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Old January 8, 2008, 01:34 AM
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Default Logitech Webcam Pro 9000

Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000
Review



INTRODUCTION

When you think of multimedia, chances are you first think of video. Across the Web, we’ve seen an explosion of video, just about everywhere you look. It’s becoming the standard medium of the Web, and more people are realizing that everyday. Well, it seems companies are noticing that as well, and the opportunity to get video cheaply and effectively onto the Web, to share with friends and family, to meet new people, and even conduct business across thousands of miles. Enter the webcam.

Today I'll be looking at the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000, an upper-end product that offers extensive features and an ease-of-use that should prove very attractive to a variety of people, especially those that are looking for a no-nonsense webcam that doesn’t require a degree in mechanical engineering to get it running properly.

For a webcam that retails for about $85-95, the Pro 9000 makes some big claims and promises. Today I’ll run it through some paces and tell you exactly if it lives up to those claims.

First off, a brief overview of The Logitech Story, as published on their site (www.logitech.com):

Focused on innovation and quality, Logitech designs personal peripherals to help people enjoy a better experience with the digital world. We started in 1981 with mice, which (new at the time) provided a more intuitive way of interacting with a personal computer. We became the worldwide leader in computer mice, and have reinvented the mouse in dozens of ways to match the evolving needs of PC and laptop users.

Since those early days, we have expanded our expertise in product design beyond the computer mouse, with a broad portfolio of interface devices that are the "last inch" between you and your computer or your console game, digital music or home-entertainment system.

With products sold in almost every country in the world, Logitech’s leadership in innovation now encompasses a wide variety of personal peripherals (both cordless and corded), with special emphasis on products for PC navigation, gaming, Internet communications, digital music and home-entertainment control.

For each of our product categories, we study how our customers use their digital devices, and then our designers and engineers set their sights on how we can create a better experience with those devices – richer, more comfortable, more fun, more productive, more convenient, more delightful.

Let’s take a look at the QuickCam Pro 9000…..


SPECIFICATIONS AND FEATURES

Here are the complete specifications, including Operating System requirements for those of you who might be wondering how it works with Vista as well:

System Requirements
Windows® XP
  • Pentium® P4 (or compatible) processor, 1.4 GHz (2.4 GHz recommended)
  • 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
  • 200 MB available hard disk space
  • 16-bit color display adapter
  • Windows®-compatible sound card and speakers (full-duplex sound card recommended)
  • USB port
  • CD-ROM drive
Windows Vista™
  • Pentium® P4 (or compatible) processor, 2.4 GHz (2.8 GHz recommended)
  • 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
  • 200 MB available hard disk space
  • 16-bit color display adapter
  • Windows®-compatible sound card and speakers (full-duplex sound card recommended)
  • USB port
  • CD-ROM drive
Technical Specifications
  • Carl Zeiss® lens
  • Autofocus system
  • Ultra-high resolution 2-megapixel sensor with RightLight™2 Technology
  • Color depth: 24-bit true color
  • Video capture: Up to 1600 x 1200 pixels (HD quality) (HD Video 960 x 720 pixels)
  • Frame rate: Up to 30 frames per second
  • Still image capture: 8 million pixels (with software enhancement)
  • Built-in microphone with RightSound™ Technology
As mentioned, the RightLight feature is something that Logitech seems particularly proud of, as it apparently fixes one of the most common complaints of webcams: lighting problems. RightLight technology is a combination of hardware and software technologies that imporives a webcam’s image quality under a variety of lighting conditions, particularly in low light levels. I used a dimmer light to lower the levels in the room, both gradually and quickly, and the RightLight kicked in very quickly and did a very good job of adjusting the image to maintain the quality. Overall, it is a feature that performs as advertised and will make you wonder how you ever used a "normal" webcam. And if you’ve never used or owned a webcam, then RightLight will allow you to avoid those awful experiences to begin with.

The Pro 9000 software also comes with the ability to use Avatars (character) that can either enhance or conceal your true identity. For example, say you are talking to someone for the first time but don’t want to show your face yet……well, you can create an Avatar of a shark, for example, and the person on the other end will see a shark talking with your voice. And Logitech’s face-tracking technology allows the camera to identify points on your face that will then become converted into instructions for the animated Avatar character. This means that if you frown, your Avatar will as well. Innovative, simple, and rather wise I must admit, especially for those situations where you may want to maintain your privacy but still wish to communicate.

Logitech’s software also include "face accessories" and "fun filters" that use the same face-tracking technology and superimpose animated accessories onto your image to the person you are communicating to. For example, you can have a crown on your head, or add a moustache to your face. Children will also like the fun filters that can distort their images or add effects such as neon light or a chalkboard-look. You can also easily go online in one click to download additional video effects like Avatars and filters.

These features suggest that most people will find this webcam sufficient for just about any of their daily needs, and should offer high quality images without the choppiness normally present in lower-end webcams. It can be used to capture HD-quality video, but my guess is that most people will likely use the Pro 9000 for easy uses, such as instant messaging, recording commentaries to put on your blog, chatting with an overseas friend, or perhaps for video conferencing.


