What Is a FireWire® Camera?

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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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A FireWire® camera is a digital camera capable of interfacing with a personal computer via the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 1394 interface. FireWire® cameras may take still images, record video and audio, or perform all three functions. Some of these cameras are compatible with the Instrumentation & Industrial Digital Camera (IIDC) specification, which is a data format that can be used for live video. Many different industries use devices with this interface, and the optics portion of a specialty FireWire® camera can consist of anything from a telescope to a microscope.

The IEEE 1394 interface is a type of standard that utilizes a serial bus for high speed data transfer. It has been known by a number of brand names, such as i.Link™ and Lynx™, though the IEEE officially adopted the FireWire® name in 2002. The standard is commonly used to connect data storage devices to computers, and offers all of the capabilities of small computer system interface (SCSI). It is also a popular connection for industrial machine vision applications and all manner of digital video devices.


There are two main types of consumer FireWire® cameras. A photo FireWire® camera is a device designed to take still pictures. The FireWire® connection allows image files to be transferred from a camera to a computer, but can be used to send control signals as well. Photo cameras that make use of FireWire® are also available for professional applications, including camera backs that can attach to a regular film camera for the purposes of taking digital pictures.

The other main type of FireWire® camera can be used to record digital video and audio. These video cameras range from inexpensive consumer devices to advanced professional units. Most of these devices use audio video control (AV/C), which is a standard that governs the flow of video and audio recording data in addition to camera control signals. Some FireWire® video cameras are also compatible with IIDC, which is a similar standard suitable for transmitting live audio and video. This format is useful in machine vision applications, but it is also used for some webcams and other similar devices.

In addition to consumer and professional grade cameras, many different industries use some type of specialty FireWire® camera. These situations typically call for the IIDC format for uncompressed audio and video. These cameras are used in laboratory conditions, industrial production environments and various other situations. Unlike most FireWire® cameras that can act as mass storage devices, most of these specialty cameras transmit data directly to a computer.


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What are some of the applications where firewire is used along with other protocol standards?

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