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Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 WebCam E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: WebCam | Camera
Written by Mat Thompson - Edited by Olin Coles   
Friday, 18 July 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 WebCam
Features and Specifications
Closer Look: LifeCam VX-5000
LifeCam VX-5000 Installation and Software
Testing and Results
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Testing and Results

Testing Methodology

Images and videos were created of various typical circumstances (sitting in front of the LifeCam VX-5000) as well more atypical imagery that would stress video and image compression (fine patterns, rapid movement, etc). The images were compared to images taken with a higher quality camera to note color differences. Both the videos and images were then analyzed to look for various compression artifacts (artifacts being losses and distortions caused by image compression), such as macroblocking.

Test System

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
  • System Memory: 4GB OCZ "SLI-Ready" DDR2-800
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 @ 3Ghz
  • Video: EVGA GeForce 9600GT
  • Disk Drive 1: Maxtor 320 GB, SATA
  • Optical Drive: Samsung (TSST) SH-S203B, SATA
  • PSU: Corsair VX550w
  • Monitor: Samsung 2220WM-HAS
  • Operating System: Windows XP Professional Service Pack 3

Results

The most important factor of a webcam is its video and picture quality. The difference between a poor camera and a good camera is how well it can capture the video and photos, its color accuracy, the amount of artifacts, the amount of noise, contrast, saturation, brightness, etc. In order to avoid the complexity of a photographic review, I'll try to make this succinct: The VX-5000 performs very well in most situations, but can perform poorly in other (albeit atypical) situations.

The camera produces very good picture for video chats. During my own video chat tests, I found that the picture this camera produced was detailed, with a
fair amount of smoothness. There was little to no grain in the video. Though, it's important to note that the video quality in messenger is at somewhere around 8-10 fps at about 320x240.

Microsoft_LifeCam_VX-5000_8.jpg

The LifeCam allows you to change various picture quality settings, such as brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation, white balance, etc. While small tweaks in these settings may yield a slightly better picture, I've found it best to, essentially, leave the settings at their default levels.

The still quality and video quality are not up to par with digicams or video camcorders. However, considering the main use of the camera and especially considering the price point, I think it's fair to say that the video quality is "relatively good".

At 1.3 mega pixels (1280x960), the photo quality can range from pretty good to disastrous. Unfortunately, the LifeCam software seems to adapt the compression to fit a specific file size (around 370 kb or so). So, the complexity of the image is the main factor in how good the image looks. A fine pattern, which can be difficult to compress, ended up looking unuseable. However, when I was positioned in front of the camera in my chair as though I were in a web chat, the picture quality was very good.

The video quality is far less hit or miss. At all 3 specifications, the video looks fairly compressed, but very useable. Compression artifacts are readily apparent in backgrounds with very fine detail. Faces show up very well in recordings. Video grain appears to be smoothed over in post-processing or recording and is not particularly apparent. The compression did not lessen if you decreased resolution. However, the increased frame rate of 320x240 made the video much more "natural" looking. The 15 fps video at 640x480 produced a stilted looking video (in the early 20th century, people found that at ~24fps, video stopped looking stilted).

Audio quality had no real problems. The echo and noise cancellation did a good job of removing latent and background noise. In a room with 2 fans going, I didn't hear either. Conversely, my voice volume also tended to be a little quieter. While in video chat, I'd either have to sit closer to the camera or speak up.

However, the LifeCam 2.0 software should not be considered the only software available. Many different pieces of software exist in both freeware and paid versions that allow you to record or photograph using the LifeCam. Each piece of software had their own caveats and pluses. The fact of the matter is that the LifeCam software is simple and easy to use. The quality isn't very high on the resulting photos or videos, but it's easy to make them and great for novices and for people who want to dive right into making their own videos right away. As such, I give the software credit where it's due. The lack of configuration is tempered by the simplicity of use.

Microsoft_LifeCam_VX-5000_software.jpg

All in all, the LifeCam VX-5000 succeeds where it's meant to. It's an inexpensive option compared to Digicams and Camcorders and is very easy to use. The software works well for what it's meant to do and the camera provides very good picture quality in video chat.



 

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