WiFi connected webcams are nothing new. When someone enters this category I quickly look to see if they’re adding anything new or if it’s just a me too product. In most cases there isn’t a whole lot that’s new, but companies do sometimes find a way to improve on an already crowded product category. The Simplicam + Closeli is a standard WiFi connected webcam with a nicer design than most. It has a well thought out base/stand as well as things like a 10 foot “flat” USB cable so that you can more easily hide it in your home. This camera can be monitored from your iPhone, iPad, Android device or web browser.
The setup process is pretty straight forward. Just plug the supplied “short” USB cable into your Simplicam and the other end into your Mac/PC. The software mounts in a volume on your computer that you can run from there. Once you’re in the setup utility you’ll use it to connect the Simplicam to your WiFi network. You’ll also create an account on Closeli.com where you’ll get a year of included cloud recording service. Closeli like others has different plans so that you can go back and review footage from your camera based on motion and sound detection. They also bring “face” detection to the table to distinguish between someone actually entering the room vs. the cat running by. You can get push notifications of any of the aforementioned types of activity. You can also schedule times when notifications need not be received (you’re home) or when the camera should be off. Notifications or not you can see what’s going on in the room on demand by just firing up the Closeli app on your mobile device or logging in with your web browser on your computer. You can export clips or still grabs as need. If you need to talk to the people in the room remotely you have two way audio. Yes there is also night vision.
Here’s a video review of the product.
The Bottom Line
While I haven’t reviewed any of the newer cameras in this category lately, I would say that just looking at the specs alone Simplicam brings at least two things to the table over the competition and that’s face detection (a beta feature, which can also be set up to recognize specific faces and can tell you when an unrecognized face enters the room.) and a lower priced cloud storage/recording service. The 720p 107° view camera is also better than my older cameras.
I’m a fan of water and water sports. I love to swim and I love to snorkel. One of these days I’ll take the time to get certified for scuba. Last year I got a chance to do some snorkeling in the Virgin Islands and I remember feeling so unprepared to capture all the underwater beauty that I was seeing. I had no underwater camera of any kind with me. I remember my colleague at the time Greg Rewis telling me about his recent sailing experience and once I spotted the Liquid Image Scuba Mask Series, I knew that it would be on my list for the next time I headed out to a nice area to dive/snorkel. I got the mask and couldn’t wait to try it. The obvious advantage is that this mask has an HD camera in it that records to a micro-SD card (4GB supplied, supports up to 32GB). You can shoot video or stills. This means that your hands are mostly free and where ever you look that’s what you’re shooting. (1080p @ 30fps, 720p @ 60fps, 5MP Still sensor/ 12MP interpolated)
How does it work?
I really wish I had taken the time to familiarize myself with the mask more than just a few minutes the night before. I set it up, loaded the memory card and batteries and then took it out for a try the next morning. While I understood the basic operation of the mask, a little more testing up front would have made me feel more comfortable with it. The mask runs on 4 AAA batteries and depending on which model you get you’ll either get 4 rechargeable batteries or 4 Energizers. The memory card is a 4GB card, which is rated at being able to capture up to 2 hours of video. Going in I had no idea how much recording time I had or how long the batteries would last. Again, I could have read all this before hand, but I didn’t. Totally my fault. This made me a little anxious since I was going out with a group, I wouldn’t get a second shot at this (at least not on this trip). I was more interested in capturing video than stills, but wanted to try both. Overall the mask performed as advertised. I was actually very impressed with the quality of both video and stills. I bought and used their optional red and blue filters. The shots here were with the red filter. I meant to use the blue one, but grabbed the wrong one.
I'm really impressed by the video quality of Logitech's 1080p HD Web Cams. As a matter of fact I've started using them for my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast when I'm recording an episode in studio. The only problem that I have with them is that Logitech (along with all the other webcam makers) seem to think that the only place anyone would ever want to mount a webcam is on top of their monitors. The reality is I already have an HD webcam on my MacBook's. It's called an FaceTime HD Camera. If I'm doing a video chat it's great having it built-in. However, If I want the camera further back to capture more of the set that's when an external video camera works best.
Drill a hole
There is no physical reason why the Logitech HD C910 pictured above couldn't have a standard tripod mount built-in. As you can see the mount is just dead weight with no electronics in it. There's even room for a standard mount without changing the design. I've even seen some do-it-your-selfers out there posting all the steps necessary to do it yourself. While I know it wouldn't take much for me to do it, there's not reason for Logitech not to build it in.
Instead of drilling a hole. I just went with something I already had in studio. A Justin Clamp mounted on a light stand. These are great for mounting speed lights and holding reflectors on standard light stands. They also work great for holding the Logitech Web Cams. The only problem is that they cost almost as much as the webcams themselves. If you're buying one for just the purpose of holding a webcam or reflector, then there is a much lower cost alternative. The Manfrotto Spring Clamp is less than half the cost of the standard Manfrotto Spring Clamp with Flash Shoe and it gets the job done just as good. You can get one here for about $17 or less.
Logitech Could Even Take It Up A Notch Further
Besides adding a tripod mount hole they could really kick things up by adding or selling a separate stand to allow the camera to be pointed down at say, oh I don't know, a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone. More and more presenters are having to present from their mobile devices and the current solutions are expensive and bulky or low quality video. I love having video out on my iPad 2, but the problem with that is that people can't really see the gestures that you're doing. They just see things happing on the screen. If a Logitech HD webcam could be mounted on a lightweight stand that's easy to travel with (See my Point 2 View review), then it would make them even more attractive.
