After Apple released their latest 21.5” and 27” iMac upgrades, Wil Shipley discovered that the iSight camera built in to each iMac had been changed. Wil pays attention to such changes because he is the developer of Delicious Library, a program that uses the camera as a barcode reader.
From the perspective of the average user, the camera change is a minor one. The iSight now has a minimal focus point of about 2 feet from the camera lens instead of the previous 1 foot. Apple told Wil that the change was made so as to support better low light performance. Unfortunately for Wil, the change also made it more difficult for the camera to read barcodes in Delicious Library.
So Wil went back to the virtual drawing board and rewrote the camera algorithm for Delicious Library. The result can be found in Delicious Library version 2.4 (currently available as a beta). In a pleasant surprise, Wil discovered that, not only does version 2.4 address the problems with barcode reading for the latest iMacs, it improved the barcode sensitivity for all iSight cameras — the ones in older iMacs, MacBooks and Cinema Displays. Wil claims that the new algorithm is as much as 700% more sensitive in detecting barcodes.
I tested out the new software, using the iSight camera in my Cinema Display. I had no way to specifically measure a percentage improvement. I can say, however, that the 2.4 version is noticeably better at detecting a barcode. In the older version, I typically had to center the barcode before it was detected. Even then, I often had to wait several seconds before I got a response. Occasionally, I had to start over entirely, as the program seemed unwilling to detect the barcode at all. With the new version, as soon as the barcode is anywhere in the region where there are horizontal hairlines across the camera view, the barcode is almost always instantly recognized. Impressive!