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First Look: Microsoft LifeCam Show webcam

updated 02:30 pm EST, Mon December 29, 2008

First Look: LifeCam Show

If you have one of the more recent iMac or MacBook models, you have a built-in webcam, embedded like a third eye into the top of your monitor. If you have a Mac Pro or a Mac mini though, you'll need to buy a separate cam if you want to do video conferencing or chatting. Although designed specifically for Windows XP and Vista users, the Microsoft LifeCam Show is a webcam that also works flawlessly with any Mac. The most obvious difference between this one and others is its size.

Only 1.3 inches wide and 2.44 inches in height, the Show's small size makes it easy to carry or tuck out of the way. A magnet in the back of the unit gives you a choice of attaching to a clamp or a stand.

The clamp grips the top edge of any monitor, and lets you point the webcam directly towards your face while you sit in front of the screen. As an alternative, you can stick the webcam to the stand, which consists of a pole with a magnet at the top to hold the Show in place.

The stand lets you position the cam in a covenenient off-angle location on your desk. It isn't adjustable however, so the Show always remains at a fixed height -- 11 inches -- over a tabletop's surface. The most you can do is adjust the Show's tilt slightly, whether to aim higher or lower.

A more serious problem is the USB cable that plugs into your Mac. The cable is slightly longer than 34 inches; this is sufficient if your Mac is sitting on a desk, but if it's on the floor, the cord may be too short to reach a comfortable height at the top of your monitor or the included stand.

The Show sports a two-megapixel resolution, sharp enough for ordinary video chat through apps like iChat or Skype. It can autofocus at a range between 21 and 60 inches, and captures images within a 71 degree angle, which ensures that you won't get cut out of a video just by moving to one side. Better still is its unidirectional microphone, which captures crisp audio from all directions and distances.

Despite lacking specific Mac drivers, Mac OS X Leopard recognizes the Show right away. You only have go through the System Preferences window to direct audio from the Show's microphone, and then select the device in whatever application is using it.

For $99.95, the LifeCam Show packs an impressive camera and microphone into a minuscule package. While you may prefer a webcam designed specifically to work with Mac OS X, you'll find the LifeCam Show works well with any Mac that lacks a built-in camera.

by MacNN Staff



  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Which is it?

    "Better still is its unidirectional microphone, which captures crisp audio from all directions and distances. "

    So it is unidirectional or omnidirectional?

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    not good for Macs

    The review intimates that this camera is a good fit for a Mac Pro since it's a Mac without a built in Webcam, but the package described gives you no way of conveniently attaching the camera to your ACD, which is where you would want it. The best option seems to be the "desktop stand" but many desktops vibrate like a sounding board given that they are suspended membranes. Putting a camera on the end of a fairly long "stick" on top of the average desk is going to introduce a lot of jitter. This is not a good camera for a Mac IMO.

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    XBox Live Cam

    My Mom has a PowerBook without a WebCam, but it does have a microphone. I bought her an XBox Live Cam for half the price and it works fine. It's manual focus, but when sitting at a desk it's not really a problem.

  1. webraider

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The Microphone

    Is unidirectional according to Microsoft's website. The clip looks a bit misleading as it looks the chord is in front of the clip which make it go on the front of any display. Something is probably the way in which the rendered the publicity photo of this device.

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Alternative For Laptops

    I've been using the Microsoft LifeCam NX-6000 for a little over a year now and it, like the camera mentioned in the story, works with OS X with no additional drivers. An odd bug stops iChat from being able to use it, but every other app I've tried recognizes it just fine (it works beautifully in Skype). It's got a similar 2 MP resolution, but the advantage is in it's small size and specialization for laptops, as it has a much shorted cord and the lens telescopes down into the body for protection when not in use. It even comes with a nice little zipper carrying case. I got it for $10 more than the one in the article, but I can definitely attest to it standing the test of time.

  1. CorDog

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Is it me or does this thing looks a little like Hal 9000 with rounded corners?

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