What say you Logitech?
You build great webcams. Please look outside the box and look at more uses than just sitting it on top of a monitor!
As many of you already know I’m a fan of DVRs in particular TiVo HD and Premiere boxes. However, I recognize that many of you don’t want the costs associated with TiVo, but you do want to be able to record your shows in HD and transfer them to your iOS and other mobile devices. For this Elgato has got you covered with their EyeTV HD. I’ve used Elgato products in the past to simply bring in cable TV to an iMac and have “TV” playing in a window as I worked. However, since those days a lot has changed in the world of TV. For example, Comcast in my area no longer broadcasts “basic” cable without a box. This was one of the things they cut in the move to “Digital” TV. Although there was probably no technical reason to cut it, they cut it and now in order to get cable in my area you need a set-top box to decode the digital signals they send. This also means that in order to record those shows (especially in HD) that you either need to rent their DVR (not a fan of their boxes) or buy a TiVo. With the EyeTV HD you can use your Mac as the HD DVR. You still need a cable or satellite box to decode the signals from your provider. However, with a one time purchase of an EyeTV you can connect this small box to your cable/satellite receiver and then connect it to your Mac via USB (it’s bus powered, so no power brick). Once you load their software you’ll have access to your guide and even the ability to have your Mac remote control your set-top box via the IR emitter. It even comes with it’s own wireless remote control and all the cables you’ll need. Yes it pauses live TV too.
Recording a live show in HD
Record and Watch Anywhere
Besides being able to record to your Mac’s hard drive (internal or external) you can choose to record in two different modes simultaneously. For example, you can record the HD version to watch on your TV (or Mac) when you return home AND you can have it record an iPad/iPhone version at the same time. Of course this uses more disk space, but it definitely saves time for people that want to record and then take their shows with them. That’s one of my frustations with TiVo is that while it can transfer a show to my Mac, it takes a while to transfer it and then even longer to transcode it to a mobile compatible format. With EyeTV, the mobile versions would be sitting there waiting for you as soon as the show ends.
Playing back the recorded show on my MacBook Pro
There’s an App too
While it’s great to have the ability to do dual format recordings, it’s even cooler just to be able to stream your shows from your Mac to your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch via their App. It streams over WiFi or 3G and eliminates the need for a Slingbox.
You can get the EyeTV App for $4.99 (also a bargain when compared to the $30 Slingplayer App) here from the
What’s the downside?
While this solution solves a few problems, there are some things you have to take into consideration. First of all you’ll need a Mac that is relatively close to your cable/satellite box. Also that box will need to have a free Component Out port if you want HD recording. The EyeTV uses Component video instead of HDMI to avoid Copy Protection issues. You’ll also need ample amounts of hard drive space to be able to record shows in HD. If you plan to stream your Mac will need to be awake. While the solution works, it could be expensive to “dedicate” a Mac to it. However, if you’ve got a Mac server or other Mac that just sits there it might as well get some use doubling as a DVR too. The EyeTV requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later as well as an Intel Core 2 Duo processor or better. Lastly you’ll need to connect you Mac to your TV if you want to watch the show you just recorded on the big screen as there is no direct connection from EyeTV HD back to the TV. If you have Apple TV you could stream the recordings that way.
You can buy it here for $169.89 (a bargain compared to long term DVR renting or TiVo/Slingbox buying).
In case you missed it, Nikon introduced their New D3100 DSLR body just this past Thursday. This camera was rumored for quite a while and the rumored specs were pretty accurate. So it wasn't a shocker to see it, but there was one feature that I was hoping to see that didn't seem to make the cut. My current travel camera is a Nikon D5000 and I like the size and weight of the D5000 for travel, plus the ability to shoot video. The one thing that would have made me upgrade (or downgrade) to the D3100 in a heartbeat would have been audio in. Sigh…. While the D3100 steps up to 14.2 MP, adds 1080p video (Yay! and about freaking time), continuous auto focus in Live View (we'll have to see if it really works or not) and 12,800 ISO (equivalent), the audio for video recording is still limited to the built in Mono mic.
I want good audio too
Most video cameras have crappy built-in mics. However, most video cameras also let you plug in a better mic via a stereo audio input. To make matters worse is that the built-in audio on Nikon DSLRs is only 11hz. A bad mic with bad compression, equals really really bad audio. Giving this camera 1080p, auto focusing video is AWESOME, but the limitation for many is definitely going to be the audio. Now if you plan to shoot video with your great lenses in all of the D3100's 1080p glory and then add your own sound track or music later, then this won't be a big deal, but if you need the source audio from the event you're recording, then you're going to either have to record the audio on a different device and merge them later in post or have sub par audio to go with your great video.
I would upgrade to a D300s at this point, but I'll continue to wait and see what comes next since the D300s was last year's model. It DOES have audio in, but it's only 720p video and if I'm going to spend the bucks, I'd rather wait since I don't think Nikon is done for 2010 just yet 🙂
What to do?
If I didn't already have the D5000, and was looking for a small Nikon DSLR with some pretty cool features, then I wouldn't hesitate to get this one. The price won't break the bank and it has a few features that even the higher end models don't have yet. I may still sell my D5000 (since my D5000 doesn't have audio in either) to get this if I get a good price on the D5000. For now, personally I'm in wait and see mode.