Over a year ago I reviewed the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910, an HD webcam that delivers high-quality audio and video in an easy-to-use package. I have always been extremely pleased with Logitech products, dating back to the Logitech trackball that I used with my very first laptop way back in 1995. Recently I have been using another Logitech webcam given to me by the company—the QuickCam Orbit AF. This high-end webcam offers motorized tracking, Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, a 2-megapixel sensor, HD-quality video and a built-in microphone. While it comes loaded with features, I found myself preferring the “simpler” and less expensive C910.
Before using the Orbit, I first had to install the Logitech software, which allows you to use all of the webcam’s features. According to Logitech, the Orbit is only compatible with Windows XP or later, including 32- and 64-bit versions of Vista and 7. Upon inserting the installation CD, you are walked through a series of menus that prompt you to plug the camera into your computer. The Orbit comes in three components—a base with a built-in microphone and six-foot USB cord, a nine-inch extension pole, and the camera itself. You can plug the camera directly into the base or connect the extension between the base and the camera in order to raise the camera to eye level. I chose to connect the camera directly to the base and place it on my desktop and then plugged the base into the USB port on my desktop system. If you choose, you can install Logitech Vid, a free video calling application. Otherwise, you can skip this and simply install the webcam software. After a few minutes you are ready to use your Orbit.
Most people use webcams with third-party video and calling applications such as Skype, Windows Live Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger, all of which are compatible with the Orbit AF. The Orbit performed very well with all of these services, with good-quality video and audio. Logitech’s free Vid HD also allows you to make free HD video calls.
The Orbit allows video capture resolution of up to 1600 by 1200 pixels (HD quality) and 8-megapixel still image captures, with software enhancement. As a result, don’t expect still images to look nearly as good as they would with a standard 8-megapixel digital camera. That being said, still images taken with the Orbit were quite good. With Logitech’s RightLight 2 technology, the Orbit performed admirably even in low-light conditions.
If you are feeling a little silly, Logitech’s Video Effects allow you to apply avatars and visual effects to your video conferencing. You can replace your image with an avatar such as a dinosaur or shark or add face accessories, including a pirate hat, scuba mask and antlers.
Unlike the C910, the QuickCam Orbit has automatic tracking, which allows the camera lens to pan and tilt to keep your face in the middle of the picture. The camera offers a 189-degree field of view and 103-degree tilt. For the most part the tracking worked well, assuming you don’t move too quickly. The biggest drawback is the sound the motor makes, which can be a little grating. However, you can disable the auto tracking, turning the Orbit into a standard webcam.
All of the camera’s settings are controlled via the webcam software. Here you can adjust video parameters, set audio levels for the built-in microphone, and take still photos. You can also manually adjust the exposure and white balance, or you can let the software adjust those settings automatically.
Overall I was pleased with the QuickCam Orbit AF. The video and audio quality was quite good, so I have no reason not to recommend the camera for video conferencing and web calling. However, I don’t see the need for the automatic tracking. I do a considerable amount of video calling and really never have a need for the camera to follow me around. While the technology makes for a good story, I personally don’t see much of a need for it. As a result, although the camera performed very well, I think most people would be well served with the C910, which is currently 35% cheaper than the Orbit AF.
Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF
$129.99 (currently $105.99 from Amazon.com)
Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of “Gadget Corner.” All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.