A Webcam for Your Inner Anchorman
The Good: Sharp picture, solid sound, attaches to most thin laptops, easy integration with instant messaging
The Bad: Limited adjustability
The Bottom Line: A fun tool for casual video blogging, video chat
As a journalist, I often fantasize about traveling back in time and taking Walter Cronkite's job. I don't think I'm alone in this. The CBS Evening News anchorman was widely considered "the most trusted man in America." Who wouldn't want that title?
So, the first thing I did with Logitech's (LOGI) QuickCam Deluxe—after loading the software and pinning the thumb-size device to my laptop's edge—was to choose the setting that makes your video look like a broadcast from the 1950s. Then I hit record, looked sternly at the camera, and said, "And that's the way it is."
Too Quick for Second Thoughts
Immediately afterward, I forwarded the faintly sepia-toned clip to anyone available on my Yahoo! (YHOO) Instant Messenger list.
It was so easy to use Logitech's device that I didn't have much time to reflect on just how silly that clip would make me look. The software loaded in less than a minute. The camera records video with the click of a mouse and, at the simple press of a button, snaps still photographs at a resolution of up to 1.3 megapixels. There's an extensive menu of image filters to warp your video into everything from a fun-house scene to a Warhol painting. And it takes just a few more mouse clicks to share whatever you record with your entire buddy list if you use AOL Instant Messenger (TWX), Yahoo IM, Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows Live Messenger, or eBay's (EBAY) Skype.
All in all, embarrassing myself took less than five minutes. And, in truth, I recorded my Cronkite impression a few times to make sure I got it right.
Live video chatting was similarly easy. The camera comes with a 30-day trial of Logitech's VideoCall service, which costs $6.95 a month, or $64 a year. But, of course, you can do this for free with AIM, Yahoo IM, Live Messenger, and other IM services. So, unless you are a regular video chatter who wants to ensure your conversations are never interrupted by an errant IM, why pay?
Crisp Image and Sound
The regular recording mode without image filters produced video that was pleasantly crisp and detailed. The software also enables users to adjust the image contrast, saturation, and brightness. Logitech has added a "red light" technology it claims takes higher-quality images than competing cameras. The video did, with some minor tuning, look sharper than the picture from the iSight camera that came preinstalled on Apple's (AAPL) MacBook.
Still, it's difficult to compete with the convenience of a built-in laptop camera integrated with a variety of video editing and photo tools. You don't need a carrying case, and there's no need to adjust the camera, though you may have to tilt the full computer to get the best shot. By contrast, while affixing Logitech's camera to a laptop isn't difficult, adjusting it isn't easy. It tilts forward and backward, but cannot rotate to the sides. The camera's clip should fit most laptop screens, but it's not designed to fit a standalone desktop display.
What the camera lacks in maneuverability, it makes up for in audio clarity. The camera clearly captured my voice, even when I was standing away from the computer and talking to someone else. The sound seemed to highlight the words you mean to record while minimizing background noise. The clacks of the keyboards next to me in the office were barely audible over my voice.
All in all, $59.99 is not a bad price to pay for this camera. Novices will find it comes packed with plenty of features for both serious conversation and fun video blogging. And that's the way it is.