There are several new dual-purpose digital cameras on the market, designed to offer simple, point-and-shoot style digital stills and to also be used as WebCams when tethered to a PC. One such camera is the StyleCam from SiPix. This little camera is about the size of a credit card and is just a centimetre thick.
There’s no flash built into it, so it’s only really useful in good light conditions, ideally outside. The SiPix StyleCam uses a fixed-focus lens, but it does include a macro mode which can focus down to 25cm, for the occasional close-up. There is, of course, no LCD display in a camera at this price-point. Well, that’s not quite true – there’s a small monochrome LCD status display, which shows number of shots remaining and your settings.
The SiPix StyleCam comes with 8MB of internal memory and no way to supplement this by the use of memory cards. Since its maximum resolution is just 640 x 480 pixels, this isn’t much of a restriction – you can still take up to 180 images. The camera uses a CMOS array to capture pictures, which doesn’t give as clean and sharp an image as a CCD array, the normal choice in digital cameras. You can capture them all in one go, though, as there’s a video mode called Streaming Snapshot, which automatically takes shots consecutively.
When away from your PC, the camera runs on two AAA batteries, but when used as a WebCam it takes all its power from the USB connection. There’s a tripod mount provided on the bottom of the camera, and a tilt and swivel base for you to position the camera on top of your monitor. A carrying pouch and wrist strap are also included.
One of the strengths of the package is its software bundle. As well as SiPix’s own TWAIN driver for the StyleCam, there are copies of PhotoImpression, PhotoFantasy and PhotoMontage, all for still photo manipulation. There’s also VideoImpression, which provides basic video editing. iVISTA is also provided, for handling the WebCam side of the device. This is good for video-conferencing and for making video e-mails, which you can send just like regular ones.
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