iContact Camera – The easiest way to make eye contact online
Like the moldy drinking fountain in the park, or the dusty handrail along the staircase, the built-in webcam on our laptops is one of those ideas that sounds better than it works in real life. To fit on the screen, they are always too small, placed too high up and the lighting messed up by the screen’s background. Moreover, the integrated cam is also vulnerable to hacking and is hard to repair or replace. For those who spend time on Zoom or Discord, a good external webcam is really helpful.
iContact is designed exactly for this. As an external camera, it is smaller than the rest, positions near the center of the screen and easy to install and remove. I have been curious about how it works after seeing it first time on Kickstarter. So when the iContact team invited us to review it, I wrote back “yes” without much hesitation.
The iContact Camera was delivered in a small-ish shipping box. Once opened, I was a little surprised by how compact its actual box is, as it is smaller than what most smartphones come in. The push-open design ensures easy storage if you plan to keep the box. Packing is extremely minimal, you will see the camera on top without any packing, as the lens is protected by a fitted plastic cover. The USB cable is stowed below, tied up nicely with a silicone band. The positioning of the camera is much closer to my face height, so the image is not deformed and looks natural.
Now I have the actual camera on hand. It is stair-shaped and mainly made of plastic in matt black finish. There is a plastic cap over the lens to protect is from scratches. On the other end is the USB cable, double as part of the mount on your laptop/PC screen. Weight is very light so it should cause no risk in damaging any monitor surface. To minimize size, the USB plug is a Type-C instead of the usual Type-A. All more modern computers should support it without requiring adapter. I tried on the camera and used position #2 to match the thickness of the screen. The flexibility of the cable helps holding the camera on.
The camera connected extremely well both physically and digitally. Like all newer webcams, the Dell laptop I am using for this test managed to locate driver for the camera and install within 1 minute. Then I am able to access it using the “Camera” software built-in on Windows 10.
As the camera has bigger optical sensor and lens than the stock laptop camera, a little focusing is needed depending on the distance. On the photos, you can see that the camera can zoom out to normal portrait distance as well as macro distance equally well. The manual focus is achieved by rotating the lens to change the distance to the sensor, very straight-forward. Video was also tested with Zoom’s internal testing feature. Definition is noticeably greater yet there was no lag. Due to the small size, the camera does gets hot after a while, but it isn’t likely to cause harm.
I am quite impressed with iContact. I have always been under the impression that the stock webcam is enough, but after trying out, I find that you can actually look good on a video call with proper a webcam. I think this camera is a great middle-ground between running stock and buying a big webcam. With the COVID creating many opportunities to work at home, iContact is a timely creation.