Webcams that work with Mac OS X Leopard 10.5

Posted on November 29, 2007 by Chris Duke
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Apple puts their tiny “iSight” webcam into the monitor of every computer they make, except for those of us who have purchased a Mac Mini or a Mac Pro and have opted for a non-Apple monitor solution. Personally, I’m rocking a 27″ DELL Widescreen that does not have a built in camera. It has everything, but that! After much research and futzing around with the latest webcams, I found a few that work with Leopard.

I started doing some research on Google and in newsgroups for webcams supported by Leopard. Essentially, there are none. Apple used to sell an external iSight camera, but they discontinued it. So now if you search the popular webcam manufacturer’s websites, you will find absolutely nothing that supports Mac OS X Leopard. Nothing. I did pop into Best Buy a few weeks ago and found some non-name-brand webcam that touted OS X compatibility, but low-and-behold, it did not. Fooey!

Last weekend I went to an Apple store to see what they had available. They sold no webcams there. I talked with two Apple “gurus” and one said that they don’t sell the external iSight in the store, and that I should go online to the Apple.com Store to buy it. Ha, if only he knew it was discontinued he wouldn’t be recommending such rubbish. Now, there are a few 3rd party drivers in existence such as macam that reportedly allow Windows webcams to work on a Mac, but details and testing are sketchy at best.

So, I took matters into my own hands and after reading that the newer Logitech QuickCams may work on Leopard, I gave it a shot. Their website doesn’t say anything about Mac support, but that didn’t stop me. I promptly went out to Best Buy and bought a QuickCam Pro for Notebooks with the intent to test & return. I took it out of the box, plugged it into my Mac Mini, and ba-blam — it worked. It wasn’t the webcam I wanted, though, but someone mentioned that it might work so I started there to confirm what they had suggested. Success!

I returned the Notebook version and ordered the one I wanted, the QuickCam Pro 9000 — their latest and greatest. It retails for $99 but I found it at Amazon for $83, with no sales tax and free shipping. Score! I ordered it Monday and it arrived here today, Thursday.

The QuickCam Pro 9000 works great, just as well as its Notebook cousin did. I can use it with Skype for video chat, as well as Apple’s QuickTime, Photo Booth, and iChat apps. Audio works as well, the clarity is awesome, it sits snugly atop my monstrous DELL monitor, and its wide angle captures quite a bit. There are no drivers to install (because they don’t exist), so it’s just a matter of plug and play. Ah very niiice!

Here are the problems, though, since there are no Mac OS X drivers specific to these cams. The cam is capable of recording video at 960×720 pixels which is awesome, but again since there are no drivers, using the maximum resolution of the camera does not appear possible on the Mac. It seems to stay at 320×240 for iChat and Skype, but Photo Booth does kick it up to 640×480 which is not too shabby. It also can capture 8MP still images with its 2MP camera (go figure), but that’s also something that doesn’t seem possible. Photo Booth captures stills at 640×480. Hardly 2MP or 8MP.

The cam also supports autofocus, but I can’t seem to get that to work on my Mac (it does work on my PC). It focuses just fine on me sitting in front of my computer, but if I move an object close to the lens, it does not change focus. Again, not a huge problem since my goal is to not film my eyeballs close-up, rather a few feet away.

There are all sorts of features this webcam includes that I cannot access as well, such as their video effects (which are super cool) and filters which are all strikingly similar to Apple’s Photo Booth effects. No big deal, since Apple has quite a few cool ones built into Leopard. The all work fine, BTW.

As I use my QuickCam Pro 9000 more I’ll update this post with my findings, but that’s it for now. These two late-2007 model Logitech QuickCam cameras work great, without drivers. I’m impressed that they work so well without drivers, actually. Hopefully this post will help other people out there who are struggling to find an external webcam that works with Mac OS X Leopard.