Getting what you paid for
Although the EZCam II comes with only a one-page quick-start guide and no user manual, the camera was extremely easy to connect and set up on our Windows 98 SE test bed. However, we weren't so fortunate when we tried installing it on a Windows 98 machine; the drivers on the included CD-ROM and Ezonics's site wouldn't work for us. We called tech support, and after receiving an updated driver and holding a one-hour phone conversation while plodding our way through various workarounds, we finally got the EZCam II up and running.
Once our system recognized the camera, we quickly noticed its weak image quality and resolution support. Technically, the camera's resolution ranges from 160x120 to 640x480, but the maximum useful resolution is 352x288. Dropped frames are a given at 640x480 and occur at any resolution that's more than 352x288.
If you plan to constantly use your Webcam with Microsoft NetMeeting or to make crisp digital videos to upload to your Web site, the EZCam II won't cut it. The color accuracy is surprisingly good, but poor focus, general murkiness, lack of detail, and the camera's struggle with low-light settings quickly overcome any gains in color rendition. In general, even major tweaking does little to make overall image quality anything above mediocre.
The included software is easy to use and intuitive. You can capture stills or make video clips with Live Express Video Panel and Video Composer. You can then e-mail, store, or print your masterpieces with a few clicks of the mouse. Ulead Photo Express is a good digital image editor that lets you create photo albums. Ezonics also throws in Microsoft NetMeeting and a suite of kooky games from Reality Fusion.
The EZCam II USB is an adequate option for your first Webcam. Considering its low price, you won't be left with a bad case of buyer's remorse should you decide to junk it after a few uses. But if you need a Webcam for work or have a little more money to spend, there are definitely better options out there.