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Sturdy and simple
Despite its small size, the 5.2-ounce PC-Cam 600 rests comfortably in the hand, and its contoured grip begs you to pick it up and click off a few pictures. A simple interface makes the camera as easy to use as it is to hold. One button cycles through camera mode, image quality, and self-timer settings, while another controls the built-in flash. A small LCD status window displays your selections.
The camera's tough, silver-matte exterior and well-protected power button make accidents unlikely when you toss the PC-Cam 600 into a backpack, but we wish that there were a cap to protect the lens. When it's in Webcam mode, the PC-Cam 600 rests in a sturdy, well-designed cradle and gets power via its six-foot USB cable. Unlike the spindly tripods that come with some Webcams, the cradle provides solid support, and it tilts vertically so that you can adjust the angle of the camera.
The PC-Cam 600 has many of the features that you'd expect to find on a basic digital still camera: red-eye reduction, automatic and manual flash modes, a self-timer, and three resolution settings. The fixed-focus lens provides adequate sharpness from three feet to infinity, though the lack of a focus control hinders close-up Webcam activity. You can record up to 75 seconds of 352x288-pixel video (with audio) on the camera's internal 16MB of internal memory or up to an hour of audio alone. There's also a superfast VGA-resolution (640x480) burst mode that lets you shoot action in five-frame-per-second clips. You'll need to add four AAA batteries to the camera when you untether it for still shots; we got a good amount of life out of our review unit.
Smooth images and a surfeit of software
Plenty of software comes bundled with the PC-Cam 600. Creative's WebCam Monitor utility makes it easy to set up the camera for timed or motion-sensor Webcam activation. The easy-to-use PC-Cam Center software downloads images, video with sound, and audio to your computer and lets you create albums in which to organize your photos. Creative WebCam Editor provides basic image-editing tools as well as templates for calendars, greeting cards, and goofy photo composites. Advanced users can do more sophisticated work on still images with Ulead's Photo Express 4.0 MCE or edit video and add special effects with Ulead's VideoStudio Basic SE. There's also PixMaker and PixScreen software, which you can use to create 360-degree panoramic images, as well as Oozic Player, an audio program.
As a Webcam, the PC-Cam 600 produces a clear, smooth image under average lighting conditions. And having late-night video chats without waking your roomie is no problem; the camera captures recognizable images even with just the light from a laptop's LCD. Whether we were using the PC-Cam as a Webcam or to shoot video untethered, quickly moving subjects suffered from blurring as light levels dropped; however, under average lighting, this problem went away.
The PC-Cam 600 produced surprisingly good snapshots for a Webcam, although our test images were still more suitable for posting on a Web site or a refrigerator than for putting in a photo album. We were able to produce usable prints in sizes up to 5x7. The camera gave us good exposures on average-value scenes such as landscapes, but the image quality tended to fall apart when faced with extremely contrasting subjects such as a bright yellow car in front of dark trees. Colors in daylight and flash shots were balanced relatively well, but tungsten, fluorescent, and open-shade lighting produced strong color casts. Blooming and washed-out colors were troublesome when the camera encountered backlit situations.
In the final analysis, the Creative PC-Cam 600, which can be had for as little as $125, provides a good value for anyone who needs a solid Webcam that offers lots of extras. If you're looking for comparison products, take a gander at Logitech's dual cam. Its one advantage over this Creative model is its removable media slot.