PACKAGING

The QuickCam Pro 9000 is well packaged in a sleek box, with the webcam itself clearly visible for inspection through a plastic cover, so you can get a good look at it before buying. Not to worry though, I’ll open it for you to show you all the inner goodies.

Opening the box we find the webcam, driver CD, and instruction manual. Worthy of note: there are explicit instructions to install the software before plugging in the camera, or else your new purchase won’t be found and you’ll likely be in for some headaches.

The box:


Included components:

Now let’s take a look at the QuickCam Pro 9000 up close and personal…..


DESIGN

As the Pro 9000 is removed from all its packaging, we see that it has a very simple design: a hinge and a clamp, that’s it. The designer in me loves simplicity and elegance, and the consumer in me loves a product that has less breakable parts. As is Logitech’s hallmark, the design solves both concerns.

The camera is very light, and should easily attach to just about any stationary object without being too top-heavy, as some other webcams are guilty of. There’s nothing worse than having your webcam keep slipping down while you’re trying to chat with your buddy or give some serious commentary to the company’s board of directors.

The Pro 9000 has a built-in mic at the opposite end of the camera, and the way to take a picture is either through a button on the side of the camera, or through the software. There are no on/off controls, and a USB connection is the standard computer connection. Quite simple really.

Here you can see the design and details of the Pro 9000:








INSTALLATION AND USAGE

As already mentioned, install the software first and then the webcam itself into an open USB port. The software included in the Pro 9000 package is Logitech’s QuickCam (Ver. 11). Installation is quick and painless, and I experienced no issues with Windows Vista Ultimate (32-bit).


There are two types of controls for the webcam: QuickCapture and QuickCam. QuickCapture is an application that lets you either record video or take photographs. There are also a range of resolutions available, which should suit just about any monitor size or purpose you’ll need. All of your pictures and videos will be stored at the main screen so you can easily access them whenever you like. You do, however, have the option to store your files elsewhere.

Included in the software is the ability to employ video effects while using the webcam. Don’t expect Hollywood-like effects, but they are neat nonetheless, and children will probably find some of these effects quite amusing.

There are setting controls in the software that let you adjust things like zoom, tilt/pan, manual/auto focus, brightness, contrast, color intensity, balance, and face tracking…..yes, face tracking. The RightLight adjustments are another feature that Logitech has included in the Pro 9000, and I’m sure we’ve either experienced or seen example of the effects of poor lighting on webcams…..too light, too dark, too slow to adjust, etc. The RightLight feature seeks to correct and minimize those issues quickly, again positioning itself in the market as a full-featured yet easy-to-use webcam.

Here are a couple examples of the images taken from the Pro 9000:



As you can see, the image quality is very good. Pictures are very sharp, and not too muted or overly-saturated, and the focus on the camera was exceptional, regardless of the distance between the lens and the subject. It seems the respected reputation of the Zeiss name in optics is well deserved. I should mention the yellowish color is due to the lighting used indoors, not because of poor color rendition from the webcam.


CONCLUSION

When trying to find a webcam, most people might traditionally be satisfied with just about anything. But that is changing, with increased video content on the Web, people increasingly adding video to email, and chatting to loved ones across great distances. Clearly, webcams are becoming more popular, and consumers will want improved image quality and features now more than ever. Logitech’s QuickCam 9000 Pro satisfies those needs.

The QuickCam Pro 9000 is feature-rich, with the RightLight and RightSound technologies, as well as video effects, auto focus, and face-tracking. Easy installation, intuitive controls, and flexibility of use in a variety of applications are features that consumers look for when choosing a webcam. The Pro 9000 excels in these areas. Not to forget what ultimately counts: image quality....and this webcam is perhaps one of the best, if not the best, on the market in this regard. The Pro 9000 offers a variety of resolutions for photos and video, and when paired with the RightLight technology and face-tracking, this webcam offers probably the best image quality and features on the market.

The Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 may not be cheap, but if you want a quality product that offers excellent image quality, ease of use, application flexibility, and a healthy set of features, then the Pro 9000 is definitely up to the task.


VERDICT:

RECOMMENDED.


Thank you to Logitech for providing the QuickCam Pro 9000 for review.



[Note: Please excuse some of the poor colour photos, finally sorted out the problems with my digital camera, but after this was completed. Apologies.]
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Old January 8, 2008, 02:00 AM
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Nice review....S.S.S. = Short Sweet Simple! Good Job!
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Old January 8, 2008, 10:27 PM
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How is performance in low-light situations ? I find that to be the biggest difference in cameras ...
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Old January 9, 2008, 12:27 PM
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Great point. I found low-light image quality to be excellent. The RightLight feature kicks in REALLY fast and adjusts to the light levels very well. In fact, I tried both low light and backlight (silhouette) at different times and the Pro 9000 didn't get fooled. I was rather surprised because the light levels were rather low as far as I was concerned, and figured they would be too low, and would end up with a typical grainy image. But that was not the case, and I was pleasantly surprised. It seems Logitech's RightLight technology isn't just marketing hype, it actually works, and works well.

What was really interesting was dropping the light (using a dimmer) quickly and moving sideways in my chair. The webcam adjusted the lighting and tracked my face simultaneously. That was impressive.
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