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How to Choose a Webcam

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  • How to Choose a Webcam

    Webcams, apart from letting your far away friends see you, can also be used to create personal videos, small video e-mail messages, take digital photographs etc. With a sea of brands and models to choose from, here’s how to understand the indispensable features of a Webcam to find the right one for you.

    ? Resolution and speed. The quality of the images that you send will depend primarily on your Webcam's resolution. Camera resolution is measured in pixels: The more per frame the better. Typical resolutions are from 160×120 to 640×480 dpi (dots per inch). While it’s sensible to go for a camera that supports larger pixel levels, it also depends on your bandwidth. High resolution images go slower, so you need a fast internet connection.

    Coming to speed now, Webcams capture a series of still images called frames, which is then emulated as video. By and large, your Webcam must offer 10 to 30 fps (frames per second) , although frame-capture will depend upon your computer's performance, Internet line speed and the connection interface your Webcam uses. The smoothness and quality of the transmission so depends upon the number of frames your cam can display in a second; here again: higher the better.

    ? Connecting interface. Next up is determining the port, which lets your Webcam talk to your computer at higher transfer speeds. For Webcams you have the choice of USB and Parallel or Serial ports. USB 2.0 has transfer speed up to 30 fps, which can produce the best image quality as it’s the fastest interface available. As technology has evolved quite a bit, Webcams are moving to faster interfaces like FireWire. Be careful when checking the specs of your Webcam as there are manufactures who blatantly advertise their product as USB 2.0 "compatible". Compatible, as against compliant, means the camera will work on a USB 2.0 connection but not use USB 2.0 capabilities, i.e. functions as a USB 1.1 cam even though connected to USB 2.0.

    ? Controls and features. Most Webcams have manual focus, which makes it easier for you to broadcast yourself. Lens must be of superior quality, which can adjust to variable lighting and conditions. A Webcam with a steady mounting system allows you to adjust it both vertically (tilt) and horizontally (pan). Some Webcams can be detached from their stands, allowing you to take pictures and films with more mobility. There are wireless Webcams that allow capturing video on your computer despite being about 75 feet away. And then there are some models that have internal memory at around 8MB plus, that can be used for storing still images and movie clips. The capability of a Webcam to zoom is also a good feature.