In testing, the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000's image quality was superior to that of the Creative Live Cam Optia AF and the Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000 under any scenario--bright artificial light, low light, or natural light. Particularly in a dimly lit room with a dark desktop background, the QuickCam Pro 9000 was able to lighten the image to that shadows were removed from your face but not to the point of overexposing the image. In addition to using a Carl Zeiss lens, the QuickCam Pro 9000 features Logitech's RightLight 2 technology, which I found to be far better at automatically adjusting the image than anything you get from Creative or Microsoft. Like the other two desktop Webcams, the QuickCam Pro 9000 features a 2-megapixel sensor. It can record video up to a resolution of 1,600x1,200 and can snap still photos up to 8-megapixels (keep in mind, anything above 2-megapixels comes by way of software interpolation, which degrades quality).
The QuickCam Pro 9000 doesn't put AF into its model name like Creative's Live Cam Optia AF, but it does have an auto-focus feature. It's slow to react when recording video at any of the available HD resolutions (960x720 and up), but does a reasonable job of keeping your talking head in focus. The microphone does an acceptable job of picking up audio; just be sure you're not sitting to close to the Webcam.
The bundled QuickCam software features a pleasing interface and is very easy to navigate. Large buttons are provided for recording video or snapping a picture, and changing the resolution of each is dead simple. Your recorded videos and photos are listed as thumbnails at the bottom of the QuickCam window. Videos are recorded as WMV files and played back using Windows Media Player. Logitech's face-tracking features mean you get an assortment of 3D avatars and other video effects, which are fun if you want to surprise your friends with a video call from a shark or a reptile or a wild-and-crazy guy with an arrow through his head. While Macs will recognize this plug-and-play USB device (not tested), you'll be left without the services of the video (RightLight 2) and audio (RightSound) optimization apps as well as the video effects and filters.
Logitech doesn't bundle a video-messaging app, but it works with all the popular IM clients, including those from AOL, Windows, and Yahoo, plus Skype, which I used for testing. As I was testing the QuickCam Pro 9000 last week, Logitech and Skype announced a partnership to bring 640x480, 30-frame-per-second video to Skype calls. Three QuickCams were mentioned in the release, including the Pro 9000. Unfortunately, the updated version of Skype (3.6) necessary for high-quality video calls is still not available for download, so I was unable to test this feature.