Sharp's Internet Viewcam Size Matters - HotHardware

Sharp's Internet Viewcam Size Matters

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Sharp's Internet Viewcam - Size Matters...

 


Whoever came up with the saying, "size doesn't matter" was living in a dream world. This is a family show here at Hot Hardware, so we won't get into the specifics of the saying's origin. :-) However, as with most things in life, size DOES matter especially when it comes to file sizes that are being displayed or transferred over the internet.

Although, many people around the world are fortunate enough to have high bandwidth internet services like Cable Modems and DSL, the vast majority, at least for the time being, are limited to a 53K dial-up connection at best. Remember the last time that insensitive T1 Web Screaming so-called friend of yours sent you that 15MB video clip via email and your email inbox took 4 hours to download? We're glad you didn't commit murder at that point but the judge would have let you off if you did. Perhaps, you remember the time that cool new First Person 3D Shooter Game was close to being released and the developer's web site had a real sweet looking MPEG clip of in-game action. Then you saw that the little trailer video was actually a 12MB monster MPEG, so you decided "nah it can't be THAT good".

Let's face it, most folks still aren't "big" on large file sizes (sorry that was rough). If your video clip takes too long to download or stream, they'll be moving on to something a little more byte sized (I know, I'm on a roll here). For those of you not blessed with the "digital phat-pipe", Sharp is trying to make life a little easier. For those of you who's job it is to deliver exciting content to the masses via the internet, Sharp has a weapon for your arsenal that could prove to be invaluable. This is a Hot Hardware Exclusive look at the Sharp Internet Viewcam.

 

Product Definition

Those of you with marketing backgrounds will understand this concept, although it's not rocket science. What is the product's intent, feature set and value to the consumer? We didn't want to mislead anyone with this review as to the application that the Viewcam is supposed to address. This product is not designed to compete with Digital Still Megapixel Cameras. It is also not designed to compete with Real-Time Live Webcams.

Rather, the folks at Sharp have carved out another niche' for Mainstream Internet Video Production. Frankly, it is not fair to call this a niche' product since applications for it are so vast with a potentially large end user market. Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at the genetics of the Sharp Internet Viewcam. Hence forth, we'll call it the "IVC" for simplicity sake.

 

Specifications

  • Model name: VN-EZ1U
  • Motion picture compression format: MPEG-4 standard
  • Still image compression format: JPEG standard
  • Recording format Motion picture: ASF, Still image: JPEG (Exif 2.1)
  • Recording medium SmartMedia: (SSFDC) 3.3V type 2MB, 4MB, 8MB, 16MB, 32MB memory cards
  • Image pickup device: 1/4-inch CCD with approx. 350,000 pixels (total number of pixels), progressive scanning CCD Square pixel, RGB filter, 4x digital zoom (can be used only while recording in LP, Normal, or Fine mode)
  • Lens Fixed with macro: F=3.4, f=3.8mm (equivalent to 35mm camera with conversion value of 37mm)
  • LCD Monitor: 1.8-inch TFT LCD color monitor (61,380 pixels)
  • Power consumption: 3.4W (when recording), 2.7W (when playing back)
  • Continuous operating time: Approx. 1 hour [with included alkaline AA batteries] Approx. 2 hours [with rechargeable nickel hydrogen batteries (1450mAh)]
  • Speaker output: 100mW (monaural)
  • DC input jack For included AC adapter (6V DC rated input)
  • External dimensions: (W x H x D) 81.4 x 89.5 x 42.0 mm (3.2" x 3.5" x 1.7")
  • Weight: Approx. 148 g (5.2 oz) [approx. 240 g (8.5 oz) with SmartMedia card and 4 alkaline AA batteries
  • Voltage supply: 6V DC (alkaline AA batteries, corresponding rechargeable nickel hydrogen batteries, or AC adapter)
  • Supplied accessories: 4 alkaline AA batteries, 4MB SmartMedia memory card, floppy disk adapter, hand strap, soft case, application software on CD-ROM, AC adapter

Movie Record Modes

Still Image Size and Capacity

 

The tables above show you how long a movie or how many still shots you can take and a what resolutions. Note that this little camera can use up to a 32MB SSFDC (Solid State Floppy Disk) Card and record up to 2 hours and 17 minutes on it. Now, in long play mode, the MPEG compression will be high so the quality will suffer but it is nothing short of amazing to get that kind of record time in a portable camera. You can record in two resolutions 160X120 and 1/4 VGA - 320X240.

Also, just in case you haven't seen a Solid State Floppy Disk, prepare to be amazed again...

SSDFC ( Solid State Floppy Disk)

Everything about this set up from Sharp is small. I mean we're talking "James Bond" kind of small. SSFDC has been around for a couple of years now and is big in digital still cameras as well. I am not sure if you can get a sense on how thin the SSFDC is compared to that penny, so I will tell you that it is less than half the thickness.


The MPEG Movies this camera produces are recorded in ASF (Advanced Streaming Format) so they are perfect to send via email or post on the web for streaming without the need to wait for a full download. The first time a user opens a file encoded with this, MS Media Player will download a new CODEC directly from Microsoft as long as you are connected to the net when you do it. You only have to download this CODEC once and it is only 100K or so. Once it is installed, you'll be able to view this format without the need for the download again.

So, you're thinking... "how the heck do I get that tiny little floppy disk to go in my computer's floppy drive?" With the SSFDC Adapter that Sharp gives in the kit, of course.

Still Image Taken By Sharp IVC - Click for larger view

That little notch on the side, near my thumb, is where you insert the SSFDC and then you just pop the whole thing into your floppy drive and you can access the files. Before you can use the adapter, you need to install a small set of drivers that come with the camera. These allow your standard floppy drive to read the SSFDC and the Flash ROM that is inside it.

As you can see, close up image quality is fair. Things look at little grainy and you can only shoot up to 640X480. However this camera is not designed to compete with Megapixel Digital Still Cameras. Think of the IVC as a Digital Video CAM for the PC that has the ability to snap still shots.

Also, it is important to note that this camera needs LOTS of light. Don't plan on bringing it to the Disco for some funky groove movies unless they have some serious flood-lights on the mirror ball. The camera does not come with an on board flash or light. In order to get good quality movies or stills, you'll need out door light or a well lit room.

 
So you seen enough snap shots, right? How about some video footage?  
 
 

Look out Dan Rather!

Here comes Hot Hardware's Davo-Cam !! --------> 

 
 

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