Cheap FireWire webcam for iChat AV

in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Is there anything cheaper then iSight out there? Also how good do USB cams work with iChatAV with the hack for them? I am on a budget and I don't want to have to try to bum a dv camcorder out of people all next year! I am thinking $60 or less. Even iBot is expensive and it does not even have a mic.


  • Reply 1 of 8
    Why not go all the way, and buy something that's built with quailty. USB won't be fast enough for broudband, you'd just be wasting your money and time to get a good picture.
  • Reply 2 of 8
    i bought a 250MB firewire zip drive about a year and a half ago when i got my 500Mhz Tibook and it came with a free logitech quickcam express USB webcam. It sat in the box for about a year until the macam driver was updated to work with it.

    It does work with iChatAV (using the USB/under 600Mhz hack), but as previously stated, the quality is pretty lame (slow, delayed and blurry movements) likely due the slow speed of USB. BUT, it does work, and it's basically free.

    BTW i haven't actually chatted with anyone using it, but i can see myself in the "test" window in ichat on my computer, so it should work.

    regarding the mic, i think the TiBook has a built in mic (because when i talk, i can see the decibel bars moving up and down in the iChatAV window). The logitech webcam doesn't have a mic.
  • Reply 3 of 8
    gizzmonicgizzmonic Posts: 511member
    Here's my iChat AV cam:

    Sure, it's a little out of your price range, but it works GREAT! (the only problem I have is that it doesn't like to stay on if I don't have a tape in it and recording...
  • Reply 4 of 8
    stoostoo Posts: 1,490member
    USB webcam usually only support 640x480 at 15 frames per second. 30fps is only possible at lower resolutions.
  • Reply 5 of 8
    matsumatsu Posts: 6,558member
    If it is an issue, then it is an issue with the camera not USB. Even USB 1.1 has enough bandwidth to deliver DVD level bit rates. USB = 11Mbps, DVD = 9.6Mbps. Do you call a DVD low quality?

    Apple likely chose firewire because it is the better technology, can supply adequate bus power and doesn't need a host controller on the computer. I'd be surprised if the stream delivered by iSight over iChat AV is much more than 250Kbps, let alone the limits of USB bandwidth. If the iSight delivers better picture it has to do purely with the camera's internals and design and nothing to do with the bus. The same quality and more is possible over plain old USB.

    If USB cameras have not supported particularly great feeds until now, then it has to do with the way they were built (CHEAP), and that they were the first salvos in the area.

    Kinda like MP3 players, people were doing them, Apple came along and did them better, same here, but the quality has nothing to do with the bus, only the one plug convenience.
  • Reply 6 of 8
    inkheadinkhead Posts: 155member
    Actually the difference between firewire and USB is that firewire is indepent of the CPU. It won't tax the CPU to bring input in. However USB uses the CPU to bring in input. This is why you won't see a 30 frames a second full screen USB camera. Besides the 11mb is theory, and it has to be shared between all the devices. If you actually pumped that through the USB your system would slow down dramtically.
  • Reply 7 of 8
    matsumatsu Posts: 6,558member
    The CPU is involved in data transfer in USB, and firewire is independent, but that's besides the point. All the capture and processing could be done in the camera, and then transfered over to the computer. Even if USB could only deliver 1-2Mbps it would be more than enough, since the camera could not under any circumstances deliver a stream of more than 250-300Kbps. Remember this video still has to be streamed, through an IM client no less!

    USB IS NOT the limitation. IF USB cameras have sucked ass untill this point there are only two reasons. 1.) they were cheaply made, and 2.) the compression algorthyms weren't up to snuff. Apple didn't just use better components, they've most likely used better algorthyms (QT/MPEG4, vs the MPEG-1 of older cameras) That's all. Inasmuch as capture and decode are done in the camera itself, USB is just as good as firewire since the data rates needed for real time chat are well below the maximum bandwidth of even USB 1.1

    Also, the mac has two independent USB buses, a camera would be absolutely fine running over USB. There are cheap USB based TV tuner products that deliver 352x288 MPEG1 streams to your desktop. This is a cheap solution and it has completely to do with the MPEG1 encoding, NOT the USB bus. MPEG2 could deliver [email protected] within 9.6Mbps. Cutting it close, but possible. MPEG4 could get that down to about to about 500-600K, well within capability.

    Again, this is moot, since a live-chat stream would be an even lower bit rate, but just to drive home the point: There are USB based audio encoder/decoder products that support DVD-A. That's 9.6Mbps of multichannel audio data that travels over the USB bus without a hitch. Granted, it probably isn't wise to run something like a sonica theatre with any other peripherals on the same bus, but since Apple gives you two independent buses, you can easily put such a device on one bua and your keyboard/mouse/card readers on the other bus.

    Ironically, firewire has the advantage if/when you want to capture data on the device and encode it on the mac (then the data rate would be VERY high and USB is not an option.) If you wanted to make a really cheap device you could do it, but it would place heavy demands on the CPU.

    I heard that everything happens in the iSight device and a ready stream comes off it. But, there is that 600Mhz requirement, probably it refers only to the broadcast and recieve element of the iChat AV software.
  • Reply 8 of 8
    interesting. i guess the logitech quickcam express doesn't "suck ass" due to the USB connection - it simply "sucks ass."


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