You want to make your mark on the Web with a simple Web site for your friends and family. Of course, you need pictures to put on your site, and for that, a digital camera would be perfect. Luckily for the budget conscious, low-cost options are now available. The bad news is, you get what you pay for.
Macworld Lab looked at two digital cameras priced around $100 -- IXLA's Digital DualCam 640 (part of the Photo Easy DualCam Edition for the Mac) and KB Gear Interactive's JamCam 3.0. These cameras are designed to create low resolution, Web-friendly images. You can check out the site we created at http://homepage.mac.com/macworldlab/PhotoAlbum.html
IXLA's compact Digital DualCam 640, the slicker looking of the two, captures 640-by-480-pixel images at two different compression settings: high and normal. The DualCam will not take additional memory, but the built-in memory can hold up to 32 pictures in normal mode. It uses a USB interface for downloading pictures to your Mac and includes a cable for viewing images on a TV screen. There is even an option for adjusting exposure settings to darken or lighten images.
The JamCam 3.0 looks rugged but feels like a toy. Although the built-in memory only holds eight 640-by-480-pixel images (28 images at 320-by-240-pixel resolution) you can add additional SanDisk media for more storage. SanDisk media is available through the KB Gear Interactive Web site and other vendors. The JamCam 3.0 has a USB connection for downloads.
Unfortunately, these cameras suffer from low image quality, sure to disappoint even Web newbies. Pictures from both cameras had noticeable artifacts, and lacked sharpness and detail. Pictures from the JamCam were muddy while those from the DualCam were washed out. After taking several blurry shots with each camera, we learned that very steady hands and still subjects are a must. That's not good if you plan on taking shots of junior during his next soccer match. Neither camera does a good job of indicating visually or audibly when the picture is captured.
IXLA and KB Gear Interactive do provide software packages to download and tweak your images. The Digital DualCam 640 comes with Corel Photo House 5 while the JamCam 3.0 includes Adobe Photo Deluxe 2.0. You'll get the hang of each application quickly as you'll need to touch up these images to make them suitable for the Web. (Images in our photo album weren't retouched.) Digital DualCam 640 images were easiest to work with as Photo House 5 was simple to navigate and to apply changes. It took quite a bit of effort -- and some frustration -- to improve the original JamCam images due to Photo Deluxe's limitations in adjusting color.