Time to Buy a Webcam?

Category: Video

The 90's are over, and you still don't have a webcam? Lots of laptops come with built-in webcams, but if you have a desktop computer, it's pretty simple to install and use one. If you're not convinced, read on for some fun and practical uses for a webcam...

What Can You Do With a Webcam?

Webcams have come a long way in the past ten years. The first webcams were difficult to set up; video and image quality were poor; and lack of bandwidth made motion pictures jerky. But today, a full 1080p HD (high definition) webcam will set you back less than $100, and there are 101 things you can do with it.

Video chatting is one of the most popular uses for webcams these days. Many webcams are designed to work with Skype, making video chat a plug-and-play affair that grandparents really appreciate. The Skype-certified FaceVsion TouchCam N1 shoots 720p video and comes with a powerful dual microphone that captures sound from all around the device - great for group chats. One of the best features of this webcam is that you don't have to install any software, download drivers or anything -- just plug it in! One potential problem is that the cable may to be too short if computer's systme unit sits on the floor. A USB extension cable will solve the problem, though.
Buying a Webcam

Producing your own TV show or video podcast is another popular webcam application. Many a Web site makes money by streaming video produced with a webcam on specialized topics. You can create how-to videos, product reviews, lectures, concerts, demonstrations, juggling acts, or almost any topic you can imagine. It's entirely up to you. But the more action you incorporate in your video stream, the better the webcam you need. The Microsoft LifeCam Studio is a good choice, featuring 1080p resolution and fluid autofocus to keep you looking sharp as you move around.

Many home video productions find their way onto YouTube. Some webcams, like the HP HD-4110, feature one-button uploading to YouTube, Facebook, or other sites. The HD-4110 shoots in 1080p HD at up to 30 frames per second. A second programmable button on this webcam launches your preferred chat service, while a third snaps a still photo. Of course, even the best attempts at ease of use can backfire, too. A video recently posted to YouTube shows an elderly couple struggling to take a picture with their webcam (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2037451/Webcam-101-Seniors-Fumbling-elderly-couple-viral-sensations.html). Not realizing they were recording a video, the husband sings, flirts and imitates a monkey. So if you plan to give grandma and grandpa a webcam, be sure to sit down and show them how to use it. :-)

Other Uses For Webcams

Micro-video-blogging sites such as Seesmic and 12Seconds combine the visual impact of YouTube with the conversational brevity of Twitter. By limiting the length of videos, these services promote actual conversations that aren't possible when one speaker may hold the floor for half an hour. There are also dating sites that allow users to upload a short video, in order to give potential dates a much better preview.

Surveillance is another application for webcams. Software such as Tincam can control multiple webcams in strategic locations. Tincam can capture video and audio, and take still pictures. It can send its output to a web server, an FTP site, or a file folder on a local computer. It can even snap a picture when it detects motion, rather than recording hours of no action. Tincam can send an email to a specified address when a picture is taken, and even attach the picture to the message. Given the $19 price tag of Tincam, it can make for a very low-cost D-I-Y security system, with features that rival some very expensive commercial alternatives.

There are many webcam vendors that offer quality products. Aside from the ones I've already mentioned, check out webcams from Logitech, Creative Labs, Genius, and Hercules. Read reviews online before making a purchase, because actual user experience with a given model will tell you a lot. Webcams are fun, for the most part. They can be profitable, they can put a spark in your social life, and they can provide a measure of security.

Do you have something say about buying a webcam? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Time to Buy a Webcam?"

Posted by:

David B. Wilson
17 Sep 2011

What is the danger of someone hacking into my computer and using my webcam to have a look around and see what can be seen?

Posted by:

Jim Daniel
12 Oct 2011

You can find all types of fun effects and activities for your new webcam at http://www.SillyWebcam.com

Posted by:

Clarke Waldron
15 Oct 2011

Why don't I have a webcam?

I, personally, do not need more reason to be on the computer. If someone wants to know what I look like, I'll send them a e-photo.

For the most part, I do not use my computer for socializing. So, that is why not for me.

I am part of the 0.0001%

Posted by:

peter thompson
17 Oct 2011

Like David B Wilson has mentioned, I've heard about webcam hacks.

I did have a webcam, well actually still do, but it is an old one, so when I upgraded to Windows 7, it stopped working (a look up told me the webcam was too old to work on it). The important thing is the webcam was a plug in webcam, because I like the fact with one of those, you can simply remove it when you don't want to use it.

If I did buy a laptop with a built in one I'd probably end up having to put blue tac over it when not in use, I'm quite concious of being watched.

Not to add a store apparently was caught having pictures of a customer on their systems and so on, they'd been able to hack into the web cams, same with a school.

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