We’ve tried hard to think of a sensible, non-covert and non-sordid use for this little gadget, but we’ve failed. It’s a spy camera, pure and simple. So if you want to keep an eye on people, places or objects while you’re not in the room, either for security purposes or other reasons, this could be what you’re looking for.
The camera module itself is no bigger than your thumb (22 x 18 x 40mm), but it has a full colour CMOS video CCD built in, along with a transmitter that operates on the 2.4GHz band, which means you have to be careful that there are no microwave ovens operating nearby, as they’ll scramble the signal. Power is supplied to the camera by one of three methods – either a 9V battery connector (the most compact method), a 4 x AA battery pack or a mains power module, all of which are provided in the box. The AA battery pack will provide enough power for up to 12 hours operation.
Then there’s the receiver, which is about the size of a video cassette and which has output connectors for audio and video. To use the MicroCam with your computer, you’ll need a suitable graphics card with an RCA video input. We used an ATI All-In-Wonder card, with which the camera worked perfectly. The quoted maximum transmission distance is 100 metres, but that assumes no obstacles, so realistically you’re limited to about 20-30m indoors – which is still sufficient for most purposes.
We were surprised by the picture quality, which was better than we had expected. The refresh rate is fast enough to track movement and there’s a built-in light compensation circuit that adjusts the effective exposure so that the image isn’t too bright or too dark. The camera struggles in really low light conditions, but it’s quite capable of coping in normal – even ‘moody’ – room lighting.
There are two versions of the camera, both of which work in either PAL or NTSC mode. The basic model transmits only video while the more expensive version also has a small microphone attached, so that you can hear as well as see what’s going on. The price difference is significant, though.
What you don’t get is any form of software with the camera, but if you already have a graphics card with an RCA input you’ll probably already have the necessary recording software, too.
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