What year is this? Aren’t all webcams built in nowadays? Why would anyone buy an external one?
A little trip down the memory lane… back to 2004
This is an Eagletech webcam as far as I remember… features include:
Resolution: VGA – 640×480 @ 15fps
Focus: Manual (You twist the blue ring to focus :P)
Hardware acceleration: what acceleration?
Interface: USB for video + 3.5mm jack for audio
The last time I had a webcam was 11 years ago… To put it in perspective, this was a time when
– Laptops did not come with webcams
– Windows XP was the newest operating system
– There was a browser called Netscape (which eventually formed the basis of what we know as Firefox today)
Fast forward to now…
This is a Logitech C920 webcam, features include:
Resolution: Full HD – 1920×1080 @ 30fps
Focus: Auto (20-step)
Hardware acceleration: Yes, H.264
Interface: USB (for both video and audio)
Due to the fact that most laptops now have webcams built in, the market for external webcams have slowed down a fair bit. The lack of interest or competition in this area means this 2012-era webcam is still top of the line in 2015.
On a Windows machine, it is plug and play.
The sides emit a blue glow when the webcam is in operation. There is no physical switch to stop the camera from watching.
Here’s how it looks on a 22″ LCD screen. IKEA cup for reference.
I am an international student, my family is in Hong Kong and my best friend is in London right now.
Edmonton to Hong Kong is 10,400 km
Edmonton to London is 6,700 km
It will be quite some time before I get to meet up with them again… so, I figured the least that I could do is make video chats with them as great as I can.
But webcams are all built-in now no?
Yup, but most of them top out at a resolution of 1280×720, which is what my Surface Pro 2 has. This webcam does Full HD @ 1920×1080.
In two words: Image quality
*Problem specific to my computer* My surface has a built-in microphone, but it is placed right next to the fan. The only thing that the other person hears is wind noise 😛 So this webcam solves that problem too as it has stereo microphones 😀
These are shot with the built-in camera app in Windows 10, on full auto.
Surface Pro 2 – Built-in webcam
Logitech C920 Pro
The colors are a bit more saturated in the Logitech
The colors from the built-in camera are a bit more muted, but a lot closer to what it is like in real life.
Let’s look at the details in our 100% crops
Surface Pro 2 – Built-in webcam – 100% crop
Logitech C920 Pro – 100% crop
Here, we see the Logitech shine. The pattern in the green gem is visible in the Logitech, while the built-in camera completely smudges it out.
Image quality wise I would give Logitech the win here simply because saturation levels can be adjusted in software, while lost details from the built-in camera cannot be recovered.
Using it with Skype
It is pretty much plug and play. However, Skype exhibits a “ramp up” behavior. Where it starts off with a low resolution and if the connection can handle it, it will ramp up to a higher resolution. Here are some of my observations:
Edmonton (Telus) >>> London (BT)
@0 sec VGA 480P, uploading at ~1Mbps
@3 sec HD 720p, uploading at ~3Mbps
@5 sec Full HD 1080p, uploading at ~6Mbps
Edmonton (Telus) >>> Hong Kong (PCCW)
@0 sec VGA 480P, uploading at ~1Mbps
@10 sec HD 720P, uploading at ~3Mbps
@15 sec Full HD 1080P, uploading at ~6Mbps
It looks like you need a connection that is capable of uploading at 6Mbps in order to reach the full potential of this webcam. Similarly I would assume you will need a 6Mbps download connection to receive full HD content.
Processor utilization was super low. My processor was basically idling if I was just sending. Intuition tells me that the computer is simply sending the H.264 video stream direct from the camera.
The camera does get a little warm, possibly due to the fact that it is handling the H.264 encoding in hardware.
+ Hardware acceleration inside the camera frees up your processor to do other stuff
+ Lots of detail @ 1080P
* Color saturation is a bit off out of the box, but I won’t knock it as that is adjustable in software
– Price – This thing is 129CAD original which is really steep for a webcam upgrade. Black Friday pushed it down to 79CAD, which is slightly more manageable.
Overall, video is nice, audio is clear. If you want to video chat with someone far away and both parties have a decent internet connection (6Mbps up and down), this is a pretty solid choice… when it’s on sale 😛