Now I’m not a big fan of webcams. For starters, I’m not particularly thrilled with the look of my face or my follicly-challenged head. So I’d rather be seen only through the lens of a skilled photographer using professional photography gear. Someone who can find the best angle, depth of field and lighting conditions. But as Mick Jagger said on an unrelated matter, you can’t always get what you want.
Recently I heard that I might have the opportunity to chat with a couple of folks at a company that ranks toward the top of the Fortune 500. And while we’re all located in the Greater New York City Area, they wanted to conduct this conversation via Skype or FaceTime rather than in person. Having had a few days advanced notice, I began to think about how I wanted to handle my end of this conversation from a technical perspective.
Sure, I happen to have several Apple gizmos bearing FaceTime cameras, from my iPhone through my MacBook Pro. I could meet the basic technical requirement of this virtual meeting simply by reaching for whatever Apple device was closest. But I also know that there’s literally nothing less flattering to my appearance than a FaceTime video conference conducted via a handheld device or a laptop with the screen angled sharply skyward toward my face. So I began to look into other options.
A quick Google search revealed that the Logitech® HD Pro Webcam C920 is the “#1 Best Seller in Webcams” at Amazon.com at the time, with 797 five-star reviews. It also looks to be the webcam included with Google’s recently-announced Chromebox for Meetings. With references like these, coupled with a pricetag of $74.95 that day (and cheaper since), it seemed hard to go wrong. So I ordered one. As an Amazon Prime customer, the camera arrived the very next day with no shipping charge.
The Logitech® HD Pro Webcam C920 is at the upper end of Logitech’s good-better-best continuum of webcam products. It offers full HD 1080p H.264 recording via a Carl Zeiss Tessar glass lens with 20-step Autofocus. Stereo sound is picked up via mics at each end of the camera. (You’ll have to supply your own speakers, of course.) And if you’re using Windows, the C920 includes ‘Premium’ video effects, one of which we’ll talk more about in a few minutes.
Initiating the Logitech® HD Pro Webcam C920 installation on a Windows 7 PC was as simple as plugging it in. I was quickly prompted with an opportunity to upgrade the Logitech software, to which I clicked Next, and then chose a default installation. Since my ultimate use for this camera is Skype video conversation, I downloaded Skype immediately afterward. On a Windows platform, Skype and the Logitech Webcam Software are very well integrated.
When the camera is on, you’ll see a soft blue glow at both sides of the lens assembly, as seen in the photo that accompanies this article. I like it, as it serves as a reminder to talk to the lens – not your screen – without being obnoxious to stare at. I tested the camera by conducting a 27-minute video call to a personal friend in Shanghai, China, some 7356 miles away. Certainly video frames are dropped in a session of that distance, but the person at the receiving end suggested that it was better than his average Skype experience with people in the States.
Follow my face
Perhaps my favorite feature of the C920 is the ‘Follow my face’ technology included with the ‘Premium’ Windows software mentioned earlier. Instead of sharing the webcam’s relatively wide angle of view with your remote partner, the camera tries to zoom in to the area where your face reasonably fills the frame. It’s not perfect, but it’s worth using. Hopefully this isn’t one of those technologies that relies on caucasian skin tones in order to work properly. While Follow my face is only available when used with Windows, most Apple products already have an integrated webcam anyway.
If you need a webcam, particularly for a Windows desktop PC, the Logitech® HD Pro Webcam C920 is priced affordably and does the job as well as can be expected. There’s a reason it’s Amazon’s “#1 Best Seller in Webcams.” And this one will likely sit atop one of the monitors in my office for the foreseeable future.