Pros:Exceptional video quality for a web camera. Good audio quality. Amazingly well engineered stand.
Cons:Colors and image degrade fast with lower light levels. Outdoors ambient sound overtakes audio.
The Bottom Line: I needed a web camera good enough for video conferencing but got one that can be used for video projects. The QuickCam Pro 9000 has crossed the webcam quality barrier.
The primary purpose of this web camera was for video conferences but the video quality has expanded its use to video editing as well as just family fun.
Recommend this product?
As usual for me I stay away from the tech talk and try to be more about the personal experience. Having had more than a few web cameras in the past I have always been disappointed with the quality of this general product line. Even some of the higher end ones I have used have been lacking so much that I felt they were simply not worth the effort of working out all the bugs installing them and then practically having to duct tape them to the desk to keep them in frame. All that ended when I got the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 Web Camera.
I have another webcam, a Creative Technology PRO EX Web Cam still in use, that is so light that the weight of the USB cord will pull it off the back of the desk if I don't secure it down. The QuickCam Pro 9000 has no such issue. It is just large enough with the very unusual base (more in a moment) that it can not be easily pulled around by its cord yet it's still small enough to fit well on the top of the laptop screen. The Pro 9000 Web Camera also has a very sturdy feel without being heavy or bulky and I suspect it should be hard to break any part of it through normal use. Even in a soft sided laptop bag that gets bumped around on planes. This all may seem like a bit of a contradiction but try to think of other products you may have had which are both small and light while at the same time are so well constructed that they have a solid feel and appropriate heft. The Logitech QuickCam just fits well into that group.
Webcam bases in my experience have been one of those things that felt more like an afterthought than an engineered part of the product. That trend ended with the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000. The unusual looking base is surprisingly versatile and looks and feels like a lot of thought and time went into designing it. It has this odd swing like base that allows for almost any position or configuration you can think of. Anything from the standard sitting on the desktop setup to hanging from the top of the laptop screen is not only possible but very secure. The rubber covering on the various parts of this strange folding and swinging stand, hold on well to any surface they come in contact with. We have set it up on the dining room table, the Dell Mini, the old thick screened laptop, the big LCD monitor and even our flat screen TV. In all of the ways we have tried it has been secure, stable and endlessly adjustable to allow for the perfect camera angle. I seriously would like to see this stand on more products not just webcams.
Setup was a breeze. In several places, including covering the capped end of the USB cord, it clearly states to run the install software before plugging in the camera. I got the feeling from all the warnings that if you plugged in the camera before installing the software something bad would happen. Maybe not but I took no chances. This does make it vital that you hold on to that software so don't loose it. Of course you can always download it from Logitech's site but keeping original software stored away safely is a really good idea just in case you need the cam but have no web access.
After inserting the CD ROM a short setup process begins. Then after a couple of quick steps are completed the on screen instructions guide you clearly through the physical plugging in and final setup of the camera. The process was fast and without issue on all five computers we set it up on.
We have set the QuickCam up on a variety of computers including a seven year old Win 2K laptop, a very new XPS Vista Gaming PC, a six year old Dell XP Home PC, and a Dell Mini 9 with XP Pro. Both the old laptop and the old Dell had previous webcams installed on them and there were no conflicts or any issues installing this one. With such a wide range of computers and Windows based OS I cant imagine anyone running into any major install issues. I don't have any Mac equipment or Linux based OS computers to test on so if you do I recomend reading up before buying the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000. On Windows it was as easy as it could be.
So what about the image quality? Bottom line is the better the graphics card, processor and RAM on the computer you are using the higher you can set the video quality levels. The maximum settings are very good indeed. Video quality high enough to play back on my wide screen TV and have it look just as good as a nice camcorder video. But you wont always be able to use the maximum settings. Not to mention unless you have a very fast internet connection you wont want to video conference or chat on line at the maximum settings anyhow. Lighting is also an issue that will effect picture quality greatly but more in a moment on that.
At the maximum settings we are getting very clear and high quality videos on the gaming PC as we should expect. There is just a little stutter every now and then, most noticeably when using real time special effects, on the older Dell but it's been upgraded quite a lot over the years and still holds its own with some of the newer games. So again I would expect it to handle the highest levels from the Pro 9000 Web Camera. On the laptop we had to drop image quality because the video was freezing up often at the higher levels but still we did not have to go to the lowest settings. On the mini 9 we do have to use the lowest settings to get non-freezing video. Looking at the specs on each of the computers it all falls in line with what we would expect in terms of video quality dropping as the performance levels of each computer drops.
