The Creative Live Cam Optia AF, priced around £50, is the ideal webcam if you are looking to shoot objects other than yourself: your talented pet or your back door or your rose garden.
The Creative Live Cam Optia AF looks like a blown-up version of the company's . The larger size nets you a larger sensor, from 1.3 megapixels on the laptop cam to 2.0 megapixels on the Live Cam Optia AF.
You can capture video at up to 30 frames per second and up to a resolution of 1,600x1,200 pixels. You can take 2-megapixel still photos, and with software interpolation, up to 8-megapixel shots. The glossy, black camera is attached to a clear plastic base, but this time a ball-and-socket joint connects the two pieces, which allows for precise positioning without needing to move your monitor.
More impressively, the camera can be rotated 270 degrees, which lets you quickly spin the camera around to shoot objects in front of you. It's of more use on a laptop, where you might be capturing your hilarious cat or sublimely talented two-year old performing in front of you.
The image is automatically flipped when you rotate the camera around to face the opposite direction, and you can twist the lens so that it's facing down and into the stand, which disconnects the camera should you feel as if someone is staring at you.
The webcam's stand features two rubberised edges for firm positioning on flat surfaces, and a spring-loaded, plastic clip folds out to hold the webcam on top of an LCD monitor or laptop. You won't get a terribly firm grip on a thin laptop lid, but it stays in place and can even take a light jostle without losing its hold.
Successfully installing the bundled software means scattering a bunch of apps all over your PC. In addition to the Live Cam Console -- the main application for recording video, taking still shots, and adjusting the settings -- you'll install separate Photo Manager and Photo Calendar apps along with third-party app Muvee autoProducer for creating short movies with autogenerated effects and edits.
You're also prompted to download -- for remote access -- and SightSpeed -- a video-enabled instant messenger. We'd prefer it if the Photo apps were included in the Live Cam Console or left out all together, and we can't see anyone using SightSpeed when Skype is a better video-messaging app and more widespread. And both Orb and SightSpeed are free downloads, whether or not you own a Creative webcam.
You can use Orb in conjunction with the Live Cam Optia AF's surveillance features. Remote monitoring lets you set up the camera to record video at set intervals, and motion detection operates similarly, but video is recorded when the camera senses movement -- your dog stealing a nap on the couch or a co-worker swiping your yoghurt from the office fridge that's clearly marked with your name!
The Orb app lets you access the video feed from any Web-enabled device. Alternatively, you can upload images from remote monitoring to an FTP site, and you can have the files created from motion detection emailed to you. The time-lapse video feature should really be called time-lapse photography. With it, you can set up the webcam to take a picture at a defined interval (every 20 seconds, 2 hours, what have you), which it then stitches together in a WMV file. If you want to watch the grass grow with a webcam, this feature is for you.
Creative calls the Live Cam Optia AF the world's first
autofocus webcam, and while that may have been true when it was
released in May, it's not the only webcam to boast this feature now.
The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 features autofocus, and we found it
actually worked a bit better than the Live Cam Optia AF.