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I would like a USB webcam with a low resolution, perhaps something like 160x120 and certainly under 640x480. It does not need to be cheap, so something that supports a range of resolutions in hardware would work fine.

It will be plugged into a computer that someone else controls, so I cannot easily cripple a higher-resolution device in software. A camera that produces images with a higher resolution but e.g. heavily compressed or somehow filtered would also work (but only if the processing is done in hardware). It will be used indoors under normal lighting conditions.

Many thanks for any recommendations in advance.

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    New or used? Windows, Mac, Linux? Any requirements for frame rate? – Mark Feb 6 '17 at 21:48
  • I don't care about whether it is used, or about the frame-rate. It just needs to produce native low-resolution output. I will use Windows, although I suspect that any solution that does not rely on reducing the resolution in the driver will likely be supported by all operating systems. – Jeremy Feb 6 '17 at 22:54
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    Why do you need a low res camera? I ask because we might be able to find different options than what you thought of if we know what you are trying to achieve. – 0-60FPS Feb 9 '17 at 1:37
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So. I found this SABRENT SBT-WCCK USB 2.0 USB Color Web Camera with Built-in Audio Microphone

Resolution is 352 x 288

I decided to keep searching for a lower resolution webcam So I searched for some of the first webcams to hit the market. The first commercially available webcam was by a company named quickcam. The original QuickCam provided 320x240-pixel resolution with a grayscale depth of 16 shades at 60 frames per second, or 256 shades at 15 frames per second. Over serial port.

Once I saw that even the very first webcams were a better resolution than you are looking for... I've come to the conclusion that the Sabrent usb 2.0 webcam is probably the closest your going to find to what your looking for. Unless you make your own.

Hope this helps, and I'm honestly too afraid to ask why you need such a bad camera.

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  • Apparently, you can do worse ;-) Some early USB cameras would have a 352x288 sensor, but could only do quarter of that (176x144) when streaming video. It's difficult to be certain because the original manufacturer no longer publishes the specification, but Google thinks that's the case. Many thanks for your reply, I hope to update this in a week or two when my newly bought webcam arrives and I can check it really produces an unclear smudge :-) – Jeremy Feb 8 '17 at 18:17
  • Did you buy my rec? That would make sense, lower quality video than still images... they probably dropped the resolution to improve framerates... What a crazy world we live in. – BigElittles Feb 9 '17 at 18:27
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You might take a look at Logitech's C210 Webcam. It can be purchased on Amazon.com for about $23 here.

It fits all of your requirements:

  • Has a low resolution video output of 360p
  • Can be used on Windows OSes
  • Uses a USB output
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  • Many thanks for your reply. The resolution is actually 640x480, so a bit too good for my purposes :- I need something that cannot be made to produce good picture by adjusting the driver/other software on the computer it is plugged into. – Jeremy Feb 7 '17 at 8:56
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    Just tape some plastic wrap to the lens... – Raj Huff Feb 7 '17 at 17:04
  • @Jeremy You should be able to set the resolution to 360p. – 0-60FPS Feb 7 '17 at 17:42

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