Targeted at teens, the Veo Connect offers a good way to test the Webcam waters without making a big commitment or a major cash outlay. It's attractive, easy to set up and use, and includes software chock-full of fun tools for holding video chats, making movies, creating e-greeting cards, and even building a home page. However, with a price tag of less than $30, the Veo Connect produces predictably low-quality images. Skilled Webcam fans, steer clear: you'll undoubtedly find the narrow field of view and loose focus frustrating. This Webcam's body looks like a sports-car spoiler: it sweeps up in the back to hold Veo's signature bright-blue LED. The flat base is sturdy enough to hold the camera in place on a desk or monitor, or if you want, just pull out the standard tripod mount. The ball mount lets you swivel 360 degrees and tilt 20 degrees up or down. You can also purchase the spring-loaded spider clip, which comes standard on the Advanced Connect model, from Veo's site.
While it has a slick design, the Connect can't take advantage of its three-element glass lens because of the focus ring's instability. The loose ring slips out of focus easily, which makes it difficult to get a sharp image. To its credit, Veo claims to be working on improving it. The Veo has basic Webcam features to match its price: focusing lens, snapshot button, and in-use light. The Veo Digital Studio software is built for ease of use, so it has almost no learning curve. You can record still and video images and store them in the program's gallery, which is essentially a set of default folders for photos, videos, animation, graphics, and music.
Want to create e-cards, Web pages for your images, or video productions with sound? Digital Studio's Wizard-driven tools make it simple. Or try the 30-day trial from SpotLife, which lets you post or broadcast your images and videos for your fans. While the Veo Connect doesn't come with a microphone, you can record sound using your own mike; the software also comes with more than 100 music clips and sound effects.
The f/2.8 lens provides a narrow 46-degree field of view, so you'll have to position it farther from your subject than other Webcams. The 6-foot cable provides plenty of room to do it, but this creates a problem for focusing because the optimal location may be less than an arms-length away. While you can use the camera for more general photography and video (albeit tethered to your PC), it's really best for static head-shot Webcam applications. You get what you pay for: the Veo's performance isn't great. The automatic white balance works relatively well across different light sources, depending on your subject. Veo claims speeds of up to 30 frames per second (fps) for video recording, but we couldn't get more than 15fps at any light level or resolution. Unlike Logitech's Webcams, you can't override the automatic settings to force a higher frame rate. More annoying, if you move the camera, even while simply focusing the lens, the image wavers and distorts. Nor is this a camera you want to pan with.
The 352x288 pixel (CIF) CMOS sensor provides three resolutions of images controlled by the Veo software: 320x240, 176x144 (QCIF), and 160x120. The 160x120 is gratuitous; it's just a slightly cropped version of the QCIF image. In our tests, we found the Veo Connect's exposure range to be limited to bright home or office lighting. Unlike Logitech's offerings, the Veo images burn out in direct sunlight and show a light blue cast in the shade. In low light, images are noisy and the automatic white balance has a hard time making corrections.
It's difficult to judge image sharpness because the mount makes it all but impossible to focus. The lens does show some barrel distortion on rectangular subjects. One word of praise for the lens: it will focus down to less than an inch easily. But focus at infinity is useless. Our tests with an 18 percent gray card and color chips showed acceptable color balance. Daylight shots produce acceptable skin tones, but the green in background trees was off. For low-contrast subjects, the Veo can record a good range of tones, but all bets are off if there are large bright areas in the scene.