Logitech's ClickSmart 510 is a Webcam on steroids. Serving as both a tethered Webcam and a digital point-and-shoot camera, this dual cam takes aim at Net-savvy kids and families who want to create Web content and share snapshots. While not a camera for that once-in-a-lifetime cruise, the ClickSmart 510 is a good value for fun picture-taking on and off your PC. Logitech's ClickSmart 510 is a Webcam on steroids. Serving as both a tethered Webcam and a digital point-and-shoot camera, this dual cam takes aim at Net-savvy kids and families who want to create Web content and share snapshots. While not a camera for that once-in-a-lifetime cruise, the ClickSmart 510 is a good value for fun picture-taking on and off your PC.
A comfortable and easy-to-use camera, the ClickSmart 510 looks ready to be tossed into a backpack for school or party picture-taking. The rubber accents and rounded plastic body give it a rugged feel, and when the camera is hooked up for Webcam use, its wide base keeps it aimed and steady. With a minimum of controls, taking pictures is pretty simple. The Mode button lets you cycle through icons representing the basic camera functions on a small LCD status screen. You can then change the setting for each function by pressing the Select button until you reach the option you want. It's very straightforward, if a little tedious.
The ClickSmart 510 sports a fixed-focus lens, but you can adjust the focus for nearby and faraway subjects with a simple turn of the ring around the lens. The optical viewfinder is bright and clear, although there's no LCD viewfinder. When using the camera for still shots, you just point and shoot; a loud shutter-release sound effect confirms your shot. Transferring images to your PC is equally easy. The Logitech software is activated by hooking up the ClickSmart 510 with a USB cable and pressing the QuickSync button on the camera, much as you would do with a Palm PDA. You can't miss the button--it flashes blue when the camera is connected to your PC.
This dual cam offers more features than your average Webcam but fewer than a full-fledged digital camera. When the camera is untethered, you can choose from three resolution settings for still shots, shoot video with sound, or capture a burst of five frames at a rate of one frame per second. There's a 10-second self-timer, and the built-in flash can be set for automatic, forced, or suppressed operation, although there's unfortunately no red-eye reduction mode. The included 8MB SmartMedia memory card provides more than enough storage for still pictures, though aspiring Spielbergs will want to purchase larger cards for moviemaking.
Once you connect the ClickSmart 510 to your PC, Logitech's software steals the show, with an efficient, task-oriented approach to viewing and editing your pictures and clips and to displaying them on the Web. Video is stored in AVI files but is converted to Windows Media format when you e-mail a movie. An included trial subscription to SpotLife lets you publish timed Webcam stills or streaming audio/video broadcasts if you don't have your own Web site. In our tests with a broadband connection, the live broadcast worked well. The coolest program included is a motion detector, which automatically captures video when movement is detected in the camera's field of view. Also included are MGI PhotoSuite III SE and VideoWave III SE, which provide an array of photo and video editing tools.
As a Webcam, the ClickSmart 510 provides smooth, good-quality video in bright light. Under low light, the image gets a bit noisy, but the quality is still adequate for home use. It also takes good still shots for a low-cost VGA-resolution (640x480-pixel) camera, though as expected, color artifacts were rampant in our test shots. Our daylight photos were slightly overexposed, with blown-out highlights, but the colors were generally vivid and realistic. The outdoor and flash shots also showed extensive color noise, and the image quality declined with the light level. If you want to make small prints of your photos, you can use the camera's interpolated mode, which bumps up the optical VGA resolution to 1,280x960 with little quality change. Overall, the pictures we took were acceptable, but if you're looking for a digital replacement for the family rangefinder, this isn't it.
As a Webcam, the $150 ClickSmart 510 competes with Webcam-only devices priced around $100, which means that you'll be paying about $50 for the still camera functionality and removable SmartMedia memory. Considering the generous photo and video editing software bundle, it all adds up to a good value for kids, students, and families looking for a flexible Webcam. If you're on a tight budget, you can cut the cost almost in half by opting for Logitech's ClickSmart 310 dual cam. But that camera's image quality isn't on a par with the 510's, and it has fewer features.