Capturing live audio and video from your PC was once a needlessly complicated affair. Webcams didn't have built-in microphones, offering poor resolutions and low refresh rates.

These failings didn't matter much, as the main use of a webcam was to update an embedded image in a web page, without sound, with refresh rates often measured in minutes.

Then the whole world simultaneously discovered how much fun the World Wide Web could be, and began using chat clients and posting to online diaries. Plug-and-play, then capturing in one click, is what we expect today, and that is what Hercules Blog Webcam offers.

A webcam is only as good as its lens, and while a £30 plastic camera won't deliver the visual quality of a digital SLR, the Blog Webcam isn't bad in this respect. Colour reproduction is average, but the usual sliders for brightness, hue and saturation allow you to adjust this to your liking. Video can be captured at up to 800x600 resolution, although a noticeable drop in frame rate forced us to revert to the standard 640x480.

The facial recognition and tracking was some of the best we've seen in a low price camera. It zooms the image and crops it around the face of the subject, panning out and around as needed. In practice, this worked most of the time, but eventually became annoying, so we turned it off.

As expected, the camera also takes still photographs. Additional options for taking shots in burst mode and a timer delay are in the software, for stills up to 1280x1024. Although the Blog Webcam's still quality is below what even the cheapest digital cameras are capable of, it isn't bad for this price. The resulting images suffice for display use in a chat program.

A connection between the Blog Webcam's software and actual blogs is tenuous. You can save video in a format suitable for a site like YouTube, or an iPod or PSP. Aside from then loading the web page, the software does nothing that other media editing applications cannot provide.

If you need a cheap webcam to get you connected and send video with little hassle, the Hercules Blog Webcam will do the job. There are plenty of other cameras with similar features, though, and facial tracking is not useful enough to make this one really stand out.