Logitech C510 HD webcam review

Video calling is one of those “futuristic” technologies that seemed to have snuck into modern life and passed by without much hoo-hah. Despite its obvious advantages – with so much communication being non-verbal – I still get the majority of my calls over the phone or communicate via email.

This could be for a number of reasons: circumstances, convenience, my ridiculous beard. However I’m also guessing that the low quality of webcams played a factor – blocky pixellated faces are not that much fun to look at and unless you have special circumstances – such as a loved one the other side of the globe – then it didn’t always seem worth the effort.

Logitech-C510

Of course the situation is improving. High quality webcams are included in most modern smartphones and tablets (you can even get one for my TV) and the proliferation of iDevices should have more people Skyping and FaceTiming each other. People on more traditional machines (as John Gruber so rightly points out, with the proliferation of tablets and smartphones we should probably rethink what we class as a personal computer) now have access to HD webcams, offering high resolution video calling if you have a suitably fast internet connection.

The Logitech C510 is one such device. The USB2.0 connection means you can add it to just about any machine and be ready for action. It worked pretty much instantly in OSX, without recourse to drivers like the bad old days of computing. The C510 is designed for portability and is built to fold up and be thrown in a bag. This is useful – although the cable is left dangling out the back. A detachable (lose-able) cable might make things a little neater, but it’s not a major problem. The actual webcam is designed to perch on top of your monitor but the reasonably flexible design means you can make it freestanding with a little bit of practice. A marquee feature is the “swivel-cam” which means you can grab the camera and rotate it 360 degrees – cable permitting – to show your conversational partner what is happening around you. I know you could just pick up with the webcam and show them, but it’s a nice little feature.

Skype HD or Logitech Vid HD allow you to make HD 720p video calls and there is one-click uploading to Facebook and YouTube – so expect more Young Girl Talking About Herself videos than every before. In HD!
You can also take 8-megapixel photos of the things in front of your laptop with a reasonably good (but not amazing) camera.

The Logitech C510 is around £45 and worth a look if you make a lot of video calls and would like people to actually see you.

Hands on with Flip UltraHD and MinoHD

Cisco has announced its third generation of the popular Flip camcorders, Flip UltraHD and Flip MinoHD. They improved from the second generation with enhanced HD video quality and image stabilisation. It is now easier to upload videos and share.

Flip-Video

The Flip UltraHD is 25% slimmer than its predecessor, which felt a little like a brick. The video is now 720p resolution at 50 fps. The in-built camera allows you to shoot 2 hours of video. Along with the all-new image stabilisation feature video is now clear and steady.  The camcorders now feature an HDMI port so you can watch videos directly from your Flip on your TV.  The new Flips can conveniently be connected to your PC using the in-built USB arms. The software, Flipshare, also gets an upgrade with the ability to share videos privately by email or share on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You can now take still images from videos make a compilation of movies from multiple video clips.

The Flip MinoHD is smaller than the Ultra HD and has all the features to go with it. The Flip MinoHD comes in two sizes to shoot enough video for one hour or two hours. The Flips are easy to use and you can be filming in seconds, which is important to ensure you do not miss those special moments. If you have a camera which shoots video in HD or an iPhone 4, I am not entirely convinced a dedicated camcorder is necessary. Although, I can see this making an amazing Christmas present for budding movie directors and keen holiday makers. Personally, the slimmer the better so I like the Flip MinoHD.

In comparison, a lot of camcorders are going the 3D route like the Aiptek 3D HD Camcorder but do you really need 3D? There will be accessories available including a pocket projector allowing you to project your video directly from your Flip to any flat surface. You can also have the Overtime Battery Extender which doubles the battery life to keep you filming on the go.

The new Flips are available from November. The Flip UltraHD will be £159.99, available in black and white. The Flip MinoHD one hour will be £149.99 and The Flip MinoHD two hour will be £179.99. How do you Flip?

ViewSonic 3DV5: Your own 3D movies – for £150

The price of 3D goodies plummets ever lower with the release of Viewsonic’s latest 3D camcorder.

Ease of use is the order of the day for the ViewSonic 3DV5, which offers one-touch recording, and a quick switch between 2D and 3D recording. To watch your movies, just plug in the camcorder to your computer via USB, or straight into a 3D TV with the HDMI cable.

ViewSonic-3D

As 3D conversions take place on board this pocket camcorder, you can upload your creations directly to YouTube’s 3D channel too.

And you can ditch the special glasses (supplied) if you want to watch on the camcorder’s screen, as it has a built-in 2.4in ‘autosteroscopic’ display – handy for checking content when you’re out and about.

The camcorder can film content in MP4 format at HD 720p resolution, and can also take still images. It comes with only 10MB of internal memory, so you’ll probably want to up that by buying an SD card.

For such a bargain price, we’re not sure just how good the finished product is likely to be – your films are hardly going to be up there with movies filmed on the likes of the Panasonic HDC-SDT750 3D HD, but then that costs well over a grand.

If you’re after a novel Christmas gift at this kind of price point, it might be worth a punt, and should be in the shops now. But if you are not completely desperate to jump on the 3D bandwagon, it’s probably worth waiting to see what else is waiting in the wings before letting go of your hard-earned cash.
For more details log on to www.viewsoniceurope.com/uk/.

Ricoh CX4 review: Miniaturise your world

At first glance, the Ricoh CX4 looks like your average compact camera. My review sample came in a rather uninspiring black, but search online and you’ll be able to buy it in a rather more fetching pink or silver. However, it is compact and has smooth edges, which make it easy to slip into a pocket. It is missing the textured ‘handgrip’ of its predecessor the CX3, which makes it a little less easy to hold.

Ricoh-CX4

I’ve been having some issues with my own Canon compact, and had recently decided to go back to my trusty DSLR, despite its weighty proportions, as I just wasn’t happy with the standard of shots I was getting.

So when the Ricoh landed in my letterbox, I was interested to see how it would compare.

Screen-wise, it was a big thumbs-up. The screen is large (3in) and has a high resolution of 920K dots offers an excellent view of your shots once taken – better than the standard 230K dot screens. But I found, once I’d loaded the images onto my laptop, that they were rather misleading. A couple of black and white shots I’d taken looked fine on the camera’s screen, but in actual fact was underexposed. And indoor shots taken at night (on a rare night out to dinner) were disappointing.

But outside, I was really impressed with the depth of colours the camera achieved. A trip to an open farm over Halloween presented images with fine depth of colour, and using the auto mode gave me some fantastic blue skies, something that my other compact often fails to achieve.

There’s a decent 28-300 optical zoom, and an image-sensor-shift image stabilisation that cuts down on blur. The ‘subject tracking’ AF autofocus system is designed to ensure photos are in focus and correctly exposed – I’d say the focusing works better than the exposure.

I know I’m sad, but I was also excited by the ‘miniaturisation’ mode. This achieves what is known as tilt-shift images, where a picture of something such as a railway station or Big Ben, takes on the appearance of being in miniature, like a model village or train set. It’s something I’ve been keen to try myself, but had never got round to fiddling around with the settings on my DSLR to achieve it. With the Ricoh, it can be done at the twist of the dial on top.

The High definition 720p video mode creates AVI format files that are rather large, and you can’t zoom or focus during recording. There’s also no stereo sound or an HDMI port for viewing movies on your TV.

The Ricoh CX4 retails at £249.99.