The $70 Creative Live Cam Socialize HD AF Webcam keeps you in touch with friends and family with a creative suite that includes visual and vocal overlays that add a fun, interactive element to your chats. The HD sensor can shoot 8-megapixel snapshots or full 720p HD video, and the included Live Central 3 software makes it easy to edit your movies and upload them to various social networks with a single click. Of course, jumping on a jet plane and connecting with your loved ones in person is ideal, but the convenient, easy-to-use Creative Live Cam Socialize HD AF is the next best thing.
The main body of the Live Cam Socialize HD AF is composed of a plastic bracket that fits most monitors and laptop screens, with the camera itself mounted on a swivel for 360-degree visibility. The camera also has a thin stand on the bottom that sits even on a flat surface, should you prefer to have it on your desk.
The front of the camera has a large lens with an HD sensor for capturing 8-megapixel snapshot photos or 720p video, as mentioned above, and you can also configure the button on the top right to function as a single-touch shutter button or to call up any of your frequently dialed Windows Live Messenger contacts. Finally, the ample 5.5-foot cord is long enough to stretch down to the back of a tower on the floor and terminates in a single USB plug that transfers both video and audio from the embedded microphone.
The Live Cam Socialize HD AF is compatible with Mac and Windows operating systems, but you need to run the installation disc to install the Creative Live Central 3 software that acts as a hub for all the creative visual and audio effects. The software lets you toggle between capture mode and chat mode, which effectively resizes the menu and puts it out of the way of your chat window.
Like many Webcam software programs we've tested, Live Central 3 gives you full manual control over your photos and videos. You can set the photo resolution from 160x120 pixels all the way up to 4,384x2,466 pixels, although we noticed a significant lag in the preview window when toggling up toward the higher end of the HD spectrum.
The software also allows you to preset visual effects like face brightener and soft skin mode with a full menu of specific adjustments for backlight, brightness, contrast, color, gamma, and a mirror image toggle, and you can always access the most recently produced media files in the carousel below the main image window.
Additionally, Creative provides a copy of its simple Movie Creator, which lets you splice together video footage and upload it with one click to social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Photobucket, along with lesser-known online media services like KinKast, Youku, and Box.net. We played around with Movie Creator briefly and won't even begin comparing it with full-fledged editing software; its functionality is more comparable to the mobile version of iMovie on the iPhone 4.