iSight Settings

Even though Apple's iSight camera is widely considered one of the best video conferencing cameras on the market, it's not perfect. One of the most common criticisms of the iSight is its lack of user controls for adjusting picture quality—you're stuck with the iSight's standard auto-focus and auto-exposure functionality. Although these features usually produce a good picture, many users would like to be able to adjust the iSight's focus, brightness, or color balance in order to improve the video they transmit to their iChat buddies.

Interestingly enough, this limitation isn't inherent to the iSight itself—Apple simply hasn't provided a software interface to the iSight's built-in capabilities. But there are several third-party products that do just that, my current favorite being the $8 iGlasses 1.0.1 (   ; www.Ecamm.com/mac/iglasses/ ).

After installing iGlasses, you get a new iGlasses Settings item in iChat's Video menu that brings up a window with a number of iSight presets; choosing a preset immediately applies the respective settings:

  • Standard
  • Extra Bright (for dark conditions)
  • Super Bright (for even darker conditions)
  • Enhanced (increased sharpness and deeper colors)
  • Black & White
  • Sepia
  • Crazy Colors (extreme color levels)
  • Night Vision (much like the "night mode" of many video cameras)
  • Macro Focus (for focusing on items less than a few inches from the camera)

In addition, iGlasses lets you further customize a number of attributes: brightness, edge enhancement, exposure level, focus, gain, hue, saturation, shutter, temperature, and white balance. Once you've got the perfect image, you can save your settings to a new custom preset.

iGlasses won't turn your iSight into a studio-quality video camera, but I was able to significantly improve image quality. Now if only I could get the people on the other end of my video chats to use it, as well—sometimes they don't look so hot.

[As a bonus, iGlasses also allows you to use an iSight camera with iChat on Power Mac G3 computers with processors slower than 600MHz—computers not officially supported by Apple for use with the iSight. And according to the developer, a new version is on the way that offers integration with a number of other webcam applications.]

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