iMage USB Webcam

Not every Mac ships with a built-in iSight camera, but that doesnit mean you have to go without. Ecammis iMage webcam adds video capabilities to most Macs without any special mounting hardware or drivers.

The iMage requires Mac OS X 10.4.3 or higher and a USB 2.0 port, includes a swivel base that works as a mounting bracket for portable Macs, and also includes a built-in magnetic mount. It doesnit require any special drivers, although you do need a special plug-in to use the camera with iChat. The plug-in is free, but you have to download it from the Ecamm Network Web site.

The iMage attaches to your laptop with its built-in clamp.

In addition to iChat AV, the iMage is compatible with most other applications, including Skype, that can use a webcam.

I tested the camera on an 867MHz iBook G4 just to see how it held up on a slower Mac, and it performed comparably to an iSight camera on the same iBook. The image wasnit broadcast quality, but it was perfectly fine for Internet-based chats: Not blurry, jumpy or full of pixelated artifacts.

The iMage works great for Web chats.

One thing that is missing, however, is a microphone. If you are using the iMage with an iBook or PowerBook, thatis not a big deal since these Macs include a built-in mic. If you plan to use the camera with a Mac mini or a tower-style Mac for video chats, youill need to provide your own mic.

The camera includes its own carrying pouch.

The iMage also comes with a carrying pouch so you have a scratch-free place to store it when not in use. Unfortunately, the pouch is too small to hold the camera and its USB cable.

The Bottom Line
Affordable alternatives to the iSight camera are nice to find, especially now that Appleis webcam is difficult to come by. The iMage USB webcam offers perfectly acceptable image quality in a compact and portable case, and at a better price than Appleis camera, too. But the lack of a built-in microphone may be a turn-off to some. And donit forget to download the Ecamm iChat plug-in if you plan on using the camera with iChat AV.

Product: iMage USB Webcam

Company: Ecamm Network

List Price: $59.95


Pros: Compact size, good image quality, no extra drivers needed.
Cons: Carrying pouch doesn\'t hold USB cable, no built-in microphone.