Remember the 1988 movie “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DaVito? This is a bit like that.
The past few weeks have seen the introduction of a two new webcams. From a distance these two items seem in some ways very similar. Looking closer, there are also some significant differences.
Webcam #1: The Logitech C922 Pro Stream
Last week Logitech used TwitchCon 2016 as an opportunity to launch their newest webcam, the Logitech C922 Pro Stream. This new webcam is the first new model likely to unseat the venerable C920 as the king of consumer webcams.
At first glance it looks a lot like a straightforward revamp of the C920. The design is fundamentally the same. It has a glass lens with a 78 degree field of view and 20 step auto-focus. The significant news is that the C922 is capable of delivering 720p60 or 1080p30.
I had to dig a little to confirm that, like its predecessors, the C922 is a USB 2.0 connected camera supporting UVC 1.1. That means that it’s high-resolution and high-frame-rate modes rely upon in-camera compression.
The ability to provide higher frame rates (p60) is particularly useful to gamers streaming their game play. This explains the choice of launch event and the partnership with XSplit. The C922 includes a small tripod suitable for desktop use, and a three month subscription to XSplit, which is the leading software for streaming game play.
The company claims the C922 delivers improved low-light performance. That make perfect sense since gaming caves can be dark and foreboding places (often inhabited by strange life forms.)
They also claim automatic customizable background replacement. This feature, powered by ChromaCam from Personify, is like green screen but without actually requiring a green screen. ChromaCam requires Windows 7 or later.
The ChromaCam application removes the users background, replacing it with a colored field. The resulting stream is offered to other applications as a virtual webcam. That virtual webcam can then be chroma keyed in XSplit, OBS, vMix or Wirecast.
It is worth noting that, hidden in a support article, I found the caveat that automatic background replacement limits operation to 720p30. That suggests that ChromaCam requires an uncompressed (YUY2) stream from the camera.
Today the Logitech C922 Pro Stream appears to be available from their web site for $99. While it’s also offered on Amazon, they currently report being temporarily out of stock.
About Carl Zeiss – In looking for differences between the C920 and C922 I found that, at point of launch in 2012, Logitech proudly proclaimed the C920 as providing a glass lens by Carl Zeiss. Both of my C920 indicate this on the front of the camera.
More recently, marketing material for the C920 and the C922 do not show any indication of glass sourced from Carl Zeiss. In contrast, the C930e still bears the Carl Zeiss Tessar brand, which remains included in the published specifications.
Webcam #2: The Razer Stargazer
Razer’s Stargazer, mentioned here previously, also started shipping early in September. The $149 webcam is currently Amazon’s #1 new release in webcams.
StarGazer is eerily like the C922 Pro Stream in that it supports 720p60, 1080p30 and dynamic background removal.
StarGazer differs from the C922 is in several ways. For starters, it also supports 3D object scanning and gesture recognition. It works with Windows, allowing you to login to your computer using facial recognition.
It has multiple sensors, including; (left-to-right) an IR sensor, color sensor and IR laser projector. That’s a bit like a surveillance camera that has it’s own IR LEDs to provide night vision, but the Stargazer uses it for depth sensing.
To send all that sensor data to the host quickly it requires a USB 3.0 connection.
Further, it requires quite a bit from the host:
- A 6th generation Intel Core processor (Skylake)
- Windows 10
- DirectX 9.0
- Intel HD graphics
Clearly, the camera is the I/O device but software running on the host works the magic. Requiring Intel HD graphics seems a little odd. I wonder if it’s tied to that specific hardware. That is, would it also work with a more capable AMD or nVidia GPU?
While I see information indicating that StarGazer was to ship mid-October, according to Amazon It’s available now.
Seeing For Yourself
Please do use a critical eye when watching these You Tube videos. Just because anyone can create content doesn’t mean that they know what they’re talking about.
Choosing Just One
Beyond simply video chatting with friends and coworkers, an affordable webcam can be the basis of a lot of casual video production.
Both of these new cameras target gamers, which I am most definitely not. I suppose that I have more in common with a You Tube content creator. Ok, maybe two of them…if you add up their ages.
The software-based background removal looks interesting, although I expect that a cheap green backdrop would produce better results, given appropriate attention to lighting.
I’m eager to try a new webcam that takes us beyond the now four-year-old Logitech C920. Here are two contenders. I wonder if either will prove to be a real step forward? It’ll be fun finding out.