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Need camcorder or digital camera with optical zoom to function as webcam via USB

Posted on 2010-09-22
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Last Modified: 2013-11-08
I'm searching for a camera solution that will allow me to stream live events (probably via ustream) with a device that has an optical zoom and tripod mount.  Any device that shows up as a webcam should work.  So I need either:
1. Webcam with an optical zoom
2. Camcorder or pocket camcorder that has webcam function
3. Digital camera that has a webcam function

I'd actually prefer a digital camera or camcorder to a true webcam in order to have an LCD screen on the unit on the tripod so it can be used some distance from the recording PC doing the streaming.

Requirements:
1. Must stream via USB, not firewire
2. 5X optical zoom or better - zoom must function when in "webcam" mode
3. Tripod mountable (without blocking access to USB port)
4. Works with Windows (preferably Windows 7)

Would be nice to have:
1. Function as stand-alone camcorder saving to memory card
2. External mic jack (for use when using as stand-alone camcorder)

Budget: $300

One of the Sanyo Xacti models had all the features except that the USB connection is via a base station, so can't be used at same time as tripod mount.  Another one of their models didn't need the base, but manual said the zoom can't be used when hooked up as a PC camera.  Sony Bloggie looks nice, but no webcam function.  FlipVideo devices don't have optical zoom.
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Question by:pcspcs
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Expert Comment

by:Michael-Best
ID: 33739981
Many digital camcorders won't stream live to USB.
Some that will:
Sony Handycam DCR-HC21 Mini DV Digital Camcorder
Sony DCR-PC105 Mini DV Handycam
http://www.bizrate.com/camcorders/usb-streaming-camcorder/
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Author Comment

by:pcspcs
ID: 33740142
Most DV camcorders only stream through Firewire.  The Sony model you mention is out of the price range of $300 max (really need to stick near $250 if possible).  The 2nd Sony is old and not available.  The search results for "usb streaming camcorder" that you referenced bring up tons of items that do not fit the criteria.  That's why I was asking here after spending a few hours looking through specs and user's guides of items online in hopes of finding someone who has a setup like I'm looking for.
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Author Comment

by:pcspcs
ID: 33740173
Oh, I should have added to the requirements list that we want to run at least 640 X 480.  Some older Sony camcorders had USB Streaming but it was around 320 X 240 or so.  I know that we're pushing the limits of USB transfer rate at higher resolutions, which is probably why they were firewire, but there's gotta be a better solution for a live stream than low-res webcam with no zoom.
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Expert Comment

by:Michael-Best
ID: 33740177
Fogot to say:
None of the newer camcorders have USB streaming capabilities.
So be sure to read the specs carefully before you buy.
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Author Comment

by:pcspcs
ID: 33740349
Yeah, I know.  That's why I'm asking experts.  A guy can only spend so many hours browsing manuals.  A recommendation from someone who is doing this already is what I'm after.
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LVL 34

Expert Comment

by:Michael-Best
ID: 33744973
Did you look for the first one secondhand:
Sony-DCR-HC21 US $155.00
http://cgi.ebay.com/Sony-DCR-HC21-MiniDV-Camcorder-20x-Zoom-Tripod-Tape-/250699766872?pt=Camcorders_Professional_Video_Cameras&hash=item3a5ededc58

USB 2.0 has a raw data rate at 480Mbps, and it is rated 40 times faster than its predecessor interface, USB 1.1, which tops at 12Mbps. Originally, USB 2.0 was intended to go only as fast as 240Mbps, but in October 1999, USB 2.0 Promoter Group pumped up the speed to 480Mbps.
That is why Most DV camcorders only stream through Firewire.

Or hopefully A recommendation from someone who is doing this already will come along.
Good luck
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Accepted Solution

by:
pcspcs earned 0 total points
ID: 34127974
Doesn't seem to exist - ended up using a Dazzle box to convert analog output through USB and works pretty well - not HD, but a whole lot better than webcam resolution.
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Author Closing Comment

by:pcspcs
ID: 34162470
found a partial solution
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