updated 04:55 pm EDT, Mon July 7, 2008
QuickCam Vision Pro
Every Mac comes with iChat, which allows for video conferencing over a high-speed Internet connection. Unfortunately, the Mac mini and Mac Pro lack a built-in iSight camera, so if you want to use video conferencing with these Mac models, you'll need to buy a separate webcam such as Logitech's QuickCam Vision Pro.
This webcam comes with a 6-foot USB cord attached to a plastic clip. The length of the cord makes it easy to link the device to a Mac on the floor -- or tucked to one side of a desk -- and then comfortably attach the camera to the top of a monitor, using said clip. The clip also includes an adjustable arm to hold the camera in various positions on top of an LCD.
After connecting the camera to a Mac's USB port, you need only open the Preferences window from the Apple menu to specify the webcam's built-in microphone as the input audio device.
The Mac automatically recognizes the camera for use in programs such as Photo Booth or iChat. What makes this camera more than just a simple iSight clone is the quality of its captured images.
The built-in iSight camera, found on most Macs, only offers a relatively low 640x480 resolution, which captures adequate but grainy images. The QuickCam uses Carl Zeiss optics, and records in a substantially higher two-megapixel resolution. As a result, images appear far sharper than those captured with an iSight.
A unique feature of the camera is its technology called RightLight. Under poor lighting conditions, most cameras simply take bad shots. The Logitech camera uses RightLight to automatically adjust for low illumination, thereby capturing better output.
Another bonus is that the QuickCam captures a wider angle than an iSight. When recording identical images during testing, the QuickCam covered the entire room while the iSight concentrated solely on the person sitting directly in front of the computer.
Besides higher video quality, the QuickCam offers a microphone with greater audio fidelity than the one built into, say, a MacBook. When capturing audio through a MacBook's mic, voices can sound distant unless you lean forward. With the Logitech camera, audio remains clear at normal distances.
Although $129.99, the QuickCam Vision Pro is more than just an adequate webcam for Minis and Pros. With its higher output quality, the camera is superior to the built-in options on any Mac. If you value ease of setup, crisp video and better sound, the Vision Pro is definitely worth considering.