Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro webcam: why doesn't 4 stars tell the full story?

by Torley Wong on 14 June 2009 17 comments

Logitech makes some good stuff: I keep hearing raves about their Revolution mice, and they're well-known for keyboards (I own a DiNovo Edge and it has great battery life) and webcams. However, Logitech is also one of the more lopsided companies in regards to support across multiple platforms, as I learned recently with the QuickCam Pro for Mac (Amazon affiliate link, but you may rethink buying after reading what's to come). While not a conventional review, this is a closer look into what to beware of with the QuickCam Vision Pro.

I have a QuickCam Pro 9000 that worked pretty well on my Windows XP (since upgraded to Vista) machine, aside from blue screens of death if I replugged it. However, when I connected it to my Mac, I had extremely low framerate, around 5 FPS. Casual searches showed this was because the "RightLight" technology to automatically compensate for dim conditions was only in software, and there are no Logitech Mac webcam drivers. Thus, I learned about the confusingly-named Vision Pro. It has a very similar form factor to the 9000, the main differences being some coloring ones, such as the ON ring light is white instead of orange. But the insides are supposedly different (I haven't cracked mine open), with the Mac version having RightLight in hardware.

I did my research, I swear!

I searched for the Vision Pro at Amazon, and read the many (now 102) reviews, which averaged out to 4 stars. I noted most of the ratings corresponded with intended usage: people just doing iChat or Skype video chat were enthusiastic, while others who had more heavy needs weren't as happy — placing myself in the latter category and mindful to clarify the caveats myself, I ordered one. As with other Mac versions of Logitech goods, it's significantly more expensive than its Windows counterpart. In this case, about US$100 vs. $70 — presumably that's because of the hardware as well as having less sales volume, but Logitech hasn't acknowledged this.

Unboxing and installing the Vision Pro was very easy. I plugged it in to a free USB port on my Mac Pro. But I also noticed, to reaffirm what I mentioned earlier, there are no Mac drivers, no control software which allows you to adjust picture settings as well as wackier special effects — as is present and extensively developed on the Windows side. Apple does provide Photo Booth, so I started that up and was sorely disappointed: the framerate was as slow and jerky as the 9000 on my Mac. I couldn't find any way to optimize this; others report the same.

Then, I tried iChat and Skype. In both, the video preview was silky smooth (as expected), and here's where I noticed a substantial framerate improvement. Looking closely, I wondered if this was because of the dimensions: iChat and Skype seem to (again, I wish Logitech provided clear documentation) show a 320x240 preview, while Photo Booth records at 640x480. (Photo Booth with my MacBook Pro's built-in "iSight" webcam is visibly smoother at this same resolution.)

A video's at least a few thousand words, see for yourself (an unaltered framegrab is at the top of this article): I look like a ghost because what's on my monitor is white-ish. This isn't the Vision Pro's fault.

Another test: I started QuickTime Player, because File menu > New Movie Recording lets you do just that. Again, I was thwarted by a choppy framerate, and on top of that, the image was forcibly zoomed in, cropping the image. I don't know why it does this, and couldn't find a way to disable it. So far, I was very disappointed.

So many half-finished features

Now, it was time for me to use the Vision Pro for real — record screencasts with ScreenFlow. I'm sad to say that Telestream, the makers of ScreenFlow, offered me no leads on recommended and compatible webcams, so I chose the Vision Pro because it seemed to be in the higher-range of things. But overpriced, I do think. Again, a disappointment: ScreenFlow's preview was very jerky. However, when I actually did record a video, it looked smooth. The final recording size was shown as 640x480, even though its blurriness suggests it was actually recorded at 320x240 and upsampled.

So in short, here's the rub: Logitech's support for the QuickCam Vision Pro is sorely lacking. You have little idea what to expect or how it should behave. Its marketing is disingenuous, too, which is a red flag to consumers. They claim:

HD video: QuickCam Vision Pro is a high-performance webcam capable of delivering 720p high-quality images* up to 1600 X 1200 pixels.

Yet aside from a little footnote, Logitech don't give you advice on how to actually get higher resolutions. No list of tested, compatible software. On the Windows side, the included picture-taking app makes it easy. On the Mac side, no such luck. It really makes you feel like while this was offered to the Mac market, they put little thought and consideration into its usefulness.

