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TECHNOLOGY

Xcam2 Is a Good Low-Cost Option for the Casual User

Cameras: For the price, the wireless device offers surprisingly decent image quality, motion and color.

September 09, 2002|MATT MOORE | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Don't say you've never heard of the Xcam2 wireless camera.

If you're online at all you've probably seen its pop-up ads. They scroll languorously up and down, over a shapely model or across a furnished living room.

Turns out that, advertising inundation notwithstanding, this Web-based product was not what I expected. Instead, it was well-built, easy to use and fairly priced.

Made by Seattle-based X10, the camera costs about $100. It is marketed as an inexpensive alternative for home security--low cost but not low quality. And it fills that bill perfectly.

I hooked mine up to the TV and set up the camera in the living room, ostensibly to see what my goldfish do during the day when I'm not around.

The results were what I expected. The fish didn't do anything. They just swam around and nibbled on the krill brick in the bowl.

With its 2.4-gigahertz antenna, the camera can beam color video to its receiver, which you can plug into a television, VCR or computer.

I got crystal image quality, fluid motion and good color, though I did notice some jerkiness when I viewed the camera's pictures through my laptop.

My model featured the Ninja Pan N' Tilt, a clever device that enabled camera movement. That afforded a wider view of the goings-on outside my apartment when I placed the camera outside the window. And with the included remote control, I didn't have to get up from the sofa.

It's a nice effect, though the novelty wears off quickly. (The Pan N' Tilt camera kit goes for about $170 on the X10 Web site.)

Connected to a computer using an RCA video jack (a Universal Serial Bus adaptor is available) the Xcam2 can be a high-tech nanny cam, dog cam or watch-the-children cam. You can log in from work and view over the Internet. Mono audio is an option.

A word of warning: The software drivers for this don't come with the camera but must be downloaded. Others said they had problems installing their software, but I didn't.

The Xcam2 camera is small and sports an adjustable 2-inch square antenna. The plastic lens is 2 millimeters, fixed focus with a depth of field from 5 inches to infinity.

The camera does have some failings--not major ones--including low light. With the lights down low, it was sometimes hard to pick up images. Another drawback: The transmission range isn't very good beyond 100 feet.

For professional use, the camera won't do, but for the casual hobbyist, the camera works fine.

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