13 Webcams Reviewed

Creative Labs Live! Cam Optia Pro

Webcam Center

The included WebCam Center software enables you to do surveillance on your cozy apartment when you are away, for example, to see if there arent any mice that come out, the children are not watching TV instead of doing their homework, etc. The camera will upload the images captured by itself at regular intervals (from 1 second to several hours) and then all can be accessed online.

You can also opt for an automatic alert. If the camera detects movement, it will send you an email with an attached photo. This means avoiding surveillance on an empty apartment where there is no activity.

In addition, the accompanying software provided enables you to make up to 1.3 Mpixel videos although it uses software interpolation. The only problem is that you will be limited by the length of the peripherals cable.

We have already tested the two most recent Optia models. The first version received a good deal of criticism.  The second added improvements, so it will be tough for the Optia Pro to beat it.

This webcam still has the same elegant design, face tracking, automatic focus, microphones that are supposed to eliminate background noise, etc. With a resolution of 1.3 MPixels, the  quality of the sensor is somewhere between that of the first and second Optia models.

Only the color has been changed.
 
The three webcams have exactly the same look but differ in color. 

The three webcams have exactly the same shape, but differ in color.  But be careful: the difference in quality between the mediocre Optia and Optia AF and this Webcam is radical.

  For the Optia Pro, the manufacturer chose gray in order to symbolize the mid-range.

Light and compact, the LiveCam Optia Pro features an attractive design.  Its gray, glossy body and almost transparent base give it a lightweight look, which saves the entirely plastic-finished Webcam from looking cheap.

Another very positive point is the fixation system.  It’s rare to find a webcam that is well suited for all types of screens, even when the manufacturer says it is.  Here, we didn’t have any problem.  Not only is the system well conceived, it functions perfectly.
 
One last favorable design point: the webcam pivots horizontally up to 270° which can be quite practical in some situations.
 
Image quality at night should be fixed.

 
During the day, the Optia Pro has no problems.  The image is very reactive and doesn’t lack detail.  Also, colors are well rendered.  Our second area of evaluation is based on how the webcam does in a poorly lit environment, and here the Optia Pro does have trouble.  With automatic settings, the image is very dark (as it was with the first version of this webcam). When we move into manual mode to increase gain and exposure, the image rate falls.  At this point, we couldn’t move too much otherwise the entire screen would become covered with afterglow.

Good sound quality

The Optia Pro has two microphones which are supposedly optimized for the reduction of ambient noise.   We wanted to verify this, and discovered the voice of the speaker is indeed recognizable.   There wasn’t the impression that someone was speaking from the back of a cave (sound reproduction that is often encountered in the microphone portion of our tests), and there was no saturation.  As for background noise, we could slightly hear the PC and its fan but there was no blowing or shrill sounds.

The unit also ships with a seperate attachable microphone with earphones.

Creative Labs Live! Cam Optia Pro
PlusesMinuses
  • Plug and Play
  • Very good rendering during the day
  • Design and ergonomics (the fixation system)
  • Numerous additional applications
  • Night time rendering
  • Bulky

During the day, this webcam offers nice rendering. On the other hand, for those that have poor lighting in the room, they should opt for the Optia AF which offers superior quality in this type of situation.

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25 comments
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  • vaskodogama
    does really a webcam need to be reviewd? :D
  • Gutbop
    Yeah, I think it's a great review. I just purchased a 25.5" Asus monitor with a built in 2.0MP Bright Cam. My wife got on a video conference with her friends and loved it, so now I'm looking for one for her. By the way, how do these compare with my built-in Web Cam? I can't find any specs other than the 2.0MP.
  • Gutbop
    However... It would have been nice to have a price list (there's not even a mention of price in each respective camera's review), and maybe a summary at the end showing prices and ratings. And maybe a top pick in a couple of price categories.
  • vaskodogama
    hey man! I was joking, Great article! ;)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    GutbopHowever... It would have been nice to have a price list (there's not even a mention of price in each respective camera's review), and maybe a summary at the end showing prices and ratings. And maybe a top pick in a couple of price categories.

    Hey Gutbop,

    Check the right-hand side of each page for pricing info on the units. We use a search engine to display the price results because the prices for this kind of product are so variable across retailers.

    Thanks,
    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor of Tom's Guide
  • hellwig
    Its a shame that only a single webcam seemed to come with security software (scheduled snapshots or motion detection). However, with free software such as Yawcam, I don't suppose its too big a deal.

