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Creative Live! Cam Vista IM
Creative's Live! Cam Vista IM is a simple yet effective Web cam. It doesn't do anything particularly special, but it does the basics reasonably well. A couple of nice extras and a low price make it a great package for anyone who is a fan of talking over Skype or MSN Messenger.
As one of the lower priced models in Creative's range, the Live! Cam Vista IM is a basic device. It's dead easy to set up: plug the USB cable in and install the software. The Vista IM is certified as compatible with most popular instant messaging programs, such as Skype and MSN, so shouldn't require much in the way of additional configuration. The included software also gives the ability to record video files in either WMV or AVI formats, which is a nice touch.
The neat little device sits atop a hinged tripod, allowing it to perch upon a flat surface, or alternatively to fold up and cling on to a shelf. The lens can then be positioned to point in the correct direction. You'll also need to turn the lens ring to ensure the picture is in focus. Once all that's done the camera is good to go.
Picture quality is fairly good for a basic Web cam. Colours are well balanced, avoiding the washed out look seen on many other models. There's also little in the way of picture distortion, so you'll be able to tell what's going on without a grainy haze obscuring the image. Low light performance is about average. The maximum resolution of 800 x 600 pixels is adequate for most uses, though it operates at a somewhat disappointing 15 frames per second. Dropping to 320 x 240 pixels raises this to 30 frames per second, though at this size it becomes a little hard to discern what's going on. The other problem we had with the camera was that it only utilises a USB 1.1 connection, rather than the more modern USB 2.0.
Creative also bundle a clip on microphone with the camera, in the style of a mobile phone hands-free kit. This is a useful addition, and simply plugs in to the microphone jack on the computer. Overall Creative has come up with a simple but useful Web cam, and it should accommodate the needs of most users.