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Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 VS Microsoft VX-6000

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User-driven video websites have completely reshaped the way we live and share our lives with friends, family and even total strangers. This new phenomenon, known as lifecasting, is just what the name implies. Users can log onto sites such as justin.tv and UStream.tv and select from hundreds of different live video feeds from people all around the world. Justin.tv even provides some of its lifecasters with the hardware to broadcast live while out and about (webcams / laptops with wireless broadband cards).

 

All of this is being made possible by the advancements and refinements in technology over the past several years. Most of this is not really new; laptops, webcams and broadband internet have all been around for several years. But only recently has the quality (webcams), size (laptops) and accessibility (broadband) of each of these items made such a venture practical.

 

Whether you are interested in lifecasting, video conferencing or simply chatting online with friends or family on the other side of the planet, it all starts with a webcam. I tried using a webcam several years back and quickly gave up because the quality was horrible. It was like watching a photo slideshow in slow motion. Things have certainly come a long way since then and I am excited to try a "newer" webcam to see just how much improvement has been made over the years. That "newer" webcam is the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000.

 

The Pro 9000 camera arrived in Logitech's typical retail packaging format. The front upper area of the box is clear and shows the webcam sitting inside. On the side of the box, we are give a list of features, similar to that on the bottom of the box. The back of the package describes some of the camera's features in further detail. A complete list of features and specs can be seen below, borrowed from Logitech's website.

 

 

 

The specs on this webcam are very impressive, especially the Carl Zeiss lens. I am big photography buff, and Logitech's statement about Carl Zeiss being a global leader in camera optics is dead-on. Also impressive on the specs list is HD video. Many webcams only offer resolutions up to 640x480. It will be fun to see exactly how well the RightLight 2 Technology and RightSound Technology actually work.

 

Continue ahead as we take our first look at the QuickCam Pro 9000...

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Included with the package is the camera itself along with a users manual and software installation disc.

 

 

 

The camera itself is rather different looking than what I think of when I hear "webcam". The lens is on the far left side of the camera, with the mic on the right side. A Logitech logo sits in the center of the camera body. An orange circle lights up around the logo when in use, letting you know the camera is active.

 

 

 

On the left edge of the camera is the snapshot button (more on this in a bit).

 

 

 

 

 

The QuickCam uses a universal clip system that should be easy to mount just about anywhere, or just sit on a desk. At first, I was a bit skeptical about the clip system; it just didn't look very universal or practical, but as you will see later, it works perfectly.

 

Next up, hardware and software installation...

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Physical installation of the QuickCam is very easy. I will be using the cam mostly on my main work system, so I decided to mount it on the top of one of my 22" widescreen LCDs.

 

 

 

I also tried mounting the camera to my laptop. As you can see, the screen is much thinner than the one on my main system. This did not present a problem, however, as you simply adjust the clip to fit properly.

 

Once you have the camera in place, it's time to install the included software. Be sure to install the software first, before you plug in the USB camera.

 

 

 

 

 

Simply pop in the installation disc and follow the prompts to install the QuickCam software. You will be prompted midway through to restart your computer. After that, plug in the camera and wait for it to be detected. Total installation time was around 5-7 minutes.

 

With everything installed and ready to use, let's move ahead and see how well the QuickCam works...

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cam icon sits in your icon tray; double clicking it opens the QuickCam control panel. From here you have complete control over your webcam features and settings. Here we find a privacy shade as well as several video effects to use in conjunction with the cam; Avatars, Face Accessories and Fun Filters.

 

 

 

 

 

These are just a few of the video effects. The Avatars are really neat in the fact that they track your facial movements. For example, when I wink or close my eyes, the alien mimics these movements. These effects are fun to use in chats and would also go over well with kids. You can also download new video effects to use from Logitech's website.

 

 

 

Next we have some of the webcam settings. Here, you can do any number of things, such as pan and tilt, zoom, set the focus, etc. Face tracking can also be controlled here. I tried this out and was impressed by how accurate it was, although it zoomed right in on my face which I didn't care too much for. Audio settings can be adjusted, as well as echo canceling and background noise suppression.

 

You can also adjust the RightLight settings here. I was a bit skeptical about how well this feature would work, but the results speak clearly.

