- Review Price: £14.49
I just came back from a holiday in Kenya, which apart from losing my Pentax Optio S6 was an excellent experience. At one point, I managed to swap an MSI T-Shirt, for a large wooden Warthog and a small wooden Hippopotamus. So somewhere, a local Kenyan is either advertising MSI’s range of motherboards, or trying to barter for some soap. Who knows, I might have just instigated the start of MSI’s new clothing line – and to be quite frank, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did just that. MSI makes pretty much anything you can imagine.
Today, I’m looking at MSI’s latest budget web cam, priced at a £14.49 including VAT. At this sort of price, I would be inclined to just buy it and hope for the best, as the MSI brand is pretty reputable and webcams are hardly complicated devices. However, this camera has a few features and issues that make it worthy of review.
The StarCam Clip is named so because it comes with two different methods of mounting. The main camera body has a metal thread, which is good to see as plastic threads have a habit of damaging quickly. Both of the mounting bodies have a metal screw with on a rubber ball that screws into place.
This ball is inside a joint, giving an almost complete 360 degree mobility. Both of the clips have rubber bases, so they can be used to place the camera on top of a desk or CRT monitor. But what makes them unique is a parallel clip design. One of these is slightly wider for fitting to TFT monitors, while the other is much thinner and designed for smaller widths like you’d expect to see on a notebook.
The camera body itself is made of a white acrylic, with a 2-3mm thick outer layer of transparent acrylic. This makes for quite a stylish look that certainly goes down well in the Spode household. The CMOS sensor is capable of 800 x 600 at 30fps, but the lens is glass instead of plastic for what is very good image quality. This can be focused in the usual way of twisting in and out. At the back of the camera is a standard mini-USB port for connecting and a one metre USB cable is provided for exactly that.
One of the unique features of this camera is how well it works in low light. One reason for this is that the sensor is sensitive to infrared light as well as the visible spectrum. To aid this, on the front of the device are three IR emitting LEDs. In a dark, or low-light scenario these invisibly illuminate anything up to two metres away from the camera. These can be very useful for various night-time activities… ”(mucky…ed)”
This feature is unfortunately also its undoing. There is no way to turn off the IR sensitivity in the sensor. So even when the LEDs on the front of the camera are switched off, it’s still sensitive to IR light – as proven using a TV remote control. The downside to this is that colours are a bit off – most notably, reds. Above, you can see what should be the red PCB of an ATI graphics card. Instead it is much closer to pink. My red fleece ended up a very, very, faint pink that was actually closer to white.
Included in the MSI drivers are a number of filters that work in real time. These are easily accessible from inside MSN Messenger and make for some fun effects. Above, you can see how a happy smile can quickly be turned in to a manic grin, by merely embossing it. You have to see this is real-time to get the most out of it, but it’s really quite cool. The various effects are a lot of fun.
Not content with being just a web cam, MSI has also included really easy to use security software that is pretty powerful. You can have it scanning the whole screen for movement, where upon it can record a clip to the hard drive and/or e-mail you a still shot of whatever has come in to focus. You can also specify specific regions that should be checked for movement. This is useful if you only want to be alerted when specific things are moved – your car when filming an entire car park for instance. With an image forwarded to your mobile device, you could instantly report a theft to the police.
This is a great camera with many features that quite frankly make it underpriced. However, the red discolouration is quite noticeable. Most people won’t care about this discolouration, but there are many that will so consider this your warning. Otherwise, this is a steal.
Score in detail
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