Video conferencing is ubiquitous today, but high-definition (HD) video conferencing is just starting to take hold. The latest versions of Microsoft Lync and Skype are first to market with support for HD 1080p (1920×1080) video [although most video conferencing will occur at 720p (1280x720)]. HD video conferencing requires a minimum of 1.2Mbps/1.2Mbps download/upload speed (1.5Mbps/1.5Mbps recommended), which is attainable on most broadband Internet connections. The only question that is left, is which HD webcam is best to use for Lync/Skype high-definition video conferencing?
My past experiences with corporate audio visual (AV) systems have proven again and again that most video conferencing solutions easily evolve into complicated projects, which result in systems that are either too complex to use, or simply do not work as originally intended. This is why simple USB webcam solutions usually shine, as these work [period]. Microsoft Corporation brought video conferencing to the masses [in the corporate world that is] with the Office Communicator product (now rebranded as Lync) and through their acquisition of Skype. Unfortunately on the hardware side of the house Microsoft has dropped the ball.
Most experiences with Microsoft webcams are usually described as miserable. Software is partly to blame. No, not Lync or Skype, but the driver package that comes with the webcam. Nethertheless, ignoring my past experiences and in the hopes of finding a winning software/hardware combination from a single vendor, the first HD webcam I researched was Microsoft LifeCam Studio (at the time of this writing it was the top of the line webcam the company produced). But, as I already gave away the answer earlier – the LifeCam Studio simply did not measure up. First of all the physical design of the camera, which makes it seem professional grade at first glance, actually makes it cumbersome to use in real world situations. Second, while the spec mentions a 1080p HD sensor, nowhere was I able to confirm that the webcam is capable of recording video above 720p resolution. At this point in my research I simply moved on to the next vendor.
Logitech was the next logical vendor of choice, and I was not disappointed to find two Logitech HD Pro Webcams: the C920 and the C930e. Logitech HD Pro Webcam C930e is marketed as a business only webcam, while the C920 is marketed as both consumer and business. Physically and dimensions wise the cameras are identical, except for the fact the C920 is all black, but C930e has a grey front bezel. Both webcams are capable of recording video at full 1080p HD, both have a Carl Zeiss glass lens, and both have a standard tripod mount bolt socket. I won’t go into all the details and features here, but rather will point out the three major differences between the two models:
- The C930e comes with an External Privacy Shutter — “an easy lens enclosure for added privacy and security“, which is basically a plastic lens cap. This is a no brainer feature that should have been included with both models [and it does fit both models since their dimensions are identical]. Why Logitech chose not to include it with the C920 is a mystery to me.
- Both cameras offer a wide field of view (16:9), which “covers everyone on group calls without having to reposition the camera“. This is the major difference between the two models. The C920 offers a 78 degree field of view, while the C930e offers a 90 degree field of view, and those 12 degrees do make a difference. C930e is perfect for the conference room, presenting using a whiteboard, having a group of people in front of the camera, and other similar situations. When mounted on top of my monitor, the C930e’s field of view included not only my desk, but also the desk of my colleague sitting to the left of me, which seemed like an annoyance to me, the people on the video call, and also to my neighbor. In situations where less field-of-view is desired the C920 is a clear winner.
- The final major difference between the two models is the software driver package. The driver package downloads and installs when the webcam is first plugged into the USB port. The software for each model offers different functions indicated by the screenshots below.
No matter which model webcam you chose, both should be good choices for HD quality video conferencing. As final notes on Logitech HD Pro Webcam C930e, I did want to mention that using either the digital zoom or the pan and tilt functions adversely affected video quality to the point where it was no longer broadcast in HD. Due to this I chose to ignore these features during the webcam selection process.