Sharp Electronics (UK) Ltd
Imagine a camcorder that can fit in the palm of your hand and been designed to be used with the Internet. This is the new Sharp Internet Viewcam MPEG4 digital recorder.
The Internet Viewcam is the first digital camcorder to use the new MPEG4 video compression format. The format is able to compress video to a greater degree than the original MPEG standard and so you can create video without it taking up too much storage, so it is ideal for using on web sites where you do not want long download times. The downside is that the video is of a lower quality, but it is still sufficient for the web. The camera stores its data on the supplied 4MB SmartMedia card, which will save an average of seven minutes of video on the most popular settings. SmartMedia is a magnetic storage medium that is physically the size of a large stamp and comes in several sizes, up to 32Mb. To read the data from the SmartMedia card to a PC you use the included floppy disk adaptor. You simply slot the SmartMedia card into the adaptor and put the adaptor into your floppy disk drive and read the card as if it were a floppy disk.
There are several quality settings for the camera, depending on the amount of compression you wish to apply to your video. Setting the camera to the highest setting, will allow for approximately one minute and sixteen seconds of fairly smooth video. On the other end of the scale, using the lowest setting will bring you approximately 16 minutes of low quality video. SmartMedia cards up to 32MB are available, so these times can be extended.
Still pictures cna also be taken with the Internet Viewcam. It takes pictures in at a resolution of 640 x 480, although the results were a little disappointing. The imageswere sometime a little soft, lacking definition. For best results you need a really brightly lit location. Still images are stored on the camera in JPEG format, a universal format used by most digital cameras.
Video is transferred to the PC using Microsoft's advanced streaming format (ASF). This is a new format which allows for fast transfer and while it is new at the moment, it is expected to become widely supported soon. The other included package, Pixlab's Media Browser, lets the user can view the contents of the SmartMedia card with the use of picture thumbnails. You can then attach pictures and movies to your emails or use them on your web site.
Unfortunately, the colour backlit LCD display consumes a lot of power. A single set of four AA batteries will provide one hour of continuous use, although an optional power adaptor is available.