We have tested a wide variety of cameras with VSee, and pretty much anything that works with Windows DirectShow will give you a satisfactory experience, but a few webcams really stand out for video calling with their superior image quality due to superior optics and optical auto-focus.
For general usage, we recommend the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920. It has the all-important mechanical auto-focus and runs $75-$100. It can also work for telemedicine, like this cost-effective VSee-Intermountain tele-NICU setup using 3 Logitech C920 webcams. Ubergizmo has an excellent review of the C920 with pictures comparing the video quality of several other popular Logitech webcams – Pro 9000, C910, and C920.
If you’re on a tighter budget, the older Logitech Webcam Pro 9000 (at 2 MP video resolution) is still a good camera. It has a bracket that will fit over the top of most monitors, a long USB cable that will reach the computer under your desk. These days, you can easily find one around $50 on Amazon.
If you are using a laptop or notebook computer that doesn’t come with a built-in webcam, if you want a higher quality image than most laptops provide, or if you just want a second video feed to use with VSee’s auxiliary camera feature, you may want something smaller that will clip on the somewhat thinner laptop screen. Fortunately, Logitech squeezes the same optics and electronics from the 9000, including auto-focus, into a smaller package, the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, (also sold as the Webcam C905) for $75 – $100. Warning: Logitech frequently revises its naming scheme. Do not confuse the QuickCam Pro for Notesbooks with the older, inferior, QuickCam for Notebooks Pro.
For a little bit more money, the Logitech Webcam C930e (~$130) for businesses is an excellent webcam that gives you a really spectacular, smooth HD video experience. It’s a nice choice for telemedicine with its wide 90-degree diagonal field of view and Pan-Tilt-Zoom. (However, the C920 can be adequate, too. )
The Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF puts a quality camera on top of a stick with remote control pan and tilt. With VSee you can click on the other person’s picture and make their camera move (support for this feature requires a VSee Pro ($49/mo) license. The zoom, alas, is not optical, so as you zoom in you won’t necessarily see any more detail.
Its cousin, the newer Logitech BCC950 Conference Cam also has a 9″ stick mount for eye-level video conferencing.
As its name suggests, it’s designed for group conferencing and has built-in omni-directional speaker phones, remote control, and and added 2 feet of cord length compared with the Orbit’s 6 feet. It makes nice (inexpensive) choice for room video conference calls where it can be put on the table and moved around to bring the camera closer to people’s faces. I’ve seen this camera for as low as $188, although it more typically runs around $250. Tom Keating at TMCnet did a thorough review of the BCC950 you might find useful.
Microsoft is also in the camera business. While we’ve really liked the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema in the past, we’ve found over time that its video performance has not been consistent and its driver a bit bloated. It also claims to put out HD video at 30 fps although I couldn’t get it to go over 15 fps at 720p. However, even at that setting the video was stunning.
Cameras for Telepresence Conference Rooms
Finally, if you are building out a telepresence conference room and cost is no object, you should look into one of these Sony cameras:
Any of these units will cost you around $1,000, although many people have found used ones on eBay for far less. At this price point you get really high quality optics and mechanical zoom as well as pan-tilt.
As with any analog camera, you will need a digitizer capture card to connect it to your computer. VSee currently supports Pinnacle Dazzle DVC-100 (only available refurbished), Osprey 100, Dazzle, and AverMedia Game Broadcaster HD C127. (The first two take composite and S-Video, the last one is HDMI.) You may also need a USB-to-serial adapter to make use of the motors. And be sure to flip the little switch on the bottom to D30 emulation mode!
To see one in action, you can download VSee free and do a VSee Test Call. Our Test Call setup, uses the Sony EVI D30 with the Osprey 100.
For the price conscious, VSee offers its own telepresence room system. We took 2 wide angle Logitech C920 cameras and modified them for enhanced zoom and then created a mount for the whole fixture so you can easily attach it to the top of flat screen panels.
For more information about VSee room telepresence system, please contact sales.
Article first posted December, 2009. Updated August, 2013