Review: Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
The HD Pro C920 is Logitech’s top of the line web camera built for use with desktops and laptops. As it lies in the premium tier, the C920 packs as much as it can in both hardware and software. Its differentiating factor from the competition is its ability to handle H.264 video compression within the camera itself. This relieves the burden on the CPU as video compression can be resource guzzling. In a nutshell, the C920 performs well above most of the web cameras out in the market today. This is not surprising as it is a premium level product. This review is focused on the differentiating points which includes onboard H.264 compression, motion detection and its ability to Skype in 1080p. The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 retails at S$159.00.
The C920 has a small footprint and easily clips onto the back of any monitor. However, it is a little hefty for use on a laptop. The rubberized clip and hinge is sturdy and there were no attachment issues when using the webcam. Interestingly, the webcam can be mounted onto standard tripods. This is a nice feature that most buyers will unfortunately not use. As the C920 is not a mobile recording device, you will always need it to be attached to a computer. As such, tripod mounting allows you greater flexibility to mount the camera.
Logitech has opted for the Carl Zeiss lens with 20-step autofocus. The autofocus precision is crucial here due to its software capabilities that will be explained later. In terms of audio, the C920 features built-in dual stereo mics with automatic noise reduction. The stereo microphones are located on both ends of the camera facing forward. Lining these microphones are two thin LEDs that light up to alert the user that the camera has been switched on.
The C920 features impressive hardware specifications for a web camera and looks sleek.
Overall, the C920 is a well crafted device that is easy to attach. It features impressive hardware specifications for a web camera and looks sleek being finished in a mixture of matte and gloss black.
The C920 integrates directly into Skype and other instant messaging platforms due to the way Windows handles web cameras in general. Call quality on Skype was good and the C920 was able to push out a full 1080p performance at a respectable FPS. This was one of the best Skype quality calls I have experienced in camera tests. Do not expect the performance to be similar to a 1080p recording off a DSLR or a dedicated camera. The C920 is still a web camera and do not fall in the same league as dedicated devices.
The main software package for the C920 comes from Logitech’s Webcam Software (LWS). The LWS allows capturing of still images and video. It also has a dedicated section for sharing images and videos to web platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Tests on sharing were positive but performance is heavily dependent on your broadband connection.
The Logitech Webcam Software’s main function is to allow the user to take photos and videos. You can swap between Photo and Video modes. Photo captures were good but not outstanding. Considering that it natively captures images at 1080p before upscaling to a maximum of 15 megapixels, the C920 is unable to beat more common mainstream capture devices such as smartphones. Most smartphones now offer more than 5 megapixels natively while the C920 works out to be just under 2MP native. Nonetheless, the sensor is able to take relatively good images at low light and will make do in most situations. The C920 captures the best photos among web cameras but do not expect it to outdo your smartphone.
The 1080p performance was exceptional as compared to competing web cameras.
The strength of the C920 is in video capture. H.264 compression indeed runs on the camera with little strain on CPU resources. You can capture videos at 1920 x 1080 (1080p), 1280 x 720 (720p), 480p and 360p. All four resolutions produced sharp images with good light balance and frame rates. The 1080p performance was exceptional as compared to competing web cameras. Being able to keep a near steady 29-30FPS on 1080p is an achievement for web cameras. Logitech has auto image enhancement via its RightLight option which helps to compensate rooms that are poorly lit. The only downside is video detail. There was quite a clear lack of detail in certain environments. This may be attributed to its low bitrate. Nonetheless, this requires scrutiny to detect and most users will not notice it.
There are some innovative features in video capturing, you can choose to have the camera follow your face if you record at 480p or 360p. This feature did not work well. The camera moved too slowly for it to be useful. Recording at lower resolutions also allows you to use the camera’s pan, tilt and zoom feature. While this can be nice, it is recommended to stick to full 1080p and physically adjust the camera to get the best out of the C920.
One of the more interesting portions of the LWS is its ability to detect motion. The C920 can be set to record videos the moment it detects a higher than normal amount of activity. This can be calibrated via a slider seen in the screenshot above. You can choose to timestamp videos, turn audio recording on and even hide the recording light indicator. The software has a scheduling option should you require motion detection capture only at certain times of the day.
The LWS allows you to use your C920 as a motion activated security camera.
In short, the LWS allows you to use your C920 as a motion activated security camera. A practical case use is to schedule motion detection capture during the night to record any attempts at intrusion. Tests on motion detection went well. With proper calibration, the LWS performed as expected and was rather precise in starting and stopping on the dot. This can be crucial as some software take too long to start recording, rendering the feature useless. The LWS sidesteps that issue and does its job well in this area.
The C920 is one of the best web cameras available on the market. It improves considerably from its predecessors and leapfrogs competitors due to its onboard H.264 compression. While some detail is sacrificed for a responsive performance, the video, photo and audio quality remains best in class for web cameras.