But wait, there's more… suckiness…

There's no system way to turn off autofocus or RightLight either, and like the 9000, the microphone is mediocre, captures too much background noise, and distorts easily with awful clipping, so don't believe the "A high quality microphone provides excellent, hands-free audio." It's not true, it sounds like you're in a tin can if you speak from about two feet away. I use a Zoom H4n for my mic recordings, but it's over $300! (You'd be far better off with even a dedicated USB condenser mic.)

To get around the issue of no video adjustments, you can get eCamm's iGlasses which works with most webcam apps (but not ScreenFlow), but this sort of thing should've really been bundled.

That's not the end of your troubles: several reviewers note the Vision Pro gets very dark if two or more apps try to use it at the same time, or in quick succession. I can confirm this is true, as well as another problem where it fails to turn on if you keep making one recording after another — it's a pain and breaks your creative flow. Workaround? Replug. But that's annoying.

Oh, if you're wondering, human support from Logitech is lacking, too. I've received no help on how (if it's even possible) to make the Vision Pro work adequately in Photo Booth. Did I mention iMovie doesn't support it either?

All in all…

While the Vision Pro is usable, it gives me mixed feelings and has wasted a lot of my time. I'm not satisfied with my purchase. Buyer beware if you intend to do more than the most basic video chat, where cheaper webcams will perform fine. I'd give the Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro 2 stars out of 5. I looked at getting an original Firewire Apple iSight but they're even more expensive, and I've been wary of competitors like the aGent.

It appears there's a dearth of really excellent Mac webcams — if you know better, would you please recommend me and fellow WiseBread readers one? I'm so sad.

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Guest's picture

We need more reviews like this; I do my research too and I am always highly disappointed in a product that does not live up to my research (or its descriptions).

I just bought my first video camera a Flip Mino HD for a trip I just went on recently and everyone is impressed with it's quality and performance including me. Not quite a web cam and I am sorry this one was (clearly) so horrible!

I too have a diNovo Edge keyboard and agree that Logitech just gets some things right, this keyboard is one, the Z-5500 5.1 speakers (which I own two sets of one for PC and another for my TV... I also had the Z-680's which were the previous model and were great too). You will see no flames coming from this corner my friend as I truely do appreciate an honest review when I see one. =)

Guest's picture
Kym

What on Earth did you expect from such a cheap product? Yes, there are cheaper products but in the realm of cameras a $100 webcam is going to be crappy and not going to have impressive quality.

However, it seems that the main beef here is that there are not Mac drivers for this cheap camera. The reason for this would be that if you already spent twice the price of an equivalent PC getting a Mac, and you want to do high-end heavy-usage things with the camera, you have the money to get a camera that is designed for this from a company that markets their cameras for Mac users as something other than an afterthought.

Why are cameras for Macs more expensive? Mac users who are doing something other than Skype and iChat are artistic types who want to produce high-quality video, and anything with "web" in the product description isn't designed for this.

Why aren't there Mac drivers for any number of hardware devices? Hardware programmers don't use Macs. Designers and musicians use Macs.

And honestly? The quality looks just like everything else on YouTube that was recorded with a "webcam". It's not bad, it's just not crisp, artsy quality. If you want that kind of quality you're going to have to get a more expensive camera.

Guest's picture
David

Hi Torley,

Unfortunately you've experienced what many other Mac users experience - Rotten Stepchild Syndrome. It's where a company will write half-ass buggy drivers or software (if, at all) for the Mac because "who cares, no one uses them".

It's not because "musicians and artists" use Macs and "programmers use Windows". That's an obsolete stereotype from 15 years ago.

Its because the company who made your product cut corners on development because they don't take the Mac market seriously.

Look at the open source Macam project, their driver may work better with your camera but it won't handle all the special features.

Torley Wong's picture

@Frank With any product I'm acquire, I'm sure to intensely explore its good and its bad (and what's between). Some people may have higher relative thresholds due to their overall experience — if you've used a RED, of course Flip Mino HD doesn't compare. BTW, I returned my Mino HD because it was fun, but the audio recording was awful and I noticed too many artifacts.

I'm very fond of my Logitech X-240 speakers. I actually have 2 sets, and the first I got for US$10.

@Kym You've missed the point and your generalizations aren't useful. As I mentioned, the still image quality is just fine for a webcam. The choppy framerate isn't, especially when its even-cheaper Windows sibling does fine.

