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Although it's not cheap by consumer standards, Logitech's BCC950 ConferenceCam is an excellent solution for businesses wanting to get into video communication without going to the much greater expense of installing traditional room-based systems.
Logitech is best known for its high-quality consumer-grade peripherals, but also has a business group, Logitech for Business, serving SMEs and larger enterprises. Among the recent products under the company's 'for business' banner is the £199.99 (inc. VAT; £166.66 ex. VAT) BCC950 ConferenceCam, an all-in-one HD webcam and speakerphone that's designed for small groups of unified communications (UC) or video conferencing users.
Design The BCC950 ConferenceCam comprises a speakerphone base and a spherical HD webcam that can either nestle in a recess in the base unit or protrude on an 'eye-level' stand:
There are various camera and audio controls on the speakerphone base, which are also replicated on the supplied remote control. The base unit measures 169mm wide by 147mm deep by 344mm high and weighs 470g, while the remote is a 45mm-by-115mm-by-13mm unit weighing 44g. The eye-level stand raises the webcam by around 21cm.
At back of the base unit there's a hard-wired 2.4m (8ft) USB 2.0 data cable and a round-pin power connector for the AC adapter. Alternatively, if you have a (powered) USB 2.0 port free on your computer, you can use the supplied USB adapter cable to deliver power to the BCC950.
The base unit has controls for camera pan, tilt and zoom, call answer and hangup, volume up, volume down and mute. These controls are replicated on the remote, which has a 3m (10ft) range.
The typical usage scenario for the eminently portable BCC950 ConferenceCam is for enabling ad hoc videoconferencing sessions for small groups (of up to four) in meeting rooms. The design works well in this context, with the BCC950 sitting on a table with the participants facing it, an attached laptop perhaps linking to a large monitor or projector (see above). It's less suitable for use by an individual at the desktop, because there's no convenient way to detach the webcam component and mount it atop a monitor for a head-on view.
Features The BCC950 ConferenceCam's 3-megapixel webcam can deliver 1080p video at 30 frames per second (fps), with motorised pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) controllable either from the base unit or via the remote. The camera, whose Carl Zeiss lens has a 78-degree field of view, can pan over 180 degrees and has a 55-degree tilt capability.
Webcams often perform poorly in challenging conditions such as bright backlighting (resulting in dark, shadowy faces as the brightness is turned down indiscriminately) or low light levels (resulting in digital noise as the brightness is turned up indiscriminately). Logitech's RightLight 2 technology attempts to improve the performance of the BCC950 (and other Logitech webcams) by identifying faces in the frame and using them as reference points for brightness and colour adjustments.
The base unit contains a full-duplex omnidirectional speakerphone, which means that conversations can proceed naturally, with parties able to talk simultaneously rather than one at a time (as with half-duplex units). For private calls, you can plug a set of earphones (not supplied) into the audio jack on the base unit.
The UVCH.264-compliant ConferenceCam will work with most UC and video conferencing platforms, according to Logitech. The spec sheet lists the following: Adobe Connect; Avaya; Cisco WebEx and other Cisco video conferencing applications; Citrix Go to Meeting; LifeSize Connections; FaceTime; Google Hangouts and Video Chat; Microsoft Lync and Office365; Vidyo, Skype. No software or driver installation is required for the BCC950, under either Windows (7, XP) or Mac OS X (10.6 and higher).
Performance The BCC950's HD (1080p/30fps) video quality is extremely good, with sharp focus, good colour balance and minimal artefacts. When you pan or tilt the camera there's a slight delay as the autofocus and RightLight 2 adjustments kick in, but it's not too distracting.
The camera's 78-degree field of view comes into its own when you need to get several participants on-screen at once:
Audio quality when participating in a video call (we tested with Skype) is also impressive, with plenty of volume available from the speaker in the base unit to cover a small meeting room comfortably.
Our only criticism — and it's a minor one — is that the motor-drive mechanism for the pan-tilt function could be smoother (especially when using the remote): tapping a control moves the camera in short, rather jerky, steps, while holding down the button moves it rather too quickly for our liking.
Conclusion Although it's not cheap by consumer standards, Logitech's BCC950 ConferenceCam is an excellent solution for businesses wanting to get into video communication with colleagues and/or clients, without going to the much greater expense of installing traditional room-based systems.