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Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000
Video camera for web conferencing including audio and zoom.

By Jon Deragon, Visca Consulting
Tuesday, November 6, 2003; 3:00pm EST


With an ever increasing broadband population on the Internet, web cams have become a much more usable technology. With a broadband Internet connection, you are able to transmit video and audio with bigger and better picture quality, better audio transmission and better synchronization of the two. Web cams are practical for uses such as the production of simple business presentations, web conferencing, video phoning to friends and family, and creation of small home movies. They are also substantially more cost effective than having to purchase a camcorder and video capture card for people who are just wishing to occasionally dabble with video making.

Logitech has long been a reputable supplier of such peripherals as joysticks, mice, keyboards and more. One of their more famous product lines is their QuickCam web cams. Logitech's latest additions to their web cam line up is a much needed boost to the otherwise dwindling market of quality web cams available to net users. Big players such as 3Com have abandoned web cam production, while others have throttled back their number of models. Luckily the new QuickCam Pro 4000 has more than filled the void with a list of features that will meet just about anyone's shopping checklist.

Using our test box, a Pentium III 800 with 512MB of memory and XP Pro operating system - it installed automatically without any user intervention. XP picked up the new web cam device, and installed the necessary driver support in the background. We were able to use the web cam for video conferencing with Microsoft Messenger right away. To fully benefit from the array of software included with the camera, a very painless CD installation that took less than a couple of minutes and only a couple of questions to complete did the rest. Updates to the included software and drivers are available online at the Logitech web site.

The camera employs true 640x480 VGA CCD video capturing at up to 30 frames per second, and an ability to take 1.3 mega pixel photos. A built-in microphone greatly simplifies the use of the web camera by eliminating the need for an external desk top microphone or headset, and the related configuring required to make it work with the web cam. We were overall impressed with the picture quality of the web cam. The frame rates (smoothness of the video playback) for lower resolution capturing was excellent, full 640x480 capturing caused very minor sluggishness in frame rates, particularly during abrupt movements and low lighting conditions. The drivers for the web cam allow for automatic or manual control over the video configuration. There is an incredible wealth of video settings to help the camera better operate in your environment such as contrast, brightness and even a digital zoom.

Using the automatic setting (which a majority of users will most likely stick to) the camera operated well under most circumstances. The cameras ability to handle versatile lighting conditions was good, dark environments and bright environments were handled well. Video quality is significantly improved over previous generations of web cams. However, as with practically all consumer web cams (and especially if compared to camcorders) the picture quality is slightly grainy and washed out in colour and contrast. Unfortunately the test unit we received contained a "dead pixel" in the video (a single video pixel that remains either white or black irrespective of what is in fact being recorded), something which is not uncommon to many products ranging from notebook screens to LCD based televisions. Ask the store you purchase from what their return policy is regarding "dead pixels". Typically stores have no problem exchanging the unit for a replacement under such circumstances. In the end, when considering the limitations of transmitting video over the Internet, the video quality is more than up to the tasks it will perform.

The built-in microphone performed well - good enough that we removed the clutter of the old microphone that was standing next to our keyboard. Its sensitivity was good, we were able to place the camera on top of the computer, talk at a comfortable level and clearly hear the playback. The actual sound quality was clear if not slightly cavernous (typical for microphones situated far away from the speaker), and is more than adequate typical voice recording. Use of an external microphone can be configured easily with a couple of Windows setting changes, if so desired.

The construction of the web cam was mixed. The actual web cam "ball" is of solid quality and aesthetically pleasing - mixing well with much of the contemporary black and grey computers. The silver accenting of the manual focusing ring, and recording indicator light area were well designed. An included lens privacy cover can optionally be installed onto the camera. However the base to which it is attached to left something to be desired. The mechanism which the web cam attaches to is flimsy and has an indecisive feel. The base design also could have better matched the more professional look of the web cam. Connection to the computer is made via the included USB cable which is hard wired to the back of the web cam and is of a very generous length.

Typically we have been very disappointed with software bundled with most web cams in the past. They were usually a collection of cobbled together "lite version" third party software and poorly written in-house drivers and utilities. However, we were very impressed with the quality of the device drivers and software bundled with the Logitech web cam. The Logitech ImageStudio uses an excellent interface to navigate you to a number of programs all built into the single one-stop-shop of video based tools. The video tools include video recording, internet video broadcasting, a motion detector, and a tool for animation. All of the tools were very simple to use and effective at their task. In addition, the web cam also includes full licenses of MGI VideoWave and PhotoWave software for more professional editing of the videos and pictures you produce with the web cam. The only negative was that the VideoWave required a codec upgrade which costs $14US to purchase, this is something that should have definitely been included. An IM Companion program is also included to help send small video clips back and forth using your instant messenger over the Internet.

Hardware and software requirements are minimal and easily met: Windows 98/2000/Me/XP, minimum Pentium II 400 or Celeron, 64MB Ram, 200MB HDD free, sound card. The QuickCam Pro 4000 retails for $99USD and $159CAD. The unit is covered by a 2 year warranty. With its combination of solid video performance, the conveniently built-in microphone and an outstanding collection of bundled software, it should definitely be on the short list of web cam shoppers.

About The Author
Jon Deragon is president and founder of Visca Consulting, a firm specializing in web site design, development and usability for businesses of all sizes. His many years in the technology industry has enabled him to write quality, in-depth product reviews to assist businesses make more informed technology purchases. He welcomes any questions or comments you may have regarding his company's services, this review or interest in having your company's products reviewed.
info@viscaconsulting.com
http://www.viscaconsulting.com/

 

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