First things first: Logitech’s QuickCam Pro won’t send any digital cameras or camcorders to the breadline. The latest version of the camera, that first sprouted under the Connectix family tree, can’t touch the image quality and sharpness of a digital-still camera or a camcorder. But the USB-only QuickCam Pro is more versatile than either device. It’s ideal for snapping still images of your soon-to-be-auctioned Beanie Baby collection, for video-conferencing in conjunction with a product such as iXL’s iVisit, for making QuickTime movies, or even for creating a Web cam. And the price is hard to beat: £99.95, including VAT and software for both Mac OS and Windows.
The QuickCam Pro shares its ancestors’ unique shape: it looks like a cue ball with a lens. But, while its predecessors sat awkwardly in a chintzy plastic stand, the QuickCam Pro includes a slick base that can sit atop your monitor or, via a spring-loaded mechanism, clamp onto a desk or shelf. You can also pop the ball out of its base and mount it on a tripod. The camera accepts snap-on lenses; Logitech sells a lens kit that includes wide-angle and telephoto adaptors.
As for software, the camera includes two simple programs. Cyberauctioneers will make good use of QuickPICT, which snaps still images, saving them to the Clipboard, or to disk. QuickMovie captures QuickTime movies at frame sizes of up to 640-x-480 pixels and frame rates of up to 30fps – expect rates closer to 15fps on most Macs. A time-lapse feature can snap an image at intervals you specify.
The camera works very well, although focusing is difficult, particularly at 640-x-480 pixels, where there’s a noticeable delay between image updates. As for the image quality – let’s just say it’s great for the price. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a QuickCam Pro image for an auction site, or a family or school project. For more demanding applications – well, we would hesitate.
The QuickCam Pro also works with other QuickTime-compatible software, such as Rearden Technology’s SiteCam
If you already have a video camera, a USB-based capture device – such as XLR8’s InterView – may be a better bet. And, if all you need are still images for a Web site, you might consider a low-end digital camera. But, if you want one inexpensive device that lets you grab everything from decent-quality snapshots and Web-cam images, to time-lapse movies – and that works on either the Mac OS or Windows – you can’t go wrong with the QuickCam Pro.