On all our computers the colors are bit washed out in normal room lighting and very washed out to dim in low lighting but with a set of video lights I was surprised at the very high quality of the colors and tones. Not as good as my semi-pro HD Video camera but much better than the video on my pocket camera. Now not everyone has a set of three 600w video lights laying around so if you are trying to get the very best image possible from this web camera, I suggest bringing as much light in as you possibly can. Even so the colors are not so bad in regular lighting that it detracts from the use of the webcam. Its just not as true to life as one would hope for.
Audio quality is again surprisingly good for such a small microphone. Anything further than about 5 feet does start to get a little hollow sounding but not too bad until you get about 15 feet away. Within 5 feet or so normal conversational tones are clear and sharp. Most remarkable was that a whisper within about 3 feet is easily understandable. Ambient noise is relatively nonexistent most of the time but the fridge kicking on did come through in the living room from about 30 feet away. That's all indoors, outdoors is a different story.
Outdoors there is a dramatic loss of quality due to ambient noises. In the park, using the Mini 9, the ambient noises tended to wash out and muffle voices, even those that were right next to the Pro 9000 Web Camera. For some reason car noises from over 50 feet away were especially bothersome and seemed to stand out well above any other sounds including ones very close to the webcam. For the most part people don't use webcams outdoors but even on the deck behind our house there was a noticeable increase in background noises. Not a huge issue but one worth considering.
The interface controls are extremely well laid out. All too often the interface software that comes with many electronics feels slapped together at the last minute. This often leaves the user to stumble through poorly organized menus, endless submenus and deciphering cryptic icons. Not so with the Logitech software that came with QuickCam Pro. I was running through all the color, saturation, contrast and other such adjustments right away with ease. The manual has never been needed. This also extended to all the extras that came along with the Pro 9000 Web Camera as well. So what about those extras?
There are many extra features this Web Camera offers but I will only touch on a few. For the most part all the extras are unnecessary for my purposes so I only played with them long enough to realize I had no use for them. Also I found that most of them were very resource intensive and only the better desktop gaming PCs handled them well enough to be of any use at all. The Mini 9 just froze up right away and the laptop was having fits.
One of the possibly useful extras is the ability for the camera to lock on and track faces. It is useful but limited to a small area and therefore is not as effective as some of the motorized tracking cameras. This should not be an option that sells you on this webcam if face tracking is something you really need. All it appears to be doing is cropping down its field of view and then locking onto your face. As you move it pans (virtually) through its own fixed field of view. This is in contrast to a non-virtual pan where the camera is motorized and actually moves itself while tracking your face. As long as your movements don't go further than a few inches it will do a very good job staying tightly on your face. Move too far though and you will move out of its limited panning area and be lost. As I said if this is something you need look at some of the many motorized webcams instead.
Then there are a bunch of goofy extras like overlays and effects. For the most part they are useless to all but the very young or those catering to the very young. Traveling parents and Grandparents take note the face overlays could be very fun to amuse the little ones back home. Basically the webcam has the ability to map your face and overlay one of many silly character on your face. Because the webcam maps your eyes, nose, mouth and even eyebrows, when you talk and make facial expressions the character moves with your movements. This however, is very resource intensive so you better have a very high end PC to utilize this with any results that count. For us only the very high end gaming PC gave smooth accurate results.
There are also masks, hats and other silly cartoony items that attach to your face in a similar manner but any major movement or turning of the head causes very undesirable effects. The up shot is that they don't seem to be quite as much of a strain on the PCs resources so a good laptop could probably handle them. The "devil" horns are particularly funny as is the classic arrow through the head overlay.
Lastly, at least for me, are the many image special effects. These rang from the mundane "old time film" look to a rather nifty rippling water reflection effect and even an Andy Warhol-esqu, multi-image, primary color sort of thing but in the end most will be about useless in any real life application beyond chatting with an on line friend.
All this is fun to play with and maybe even download a few of the many free characters and special effects from Logitech's site... for about 20 minutes. After that its back to business. Don't let gimmicky extras sway your deal unless you really have a need for them.
All in all the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 Web Camera is an excellent choice for anyone wanting more than the blurry webcams we have come to know and not love. Without having to go as far as that pro rig setup in the corporate conference room or a bulky video camera with its own bag to tote around. It will do exceptionally well for all of the usual web camera tasks and with some lighting creativity it may even be a useful addition to your video production needs.