If you’ve bought an iMac, MacBook, or MacBook Pro in the past couple of years, you’ve got iSight’s video camera built in.
What’s iSight good for, besides goofy photos in PhotoBooth? Plenty, except for one thing. Wil and I argue about this all the time, but video quality is not that great with the built-in iSight, especially in low light.
Both of us are surprised at how few Mac users even bother with iSight via iChat or Skype, so we asked around—our Mac using friends, and those here in the office. For the most part, our informal and less-than-scientific-survey came back with, “Oh, the camera? It’s cool. I’ve used it. The quality isn’t all that great.”
It’s hard to argue with that kind of response. Having iSight built-in to new Macs is very cool. Being able to use iChat for video conferences is more than handy, is mandatory for those of us with Mac family and friends who live far away. Still, video conferencing Mac-to-Mac hasn’t caught on as Wil and I predicted it would.
Why not? One of the culprits has to be people’s unwillingness to show how they look to everyone else on the other side. Another issue may have to do with the overall quality of the video. Calling it modest quality is being kind.
Apple doesn’t go into much detail about the iSight camera. There’s a microphone built-in, too, and it does an admirable job with audio. The camera provides decent video, with good color saturation, and H.264 video compression via the Mac makes for higher quality video files in smaller sizes.
iGlasses is one of those must-have utilities that you gotta have once you’ve tried it out. The iSight camera on your Mac comes with more capability than Apple tells us. Using iGlasses, Mac users can manipulate and adjust the video settings of the iSight camera right inside iChat or iMovie or PhotoBooth or Skype (when they get a version that works with OS X Leopard).
iSight’s video colors and brightness can be adjusted with a click—perfect for using your Mac in low light situations. If you still have one of the older external Firewire iSight cameras, iGlasses makes it work better than when new with extra brightness levels.
In fact, even if you’re not using iSight as your default camera, iGlasses works with Logitech’s QuickCam, Ecamm’s own iMage USB webcam, and other video cameras that use the UVC or macam driver.
The feature list is extensive, handy, and easy to use. There’s a green looking Night Vision setting, a manual focus setting, and you can even rotate and mirror image your video, which makes using Photo Booth even more fun. iSight doesn’t come with a zoom feature, but iGlasses does let you adjust the video with a digital pan and zoom effect.
Other fine-tuning effects include brightness, contrast, color balance, saturation, manual focus, and more. See? These are the features that should be built in to iSight in the first place, but iGlasses lets you access all those features for less than $10.
The Ecamm folks have been Mac developers for quite awhile and have other nifty utilities for your Mac, including a tiny web cam for those of us with a Mac mini or PowerMac or PowerBook or iBook or old iMac or new MacPro—those machines without a built-in camera.
Sometimes it appears as if Apple leaves things out just to spur development within the Mac software community. If so, then necessity truly is the mother of invention. Take a look at these nifty utilities and you’ll see the inventions spawned by necessity.