June 4, 2007
Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision Special Edition
This is one hell of a webcam! The Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision Special Edition has replaced my previous one as the premiere, always on, WebCam for Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, quick still photos, and short videos for attaching to E-mails. Although the software provides access to them, I have yet to get involved with Skype, AOL Instant Messenger, or Logitech Voice Calling. Now that I have a webCam that has a sharp enough image to make me look less like the NERD I am, the sky is the limit.
This QuickCam from Logitech has a great five-Element Precision Glass Lens that keeps distortion low and captures more light than other webcams. If that is not enough, you can use “RightLight 2” to adjust the video settings in low light situations. The Microphone software includes acoustical echoing cancellation (AEC). If you are conversing with another person they will need headphones (you do not) or another webcam equipped with AEC to benefit from this technology.
Another software add-on is Logitech Video Effects. At first I though this extra item was a cute but uninteresting one but after setting up the Face Tracking Feature and picking an Avatar, I made a short video and sent it to my daughter in Phoenix. She laughed so hard she cried. There are more avatars and other fun items on the Logitech website. There is no charge for downloading them.
When I opened the box I found the QuickCam, a manual, and a software CD. No mastermind is required for this.
The instructions told me not to plug in the USB cable until the software was installed so I placed the QuickCam on the top of the monitor, easily bent the Flexible monitor clip so as to secure the QuickCam in place, and fired up the CD. The installation software asks that you shut down any antivirus or firewall you may be using. The option to look for an updated version of the software was already Xed and, when it checked the Logitech website it found, downloaded, and installed the latest version. The install completed with no problems.
When the software opened it started the audio tuning wizard and walked me through setting up the microphone and speakers. It also gave me the option of turning on RightLight 2 so as to better work under low light conditions. When I tried to setup Face Tracking (which is used with the Logitech Video Effects) the program told me I needed more light for that feature to work. The face tracking software uses 22 points on your face and good lighting is a must. After I improved the lighting Face Tracking was set up easily. It appears that Face Tracking may need setting up each time you chose to use an Avatar or when lighting changes.
Operating the QuickCam Altra Vision SE
Once the software was installed it opens with a vertical toolbar full of options. There is also an Icon on the Taskbar that must be clicked on if you wish to close the QuickCam completely as closing the QuickCam taskbar does not turn off the QuickCam. If you want your monitor to go to sleep mode you must turn the QuickCam software off using the taskbar Icon.
Photos and Videos
Clicking the top option on the toolbar opens QuickCapture. This area allows you to capture/record photos or videos as well as select sizes, Send an E-mail that includes the selected photo/video, Print a photo, or delete any file that has a thumbnail in the bottom area of the work space.
This area stores the sample Avatars, Face Accessories and Fun Filters as well as any you download from the Logitech website. As mentioned previously, selecting an Avatar and using it in a conversation or video message requires using the Face Tracking option so as to coordinate movement between your image and the Avatar. Face accessories give you items you may want to add to the scene like a crown, or beard or horns. Fun Filters make you look funny or creates distortion of the image in the capture screen so you can capture that image.
Gives you choice of a number of scenes to place on the camera so the viewer cannot see you or your work area. The final two options on the QuickCam Taskbar give you the ability to change the setup manually as will as launch or load options like Skype, Windows Live Messenger, AIM, Yahoo Messenger and Logitech VideoCall.
Working with the Webcam is easy from the start. The software is simple and intuitive. The 1.3 megapixel sensor, low f-stop of 1.6, and the special software makes for a solid package that gives better performance than I have ever seen in a webcam. Even the E-mail size option produced pretty good images. The other sizing options really made for fine photos. The videos using the E-mail setting were quite good as far as clarity but had some noise in the background. Videos taken when the unit was sitting on the monitor were more stable than when I moved the camera to pan around the room. I am not a tripod. The VGA and HD video recording mode were very clear and near perfect to my untrained eye. The pixel sizing choices are only used for still photo shots and they produced images mostly comparable to digital cameras with the same pixel capability. They are 1.3, 2, 3, and 4 MP. I assume those over 1.3 are software generated. However they all looked fine.
The zoom, pan and tilt option works very well. It is a little tough to hold the camera steady in one hand and toggle the software controlled zoom with the other. I use Windows Live Messenger and it performed perfectly with this product. I have had nothing but good remarks from others about the quality of the picture at their end of the IM experience. I tested this on an XP system so am unable to comment on the extra software gadgets that are available for those who have Vista.
There are two versions of this product, the SE and the Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision without the SE at the end. The SE is black and silver and the other version is silver and white. I have not tested the other one so have no idea of the difference other than price. The Special edition lists at $129.99 and the other is $79.99. The Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision Special Edition has a long name but it is now on the short list of must have products for me.
Click here to see more about this and the many other Logitech products