Video Camera Info

Steve Sarsfield (
Wed, 26 Oct 1994 10:11:15 -0400

Several people have asked about the video cameras for use with popular
video frame grabbers. I've spend some time looking at inexpensive cameras.
Let me share with you what I've found so far.

First off, I should mention camcorders. Today's popular camcorders, from
Sony, Canon, Panasonic, etc., are excellent sources for frame grabbers.
Plus, you have the added benefit of being able to take it on vacation,
record a wedding, and otherwise use it as a camcorder. If you're frame
grabbing beyond just using CU SeeMe, you might look at models like the Sony
CCD-TR700 for a little added boost in image quality. This model has the
S-Video connector, which gives you better images. Lower-end Sony's like
the TR30 work well, and are fine for CU See Me. But they don't have
S-Video and and have a smaller, cheaper CCD array than the TR700. They'll
leave you wanting something better when you go to grab a TIF, PICT, JPEG,
BMP, or TGA file. All of these models have automatic focus, gain, and
white balance - a major plus in my opinion.

As for black and white cameras, I've had some decent results from cameras
like the Panasonic WV-1410, a cheap surveillance-style camera with a manual
focus. I've look at a few other cameras from Sony and Costar and they all
work well with CU SeeMe. On the plus side, these cameras are cheap (about
$200). But it's a pain to focus them manually, and set them up,
particularly if your subject focus is changing. Some of the cameras didn't
come with a lens or a power supply, so it required a little extra effort
coming up with 24 VAC and a correct lens.

I looked at the Video Labs FlexCam, too. On the plus side, it's really
cool looking, and it has built-in microphones. It's color (for future
versions of CU See Me) and it's reasonably priced at about $500. On the
minus side, it's a manual focus. I couldn't get the Flexcam to give me
great image quality, even though it has S-Video.

The Toshiba IKM27A was one of the best. It's small - about 4.5 inches long
by 2.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches high - so it's perfect for portable
applications, or for simply hiding away in a cramped office. The package
is high-tech looking and comes with an adjustable swivel base. Everything
is automatic except the focus, which is fixed. It provides ample
resolution - 330 Horizontal by 350 Vertical - and COLOR video. The
suggested price is $399, also reasonable. Its only minus is that it
doesn't do S-Video. I was still impressed with its image quality, though.

We're bundling the Toshiba with our color ComputerEyes boards. The
Macintosh version of ComputerEyes/RT works great with CU SeeMe. We're
working the IBM PC verison of ComputerEyes/RT and are confident that it'll
work very soon with CU SeeMe. Of course, the Toshiba IKM27A is available
from us seperately for $349.95, or you can bundle it with our Mac frame
grabber for $759.95. With our IBM PC frame grabber, the bundle sells for
$619.95. Our frame grabbers normally sell for $599 on the Mac and $399 on
the IBM when purchased alone.

I'm still looking at ways to get an even less expensive (although
potentially less 'slick') package together. We have a black and white
version of ComputerEyes on the IBM ($299) that might go nicely with a lower
cost surveillance-style camera.

Steve Sarsfield, Product Manager .
Digital Vision, Inc. .
270 Bridge St. .
Dedham, MA 02026 .
(617) 329-5400 .