Review: The Logitech CC3000e Conference Cam – Part 2

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Logithec CC3000e Conference Cam KitIn part one of this little adventure I introduced you to Logitech’s new CC3000e Conference Cam, a webcam like no other in my experience.

Audio Performance

The audio playback performance of the CC3000e was decent. I have used the device to listen to streaming radio & some podcasts while it was USB attached to my desktop. It’s obviously much too large for my desk. Then again, that’s not the target role for the device.

Logitech has a long history as a manufacturer of PC speakers, with products ranging from cheesy to thunderous, so it’s no surprise that the CC3000e sounds quite good. Given my prior experience with the BCC950, I was more curious about the performance of the microphones.

I put the CC3000e along side a couple of reference devices for comparison. When compared to the Clear One Chat 160 I found that the CC3000e played louder, no doubt bit benefits from deriving more power than a single USB connection can provide.

In the way of a simple audio test I recorded some speech into Adobe Audition using the CC3000e as the source device. With the sample rate set for 48 KHz the resulting recording showed vocal energy present up to around 8 KHz.

Sample Media: Audio

This aspect of it’s performance is not entirely easy to convey. It’s the far end of any call that would appreciate it’s microphone performance. So, I give you as evidence the recording of VUC 490 where Ziva Nissan, Sr. B2B Video Product Manager at Logitech, presented the device. They were using one at their location. I was also using one in my office. If I’m not wearing my customary headset then you’re hearing my voice, such as it is, by way of the CC3000e.

Sample Media: Video

The camera is much easier to evaluate locally. I offer you as evidence of its behavior some recorded samples of it’s output. Given the assortment of webcams that I have on-hand, I thought it most appropriate to compare it to its lesser sibling, the BCC950 Conference Cam.

I put the two webcams on appropriate mounts near my desk, aimed at the table at the far end of the room. There’s 16 feet to the far wall.  On the far table I put a wooden piece of art that features a lot of type.

My home office is atypical in that it features two pairs of west-facing terrace doors. Depending upon the season and time of day these allow a lot of natural light, which can be problematic for webcams. It presents a challenge to their ability to handle contrast, adjust exposure and color temperature.

Reference Image taken with Canon Rebel XSi DSLR set to fully auto.

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Sample Clip #1: Composite comparing the zoom range of the two PTZ-capable webcams

Sample Clip #2: The Logitech BCC950 Conference Cam

Sample Clip #3: The Logitech CC3000e Conference Cam

Sample Clip #4: Composite comparing the zoom range: C920 vs CC3000e

In offering these clips I hope that I am conveying the field of view and range of motion allowed by the PTZ hardware, as well as the nature of that motion and the basic image quality of the cameras. Note that the PTZ capability of the C920 webcam is based upon digital zoom, not a proper lens.

In all cases the cameras were connected to my desktop PC where they served as sources for Wirecast. The cameras were configured for send 720p30 streams. The comparative clip is recorded at 1080p30 to provide a little better sense of image quality, even though the 720p30 video streams are resized and repositioned.

That last clip is perhaps bit unfair. The C920 webcam is a sub-$100 device that, while the best in it’s class, is clearly not in the in the same league as the CC3000e, which costs over ten times the price! However, the C920 is the webcam that Google has selected to use with their Chromebox for Meetings. That casts a different light upon the situation.

I suspect that some people will find the I/O compliment of Chromebox for Meetings a little wanting. That could make comparison to the BCC950 and CC3000e quite appropriate. More capable audio/video I/O added to Chromebox for Meetings could see it finding a home in a wider range of sites. Chromebox for Meetings and CC3000e would combine into a considerably more capable end-point in the $2k range.

PTZ Mechanics

The CC3000e cordless remote control features a “Home” button for the camera. When you have the camera aimed in a nominal fashion for your room press and hold this button briefly. This stores the camera position in memory. Later on, tapping the button again will cause the PTZ mount to swing back to that same position. This home function seems to only leverage the pan and tilt controls, as it does not alter the zoom position.

The Home button is basically a single position PTZ memory. I’d really like to have the ability to store/recall multiple PTZ presets. Such capability would allow for camera presets that correspond to key location in the room; the white board, the head of the table, a wide shot, etc. This capability is typical of dedicated video conferencing cameras and dedicated control systems like those from Crestron or AMX. It’s possible that this could eventually be implemented by way of some third party software.

My problem is that I when I find a quality tool I tend to want to use it beyond it’s intended application. The CC3000e is such a nice camera that I’d be inclined to use for something more akin to video production than video conferencing. That’s where a truly smooth remote controlled PTZ camera is desirable. Such expectations are simply unfair at this price point.

Revisiting PTZ Remote Control

This review came together over a period of a couple of months. At the point of launch of the product only Microsoft’s Lync supported far-end PTZ control. Since then I’m told that Vidyo has added such capability to their soft client as well. I’ve further been told that there is an SDK available for those developers who want to implement remote control of the Logitech Conference Cams, although access to that SDK presently requires an NDA.

I’m hopeful that some enterprising developer will make the effort to wrap up the PTZ and call control functionality in a Javascript library. That could allow other to more optimally leverage the hardware from within WebRTC applications like Jitsi Video Bridge.

Looking to the future, Logitech is pursuing and extension to the UVC specification that would add their PTZ remote control scheme to the existing standard. That effort will of course move at the pace of a standards body.

Summary

To be blunt, the CC3000e camera is the best USB-attached camera that I have ever had the pleasure to us. It reliably delivers good looking video, even under some tough lighting conditions. The auto-focus function is decent, if occasionally a bit slow to achieve a sharp result.

The audio performance of the CC3000e is decent. It’s certainly comparable to other USB-attached conference phones that I’ve used, but not comparable to dedicated IP conference phones.

As a camera + conference phone bundle, it’s major advantage is ease of installation and use. Seriously, my parents could set it up and have it in service with no trouble at all.

In offering the CC3000e Logitech has targeted a void in the marketplace. They’ve addressed the small business user who wants to make use of video beyond the single user desktop, but can’t justify the cost of complexity of traditional VC appliances. Whether used in conjunction with MS Lync, Skype, Hangouts or larger systems from Polycom or LifeSize, it’s a solid solution for a mid-to-largish meeting room.

There are no perfect products, but I think that the Logitech CC3000e is a winner.

Pros:

  • Easy to install
  • Easy to use
  • Pairs to mobile devices via Bluetooth
  • Very good image quality
  • Supports H.264 SVC with suitable client applications

Cons

  • Only one programmable camera location
  • Sometimes slow to auto-focus
  • Far-end PTZ controls only work with a few apps