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The advent of high speed Internet access has brought us one step closer to applications such as video conferencing.
For those of you who are looking for a web video camera to videoconference with friends and relatives but do not want to waste another precious PCI slot and find the parallel port types too slow, a USB version may be what you're looking for.
What we'll be looking at now is the TNC VR Viewcam; A neatly designed, low-cost device that has acceptable quality.
Here's how the box looks :
Hmm, who's the girl in the picture?
What are the contents of the package? Let's see :
- The VRô ViewCam USB Digital Camera
- The VRô ViewCam Driver
- Bundled software (CDs)
- Tilt and swivel base assembly
- USB Cable
- User Guide
Spread of the Contents
What about the system requirements? Here's a take from the user guide :
- Pentium 166 or higher IBM compatible PC
- Microsoft Windows 95 OSR2.1 or Windows 98
- USB Port
- Minimum 32MB DRAM
- Minimum 10MB of free hard disk space
- CD-ROM Drive
The bundled software disk contains the VR Viewcam driver, VideoLive Mail, Microsoft NetMeeting and the ever so popular Microsoft Internet Explorer. Also included is a copy of Ulead VideoStudio and iPhoto Express.
Here's how the camera looks on the monitor :
Yeah! Smile for me baby!
Here are the specifications of the camera :
- 24 Bit True Colour
- 10 Bit Grayscale
- 704 x 576 (4CIF)
- 640 x 480 (VGA)
- 352 x 288 (CIF)
- 320 x 240 (SIF)
- 176 x 144 (QCIF)
- 160 x 120 (QSIF)
- 128 x 96 (SQCIF)
- Manually adjustable (10mm to infinity)
Frame Rate (max)
- 122(L) x 67(W) x 37(H) mm
Installation went quite smoothly. After connecting the USB cable to the cam and the USB port on my PC, I flipped on the power switch and waited patiently for Windows 98 to boot up. Window's Plug and Play detected the camera and asked for a driver. After installing the driver, the device was ready for testing.
The entire installation is as easy as plugging in a power cord. You don't even need screwdrivers. Therefore, even if you are not familiar with computer hardware, you should not have any major problems. Here's a screenshot of the VR viewcam in action :
After installing the driver, I proceeded on to install the bundled software, Videolive Mail.
I clicked on the configuration button and oops, I saw my favourite MS message box :
It was a temporary problem and was solved after a reboot. Whew...
I think Videolive Mail is a nice program, It allows you to select the frame rate and audio quality you want. It can do a video capture and save the output as a file. This is suitable for leaving messages for overseas friends/relatives, since a video clip may express your feelings better than just an email.
Here's a close up of the cam :
The video quality, though not wonderful, was acceptable. Here's a snapshot of the action at 320 x 240. Frame rates at that resolution was quite okay at a decent 24fps.
I don't recommend using anything above 640 x 480 as the result looks more like a slide show.
Overall, I think the TNC VR Viewcam is not bad. Of special note is the ease of installation. The video speed (fps) was faster than the parallel type cams but slower than those which connect to video capture cards.
For those of you looking for a web camera that is cheap, easy to install without lots of messy cables (draws current from the USB port) and are not too concerned about image quality, this device is suitable for you. The video quality is not poor, but it's not spectacular either.
Those of you who do not mind using an extra PCI slot for a video capture card might want to consider using those cams that connect to the video capture cards. They may be slightly more expensive but they are faster (higher fps).
Also keep in mind that this cam is a USB device. Those of you using NT4 or earlier verions of Windows 95 will have a problem.