Free USB port
The iFive WebCam by AIMS is one of the first
USB webcams available. This WebCam comes with a nice bundle of software including
Howdy, VDOPhone, and M@X.
iFive camera specs:
Optical system : ¼” CCD
Active pixels CCD : 512 (H) x 582 (V)
Output resolutions : CIF 352×288 pixels, 15 frames per second
QCIF 176×144 pixels, 24 frames per second
Sub-QCIF 128×96 pixels, 24 frames per second
White balance : Automatic/Fixed mode (Selectable via software)
Microphone : Electret
Signal to noise ratio : > 48 dB
Gamma : 0.45
Gain control : Automatic
Iris control : Electronic
Synchronization : Internal free running
Video output : Digital via USB compliant with H263 and H261
Power supply : 5VDC/<2.5W
Control : Camera functions and frame rate are controllable via software
Viewing angle : 51×39 degree
Lens mount : Integrated, 3.8mm F3.0
Dimensions : 77 (W) x 62 (H) x 84 (D) mm
Interface : One USB cable (2 meters)
The iFive has just one cable coming out of it and that is the USB cable. You don’t have
to worry about power as it gets this from the USB port. Installing the drivers was pretty
easy and thorough instructions were included. I REALLY like USB. In my opinion, it’s
the best thing to happen to PC’s in a very long time. No more IRQ conflicts! Just
plug and play.
The camera is small and compact. It sits on a removable rubber base that lets you
easily adjust the angle and direction that the camera is in. The front of the camera
has a green LED that lights up when the camera is plugged into the computer. There is also
a small microphone on the front of the camera. I found this microphone work great. It was
able to pick up my voice just fine. The lens on the camera can be adjusted by
unscrewing it. This allows you to focus very close to the lens (even as close as an inch
or so away). The lens can also be removed by completely unscrewing it.
The software package that comes with the iFive will let you do video conferencing,
video email and multimedia postcards. VDOPhone is the video conferencing software
package. It is similar to Microsoft NetMeeting (which it is also compatible with).
With iFive and the VDOPhone you can create a virtual business card that includes your
photo, your name, your email address and a brief description. These Virtual Business Cards
will be displayed with each incoming call, for screening purposes. You can also build up a
photo album of your friends so that dialing is just as simple as clicking on their
picture. As with Microsoft NetMeeting, the software requires that you log into a
server in order to talk with people. I found that the VDOPhone server was much easier to
get connected to than the NetMeeting servers. The VDOPhone server is separated into
‘clubs’. This is supposed to help keep children more safe in the video chat areas.
Some of the clubs are: Friends and Family, Ham Radio, and Movie Fans. Unfortunately, even
in Friends and Family you run into perverts. While I was testing the cam and software, I
had a shirtless guy want to show me his ‘body’ <sigh>… Other than that, the
VDOPhone software is easy to use and setup.
The M@X software package is included for sending video email messages. This
package boasts of having 250kb per minute compression rates. This software lets you
set the compression rate has high or low as you wish. It saves the video files with
a .AVM suffix. It also (I found this out by accident) saves the file in your root
directory as a standard .AVI file. The .AVI files it creates are very large (7meg or
so for less than 10 secs of video). I created 3 videos with M@X set at different
compression rates. You can download the files below and check out the quality of the
M@XMail-big.avm – 89k
Set at the lowest compression rate (biggest file size).
M@XMail-med.avm – 31k Set
at the medium compression rate.
M@XMail-sm.avm – 27k Set
at the highest compression rate (smallest file size).
maxplayer.zip – 147k .ZIP
Once you create the video, you can then email it using either a MAPI email program or
the built in email program. I could not get the built in program to work but once I set
Outlook Express as my default simple MAPI device, it worked great.
The other software package that is included with the iFive camera is Howdy. Howdy lets
you create multimedia postcards that you can email to people. You can pick
background pictures and frames that you place an image and/or video on top of. You
can also add audio and text to your postcard.
This program is ok… but I doubt if I would really use it that much. For one thing,
the file size for a postcard that has a short video, music, image and some text is about a
meg. It’s about 150k smaller if you don’t include the player with the file. You do
have the option to save it to a disk, email it or even create a webpage out of it (this
just sends the postcard to Howdy’s webserver so that the person you’re sending it to can
get it from there instead of through email).
All in all, this is a decent little camera for the money. It’s easy to set up. The
Video quality is adequate and the software bundle is nice. The best part of the whole
package is that it’s USB and is easy to set up.
Nice software bundle
I never did figure out how to take a still image shot.