- simple to use;
- Built-in memory only;
- no LCD viewfinder.
Want a Webcam that can go places other Webcams can't? The PC-CAM 600 from Creative Labs may be the answer. This USB Webcam also has internal storage, allowing you to pick it up from its cradle and use it as a portable still or video camera. Although the image quality isn't up to what you'd expect from a dedicated digital camera, you're paying a lot less, yet still getting reasonable results.
The PC-CAM 600's dual use means it's styled like a still camera, rather than the compact design seen on most Webcams. Its curved design and low weight of 143g makes the whole thing pretty comfortable in the hand. It comes with a cradle that's merely there to hold it vertical -- the USB cable enters at the side. The camera has a built-in flash and optical viewfinder -- there's no LCD panel for reviewing your images. Around the back are the controls and the LCD status panel.
The PC-CAM 600 has a native resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels. The camera only has 16MB memory internally, and no facility to add more. This allows you to capture 85 pictures at native resolution, or 200 at 640 x 480. You can also take up to 75 seconds of video at 352 x 288, but only at 15 frames per second. The built-in microphone allows you to record audio along with your pictures.
The camera connects to any USB 1.1 port using the supplied cable. To access your pictures you can use PC-CAM Center, the supplied software. Creative PC Cam Center allows you to download your pictures and movies from the camera to your PC. You're supplied with Ulead PhotoExpress MCE to edit your pictures. Pixaround Pixmaker lets you create 360-degree panoramas from your snaps.
With the camera connected, you can use it as a full-motion video Webcam, capturing a maximum of 352 x 288 pixels at 30fps. The cradle tilts slightly so that you can point the camera at yourself when it's mounted, say, on top of your monitor. The video driver for the camera allows you to adjust the image contrast, brightness and colour balance to suit the lighting in your room.
One other piece of supplied software, WebCam monitor, allows you to use the PC-CAM 600 as a rudimentary security system. The software detects motion in the picture coming from the camera, and emails an alert, optionally including a picture, to whoever is able to respond to it. You can adjust the sensitivity of the motion detection so that, for instance, a piece of paper blowing off a desk doesn't set it off. Although we wouldn't recommend using this as your sole security measure, it's a nice touch.
It's important to think of the PC-CAM 600 as a Webcam with a few nice extras, rather than a full-blown digital camera -- not that you'd expect to get a decent digital camera for under £150. That said, its quality as a still or video camera is acceptable, and as a Webcam it's really rather good.