Demo '97: The camera that needs a Pentium

Someone had better invent a very cheap, very light Pentium system because Kodak's latest camera won't work without it. It's a video camera, the DVC 300 Digital Video Camera, and it plugs into any PC that has a Universal Serial Bus port.

So this DVC 300 has no batteries, no power supply, no PC Card controller; just a serial cable. From the cable it gets power and control signals and back down the cable it sends video. Clearly, if you have it plugged into your office PC, you aren't going to be replacing your family camcorder with this.

However, its features are obviously aimed at the office user, when you look deeper. For example, though it can do full motion video, it can't do this at full resolution. The user must adjust for high resolution, slow frame rate or speed up the frame rate to full motion, only to see the picture break down into chunky pixels. That's inevitable, given the bandwidth of USB, which wasn't designed for video data rates. It may well be true that it runs six times faster than a parallel port, but a parallel port is certainly not suited for full motion video.

However, it can do still pictures very well; and because it is entirely driven by a PC, it can also do them at whatever automatic sequence you prefer. So you can ask the CDC 300 to watch the door, and take a picture every second, or every five minutes; and turn the resulting sequence of pictures into time lapse photography if that takes your fancy. Or maybe an intruder scan system.

Bundled with it, however, comes the magic: programs to let you edit video, edit pictures, and even send pictures over the Net via e-mail. PictureWorks' Live Camera software will turn your photographs into postcards, and then fill in the sender's name and address on the "other side" and email them. It looks very friendly. Price and shipping dates aren't settled yet, but one Kodak exec was talking about $200 for the camera, and June for the date