Review: iMage USB CCD Webcam

A small utilitarian web camera that will not get in your way. (June 15th, 2007)

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Product Manufacturer: Pico Instruments with distributor Ecamm Network, LLC

Price: $59.95 US

The Good

  • Small. Multiple options for mounting. Inexpensive. Simple to use.

The Bad

  • Periodically drops video iChats. Falls over if the stand isn't secured properly.

For those of us, the few, and the proud owners of Macs without built-in iSight cameras, web cam pickings are few these days. One tiny inexpensive solution is the Pico Instruments iMage web cam, based on Pico Instrument's PICOVideo technology, distributed by Ecamm Network, LLC.

Small Camera with Small Plugin

This USB solution to the sightless Mac problem is hardly bigger than your thumb, and is nestled in a magnetic stand that is bigger than the actual camera. While it is advertised as plug and play, I ran into alerts that said my iMage was in use by another application when I launched iChat, so I did have to download the free camera utility, simply called iMagePlugin.

The iMage, produced by Pico Instruments, boasts a 1/7-Inch color CCD sensor that presents 640 x 480 (VGA) and 320 x 240 (QVGA) images at 15 frames per second. It works well in iChat. Instead of FireWire, it requires an USB 2.0 high speed port and Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later. It has built-in white balancing and auto electronic iris control, which accounts for the high quality color.

Mounts Almost Anywhere

The iMage is cleverly designed to sit atop your Power or MacBook screen. In addition, the magnetic stand includes two-wall mount holes and a threaded hole for a tripod, so your choice as to where to rest the iMage are not limited. It also swivels into three viewing angles. You might want to be careful not to place it on top of a hard drive or a Mac Mini though, because of the magnet.

Protected Lens

The camera lens includes a glass protective cover, so it is easy to clean and well protected, although that protection doesn't extend to dropping it. The white casing is easy to clean and the included USB cord is plenty long.

Minor Problems

The only problem I experienced is that the iMage looses the chat periodically for no apparent reason, which is annoying. This may be due to my lousy router though. When I replace my router, I'll update this review, if there is a change. In addition, this utilitarian web cam has no indicator light, i.e. when it's plugged in, it is on. You just plug it into your USB 2 port, open iChat, click on a buddy, initiate a video chat, and you're good to go.

Video Quality

People on the other end of my chats claim that the picture quality is sharp and well lit, plus skin tone is fairly natural. I think my video looks a little grainy, but is certainly acceptable, and it doesn't skip or stutter.

This little gem isn't made only for iChat either. It is usable in Skype, Yahoo! and MSN Messenger, plus a variety of other video enabled software, such as QuickTime Pro and iMovie. You can even use the iMage if you have an installed iSight camera too.

Other enhancements include a downloadable Tester application, to troubleshoot or verify that the iMage is working properly. It is compatible with Intel Macs and Windows XP SP2 and later. A menu option allows the capture still shots in TIFF format and video.

This is a great solution for us folks without a built-in camera, who have a spare USB 2 port.

by ilene hoffman, Reviews Editor


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