Logitech Rally: A New 4K PTZ Webcam

It was almost 5 years ago that I first posed the question, “Where are the USB 3.0 webcams.” They seem to have finally arrived. Logitech’s Brio is now over a year old. Their MeetUp product, not exactly a traditional webcam, is well suited to smaller meeting rooms, aka “huddle rooms.”

Vaddio and PTZ Optics each have several models available, although they remain focused on 1080p models. A USB 3.0 webcam can deliver uncompressed 1080p30 to a host application, which means that the application doesn’t need to specifically configure the camera for MJPEG or H264 modes.

Logitech Rally CameraEarlier this year, Logitech teased the availability of a new webcam. This new model, known as Rally, rides atop their webcam lineup, a 4K PTZ camera for video conferencing applications.

As to the basics, Rally connects to a host via USB 3. The connection on the camera itself is USB 3 type C, with a 2.2m C-to-A type cable provided. USB is the sole interface, which sets Rally apart from some of its competition, which may also provide SDI or Ethernet interfaces.

The camera supports UVC 1.5, able to deliver uncompressed, MJPEG or H264 encoded streams. It can deliver 1080p, 720p at 30 fps and 60 fps.

A 15x lens with a 90 degree field-of-view fronts a 13 megapixel sensor delivering up to a 4k30 stream.

The PTZ mechanism provided +/- 90 degrees of movement left-right. Tilt range is from +50 to -90 degrees. When turned off the camera swings down to the –90 degree position effectively providing a privacy shutter.

When mounted upside down the camera automatically senses this, inverting the output image. This makes ceiling mounting a especially simple.

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Hacking the Logitech C920 & C930e Webcams

Until recently I did not know that this was possible, but people are hacking the venerable Logitech C920 and C930e webcams. The hardware hacks allow them to be used with a diverse range of high-quality, low-cost, CS lenses.

What started as a series of hacks by Saulius Lukse in Vilnius, Lithuania has turned into a small enterprise. At his Kurokesu site he now sells various things related to his adventures in optics. That includes machined metal cases to refit the internals of the C920/C930e. Korukesu C920 webcam kit

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BBC Erroneously Reports "Webcams used to attack Reddit and Twitter recalled"

As you may be aware there have been a few rather high-profile DDOS attacks in recent weeks. They all have one thing in common…they leverage common network attached devices that have been compromised, or at least left unsecure.

Many of these devices have been found to be network attached cameras. Brian Krebs has a great post on the matter. The table of most common devices includes IP cameras from several manufacturers, some printers and consumer routers.

USB vs IP Camera

I take exception to the BBC headline that reads "Webcams used to attack Reddit and Twitter recalled." Their use of the term webcam is egregiously in error.

By definition, a "Webcam:"

  • Has not been a factor in these DDOS attacks.
  • Are not network attached devices.
  • Are usually USB connected to a computer.
  • Are not able to do anything without the host computer.

While you may think me pedantic about the headline, the BBC’s overly broad definition of a "webcam" does their audience a disservice. There’s simply no need to have every granny who video chats with her grandkids worried about the one-eyed Logitech menace atop her monitor.

Quite plainly, it’s the router, Dropcam, Nest thermostat or Skybell that she should be worried about. Not that those products have been cited as problematic, but by virtue of the fact that they are network connected, they at least might be compromised.

Twins: Two New Webcams

webcam twinsRemember 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.

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Windows 10 Anniversary Update Breaks USB Camera Functionality

This afternoon I installed the Windows 10 anniversary update to my Lenovo X1 Carbon laptop. Since it’s not my primary machine, I always update the laptop first. Also, it’s 256 GB SSD is easily imaged to a portable hard drive, giving me a way back if required.

After the update was completed I went about assessing it’s behavior. I was particularly concerned by a report I had found in the Open Broadcaster support forum indicating that people were having trouble with webcam performance post-update. I’ve just now confirmed the problem that they reported.

Post update Windows 10 does not allow any USB-attached webcams to be configured for the delivery of MJPEG or H264 encoded video streams. While initially reported by someone using the Logitech C930e webcam, this also applies to the more common Logitech C920.

Wanting to explore the scope of the issue further, I tried the AVer Information VC520. This is an all-in-one USB-attached conference room solution comprised of a PTZ camera and conference phone, not unlike the Logitech ConferenceCam CC3000e.

While the device is MJPEG and H264 capable, the updated Windows 10 system only offers uncompressed YUY2 encoding.

I confirmed this behavior in OBS Studio, vMix and SparkoCam. In all cases this limits the cameras to 720p30, where they should be capable of 1080p30.

This problem very likely applies to all USB-attached webcams. It seems that Microsoft has broken something their UVC driver or the related stack.

Coming Soon: A Pair of New USB 3.0 Webcams

You might recall my ongoing lament about the lack of innovation in what we now laughably call webcams. If not, here’s a brief refresher…the current state of the art in consumer webcams (IMHO, the Logitech C920 & 930e, released in 2012 & 2013 respectively) are getting quite vintage. Where are the newer models that address current technological front lines, like USB 3.0, 4K resolution, VP9, HEVC, etc?

Well, there appears to be some movement in this area. Although, while interesting, it’s probably not what you expect. Continue reading “Coming Soon: A Pair of New USB 3.0 Webcams”