USB port
- G3/333 w/ATI XClaimVR
128 card, 384MB RAM, Mac OS 9.0.4
I've seen a lot of different hardware designs for desktop video cameras, but
I have to say that I like the VideoCAM design the best. It has a much more solid
base which makes it a more sturdier device. It's light, and easy to manoeuvre. The
eye piece is on a swivel which can be adjusted up and down, and there is a screw
hole in the bottom for attaching it to a tripod or some other object. The button
on the top allows you to snap a picture, a feature which is also available in the
The quality of the low end unit seemed pretty good to me, so I imagine that higher
end models might knock your socks off. It's unfortunate that the highest end of the
units is not supported on the Mac platform.
The VideoCAM comes with VideoCAMworks software which includes two VideoCAM extensions
(i.e., you will need to reboot after installation). This is where I ran into my first
problem. Once this software was installed, my XClaimVR 128 card would no longer operate.
The monitor worked, but the video input signals did not. Upon further investigation,
I found that the VideoCAM QT Component extension was the culprit. Once that extension
was removed, everything was working fine again (except, of course, for the VideoCAM).
Upon going to Kensington's support site, it turned out that there were no software
updates to fix this problem; and worse, a message stating that no software updates
were in the works. They weren't discriminating against the Mac, however, as they
stated the same thing about the Windows version of their VideoCAM software. To Kensington's
credit, they do offer a refund of your purchase if you find yourself in this position.
software has a very stylish interface, with size control settings for adjusting your
camera use. The settings are brightness/contrast, hue/saturation, image zoom, snapshot
size, timer, and video recording. Above the settings is the camera window which displays
the video signal coming in from the VideoCAM. Below the settings are two buttons,
one for taking snapshots (JPEG or PICT format), and one for recording video (Quicktime
Movie). Snapshots can also be timed, giving you time to position yourself for some
self-photography. The picture quality, as one might expect, is nowhere near the quality
of the average digital camera, but these pictures are great for posting on the web
or emailing to a friend. Movies are not the best quality either, but again, you get
low overhead movies as a very reasonable cost (a good digital video camera is in
the $800 to $1000 price range). Below is a sample video (compressed with Sorenson
for faster web loading).
Both snapshots and
recorded video are automatically saved to your "Tray", which is at the
bottom of the window. On the left are two sliders, one for browsing your computer,
and the other for setting up collections. At the top of the window are buttons which,
for the most part, are self-explanatory based upon the picture. For example, the
envelope button is a button for emailing an item from your tray. Not all the buttons
are that clear (i.e., the far right button), so text popups would have been helpful.
The big space in the middle of the window, when not utilized by one of the left
sliders, is a button to take you to Kensington's web site.
Overall, I found the interface was well done. It provided a lot of functionality
in a stylish fashion. Changing the picture format should have been added into the
snapshot control settings, but instead is only changeable by way of the single item
"Camera" menu. Other than that, functionality was quite intuitive. There
were some quirky behavior with the settings, such as double-clicking a number would
not highlight the number to let you type over it, and the image zoom and snapshot
size box dragging was not too smooth.
The real excitement about desktop video cams is the ability to talk with someone
over the internet, sharing video displays. VideoCAMworks does not provide this functionality,
but the CD did contain a demo version of CU-Seeme software that supports video conferencing.
VideoCAMworks is documented as integrated with CU-Seeme so that you can click on
a tab in the VideoCAMworks window to switch, but that tab never showed up for me.
I had to manually launch the CU-Seeme software. The demo version allows you only
a few moments to play, and then it quits (asking you to purchase the full version).
For the most part, it seemed to work, except that my video display was always a
close up (i.e., people got a good shot of my mouth and nose). No matter what I tried,
I could not get the video to back off. If I went back to VideoCAMworks (which, btw,
would not display the video until I quit from CU-Seeme), the video was zoomed out,
so I really don't know where the problem stemmed. This was the biggest disappointment
for me. Between the time-outs and the persistent close-up shots, my experience with
video conferencing was frustrating.
With a stylish and sturdy design, the Kensington VideoCAM is a nice addition
to your Mac system if you're interested in inexpensive snapshots and video for emailing
to friends and family. If your need is video conferencing, you might want to find
a package which includes full video conferencing software, or get ready to purchase
your own (the Mac Guild recommends Smith Micro's VideoLink Pro).
- Stylish and sturdy
- Intuitive interface
- Provides snapshots
and movies ready for emailing
- Software incompatibilities
& quirky setting controls (with no planned software updates)
- Does not include
full video conferencing software
- Problems in CU-Seeme
getting video to zoom out
3 out of 5 Mice