As more and more people make use of video, whether via Blab, Blue Jeans, Hangout, Skype or Zoom, webcams have been continually increasing in importance. Yet the competitive landscape for webcams has been relatively unchanged in recent years. However, there has recently been some movement that sleepiest corner of technology as Logitech this week announced the Logitech C925e Webcam.
The family of Logitech webcams can be confusing. Logitech’s own web site and marketing language make it difficult to differentiate the various models. Given my rambling exploration of webcams I have a handful of them hereabouts, which leaves me potentially well-positioned to help explain where the C925e fits.
Let’s consider it along side the two top-of-the-line non-PTZ models, the C920 and C930e. I’ve had both in use for a few years. I’ve highlighted those rows where there are differences worth examination.
|Max Native Resolution:||1920 x 1080||1920 x 1080||1920 x 1080|
|Max Frame Rate:||30 f/s||30 f/s||30 f/s|
|Field of View:||78 degrees||78 degrees||90 degrees|
|Interface Type:||USB 2.0||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|Carl Zeiss Optics||Yes||No||Yes|
|Auto Focus||Yes - 20 steps||Yes||Yes - 20 steps|
|Right Light 2 (Auto Exposure)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Built-in Microphone:||Yes - 2||Yes - 2||Yes - 2|
|Automatic audio noise reduction||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mounts on laptop, monitor or tripod||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Installable Driver||Yes||No (UVC)||No (UVC)|
|Application Software||Logitech Vid|
The newer C925e adopts some of the industrial design of their webcams designed to work with smart-TVs. It’s a little wider and had a built-in privacy shutter. It has the same basic mounting mechanics as the others, which have proven to a be a great design. It can be mounted in various ways, including on a standard camera tripod.
One of the possibly biggest differences is the fact that the older two models features multi-element glass lenses from Carl Zeiss. Sharp glass is surely a good start towards delivering sharp imagery.
Thus far it’s not clear what sort of lens is used in this new C925e model. It’s probably not from partner Zeiss or they’d surely trumpet that fact. Lesser glass would surely be one way to take some cost out of the bill-of-materials.
The 78 degree field of view is typical of cameras for desktop use by individuals. Huddle room applications are better served by a wider field of view, as we find in the C930e, or better yet a real PTZ camera.
Oh, now I get it! The e means that it has an encoder. All three of this trio have some form of encoder onboard. They all support the use of MJPEG encoded frames, which is key to getting 1080p video over USB 2.0.
The C925e also supports H.264 AVC encoding, if the client application is suitably capable. Of course, Logitech has made a big effort to get certified by basically every service who offers such certification, meaning that there are finally a lot of clients capable of leveraging what the camera can do.
It does not support H.264 SVC.
Like a Google Car: Driverless
Unlike the older C920, it doesn’t use an installable driver. It’s literally plug-and-play with Windows OSX. This is an advantage.
With the C920 the requirement for a driver meant that most people could only use one webcam on a computer. The driver only allowed one C920 webcam to be used.
In contrast, you can use multiple webcams at the same time if they are all UVC compliant. The host OS treats each as unique devices. There have been times when I’ve had four webcams connected to my desktop, acting as a suite of sources for Wirecast or vMix.
To be fair, there is a way to use the C920 with the Windows built-in UVC driver and avoid the Logitech driver. I’ve been doing this since I moved to Windows 10 last summer.
I find some of their marketing language a little strange. For example, they describe “Omni-directional dual stereo microphones.” In fact, they use similar language to describe all three webcams, which suggests that language was first concocted back in 2012.
The webcams do present themselves as a stereo audio device. Since they do have two microphones they can claim it’s stereo. But two omni mics a few inches apart doesn’t make for compelling stereo. To achieve appreciable stereo imaging you need directional microphones, or omnis widely spaced apart.
In marketing technology it’s often optional that a feature actually do something useful. It can be enough that it’s merely there, so it can be ticked off the list of paper requirements.
I suspect that anyone who sees the value in using an external webcam probably has a better solution than the built-in webcam microphones. If not, they should!
Some might lament the fact that this new model remains a USB 2.0 connected device. Some people hope that USB 3.0, with its vastly higher bandwidth, would allow USB-attached cameras delivering uncompressed streams or perhaps operating at 4K/UHD resolution. Sorry, better luck next time.
The reality is that the market of people who want and would be willing to pay for a 4K webcam is basically zero. It’s tough enough to get people to admit that their laptop’s built-in webcam looks dreadful, and opt for one of these inexpensive external models.
Until recently a desktop computer required an external webcam. Sadly, as all-in-one computers become more popular built-in webcams will likely grow more and more prevalent.
At first glance, and judging by the specs alone, the new Logitech C925e seems like it might be well-positioned to replace the older C920 model in the lineup. While it lacks the the nice glass lens, it adds H.264 AVC and a built-in privacy shutter. I would assume that, when it ships later this month, the C925e will have street price comparable to the C920.
If you’re getting by with a built-in webcam you might consider the C925e. It’s affordable and undoubtedly produces better results.
OTOH, I don’t see anything here that compels me to buy one. The older models that I have on-hand will continue to serve me well until something very different comes along.