Logitech was no doubt thinking of darkened hovels like my living room when they designed what may be the webcam software's most important component: RightLight settings. (RightLight 2 was introduced in QuickCam Vision Ultra back in 2006.) Combining four manual settings (low light saturation, low light boost, video noise, and spot metering) into one algorithm, the RightLight settings automatically adjust the lighting in the image to an optimal amount. The results are pretty impressive by themselves, but look particularly nice when compared to images from the Live! Cam Optia AF; for the first time, the images on the screen are brighter than they are in real life, and even with almost no external lighting, my face is still entirely visible.
Image quality taken at 2MP. Notice details from the closet and shirt are sharper compared to the next resolution setting.
Image quality taken at 640 x 480.
Image quality taken with some forelighting.
Image quality taken in dim lighting.
The QuickCam Pro for Notebooks includes eight image quality settings: 320 x 240, 640 x 480, 960 x 720, 1.3 megapixel, 2.0 megapixel, 3 megapixel, 4 megapixel, and 8 megapixel. Because the camera's sensor tops off at 2 megapixels, higher values are interpolated by the software. Within the software, I didn't notice any significant difference between the interpolated and the non-interpolated image resolutions, with two exceptions: first, there's more of a lag (of up to several seconds) when clicking the still image or video record buttons when recording higher quality, and second, the video feed has an odd tendency to flicker every few seconds at the interpolated video levels. I suspect this has to do with a combination of processing power and the wide spectrum of lighting in my living room, but it seems that, as with the other products we've tested, interpolated resolutions are more of a marketing point than a really useful feature. One final thing to note: quality levels above 2 megapixels are for still photos only, presumably because the camera is not fast enough to interpolate megapixels and record footage at the same time.
Face Tracking, Auto Focus, and Video Effects
Like many other webcam software packages, the QuickCam Software includes face tracking software that zooms and pans with your face as you move. Face tracking seems like a bit of a black art - I've never seen it done effectively - and while the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks doesn't suffer the same wild movement problems that I've seen in other face tracking packages, it isn't completely steady, either. That said, the face tracking does a great job of compensating for facial movement and zooming to the whole of the face, and as long as you don't move too quickly, the camera will keep up. As an added bonus, it has a multi-person option that works pretty well, too.
One reason why the Face Tracking works so well is the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks' excellent autofocus. Logitech makes a big deal of the autofocus mechanism on the product website, and it's not hard to see why: it works really, really well. Images kept a consistent level of sharpness throughout all uses, and though Logitech includes a manual focus option, I never felt the need to use it through any of my tests.
QuickCam Software also includes video effects that can spice up your recordings. Video effects only work at 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 resolutions, which no doubt has something to do with the amount of processing power needed to pull them off - and even then, my Core 2 Solo computer with 1.5 GB of RAM had rendering problems at the higher resolution. I've found Logitech's video effects to be the most interesting out there, and the effects included with QuickCam Software give a good demonstration of the fun things you can do with a video image. More effects are available for free download from Logitech.
Video effect selection pop-out on the left; privacy shade pop-out on the right.
The QuickCam Pro for Notebooks includes a very sensitive built-in microphone with an omni-directional pickup, displaying equal levels on sensitivity on all axes. To compensate for the microphone's lack of directionality, which can lead to the inclusion of unwanted noise in your recordings and broadcasts, Logitech included a noise supression option in the QuickCam Software package. In my tests, I found that the software-controlled amplifier in the microphone was sensitive enough to distort when set to half volume at a normal speaking voice, which suggests that the microphone is sensitive enough to record sounds from across a room, if you're so inclined. Noise suppression seems to work using a sampling filter, where the software samples all noise as it records and tries to remove anything that doesn't sound like a voice without cutting out too many frequencies. Those of you familiar with this type of technology will no doubt remember that it can create artifacts that are a bit like sound underwater, and that's the case here: the software removed the mid-frequency whine caused by a nearby computer's fans, but introduced artifacts in the process.
Mounting and positioning is very easy on notebooks
Software is well-organized and easy to use
Excellent low light compensation
Face tracking does a good job of marking and following the face
Good variety of video effects
USB cable can be too short
Mounting clip needs to be pried open to use
Software includes link pushing more webcams
Video effects require a very powerful computer
All in all, I was very impressed with the Logitech QuickCam Pro for Notebooks. Although the webcam has some flaws - particularly its short USB cable - those issues are more than covered by its strengths, making this webcam stand out far above its problem-plagued peers. This webcam gets my recommendation without reservation.