Some of you may have started packing up your stuff for the annual trip to grandma's house. However, many of you may find yourself away from members of your family during the holidays. How can you feel like you're there carving the turkey when you're not physically there? With the Microsoft LifeCam Studio, you might get the next best thing.
Features and Specifications
Webcams have certainly come a very long way from the blurry QVGA days of old. With this particular model, for instance, you get the glory of full 1080p HD for "superior sharpness and image quality."
The Microsoft LifeCam Studio HD webcam features a barrel-like design and the rubberized mount portion underneath is completely flexible. This means that you can attach it to just about anything, including your LCD monitor. There's even a tripod screw hole in there, should you want to use it that way. This is a little more versatile than, say, the webcam included in the Microsoft Mobility Pack I reviewed some time back. The image quality and software features are much more advanced as well.
Running through the highlights, we find 16:9 image processing, a 1080p HD sensor, auto focus, high-precision wide-angle glass element lens, TrueColor Technology, ClearFrame Technology, high-fidelity microphone, and bundled software that allows for various effects.
All of this can be yours for around $139.99 US making it one of the more expensive options on the market. But you can find it for around $99.99 US at your local big box as well.
What's in the Box?
The box itself was a little cumbersome to open without tearing everything apart, but once I did, I found that there really wasn't much inside the box at all.
In addition to the webcam (with its permanently-connected USB cable) itself, we find a rubber lens cap, software CD, and supporting documentation. While you could use this webcam for travel purposes, that's not really its primary application. Thus, it doesn't come with any kind of carrying pouch or protective case.
Design and First Impressions
Gone are the days when webcams had to be large, cumbersome, or in the shape of an eyeball. That might still be the case with some more advanced day-night IP cameras, but consumer-level webcams are becoming increasingly compact. The Microsoft LifeCam Studio is no exception.
The barrel design is reasonably small and I appreciate that the housing extends just a little beyond the lens, acting almost like a lens hood, reducing lens flare and glare. The bendable mount is very versatile too.
As you can see in the image above, the rubber lens cover is just a touch larger than a Canadian loonie. It's good that there's a cap, to protect the lens (and for privacy concerns), but I found that it didn't really feel like it was staying put. I would have felt better if the cap felt like it "clicked" in place, providing some sort of confirmation that it won't fall off unexpectedly.
Still Picture Quality
The installation and setup process is pretty much par for the course when it comes to mainstream webcams. You could likely go with the plug-and-play procedure, but installing the provided software adds quite a bit more utility. Just run through the wizard; it only takes a few minutes and is easy enough to follow.
In terms of image quality, this webcam is head and shoulders above some of the cheaper alternatives you may find out there. Still photo quality isn't going to beat a proper point-and-shoot, but it's about as good as a contemporary camera phone at 1080p.
The included TrueColor technology is designed to provide "bright and colorful video, in virtually all lighting conditions." What happens is the contrast and brightness can get cranked up. If you're in a more dimly-lit room, it makes it look like it's brighter. It's like dialing up the ISO on your camera.