What is so hard about making a webcam for Mac?

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I’ve been getting ready for Macworld, and since I have a young child at home who has made it clear that my going to San Francisco for several days is not the greatest thing ever, I have been trying to find a webcam for our Mac Mini.

I might as well be trying to find plutonium.

I have tried no less than 5 webcams at this point. Logitech makes several that, while they don’t support Macs on the box, do have drivers that are supposed to work for OSX. The problem is that even though Version Tracker says its compatible with Leopard, it doesn’t seem to be. I have tried two Logitech Cams and I even got one to work for a few minutes inside a software app using the mac cam open source driver, but even that didn’t solve the problem, because it wouldn’t work in ANY video chat application on the Mac.

Not one!

Now mac cam is a great idea. A group of open source developers got together to start making drivers for webcams because the companies that make those webcams weren’t doing it. My guess is that the thing just hasn’t been updated for Leopard – but I’m not sure – because all 5 of the webcams I tried were various brand names that were supposed to work with mac cam installed, and not one of them did in any sort of useable way.

Ultimately, what I had to do was hook up my digital camcorder to the Mac Mini via firewire and use that to work as a webcam for this trip. It’s hardly a permanent solution since the bulky video camera can’t sit nesseled on the top of the Mac Mini’s monitor, but it will have to do for now – I can’t find another option.

I understand that there isn’t a huge market out there for Mac webcams since Apple includes a webcam for almost every Mac product they have (except, of course, the Mac Mini), but still – is it REALLY that hard to write a driver? Is it SO hard to do this that companies can’t even begin to provide a solution for the Mac Mini owners out there?

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39 thoughts on “What is so hard about making a webcam for Mac?

  1. I’m in the same boat, while my MacBook has a built in iSight camera, my soon-to-be-purchased $3000 Mac Pro will not have one. Since Apple discontinued the iSight camera that mounts onto the Cinema Display, I will be at an iSight-loss. What am I to do?

    I looked on eBay and the old iSights are selling for $150-$200. That seems pretty expensive for an old, obsolete camera.

    The rumors of new displays with built-in iSights is not a solution. I already spent $1700 on a 30″ Cinema Display. I’m not about the buy another one just for a camera.

    What are all the other Mac Pro/Mac Mini folks using?

  2. If you have a look at this WikiPedia entry, you’ll see a list of USB Video class devices. These should be supported by Tiger or Leopard out of the box, with no additional drivers needed.

    I’ve also had fair luck with the Logitech Communigate STX, using the Macam driver.

  3. I once use a chinese made web cam on Leopard and it works fine with Skype. Never use iChat though.

    There’s a more cost efficient way if you have a Symbian S60 Phone. You can use Movino. I tried it with Nokia 6600 and it works! Not the best quality though since it’s a phone cam, but then again I won’t need to buy an expensive web cam

  4. I ran into the same problem… I looked through every webcam at best buy and only one was labeled as Mac compatible, but it doesn’t work with iChat and it’s kind cheap. I dont understand why they cant still make the iSight for those with Mac Pros and mac mini’s etc… unless they have new cinema displays coming out with built-in cams.

  5. I have a Logitech QuickCam. It works fine with Skype on Tiger. It had a built for Mac OS X logo on the outside. I don’t use iChat though.

  6. I’ve had decent luck with macam. I set up *two* cameras on a PPC Mac Mini running Tiger initially, and then switched them to a swing-arm iMac running Leopard. One camera is a fairly new Logitech and the other is an ancient Philips. The only problem I’ve had is when I set it up, one camera or the other might not have been recognized, and I fixed that simply by swapping which USB ports they were plugged in to. Once I get it working, they seem to keep working. I use ImageCaster from Econ Technologies and don’t really like it, but it’s the best one I’ve found that can handle more than one camera at a time.

  7. After an update to iChat in Tiger sometime last year, all you need is a USB 2.0 webcam that is UVC compliant. Wikipedia explains what this is and has a list of such cameras. Otherwise, look for Logitech webcams that are advertised with RightLight 2 (not just RightLight – it must be 2).

  8. I had this problem for using my logitech webcam with ichat most people have yahoo though, and everything seems to work fine on yahoo. Also there is drivers on logitech website for the mac which also seeem to work good on mac.. granted i use a ibook g4

  9. @KAZMAN

    I have a RightLight 2 Logitech webcam sitting on my coffee table right now that might as well be a paper weight. I can get it to work in the mac cam app – but not in any chat program.

  10. It’s my understanding that the difficulty is that iChat and other Mac video options connect through Firewire–not USB.

    That’s why none of these webcams work for you but your minicam does.

  11. Oddly enough, the web cam for the Xbox360 (about $40US) works quite well on a Mac. Any camera that is UVC compliant should work on Tiger or Leopard simply by plugging the camera in via USB. Granted, there is no mic on the Xbox cam, but you can still use the built-in mic on your mic, so it isn’t a show stopper. The earlier post with the Wikipedia entry is good and shows a list of UVC compliant web cams.

