UVC Webcam: Creative Live! Cam Socialize HD

This post is about two things: “Universal Video Class” (UVC) USB Webcams, and my specific experiences with the “Creative Live! Cam Socialize HD” – a great camera with a completely unwieldy name.

UVC

Webcams and drivers: what horrible experiences most of us remember.  And if you’re running camera software on Linux the driver problems are only magnified.

UVC (“Universal Video Class” or “USB Video Class”) is a standard that describes capabilities of generic video devices like webcams.  UVC drivers are now built into Linux (Linux 2.6.26 on), Mac and Windows.  UVC webcams can be used directly with Linux and get mounted as /dev/video0 automatically.  No drivers to install!

UVC cameras have been around for quite a while.  (I have an old Aiptek pocket video recorder that can be used as a UVC webcam.)  It seems that more UVC cameras are showing up on the market, but they aren’t always clearly marked. If the box says support for “Linux Kernel 2.6” then it’s UVC.

I found an off-brand UVC webcam at OfficeMax for $20 and brought it to the lab to test with our embedded Linux video server.  Yuck.  The picture jittered occasionally as if there was a horizontal-sync problem.  You get what you pay for!

There is a site dedicated to UVC webcams.  It has not been a great resource for me, but it’s something.

http://www.uvccompatiblewebcams.com/

Creative Live! Cam Socialize

Thus, it was with great pleasure I found a brand-name UVC webcam for a reasonable price.  I found the “Creative Live! Cam Socialize” at Fry’s for $69.  It’s HD with a 720p sensor.  It works great with Linux.  It has a rock steady picture, and automatically adjusts color and lightlevel.  I have been loving this little camera and use it as a stationary surveillance device: I don’t use it to chat.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/16/creative-hits-1080p-with-its-live-cam-socialize-hd-webcam-laun/

This week that I found out that Creative had expanded the line and reduced the prices.  The names of the products have only gotten worse though.  Here they are.

  • Creative Live! Cam Socialize HD 1080
  • Creative Live! Cam Socialize AF
  • Creative Live! Cam Socialize Chat

The “HD 1080” is a true 1080p sensor, has stereo microphones and lists for $89.  The “AF” model has a 720p sensor.  The “AF” stands for “autofocus.” It lists for $69.  The “Chat” model also has a 720p sensor and it lists for $39.  I’ll probably be using a lot of the “Chat” models.

This announcement seems to have driven a price-drop on the current model at Amazon.  The old Socialize HD model is available for $37 today.

http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Labs-Live-Socialize-Webcam/dp/B002OAVQJ8

I just ordered two of them.