 

 

 

The image on the left is without RightLight and the image on the left is with it enabled. All of the lights in my room were off. The only "light" was from my monitors and computer case. Very impressive.

 

 

 

The final set of options we have are Advanced Settings, Application Preferences and Video Calling Applications. I left all of the settings as-is under Advanced Settings. Application Preferences allows you to set up your favorite video calling app. and email client. The last set allows you to quickly launch one of several video calling applications, such as Skype and Yahoo Messenger.

 

Aside from video, the QuickCam allows you to take still photos as well. Below are some examples of the still photos, taken at HD resolution (960 x 720).

 

 

 

As you can see, the image quality is excellent for a webcam. I have also included a short video clip from the camera, so you can see just how clear the image really is.

 

Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 Video Clip

 

Usage, Findings and Conclusions

 

 

I have been using the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 for several days now and have nothing but great things to say about it. I experimented using the cam in Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, both of which worked perfectly. I also set up a "lifecast" at UStream.tv. You can check out my live video feed by Clicking Here.

 

The unit itself is nice and compact and can mount to just about any type of screen or can even sit on your desk. The USB cable has plenty of length, so setting the camera up wherever you want shouldn't be an issue. Software installation only takes about 5-7 minutes at most. The control panel is laid out well and easy to navigate. The video effects are an added bonus, but aren't really useful except for getting a few laughs in a video call.

 

Image quality is exceptional, thanks to the Carl Zeiss optics. The RightLight 2 technology works very well, as does the RightSound technology. Users on the other end reported my voice and music coming through crisp and clear.

 

I did have a few issues with my audio while broadcasting live at UStream, but I tracked that down to Winamp and the fact that I had several other streams open at the same time. Besides this, I couldn't find any other issues with the QuickCam Pro 9000. Whether you are a video blogger, lifecaster or someone who is simply looking to connect to friends and family from anywhere in the world, the QuickCam Pro 9000 will not let you down. As of writing, the QC Pro 9000 retails for $99.99, a fair price for a webcam of this quality.

 

OCIA.net has awarded the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 our seal of approval!

 

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If you are looking for quality video from your web cam for use in making home movies or for video blogging, the LifeCam VX-6000 is the tool for the job. With full 1.3 megapixel HD video capture and 5.0 megapixel interpolated still image capture ability, the VX-6000 is one of the highest resolution webcams you can buy. (Here's a 10s sample video weighing in at 5.2MB. To download to your computer, right-click and then select "Save As".) However, if face tracking is your thing you won't get it at 1.3 megapixel (1280 x 1024). Once you get over 1024 x 768 resolution face tracking is disabled. Video recording is at up to 30 fps.

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[url]http://www.everythingusb.com/video/msvx6000hdvideo.wmv[/url]

 

 

At any of the other resolutions the LifeCam VX-6000 is capable of, the face tracking software does a decent job of following your face while recording or playing back live video. I say decent because during testing the face tracking software tended to over do the zoom and the over compensate for it by swiftly zooming out again.

 

Basically, the face tracking works well, but leaves a bit to be desired. I suspect most users will not care for the skittish way the cam zooms in swiftly to keep up with fast movements, only to over zoom and rush to zoom back out to nearly the point at which it began to zoom in. Up to 3x digital zoom is built into the cam, but things get pixilated pretty fast when you use it. You can still make out details, the image just gets grainy. For instance in one of my test images you can clearly make out the face of the watch, but as you can see it is pretty grainy. To focus the cam you simply turn the ring around the lens, which can help on zoom shots.

 

Other than the issues with pixilation with the digital zoom, the colors are nice and rich, so long as you are in good light. The cam will shoot in low light conditions, but it looks grainy and colors are not correct. Skin tones look great as well. Low light conditions are no problem with the VX-6000, so long as you are ok with grainy images. I was able to record in a room with the main lights out with the sole light source being my monitor backlighting and the display itself.

 

Pan & Tilt is built into the LifeCam control panel and works well. You can fix any issues with alignment of the camera and the subject via the pan & tilt functions for the most part. Speaking of the lens, it is a wide-angle unit that can capture a 71 degree area. To me the wide-angle lens is both good and bad. I don't care for that broad of a view with just one person in the shot. It captures too much background for my tastes. However, if your tastes run toward multiple people in the shot you will love the wide-angle lens.

