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Ask Max: Using iSight Mac for video conferencing with external cameras

Asked on 02/27/2007:

Well, I ordered my new MacBook (Duoprocessor, not Duo 2 ) from you guys and just thought of 2 quick questions:

1) Since the new MacBook has a built-in iSight camera, will I still be able to use my "external" camera so that I can aim it manually at my kids when my parents want to see them playing, etc.? Or does the internal camera override?

2) Will I now be able to have a multi-person iChat session with my brother & parents if I start the session (based on a standard DSL connection)? Or do I need a faster connection? (Is a cable connection faster?)

Thanks so much! I really appreciated your help with my previous question re: hard drive & RAM size to order.


You can use a FireWire-based iSight camera with Macs that have a camera built-in. To switch from one to the other is an option found under the iChat Video preferences. Although you may be able to switch cameras mid-chat, I would not recommend it. In most cases just leave your FireWire iSight as the primary camera. All Intel-based Macs can host video conference (multi-user) chats so you can start those for your family and friends as long as they have at least a 1GHz G4, dual 800 MHz G4, or any G5 / Intel Mac. Although you can host these chats over a wireless connection, you will get the best performance from a direct ethernet connection to your DSL modem.

DLS is often fast enough for four-way video chats but it will have slower data speeds the further you are from your phone company's main office. Cable internet speeds can be faster than DSL because of that DSL distance issue. Get friendly with your neighbors and see what speeds they get from their cable internet connections. Switch if you find that they are outpacing your DSL connection.Hope that helps.

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