A Closer Look at iSight

The iSight is an internal and external webcam developed by Apple. The external camera was introduced in 2003 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference that took place from June 23 to 27 in San Francisco. Beginning in late 2005, Apple used iSight as the brand name for the video cameras embedded in its new iDevices. In 2012, the iSight also became the name for rear cameras in all iDevices.

External Webcam

The external iSight webcam was originally intended for use with Apple’s video conferencing software application iChat AV. It could also be used with iMovie video editing software version 4 and up. The device used a FireWire cable to plug into a Mac and was ready to use without drivers or configuration. Users lauded its sleek look, ease of use with iChat, auto-focus and clarity. Meanwhile, users criticized its expense and lack of versatility, as there were no manual controls for brightness, color balance or contrast, and no specific driver for the Windows operating system. In 2005, an audio upgrade was released. However, the external iSight webcam was taken off the market in 2006 and is no longer for sale in the Apple store or at retail outlets.

Internal Webcam

In 2005, Apple began using iSight as the name for the built-in video cameras for the iMac desktop computers, the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebook computers, and the LED cinema display. The built-in iSight dispensed with the FireWire interface, and used an internal USB interface instead. These cameras had fixed-focus plastic lenses and were mainly used for video conferencing.

FaceTime and iSight

With the June 2010 release of the iPhone 4, Apple changed the name of its front-facing camera to FaceTime camera to coincide with its FaceTime communication platform. The cameras on other devices released after this time, including the new MacBook Air, were also called FaceTime cameras. Beginning in March 2012, though, with the release of the iPad 3, the name iSight camera referred to the rear-facing camera on the iPad, the fifth generation iPod Touch, the iPhone 4 and 4s, and the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s. The new iSight cameras offer such sharpness and advanced features in photo and video shooting that many people use it as their default camera. In particular, the iPhone 5s offers bigger pixels for better resolution in low light, a burst setting that shoots 10 frames per second and a True Tone flash (in which an initial flash gauges colors and then fires two simultaneous flashes that adjust automatically according to the lighting in the room).

Security Issues

In 2011, software engineers developed a program that turns an iSight camera on a Mac device into a motion-detecting security camera. When activated, the program takes photos and videos of the thief and sends an alert to your iPhone or iPad.

Unfortunately, the iSight camera has also been used to violate privacy. In 2010, during the much-publicized Robbins v. Lower Merion School District case, school authorities were convicted and fined for using built-in iSight webcams to spy on students using laptops at home. The case highlighted the right-to-privacy issues associated with webcam usage.

The term iSight evolved from the name for the 2003 external webcam to the name for the internal webcam on Mac devices. It continues to be used as the name for the new high-resolution cameras on Mac devices.


In addition to the iSight, Vince Windermere writes on a variety of tech topics such as the kensington ipad keyboard case, the Xbox One, general gadgetry, computer software and other topics as well.

Image credit goes to rustedlight.