There are several security web cameras and video doorbells on the market right now. Each as you would expect has its advantages and disadvantages over the other one. While there are several viable options out there, today I’m going to focus on three that I use regularly. All of these webcams connect to your home/office network via Wi-Fi. By no means should you walk away thinking that these are the only three options. However, these are the three that I’ve had the most direct experience with.
Why use more than one brand?
You can absolutely get good cameras from any of the three vendors I’m reviewing today and use that brand exclusively. However, sticking with a single brand may mean that you’re missing out on other features and uses that you may be interested in. For example, I like my Ring cameras because Ring offers solar powered options that don’t require a power outlet outside the house or having to constantly take them down and charge their internal batteries. Ring also works with Amazon Echo (Alexa) smart speakers with displays so that you can view them in any room without having to fire up the app on your phone.
Nest offers both indoor and outdoor cameras that work just as good as the ones from the other two vendors, but I really like that they offer of all things a native Apple TV app so that I can view my cameras on the big screen.
Logitech offers cameras that cost less and have the big advantage of having native HomeKit support. Having HomeKit support means that the cameras can be integrated into HomeKit Automations. For example, if someone walks within range of a camera at night it can trigger lights inside and/or outside the home to come on automatically. Logitech also lets you do more without having to pay for a monthly subscription to store the videos in the cloud. Because Nest cameras are powered via AC they are always recording/streaming whether there is activity or not. This way you can look at any timeframe to see what happened even if there wasn’t a specific event trigger.
I love all of these features and use them daily, but don’t worry, I’ll tell you by the end of this post which camera I’d go with if I could only pick one.
In October 2011 I posted a rant asking Logitech to add a tripod mount to their webcams. While readers did point out that the C615 does in fact have one, my webcam of choice was the C910, which did not have one. “Hey Terry! Why do you even need a webcam since your MacBook Pro has an HD FaceTime camera built-in?” The FaceTime HD camera that is built-in to my MacBook Pro is fine for video chat, Skype, FaceTime, etc. however, for my video recording/podcasting needs I want to be able to mount the camera higher than the top of my laptop. Logitech seemed to be stuck on this being the only option for the majority of their cameras. I did ultimately get a C615 and I use it on the road because it’s so small. I usually mount it to a Gorillapod and life is good. However, when I’m in studio or at home I prefer the higher quality of the C…… oh wait, they have a new one….
The Logitech C920 is What I Asked For!
Hands down the NEW Logitech C920 has to be the best if not one of the best webcams for the money. The video quality is crystal clear and smooth. Also at long last it has a standard tripod mount in the base! Woohoo!
You can immediately see the advantage of being able to mount the camera where you want in the sample above. I’m sitting at my desk and the FaceTime HD camera is tilted up so that I can see my screen. However, the Logitech C920 is mounted on a tripod right in front of my desk and is aimed straight on. This way I can put the camera where ever I want. You can even see the difference in lighting/quality in these unretouched/unadjusted screen grabs.
I record my video tutorials/demos using Screenflow. Screenflow recognized the new camera right away with no need to install any drivers or other software.
“Terry, can’t you use your Nikon D7000 or D4 for even better quality?” Sure and I have used my DSLRs for better quality than these sub $100 webcams. The problem though is that it adds to the post production process since the video would then have to sync’d and edited in afterwards vs recording directly into Screenflow. Also DSLR video is harder to focus when you’re working alone 🙂
They did more than just add a tripod mount
This camera got some beefier specs too! Adding onboard compression (reduces CPU usage of your computer) and H.264 as well.
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 I go out a demo Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite one of the biggest challenges is showing the final product to the audience on the iPad/Android tablet. Although the iPad does have a video out solution via the iPad to VGA adapter, that Adapter only works in certain Apps and apparently adding support for to your App (depending on what your app does) can be tricky. The only other solution is to use a document camera. While document cameras certainly aren't new, they are not really designed for travel. My colleague Colin Fleming pointed me to the IPEVO Point 2 View USB Camera. He hadn't tried it yet, but it came up in his Goole search. While I loved the size I was very leary about the "USB 2" connection. Most solutions I've tried that are USB 2 based have low frame rates, which makes it challenging to show any type of movement. These "document cameras" were never designed to shoot anything moving (ie. movies, multi-gestures) or animating on screen. They were designed to take still pictures of objects or "documents".
Low cost of entry
I went out and read every review of the Point 2 View that I could find and most of the reviews slammed it as "webcam". This is largely due to the fact that it doesn't have a built-in microphone. Since I have no desire to use it as a webcam and the fact that it was only $70 (cheap compared to other solutions), I decided to give it a shot.
The good news is that it works! It should be fine for what I want to use it for. It's small enough to put in a laptop bag or suitcase and the weighted base means that it won't easily fall over. It's far from perfect though:
It's Cheap! $70 – most solutions cost at least twice as much
It's very portable and travel friendly – A MUST
It has a weighted base and is designed to point down
Doesn't require any drivers on the Mac. Just launch their supplied App and turn it on.
One button auto focus or choose Continuous Focus (not fast, but good)
Has a full screen mode – great for making training videos
In App Zoom, Exposure Controls
Update: Works with other Apps too including iChat, ScreenFlow, Skype, etc., which will make giving mobile demos online and recording them even easier. Thanks Cari!
Software lets you reverse the image both horizontally and vertically which means it doesn't have to face the same way in every situation.
The included stand allows the camera to be mounted in front or on the sides
It can take a picture too. (download two sample shots here)
The frame rate is not great, but should be good enough for Adobe Connect demos and live demos
You HAVE TO USE THEIR APP. Not the end of the world, but it's the only way you will see it on screenCORRECTION, it works in other apps too
The stand is barely tall enough for iPad in portrait view so may need to put the stand on top of something else to raise it up a bit.
No built-in mic – I don't care.
White Balance Sucks – no controls for it either
Not great in low light, but shouldn't be a problem shooting a lit display of a device
USB cable is hardwired in, but luckily it's long enough.
The Bottom Line
Frankly I'm stunned that someone hasn't designed a device for the sole purpose of demoing mobile devices. Mobile devices are exploding and it seems like some clever person would see the need and develop a specific product to do this! While you could go with a cheaper webcam with better video quality, the challenge is always finding a way to mount it on a stand and face it down as most webcams are designed to attach to your computer display. In the meantime the IPEVO Point 2 View USB Camera will be my solution until something better comes along. It does have the right blend of size, price and features to be the best solution that I've seen so far for doing demos of mobile devices on the go.
You can get the IPEVO Point 2 View USB Camera for $69 here.