Microsoft LifeCam Cinema HD
Similar to the Logitech HD Pro C910 packaging, Microsoft opt for a visually aesthetic display.
Out of the box, installation is again akin to the Logitech C910. While the webcam will function OK just by plugging the USB cable into your computer, you will get extra image processing and adjustment controls by installing the Microsoft LifeCam software.
One benefit of being a Microsoft webcam is that it will try and obtain the drivers and software from the web automatically or via Windows Update. The installation process took approximately 2 minutes and will also try and install Windows Live Messenger too - so being on our guard - that was swiftly unticked.
Unlike the other HD webcams on test, the LifeCam's party trick is its ability to swivel left and right. This proves quite useful if your monitor is at a slight angle to the side of you and you want the camera to be straight-on. It will rejoin the group again as it will also sit on most monitors and laptop screens due to a flexible mount.
Image clarity overall is good, bearing in mind this webcam has been out for over a year now (compared to the other recent additions). While it may not have the crisp detail that the Logitech or FaceVsion exudes, it does a good, balanced job. The image is adequately detailed although the depth of field isn't quite as long as the Logitech or FaceVsion. Managing lighting in the shot was similar to that of the TouchCam N1, resulting in an almost like-for-like or natural representation of the room we were in, without adding any tint that was found slightly with the Logitech C910.
Focus on the Microsoft LifeCam is functional and is okay with a variety of up-close or far-away objects, but can be a little 'twitchy' when it comes to certain lighting conditions and the type of objects behind you. In some of our tests, we had a picture or placard behind us and can result in the camera temporarily losing focus and take a couple of seconds to reset. Albeit fairly minor, over a period of time it can get quite irritating and ended up switching "auto focus" off.
Its field of view, given the stiff competition gets it into third place, just behind the TouchCam N1 and the Logitech HD Pro C910. As with the former two cameras, it was more than capable of capturing two of us and some extra objects either side of us, resulting in a good widescreen view.
It handled 30 frames per second - of course resulting in a very smooth image. However, as we've detailed before, relatively pointless considering 24-25 frames per second is enough to fool the eye that it is continuous motion.
The LifeCam Cinema bandwidth utilisation varied from a low of 400kbps with a stationary image to a high of 1.6 Mbps with considerable head/hand movement. Whilst the LifeCam was slightly more ravenous than the FaceVsion, it was marginally less that the Logitech C910. This placed it firmly in the middle of the pack against the other HD cameras we tested.
While its recommend retail price makes it a close contender to the FaceVsion TouchCam N1, if you dig around online, you can get your hands on this webcam for a mere £45. This in retrospect makes it an absolute steal, as you get a defined HD image with a good widescreen view that's almost half the price of the Logitech and FaceVsion. If you're primarily interested in getting the best detail, opt for the Logitech or FaceVsion - otherwise the Microsoft LifeCam (or
possibly its bigger brother HD-5000, which we haven't yet tested) is a fine choice and beats the Freetalk Everyman HD too.
Freetalk Everyman HD | FaceVsion TouchCam N1 | Logitech HD Pro C910
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Testing & Disclaimer Information
All prices correct at date/time of writing.
Equipment was tested on: Intel Core2Quad 2.33 GHz, 4 GB RAM, 512 MB Graphics, Windows 7, Nefsis Online Conferencing Service, 10 Mb business internet connection, 720p HD resolutions.