A Better Understanding of the Microsoft LifeCam Studio Webcam

Microsoft LifeCam Studio 300pxOver the last couple of years I’ve been exploring the realm of webcams. Along the way I’ve encountered some confusing things involving the Microsoft LifeCam Studio. To be more specific, some have claimed that it’s capable of delivering 1080p video, while Microsoft’s own information suggests otherwise. My recent experiments using vMix have shed some light into the actual capabilities of this inexpensive little webcam. I thought them worth sharing.

“You cannot change the laws of physics, Captain.” – Montgomery Scott

Remember that a USB 2.0 connected webcam is bandwidth limited to delivering a maximum of 480 mbps (60 Mbytes/sec) to the host computer. Because of this fact, and given that the video frames from the webcam are uncompressed, the USB 2.0 link can only deliver 720p30.

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Webcams 8: Vaddio RoboSHOT 12 – A USB 3.0 Webcam

roboshot-12-usb-front-300pxVaddio has today announced that their RoboSHOT 12 camera is now shipping. This device is notable for supporting both streaming H.264 over IP and delivering uncompressed 1080p60 over a USB 3.0 interface. It also has an HDMI output. All three output methods are simultaneously live.

The various specifications of the RobotShot 12 are all top-of-the line. The camera is aimed at enterprise installations. It will surely find it’s way into video conference suites, surveillance/monitoring, and even tele-production.

It was a couple of years ago that I set out to find a USB 3.0 webcam. At the time there basically none to be found, so little reason to consider their merits. Now that there are a few such cameras on the market, you may be asking, “what does it get me, exactly?” Good question.

Remember that to deliver 1080p video* any USB 2.0 attached webcam must compress the video using either MJPEG or H.264. Only by compressing the stream in-camera can it deliver the that resolution over the 480 Mbps USB 2.0 connection. Once the video is delivered cross the USB link, in many cases it must be decompressed to allow further manipulation before final delivery to it’s ultimate destination.

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