Until yesterday, I’d been using the internal camera on my iMac for all my online meetings. I couldn’t help feeling that something was wrong: the picture was often too dark or grainy. Or the camera would adjust to the bright light in the background, shrouding me in darkness. I bought a Logi StreamCam – you can judge the quality for yourself in the YouTube video I uploaded, which I’ve embedded further down this article.
The conditions in my office are challenging, light-wise. There’s a window off to the side, which is partly in-frame. I tried closing the curtains, shining bright light in my face (not much fun) and buying an app to take manual control of the internal camera so as to push up the brightness, even if the background then gets completely blown out. None of these was satisfactory, so I decided to buy an external camera.
I can’t quite remember how I arrived at the StreamCam. It’s not really for video conferencing at all; rather, it’s aimed at streamers. There are one or two features that are superfluous to requirements for me, like an orientation sensor so you can turn the video for portrait mode and an inbuilt mic. Someone somewhere on the internet said these two features are superfluous to streamers’ requirements too, but I’m no expert on that.
Compatibility issues have proven unfounded so far
I was worried that the camera would have compatibility issues with my setup. Gradually, my late 2015 27″ 5K iMac’s age is catching up with me (not to mention my late 2013 MacBook Pro’s). Despite them being five and seven years old, respectively, they’re absolutely fine speed-wise but they’re still on old-fashioned USB-A ports. The Logitech StreamCam has a fixed USB-C connector, although (don’t quote me on this) I gather the protocol it uses is USB 3.1. So it’s just a question of getting a suitable adapter, which (going by some reviews on Amazon) can be a tricky undertaking if the adapter’s a bit naff. I bought a Benfei USB-C to USB-A adapter.
USB-A with an adapter works fine
I was relieved to find that it works, and it appears to work at the full frame rate of 60 frames per second at full HD (1080p, i.e. 1920 x 1020). I just plugged it in and the hardware camera was recognised immediately; so far, I’ve tried Google Meet (in Chrome) and Zoom. There’s no reason to believe Skype and others wouldn’t work, as QuickTime recognises it too.
No need for 7th generation i5 Intel processor
The specifications stipulate that a 7th generation i5 Intel processor is required. I’m not sure why, but neither of my machines have one. The Logitech Capture software works fine on my iMac, and I tested out the camera without the software on my Macbook Pro (I don’t know whether the software works).
The only thing I need the software for is to adjust settings. It seems that brightness and a couple of basic settings (presumably those that are manipulated physically within the camera itself) are remembered even if you close the software.
However, if you want to use settings such as the digital zoom or “auto-framing” (which automatically zooms and pans to keep your face in frame) you need to keep the Logitech Capture software open and choose “Logi Capture” as the camera. This is a virtual camera, which means the software intercepts the signal from the camera, manipulates it appropriately, and passes itself off as a camera that you can select in Google Meet, Zoom or whatever you’re using.
The downside is that you have to keep the software open – which crashed on me a couple of times while using QuickTime (although to be fair, my computer doesn’t meet the official specifications). It also means that status light is always lit, so if you leave the software on for convenience, you don’t know whether your camera is being accessed when it shouldn’t be.
Overall, I’m very happy with the camera. The f/2.0 aperture seems to do the trick of adapting to my challenging light situation. I paid €159 for it – please don’t judge me – and although I’m sure some people will say there are better cameras out there, this one looks good perched on top of my iMac and does the trick. The sound’s pretty good too, and despite what I say in the video, I think I might actually use it for meetings so long as I don’t get an echo or feedback from the speakers.
Being able to change the angle and crop the frame with the digital zoom might come in handy if, as in the video, I have loads of mess in the background.