The camera has a 1.3 megapixel sensor, yet claims a ridiculous five megapixels for still images although it freely states this is with software interpolation. What’s the point I wonder, save to snare the unsuspecting with large numbers.
Video can be captured at 1,280 x 960 at 15fps or 640 x 480 at 30fps. Image quality in Skype was perfectly acceptable and noticeably better than some bottom of the range webcams that we’ve tried in the past. Certainly the wide angle lens did have a real world benefit and the first time I used the camera the other party commented how much they could see to the sides of me. If you do want to keep what’s going on behind you more discreet you can employ the face tracing option, which zooms in on the face of the person talking. I found this quite distracting when actually in conversation though especially as it mistook a Lucozade bottle for my face on one occasion, which I was slightly offended by. There’s a fast tracking mode, which made the conversation feel like a mad MTV moment. It’s a gimmick, which I’d leave off.
A better gimmick is the Advanced Video FX mode, which lets you do silly things to your image such as a add a psychdelic shimmer, a warped effect or a photo frame. It’s officially Fun for All the Family. Annoyingly though, you have to manually switch between video drivers in the Skype options to get the effect to work, which may be belong the ken of many users. Also you have to have the Advanced Video FX applet running in the background, despite there being an ‘Enable’ checkbox in the separate console, which is confusing. The effects are slick but the implementation is anything but.
The crucial noise cancelling feature did work as advertised however. When the Live! Audio feature is turned off no effect is applied, which is good if there are several people present, such as a family having a conversation. If there’s background noise then enabling the noise cancellation works a treat. In one call background music blaring from a stereo was almost completely eliminated. The Directional Live! Audio setting cuts out all noise by filtering everything but sound picked up directly in front of the microphone. This gives audio a clinical digital quality though and is designed only for use in very noisy environments such as a web café. A better choice here would be to use the supplied headset, though you’ll need a microphone and headphone socket, connections which my ageing G4 iBook, for example, doesn’t have.
If all you require is a webcam with a built-in microphone then Creative itself offers the WebCam Live! Ultra, which costs a tenner less. However, you'll be missing out on the Live! Cam's noise cancelling feature, which works well and is impressive. All in all, this is a slick webcam and only the idiosyncracies with its software prevent it from scoring higher.