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Jun 23rd, 2009 1:14:39 am - Subscribe

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. SkilledWebcam 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.

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.
Logitech's classic Web camera is better than ever. The QuickCam Pro 4000 produces megapixel still pictures, offers improved white balance, and comes with a new IM Video Companion service so that you can chat with full video on both AOL Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger. While this model still looks like its predecessor, the QuickCam Pro 3000, the 4000 outperforms the older version, thanks to new drivers that deliver better quality and performance.Weighing 7.6 ounces, the QuickCam Pro 4000 is lighter than its older brother by half an ounce. A tighter mount for the 4.5mm f/2.2 glass lens makes for easier and more accurate focusing, and unlike with Logitech's earlier model, the lens does not protrude outside the camera as you focus. This cam sports a new, larger, ball-and-socket mount so that you can pan 360 degrees or tilt it vertically about 45 degrees. But unlike the more robust Veo Advanced Connect base, the QuickCam Pro 4000 doesn't tilt sideways. And the base mount could use some work; it tends to pop apart when you move it around.

As with mostPC cameras, the majority of the QuickCam Pro 4000's features are in the software. The camera sports a VGA-sized (640x480-pixel) CCD sensor, a glass lens, and a built-in microphone. The top-mounted shutter-release button lets you click off a snapshot using the ImageStudio software, though we found it too easy to hit by accident when positioning the camera. This Webcam also includes a privacy shade that you can flip over the lens if there's someone or something that you don't want the camera to see. This cover is mounted by the dimples on either side of the unit, though, and tends to fall off when bumped.

ImageStudio offers camera settings and control; still or video recording; time-lapse and animation photography; and a nice motion-detector utility. A notify tray icon brings up ImageStudio, as well as the camera control. You can view saved photos as you create them using the My Gallery utility, which also includes some modest editing capabilities. Still images are saved as JPEGs, while video is stored in the AVI format. If you click this QuickCam's E-mail Video button, the software compresses your AVI file into the Microsoft Windows Media (WMV) format. Interestingly, ImageStudio saves compressed videos to a file rather than firing up your default e-mail client. However, you can specify an alternate e-mail client from the Settings dialog box. You can also choose Compress from the QuickView window's Save As dialog box and select any compression codec that's present on your system. Our 2.1MB test clip shrank to 86K as a WMV file. While quality suffers in the compressed version, it's fine for sending baby pictures to Grandma.

As previously mentioned, the My Gallery utility provides very rudimentary image editing and the ability to add text to video. For more involved editing and special effects, you'll want to load MGI's bundled VideoWave SE 4.0 and PhotoSuite SE 4.0 applications.For a USB camera, video performance is good. You can capture 160x120 and 320x240 video at 30 frames per second (fps) with a reasonably fast PC. We tested the QuickCam Pro 4000 with a 1GHz machine and produced a 30fps video with a well-synchronized audio track. Audio quality with the camera mike is fine for normal speech. At 640x480, the frame rate drops to 15fps, though movement still appears smooth. We noticed very little blurring on normal movement in videos, something that has dogged all of the Veo cams.

When taking photographs, we found a delay of one to two seconds usingthe web camera's Snapshot button. However, the Take A Picture control in ImageStudio grabs a shot at once. In both cases, the audio shutter sounds immediately, which is misleading when using the button on the camera since the photo is captured a second or two later.The VGA image sensor and the lens produce generally sharp photos, with the ability to focus down to 0.25 inches. The barrel distortion that plagued the earlier Logitech 3000 is gone, though the angle of view has been reduced slightly. The automatic white balance gives consistent color between different light sources, but overall color balance tends toward cool. Logitech has reduced the default color-saturation level, which more accurately reproduces colors but with less pop. If you are used to the rich color of the 3000, the QuickCam Pro 4000's photos will appear flat. Logitech claims that it has heard complaints from men who looked like they were wearing lipstick in the overly saturated images.
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