@David It's surprising in some ways coming from Logitech, *especially* when they market something to be Mac-compatible. I think that's deceptive. I did try Macam with the 9000 and read their compatibility chart — alas, the Vision Pro fares no better. But thanks!

Guest's picture

I found this out on accident. My daughter's friend brought her MacBook to the house to spend the night. She wanted to have a videochat with her mom or something and her camera (isight) stopped working. She had it in her bag and her book broke it or something. The only webcam I have the is not built into a laptop is the Xbox 360 Live Vision Camera. It was a USB camera so I plugged it in. It just worked. Flawlessly. Just as crisp as it is on my Vista machine. It cost me $40 bucks. My daughter's friend bought one herself to replace her "like, $130 dollar" iSight. She claims the Live Cam works just as well, but I never saw the iSight. If you have any USB webcams that work with Windows, plug them into your Mac. They may work.

http://www.amazon.com/Xbox-360-Live-Vision-Camera/dp/B000GCGB3M/ref=dp_c...

Guest's picture

Tho it saddens me to see you sad, Torley, still this is an excellent review that demonstrates just exactly what is wrong with the product. Considering that I am researching (I do that too, sometimes too deep) webcams as we speak for a project a year from now, this review helps me a lot to stay away from this one for sure.

Thanks again! What I would do is send this webcam back for a refund, put your video review on a disc and send it along. Maybe they'll put you on their Mac Beta testing for webcams since you are one of the most knowledgeable users I know of. Anything video I think Ask Torley.

Buck up Sad Torley, you'll find what you're looking for...

Wyn*.
@WynGalbraith

Guest's picture
Guest

I have to believe sometimes 2 machines just arent meant to compliment one another.

For example the DiNovo edge, LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. Had 2 friends buy cheaper keyboards, one has a roller ball mouse that floats the other doesnt even keep up with the keys as you type both blew $100 and resorted back to the old keyboards. Neither would spend the $200 today for the DiNovo (whose price remained firm almost 3 yrs after being released).

Now I love my DiNovo, I surf the internet on my 42" widescreen Olevia TV. I picked it up used on Craigslist for $350. Of course in hindsight I love my setup, I could never sit at a desk to surf the web but using a huge widescreen TV poses some problems. The resoloution is never right, what the TV needs to be set at to keep the picture focused always conflicts with the recomended display websites suggest you use........biggest offender yahoo mail always switches automatically to classic veiw and I dont know why the problem? Next is displaying the yahoo homespage makes the fonts and content pretty tiny and I prefer to sit halfway across the room on the couch so I have learned to enlarge the display down in the right corner but never fails I have to eenlarge and decrease most pages and now my windows open in half sizes and so on.

In the end, I have somehow with no idea what I was doing set up a to die for homes theater PC. In 6 months the PC crashed and I learned Sony no longer made towers so replacing mine was n ot an option. I dont care how cheap systems are or how mmany new bells and whistles they offer I took my vaio tower to get fixed for $100 at best buy. The last thing I was going to try was a new computer with my current setup. Sometimes unless you have to buy the newer better product you should stick with the one thats been dependable and save time and money.

oh yeah can you believe the DiNOvo is selling under $100 on ebay....................was worth the price no matter what

Guest's picture
Guest

I have to believe sometimes 2 machines just arent meant to compliment one another.

For example the DiNovo edge, LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. Had 2 friends buy cheaper keyboards, one has a roller ball mouse that floats the other doesnt even keep up with the keys as you type both blew $100 and resorted back to the old keyboards. Neither would spend the $200 today for the DiNovo (whose price remained firm almost 3 yrs after being released).

Now I love my DiNovo, I surf the internet on my 42" widescreen Olevia TV. I picked it up used on Craigslist for $350. Of course in hindsight I love my setup, I could never sit at a desk to surf the web but using a huge widescreen TV poses some problems. The resoloution is never right, what the TV needs to be set at to keep the picture focused always conflicts with the recomended display websites suggest you use........biggest offender yahoo mail always switches automatically to classic veiw and I dont know why the problem? Next is displaying the yahoo homespage makes the fonts and content pretty tiny and I prefer to sit halfway across the room on the couch so I have learned to enlarge the display down in the right corner but never fails I have to eenlarge and decrease most pages and now my windows open in half sizes and so on.