    While I'm sure overall image quality has improved, these new cams don't seem to be any more functional than my 9 year old logitec QuickCam Express (the white golfball webcam). Sure some have face tracking (how well does that work with limited field of view anyway?), but the overall low resolution and general lack of autofocus on most of these cameras just doesn't justify an upgrade. Although the built-in microphones might be nice, sometimes you just need voice-chat, meaning a microphone built into the webcam might be unnecessary or redundant.
  • michaelahess
    I'd like to see more photos, quality is my number one concern. Also, how will any of these work in a meeting room environment. Is it plausable to use them for conference's? I guess audio would be the biggest issue with that.
  • crystalized
    no conclusion pages ? would've been nice to see what is the best webcam available on the market, what webcam has the best price/performance ratio, etc.
  • That Creative bundles home surveillance software hardly matters - the best-of-breed (for non technical users) is HomeCamera, and that's a free download from their site (www.homecamera.com).
  • JonnyDough
    Hey, I live in a college dorm and a few of my roommates don't have a PC. My roommates aren't to enter my room without permission/unless I'm there. I'm looking for webcam software that I can use to view my room but that I can leave on the screen because my one friend can and does use my PC sometimes for writing papers. I want to see who comes in my room, especially on the weekends when I often travel home. It would be cool if it would automatically boot as well from Windows Startup in case of a crash without a splash screen. I'd like it to be able to email me motion detected snapshots or something. Anyone know of any software that will do all of this?

    ~Jonny
  • JonnyDough
    Dangit, we need an edit button. What I wanted to ask is there a program that is COMPLETELY HIDEABLE that will do all that.
  • I agree with crystalized - a summary table or conclusion would have been nice for those not wanting to read every page.
  • Thunderfox
    Reviews? On my TGH? It's less likely than you think.

    I thought all they did was opinion polls.
  • What would have been nice is two identical sample photos taken with each camera. One in proper lighting conditions and one in dark.

    Without them, the review is rather useless for me. I mean, one sample photo included cheesy video effects. How am I to compare the quality of that one to another which has a normal shot. Not to mention the ones which don't have a shot at all.
  • mitcoes16
    i do like comparative tables, with actual prices, and, of course, Mac OSX, and Linux drivers and features for this systems. I use several OSs, and i do like products compatible with all of them, and if it possible with all the features at every system.
  • mitcoes16
    i do like comparative tables, with actual prices, and, of course, Mac OSX, and Linux drivers and features for this systems. I use several OSs, and i do like products compatible with all of them, and if it possible with all the features at every system.
  • joe 90
    oops
  • joe 90
    michaelahessI'd like to see more photos, quality is my number one concern. Also, how will any of these work in a meeting room environment. Is it plausable to use them for conference's? I guess audio would be the biggest issue with that.


    Hi Michael, we use a mixture of desktop and meeting room set-ups using Nefsis Video Conferencing. We find the L'tech Pro900 is great for small rooms (we did use the L'tech Sphere but had too many issues!). For larger rooms you can a Sony evi-d70 with a frame grabber (e.g. Osprey 100 - works well). Unfortunately it seems that there is a big gulf between top end webcams and meeting room based cameras. Anyone got any other suggestions?
  • What about the HP webcam? I have one, and it is great in dark & light. Autofocus is included, along with security software, et al.
    Why miss this one???
    Its also able to do 12MP stills as well... I don't get why this was forgotten in the rush to do Logitech & Microsoft (predominantly) webcams...
  • mrcomment
    I think that quick cam pro 9000 is the best choice today. You can compare it with other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/Webcams/194--Logitech_QuickCam_Pro_9000_Webcam.aspx or find other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/webcams.aspx.
  • mrcomment
    I think that quick cam pro 9000 is the best choice today. You can compare it with other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/Webcams/194--Logitech_QuickCam_Pro_9000_Webcam.aspx or find other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/webcams.aspx
  • In response to the security software for webcams, http://www.peekeez.com offers free remote viewing of your webcam. You can also record all your video remotely on the website, but that service costs $29 per month.
  • You can find all types of fun effects and activities for your webcams at http://www.SillyWebcam.com
  • Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000
    The camera used to be good, but now it's blurry, the colour is poor and it's totally useless to Skype or other video calls. The warranty is gone and now I have a piece of garbage around which I will have to replace. I know for sure that it will not be Microsoft again. I have a Microsoft mouse with the same problem. One year and I had to replace it.