Why webcams—even the expensive Logitech models—are so low-quality

I’ve had a C920 HD Pro since 2017, and it works just fine for me. Which is to say, I always leave it turned off in meetings, and nobody’s ever asked me to change that.

Got it covered:

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fancy!

(and I groaned at your joke)

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Honestly, people give it shit, but it is much better than virtually everything else out there, including similarly-pitched magazines like Consumer Reports and Which UK. Almost all review sites now are generative SEO trash cobbled together from amazon searches.

The really good stuff is very focused. Project farm, America’s test kitchen, The Torque Test Channel,
rtings. Some of the “real magazines” are pretty good too, Laptop Magazine and PC Mag. I’d generally rather watch youtubers than read subjective, non-testing articles these days. Recos, on a spectrum from subjective to rigorous: Marques, Dave Lee, Lisa Gade.

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I use a Røde Go with a lav mic

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I can’t complain about my C920 either. Though there is a lot of glare from the light above me reflecting off my bald head.

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So get an LG V40 or something and use a passthrough app to put the video or stills from it through USB-C? (Kind of small for a whiteboard TBH.)

Still, that guy’s lighting was bad and his easel of a landscape was bad and he should feel slightly bad.

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So is this an undisclosed sponsored post, or are we just passing along this guy’s obviously-unbiased-but-the-answer-is-buy-my-software blog post as an objective assessment for free?

The windows version of the software is what I had referred to, but given it’s kwality, I’d have been surprised if the MacOS was better. Good to know, at least.

Presumably, the conferencing software should have a preview window which should be what the other participants see after whatever tricks the software does (swapping backgrounds, etc.)

TBH, I leave the camera off most of the time anyway; most of the meetings I have at [RedactedCo] are either too large for everyone to have a camera going, or not long enough to warrent setting it up.

THIS. The dual mics on my logitech C920 are… passable, but not all that great; I’ve been using a Pyle branded USB mic on a boom stand, and for $70 of investment (mic and stand) it works quite nicely.

Consumer reports has a bias of “all products are crap, but our in-house testing and member submitted reports say these are the least crap of the lot.” They are a bit pessimistic in that regard, but unless their policy changed in the last 20-some years, they buy everything themselves at regular street prices, and not some company provided (and possibly tweaked) ‘review’ unit. (which is also a bias, but a pleasing one at that.)

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The problem I had with Consumer Reports is that its reviewing, however pure, is almost academically focused on measurable manufacturing quality. Good for fridges, maybe, not so great for anything with a screen.

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Yes. I got that.

My original comment on the subject was a reply to @stangunn who complained that Logitech doesn’t offer a settings app for MacOS. They do. It’s just a pain to dig up, just like it is for Windows.

I haven’t tried this new Capture Software they seem to be pushing. But the regular camera settings program they provide is fine, if basic. A lot of what I find less than useful about it. Settings not persisting when the app is closed, whatever I’m using the webcam for sometimes not being able to pull the video while the app is open. Generally not getting along with other stuff. Seems about as true as any settings program I’ve used. So might not be on Logitech.

Webcams in general are sort of bullshit commodity devices, and given that they use common/universal drivers and what have. It’d probably be better for those video chat apps to have better settings internally, or the OSes to take it on. Like they do for mice and keyboards.

Which leads to some skewing. Given the weight they give to repair records. How often something is repairable and what the costs are. Sometimes things that fail pretty rarely end up lower rated than things that break a lot. My dad ended up with a pretty shit dishwasher on their recommendation. It’s always a pretty easy at home fix, and you can get all the parts pretty easy.

It still works, and washes dishes just fine. Nothing catastrophic has happened.

But something is constantly going wrong with the damn thing and it hasn’t worn in well. Little pieces keep falling off. All the labelling on the buttons wore off in 6 months, so it’s set how it’s set and we just turn it off, turn it on and close the door to activate it. Using it is very frustrating, but again it still works.

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Ah, logitech software. Immediately upon launch.

Not using Apple silicon seems to be the least of its problems.

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If you use MacOS there is hope on the horizon. My 2021 M1 MacBook Pro has a camera leaps and bounds better than anything I have seen in a laptop. Much better than my old C920, despite being only a few millimeters in size. There is some softness since it’s using heavy duty computation to overcome the noise of the small sensor, but it is plenty sharp for zoom. I think some of the softness comes from “beauty filters” algorithmically smoothing skin.

The dynamic range is the impressive part; none of the blown highlights or ruddy-blotchy-red faces that plague small format sensors. Nowhere near the dynamic range of the iphone though.

As @orenwolf says, Continuity Camera will surely lead to a plethora of better iphone mounts for screentop use. Not to mention eliminating the extra clicks and hassle involved in running flaky 3rd party software to connect a camera not built for videoconferencing.

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Do those algorithms discriminate against the very old? Someone near and dear to me looked perfectly hideous on zoom-- kind of a Mommy Dearest look.

I’ll take it over reviews from a competitor.

I use an app called iriun to use my phone’s main camera as a webcam for my windows PC. Works great, also works with iphones, mac and ubuntu (allegedly, haven’t tested that). The pro version cost €5, well worth it.

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I read a bit about Continuity Camera, the MacOS Ventura feature you mention. It’ll be (not available yet) quite restrictive, in the sense of you’ll need an iPhone with UltraWide lenses. This will exclude any iPhone older than 2019 as well as the iPhone SE (both 2020 and 2022). So no second hand cheap iPhone 7 for that feature, which still gives Camo an edge.

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Same. Very expensive dogshit.

As to why? Cheap optics, cheap sensors, cheap packaging, and crap resolution. A 1080p webcam is barely more than 1MP. That’s assuming it actually is 1080p and not upscaled 720p or worse. That’s worse than the front camera on a 10 year old iPhone 5. A couple year old iPhone 11 has a 12MP camera. Of course it’s going to look better.

This problem isn’t unique to external webcams. Most laptops have garbage webcams built into them. Even the newest M2 MacBook Pro has a 720p webcam — that’s 0.9MP.

Using a DSLR is really the best option but if you’re space constrained like me then it’s a non-starter.

Yup. I discovered this too the hard way. Like you, I found this utterly baffling and bizarre. It works fine on my Windows machine, but it’s just so odd that there’s no options on the Mac to adjust it in any way without buying third party software.

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My brio can be adjusted using logitech options.
color, field of view, autofocus behavior, autoexposure settings. The same program is reputed to support older logitech webcams

It does consume a lot of ram, though, and it’s not Apple Silicon native.

Logi Capture (which I was trying to use because it captures at 4k, unlike, say quicktime) crashes upon launch.

I think the megapixel count is a red herring. An iphone is expected to capture still photos. A webcam can stick to video. 1080p video requires 2 megapixels. 4K requires 8-- ideally spread over a large sensor.

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It is and it isn’t. If you’re broadcasting video over a webcam, with compression and scaling you’re likely ending up with a far lower resolution than what the sensor can actually capture. But the thing is that most cams upscale from a lower resolution rather than downscale from a higher resolution which will pretty much always result in worse PQ.

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Tandberg TTC8-02 are superb 720p webcams. In fact I have a number of their cameras for teleconferencing and they are outstanding cameras with the original list prices you’d expect (in 10s of thousands of dollars) but fortunately you can find a TTC8-02 for about $30 on eBay.

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