In the end, I have somehow with no idea what I was doing set up a to die for homes theater PC. In 6 months the PC crashed and I learned Sony no longer made towers so replacing mine was n ot an option. I dont care how cheap systems are or how mmany new bells and whistles they offer I took my vaio tower to get fixed for $100 at best buy. The last thing I was going to try was a new computer with my current setup. Sometimes unless you have to buy the newer better product you should stick with the one thats been dependable and save time and money.

oh yeah can you believe the DiNOvo is selling under $100 on ebay....................was worth the price no matter what

Guest's picture
StephTran

Very informing and compete review. Thanks for the time. I was actually able to capture pretty decent (not great) footage through Quicktime Player Pro (very smooth framerate at 640x480 supposedly, quite a bit smoother than your posted sample). Interestingly enough, you can even capture at full 1600x1200 quality although it's quite choppy (QT prefs>recording then selecting native resolution). At these settings, I obtained around 8-10 fps on my muscled mac pro, but the audio kept up at the very least and did not skip. I have to agree that the framing did look a little different than Skype for example (narrower framing by a good 20% I'd estimate), and that the movie captured at the "best" QT setting (640x480 H264) seems a little softer than it should be. The audio was fairly on par for a webcam, and the tin can effect was not so pronounced, although quite a way off from even a $100 condenser mic.

Guest's picture

I agree with all your points. I tried using the cam with a MacBook Pro (reasons -- better optics, better resolution, mobility) and it sucks.

No software, no control. I tried modifying the QuickTime components in the System Library -- not difficult but still risky. No luck.

And absolutely ZERO support from Logitech. Pathetech Logitech!

Guest's picture
Guest

I have the "made for Mac" webcam. There are no controls for it. It goes dark from time to time. When I unplug it, it goes back to normal. I can't believe Logitech doesn't have a program to control this product for people on a MAC when it say "Designed for Mac" on the box

Guest's picture
Tom

Sadly, you're review of the webcam exactly mirrors my experiences.

What I don't understand is why Skype seems to be able to handle the camera correctly. I did a video chat with a friend the other day and he confirmed that the video was very smooth. But with QT Pro or Photo Booth, video is jerky, delayed and the preview window is zoomed in for whatever reason.

Bottom line, the cam seems to be OK for video chats but not for recording.

Tom

Guest's picture
Benjamin

I have also experienced this same disappointment with the QuickCam Vision Pro. Mostly because I am a musician and I want to record HD videos for youtube.

Supposedly this can record 720p... but even Logitech can't tell me what software can do this. I talked to them.

I am just glad that someone is actually saying these things out loud because people need to realize that, even if it's technically possible in some unattainable way that the cam can work at a much higher resolution, it's basically a lie because they never bothered to tell you how, or release some software or driver that facilitates it.

Hopefully that changes - good luck :)

Guest's picture
Johnny E. Reynolds

I bought logitech webcam for $69.90 with a $20 mail in rebate. from Amazon.com.However I heard about AmazingWatcher.Com which is a free website that will “watch” items for you on Amazon and let you know when amazon has them in stock at regular retail price.

Guest's picture
martincg

yes, logitech has terrible drivers support, but not only for webcams, i have experience with combo of their mouse and keyboard (s510), almost after 2 years they released working drivers for 64bit OS. but i think hardware of logitech is very good, also not very expensive too

Guest's picture
Rozzer

This is an interesting review. I wish I'd seen it before I bought my Quickcam Pro.

I have made some discoveries that haven't been mentioned here, and might help other users achieve a good framerate where previously they got a bad one.

Quicktime - If you go to Preferences / Recording and change the Quality from the default 'Device Native' to 'Best H.264', you will get a lovely smooth 640x480 30fps recording.

Any other app - If you have another app, such as ScreenFlow, which also exhibits the choppy framerate, you can fix it with the following steps:

- Launch the offending app, and being a recording
- Launch Quicktime and go to 'New movie recording' (make sure your Quicktime recording prefs are setup as instructed above). As soon Quicktime opens the preview of the QuickCam video it will kick the camera into working at full framerate IN THE OTHER APP. It's very odd, but it works.

I think it's a shame. Logitech did drop the ball on this one, but at least there are workarounds.