  12. A few years ago I set my mom’s (pre-built-in iSight) iMac up with a Logitech Web cam and iChatUSBCam so she could video chat with the grandkids. It’s dirt cheap, about $10, and comes with unlimited updates. It’s worked perfectly ever since.

    There’s a list of USB Web cams that the software works with on Ecamm Network’s Web site.

  13. @William

    I tried that and it doesn’t seem to work properly with iChat AV4.

    The Xbox camera stuff is interesting, though. I may have to give that look.

  14. @ Michael

    I’m sorry to hear that it doesn’t work. I had a similar problem finding a compatible (and inexpensive) webcam and bought a few Logitech QuickCam Pro 5000s with RightLight 2 ($40 at CircuitCity). They all worked with iChat on various Macs running 10.4.?. All I did was plug the camera into the USB port (and update my system software of course).

    Did you install other drivers on the system with that RightLight 2 camera? Perhaps the webcam really isn’t RightLight 2. The only indication of this is on the packaging. Otherwise the webcams look exactly the same, and the factory could have mistakenly shipped an old unit in a new box. Do you have access to another Mac – maybe at an Apple Store? Best of luck getting this to work.

  15. @KAZMAN

    I’m afraid it may have something to do with Leopard. Everyone that is talking about having success is mentioning Tiger. I’m running Leopard on every machine in the house.

    I plan on grabbing one of the Xbox cameras and giving that a try, although I do find it to be…upsetting…that I have to buy a Microsoft product to get something to work on my Mac.


  16. The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 works on my 1.8 GHz Mac Mini with 10.5.1

    But make sure it’s exactly that model. No other Logitech webcam will work reliably, even newer models!

  17. I actually found that when I plugged in my digital camera (I have a Sanyo Xacti E6) in and select ‘PC CAMERA’ rather than ‘card reader’ it suddenly starts working as a webcam no drivers needed and works great in Skype!

    I’m sure lots of other digital cameras will carry the same function.

  18. I also had problems finding a web cam that worked on my PowerBook. In the end, a guy at my local mac store tipped me off on a MacAlly IceCam. Although the image isn’t wonderful, it’s worked well with Skype and SightSpeed, but not with iChat though. One advantage: it was only about EUR 10 ($15).

  19. Michael,

    I use an Logitech Communigate STX on a G4 PowerMac with macam and iChatUSBCam. This works great in both PhotoBooth and the latest iChat, even for 3-way conferencing.


  20. @TBM

    It may be another problem all together specific to my machine. I’m also using a G4 in this particular set up. For now, I’m just going to use the digital camera and head on to Macworld…maybe there will be some nice webcams there.


  21. I had the same problem with my Mac Mini. The solution was easier than I thought. I went in a local Apple Store here in Pittsburgh, PA a week or so ago and asked what web cam to use with the Mac Mini. They just received a special model from Logitech made to work with the Mac. Even has a mic built in. Says it’s for a Mac on the outside of the Logitech box. I bought it for $129. Plugged it in, and it works with iChat perfectly. A little pricy, but it works very well. Call or visit your local Apple Store on this as it is very new and may not show up on the web.

    Good Luck!


  22. Unfortunately, the iChatUSB drivers don’t work in Leopard. As far as I know, any FireWire camera will work though. Even my really old 2001 Sony Camcorder works with iChat.

  23. On modern Macs with USB 2.0 ports and OS X 10.4.9 and up – a list of known working, just plug and play fully Mac compatible UVC standard based webcams are listed here: https://www.mac-compatible-web-cam.com — The UVC – Universal Video Class standard is now supported natively on Mac OSX Tiger and Leopard – and Windows Vista as well, no webcam drivers needed.

  24. I have a ibook G4, and it doesn’t have a webcam…I want one so I can use photobooth, do video chats, make youtube video’s and such but I have NO IDEA what make, where to buy and stuff. I’m only 12, and I’m kind of limited to getting things shipped. Does anyone have any suggestions? Price doesn’t matter really…Just good quality, works with Leopard and everything else. It’d also be good if it worked with Messenger Mac! Thanks 😉

  25. This is an old thread so don’t know if anyone will answer but I need help!

    I have a G4 iMac 800Mhz (dome style) that I have had for nearly 8 years, it would appear to only be USB 1 and not USB 2 people have mentioned. I need a web cam to use with Skype on this old thing and I need it to be inexpensive. I have tried so far Microsoft LiveCam VX-3000 with Macam driver but it isn’t working with Skype. I don’t want to keep buying and returning web cams that don’t work.

    Anyone out there? Can you help me?

  26. eyetoy ps2 webcam works with macam in my mac ,
    but yeah definitely we shouldn’t be doing the hard work !
    we are paying enough for our Macs and every Apple invention
    Steve!!! aren’t you forgetting something?

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