Logitech Introduces 7 New Webcam Models

image of logitech webcam pro 9000
Logitech, a major webcam manufacturer has introduced a bunch of new web cameras - seven, to be exact. These include the Webcam Pro 9000, Portable Webcam C905, Webcam C600, Webcam C500, Webcam C300, Webcam C250, and Webcam C200. 

The range of prices run from a high of $99.99 for the
Webcam Pro 9000, pictured here (features a 2-megapixel sensor for 720p video), to a low of $29.99 for the Webcam C200 (includes a 1.3 megapixel sensor with VG video capture).  For more information on any of these cams, just click on the links.

Home Video Surveillance Setup - Part III (Cam Specs)

Welcome back. In this segment, I want to talk about the different specs for web cameras...

From our last session, we found out there are basically 4 types of web cams that we can choose from: USB interface, FireWire interface, Wireless Networked, and Wired Network.

There are pros and cons for each type of camera. Knowing how you want to use your spy cam will determine the type(s) you can select.

No matter which interface you choose, there will be some specs that apply across the entire spectrum of webcams.

Cost: Cams vary widely in cost. Price however, should not be your driving factor. Remember the saying that "You get what you pay for". This holds true for webcams as well. In general, the more you're willing to pay, you're likely to find more features and better image clarity. However, this isn't always true so be sure to pay close attention to features, specs, and customer reviews. Higher-end webcams usually include better imaging sensors, better lenses, and better color processing.

Resolution: This is the size of the captured image measured in pixels or dots per inch. The larger the spec, the better the quality of the video. Typical resolutions are from a low of 160x120 all the way up to 1600x1200. Standard resolution is usually 640x480. This used to be the upper end but now it's the norm. Keep in mind that each pixel is data. The larger the resolution, the larger the data flow and storage requirements are going to be. Resolution is directly proportional to speed.

Frame Rate: (or speed) is the number of pictures captured and transmitted per second. Remember video is nothing more than a series of still images. The faster the frames per second (fps), the better the video will look. At 10fps, a video looks choppy whereas around 25 fps or so, the eye begins to see the images as a flowing image. 30-60 fps is more cinema-like and looks much sharper and defined.

There is a trade-off -both frame rate and resolution are important but unfortunately, they combine to create a challenge for both your connection, and your computer. Higher resolution means more data per picture. Faster frame rates mean more pictures per second. This means that the pipe (connection) you're pumping this through needs to be able to handle this tremendous data flow. Your computer also has to be able to handle this data rush and if you intend to store it, you need to have adequate (hard drive) space available as well.

Some cameras have built-in data compression so they take some of the burden off your connection and computer by compressing the signal so there's less data to work with, but these models cost more. If you plan to use a low bandwidth connection and/or have a less powerful computer, this type of cam may be what's needed. Even though it's a bit more expensive, it's cheaper than buying a new computer.

Types of Cams:
USB Cams are the most common, the least expensive of the lot and probably come in with the largest selection. But not all USB cams are created equally. Due to our data throughput requirements, you should only consider USB 2.0 or better cams. The older USB 1.1 spec is just too limiting with bandwidth. For measurement speak, USB 1.1 has a transfer rate of 1.5MBytes/sec. USB 2.0 rates at 60MBytes/sec (40 times as fast).

Warning - pay particular attention to the USB spec wording. If the cam states that it's USB 2 "compatible" or "ready", shy away. This manufacturer is merely stating that the cam can function on a USB 2.0 connection, but in reality may only be working at a USB 1.1 level.

USB Length Limits; USB is good for cams that are located close to the computer. Normal operating distances are up to 12 feet. Anything beyond this length, you will need to install active USB extenders which repeat and amplify the USB signals. This is doable but every extension adds resistance and potential for performance degradation.

Ultimately, If you choose a USB connected camera, you'll want to make sure it's UVC-USB 2.0 Video Class compliant. No video drivers required - driverless support for UVC web cameras is built into the Mac operating system for instant plug-and-play operation. The Mac OS X has shipped with a UVC driver included since version 10.4.3, and it was updated in 10.4.9 to work with iChat.

Firewire cams can transmit higher data flows. Firewire (IEEE 1394 interface) is a serial bus interface standard for high-speed communications that transfers at speeds of 400MBytes/sec or more than 6 times faster than USB2.0.

The benefits of going firewire are speed and bandwidth. If your computer is powerful enough, you will be able to process some very nice video images with a firewire cam. Be aware that that bandwidth also means there will could be some big storage demands as well. FIrewire, like USB, is also hampered by distance. Normal cable length is under 10 feet but it's possible to extend this too with the use of active firewire extension cables but the same performance degradation is a potential issue here to - just like USB.

Network cams are great for placing cams at distances further away from the computer. These web cams hook up to your Airport extreme router (or other brand name routers) and are connected via an ethernet cable. Typical modern ethernet connections run at 100Mbits/sec. While a bit slower than firewire, ethernet can transmit over long distances - over 1600 feet. This length can also be extended but does not suffer from the degradation of USB and Firewire extensions. Also, this communication method normally does not require shielded cable. Many offices and business buildings are already cabled for ethernet. The downside is that a cable needs to be run to the camera. If your home isn't cabled as such, you will need to string the cable.

Wireless network cams work just like the wired versions but do so through a WiFi network. The positive is that these cams can be put anyplace a wireless signal is present. They can be moved at will and are gaining popularity - as a result, the price of them is starting to come down. The negative aspect of these cams is that they require a wireless network and some of the earlier models did not support very good security measures. They also tend to be more expensive than their cabled siblings and can sometimes suffer from bandwidth problems. Depending on your WiFi signal strength, you may not be able to push as much data through the air as you would like. Communications with the camera are dependent upon the quality of your wireless network signal and any surrounding electro magnetic interference.

As you can see, there are tradeoffs and compromises to each type of web camera, but now that you know how to select one and what to look for, you should have no trouble finding one to suit your needs.

image logitech quickcam vision pro for macintosh

If you are in the early stages of developing a surveillance system, I suggest you start out with the Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro for the Mac. It's my USB best pick. If you should need something different down the line, this webcam will still do a great job for iChat, WebCamNow, Skype, YouTube, DailyMugShot, and any other web cam application you want to use it with. This is a great starter/expander Apple Mac Compatible Web Camera.

If you think you might need something else, don't be afraid to look at my other BEST-OF picks in the webcam list on the Apple Surveillance Cams page.

Ok, that's more than enough for this time. Next segment in this thread will be about putting these cams together with some software... See you soon.