Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam (Product Review)
Wednesday, 03 April 2013
I was lent a Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam for review recently. Here’s what I found.
Product images were sourced from the product’s web page, and may have been cropped or resized for use here.
Before I even started using the webcam I was impressed by its thoughtful design. The webcam itself is a slim, handy size, about twice as thick as my iPhone 5 and a little narrower and shorter. It has a rounded ‘bump’ on the bottom.
The camera’s designed to fit neatly and securely inside a tubular case made of hard plastic. The case can also be used as a stand: on the lid is a magnetic bowl-shaped depression that the camera’s bump fits into. This holds the camera firmly, while allowing it to easily be nudged into the correct position.
Take off the lid of the camera case and it has a screw thread inside, ready to be attached to a tripod.
The tubular case also has one flat side so it doesn’t just roll away when you put it down. Soft rubber strips on the bottom of the case mean it doesn’t slip, and probably add a little damping.
Logitech Broadcaster software
Logitech provide free Broadcaster software for Mac or iOS for use with the webcam.
When I first opened up the Mac app I found it a little confusing and annoying. There are settings all over the place, without a decent Toolbar where all could be collected.
There are Preferences under the Broadcaster menu — and that’s fairly normal for any app. On the Camera tab though there’s a Properties button which gives access to 3 more tabs: for Hardware, Ustream and Wi-Fi.
This is the kind of obscure arrangement that reminds me of apps like Microsoft Word: settings within settings within settings. These separate tabs could all have been top-level items within Preferences.
With Preferences out of the way, you can then consider both the wrench icon and the Action menu button below the image the camera will record.
The wrench icon allows you to set Exposure and Microphone Gain separately to either Auto or a manual level. If you move the Exposure slider manually it is not reflected live in the image, but only when you release the mouse button. [I didn't try the Microphone Gain.] That means you have to slide and guess, slide and guess, until you happen to get it right.
The Action menu (the cog icon) allows you to choose a microphone and a video resolution.
Next to the wrench icon is a microphone control. Oddly, it showed a line through the microphone whether the mic was muted or not. When it was muted it glowed blue though.
Hover over the preview image in the Broadcaster window to reveal controls for zooming and panning that overlay the image. The camera itself doesn’t move. What you’re doing is zooming in and then adjusting which portion of the image to record.
On the Mac you’re not restricted to the Broadcaster app. I tried the webcam with Photo Booth and QuickTime Player, where it performed nicely. I also checked it with FaceTime and Skype. It was just a matter of choosing the correct camera.
For FaceTime and Skype in particular it could be really handy to have a camera that’s separate from the Mac, giving a lot more scope to show the remote viewer things of interest.
The software also allows you to record from a second camera, such as the built-in iSight camera. In my experiments a still shot or a video captured images from both cameras simultaneously and saved them as separate items.
The camera hardware
When you turn it on the camera needs several moments to get itself organised. It flashes the battery lights for a while and then spends a couple of seconds connecting to the wireless network. It beeps when it’s ready.
Use the Mode button on the side to choose whether to broadcast directly to Ustream or to send images to a connected Mac or iPad. I didn’t test the Ustream facility, but the camera connected happily to my Mac.
I used it primarily to monitor cats or dogs in another room and was happy with its performance. The quality of the images was good, and I was pleased with its ability to handle the tricky lighting around our house.
- The user interface of the software lets the camera down. It could be organised in a much more friendly and useful way.
- I’d like motion-detected activation. A few years ago I used a different camera and different software to discover that a bunch of neighbourhood cats were coming in overnight and eating all the catfood. Motion detection activated that camera only when a cat arrived. It would be a very handy feature on this camera too.
- I didn’t try this camera at night, but it has a small forward facing lamp that should be helpful where just a little more light is needed.
- The New Zealand adapter plug for the wall socket has annoying ‘wings’ that make it harder to fit any other plugs to the side. Why do manufacturers do that? That said, it uses a clever system of adding a slim adapter that latches in to the basic plug. The USB cable includes a small permanently attached velcro strap to keep the cable organised.
- I realised I don’t really have a use for this kind of camera. If I did I’d be happy with this one, software annoyances aside.
- HD 720p video capture.
- 3x digital zoom and digital pan & tilt.
- Built-in mono mic / External mic jack.
- 2-hour battery life, depending on use and usage of illumination lamp.
- Tripod ready H.264 video compression.
- Built-in illumination lamp.
- Wireless range: up to 50 feet from wireless router.
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 3.6 x 8.1 inches ; 1 pound.
- Shipping Weight: 1 pound.
Make sure to use the uninstaller!
Update: once I sent the camera back I deleted the app and the bits of the app I could find, such as preferences etc. Then Google Chrome suddenly stopped working properly on my Mac. I did all kinds of troubleshooting, testing and reinstalling but couldn’t make Chrome work again.
Then I opened Photo Booth and it didn’t work properly either. That led me to think about the Broadcaster software again, and searching my hard drive showed me the uninstaller. I gave that a try and opened Chrome and Photo Booth again. Both now worked just fine.
I have no idea why the Logitech Broadcaster app should have messed with Google Chrome, but it did. Make sure to use the uninstaller on the Broadcaster app.