Creative Live Cam Optia Webcam
At a Glance
The $65 (as of 2/14/07) Live Cam Optia is a small, compact Webcam that's designed for portability: It has a spring-loaded clip that you can use to attach it to a laptop's screen, and the lens body rotates 270 degrees so you can capture video or still shots either of yourself or of someone directly in front of the laptop (or the stars above, if you prefer).
The Optia also rested quite securely on top of my desktop LCD screen, even without using the clip, because it has a concave, rubber-coated base that prevents slipping. The USB cable, however, is about six feet long, and it's fixed in place--you can't swap it out for something shorter and easier to wrangle.
We did not compare the Optia's video quality with that of other Webcams because it was tested as part of "Put the You in YouTube" (PC World, May), our evaluation of video devices for uploading movies to video sharing sites. In this story the Optia came in second out of five devices, losing out only to the Canon Elura 100 MiniDV camcorder.
The Optia's data rate is pretty high, at 1.4MB per second, and in good light, the color quality and sharpness seem surprisingly good--I wouldn't have expected such quality from a Webcam. However, I found that, when strong light came in through a window, the camera compensated for the exposure on most of the image but also showed some totally blown-out highlights--something you'd never see with a camcorder. The Optia lacks autofocus, too--you must twist the lens to adjust the focus.
The Optia comes with a raft of software, including several of Creative's utilities, plus muvee autoProducer, which will take multiple clips and fashion them into a finished movie with minimal fussing on your part. It also comes with earbuds that have a microphone embedded in the cord--a little inconvenient compared with Webcams that have integrated microphones.
Bottom line: The Optia is pretty inexpensive, and the video is pretty nice--for a Webcam.