For the quality tests, we used the same conditions as in the Webcam Shootout Article. Ambient light for the bright light conditions came from two banks of overhead fluorescent lights that simulated an office environment. The low-light conditions were simulated by turning off the lights and only having the ambient glow come from a laptop screen and a 17" LCD screen.
A raw snapshot was first taken with DV Rack, a product made by Serious Magic. This gave us the best possible capture from the camcorder. Captures taken while using the free USB driver and the WebcamDV product were then compared to see if there were any quality differences.
You can easily see that the USB driver produces horrible pictures compared to the WebcamDV software. In addition, the USB driver had a max resolution of 352x244, while WebcamDV could go up to 640x480.
The only visible difference between the raw capture and the capture with WebcamDV was the difference in resolution. The raw picture was 720x480, which is the native MiniDV resolution, while the WebcamDV shot was done at its maximum resolution of 640x480.
We are not showing the low light shots because they were black. In low light, the Panasonic GS70 did not produce any picture. Do not use it for low light surveillance. Other camcorders may do better.
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With the right software, you can turn your surplus digital camcorder into a Webcam on steroids. OrangeWare's WebcamDV software appears to be the best way to trick the operating system into using a camcorder as a Webcam. As you can see from the picture quality comparisons, a camcorder paired up with WebcamDV produces excellent-quality images and video.
However, the free USB drivers are horrible and you might as well plunk down the money to buy a regular Webcam. The best solution is WebcamDV. At $20 WebcamDV is an affordable way to make your surplus digital camcorder into a great Webcam.