 

The built-in microphone has acoustic noise cancellation features so you don't have to use another microphone or a headset during conversations. However, during testing I did have to talk quite loud for the sound to be heard clearly during playback of recorded files. As you can see and hear in the sample videos, extraneous sounds were picked up as well. The hum you hear in the face tracking demo is a fan attempting to beat back the Texas summer heat that was about six feet from the USB webcam.

 

Fun With LifeCam

The video effects Microsoft included will be nothing more than something to impress your young children or friends with. They have no real value and don't look all that good in my opinion. What would have been cool and useful is a way to create blue screen backgrounds. However, what I have are several rather cheesy effects. Videos made with the webcam are in Windows Media Movie and audio files are in Windows Media Audio formats.

 

The base is a universal attachment unit that basically uses a push-down clamp to hold the camera gently in place. It works well and can secure the camera on LCD's up to about two inches thick. I had no issues securing it to either an Eizo CE240W 24" LCD that is nearly 2 inches thick, nor was there a problem securing it to a 30" Dell display that was thick and rounded in the back as well.

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If you are still using a CRT display I am not sure if the clamp the VX-6000 uses to secure itself to the display will hold the cam in place effectively. However, in testing it fit my variety of LCD displays without issue. I also found that the clamp could be used to adjust the angle at which the VX-6000 pointed down from the display.

 

 

 

I mentioned a bit ago about the face tracking not working at 1.3 megapixels. At any of the other resolutions the VX-6000 is capable of the face tracking software does a decent job of following your face while recording or playing back live video. I say decent because during testing the face tracking software tended to over do the zoom and the over compensate for it by swiftly zooming out again.

 

Mac users are out of luck when it comes to using the VX-6000 as it is not Mac compatible. Then again, you don't really expect Microsoft to make Mac compatible peripherals, aside from the occasional keyboard. Supported operating systems are Windows XP Pro/Home, Media Center Edition 2005 as well as the Tablet PC edition. Connectivity is via USB 2.0, though the webcam is also USB 1.1 compatible as well.

 

One feature of the LifeCam VX-6000 I was unable to test was the One-Touch blogging function. At the time I reviewed the VX-6000 the one touch blog feature had not yet be enabled. However, the one touch button on top of the web cam does allow you to access your friends list with a single touch to start a video or text conversation.

 

LifeCam in Use

Installing the VX-6000 was as easy as installing the software, which includes a download for Microsoft Live Messenger, and plugging the USB webcam in when prompted. Once plugged in the software walked me through selecting the source I would use to capture and playback audio signals.

 

Once installed, a simple click on the short cut for the VX-6000 and it was ready to go. The preview screen automatically comes up and allows you to open the menu for choosing the effects and setting the video cam and still camera resolutions. From within the LifeCam software you can capture full motion video, still images and audio files. If you are into video blogging or making podcasts, this is a great web cam for you.

 

Adjusting the focus is not difficult at all, even though it is a manual affair performed by turning the adjustment ring around the lens itself. The cam is also adjustable for angle and pitch via swivels built into the base.

 

I mentioned before that I thought if you were looking for a cam just for use by yourself, the wide-angle lens was a bit of overkill. It makes for lots of space to the left and right of you while recording. The digital zoom can be used to tighten up the shot, but it leaves you with noticeably lower quality video.

 

Final LifeCam Impressions

Overall, the VX-6000 is a good web cam that has the highest resolutions you will find this side of a camcorder and takes quality still shots as well. It is easy to set up and use and the software is intuitive and works well. Tight integration with Live Messenger makes it great for video conferencing with friends, though Microsoft says the cam is compatible with all leading instant messenger software for Windows.

 

If you intend on using the camera to make video blogs, you will soon wish that the cams stand situated it closer to the monitor bezel so you appear to be looking at your audience, rather than looking up at them because the cam is a bit far from the display. However, once the One-Touch blogging feature is activated, video bloggers will have a good reason to buy the VX-6000.

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