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The $60 Logitech HD Webcam C510 is slightly fancier than its linemate, the C310, but for $10 more you get a significantly better-quality camera with 8-megapixel capacity snapshots and full 720p wide-screen HD video for chatting with friends on programs like Skype and Yahoo Messenger. We also appreciate its ability to swivel 360 degrees on its base for full pans, and the accompanying Logitech Webcam software makes it easy (and fun) to upload your goofy photos and video to social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube. If you're in the market for an aftermarket Webcam, the Logitech HD Webcam C510 earns our recommendation.
Like the C310, the C510 is also designed to mount on both desktops and laptops thanks to the two joints built into the base that allow it to brace against a monitor. We had no problem connecting the Webcam to a variety of screens and computers, but the camera tends to move around if you bump the table, so we're hoping the next version will have some kind of locking mechanism to keep the camera still on its base. In terms of build quality, however, we prefer the C510 because of its ability to rotate 360 degrees (the C310 could only move left and right), which makes it easy to change camera orientation on the fly without physically taking the camera off your computer.
Installing the C510 requires a simple installation of the driver disc included in the box, but before the program launches the installer file, the CD will automatically search for updates online, a feature lacking on the competing Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000 series.
Logitech recommends specific system requirements to support smooth 720p video calling and recording that includes a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of memory, at least 200MB of storage, and Windows 7 installed. We used a clean 2.13GHz Intel Core i3 Gateway laptop for testing and experienced some video lag likely due to the slower CPU clock speed, so we definitely stand by Logitech's basic requirements. Anecdotally, Logitech makes no mention of Mac compatibility, but online users report both the camera and integrated microphone work perfectly fine in Mac OS X Snow Leopard due to its compliance to USB Video Class (UVC) standards.
The Logitech Webcam software acts as a central hub for controlling the basic functionality of the Webcam, in addition to a couple fun extra features. The main menu offers the option to take a quick snapshot, view a gallery of archived pictures, or make a video call using a number of preinstalled apps: Logitech Vid HD is its proprietary video chatting software, but there's also Gmail Voice and Video chat, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, and Windows Live Movie maker, with a convenient "Get More Apps" button in the right corner that takes you to even more applications.
The Quick Capture function appeals to the vanity in all of us and offers a "photobooth" environment to take snapshots or videos of you and your friends. It's easy to toggle between photos and videos, and you can also control specifics like resolution, standard versus wide-screen lens, and minute visual settings like exposure, gain, contrast, and color intensity. You'll also notice three distinct Logitech additions: Follow My Face, RightSound, and RightLight.
Once enabled, Follow My Face keeps the camera centered on your mug and even zooms in and out as you move around the shot. In our brief experience, the feature worked great, although our personal preference is to control the movement of the camera ourselves--still, its easy to imagine the feature in a larger picture, being used to keep track of animals back at home or as an extra security measure in an empty apartment.
RightSound and RightLight are two auto-correcting software technologies that optimize the audio and exposure in poor video conditions. RightSound fixes a constant issue with most Webcams--the low hum of the host computer attached to the camera. Most users mount cams on the top of a laptop screen that easily picks up ambient noise from the computer processes; RightSound corrects this issue by canceling out ambient noise and adding clarity and resolution to the sound of your voice.
In our tests, the embedded microphone successfully picked up our voice over others in our office from up to 10 feet away. RightLight, on the other hand, performs the same service but fixes shoddy lighting issues by compensating for low exposures and adjusting hues based on ambient light and the distance from the camera to your face. The overall effect works fairly well, and we found ourselves keeping both features toggled during the majority of our testing.
Like the Microsoft LifeCam series, the Logitech software also gives access to a series of fun graphical overlays that add extra fun points to the experience. You can select from carnival filters that distort and stretch your face, and although the selection isn't as extensive as Microsoft's, you can actually download more from the Logitech Web site. We also enjoyed using the countdown timer while taking snapshots; it gives you time to center yourself in the camera as opposed to the instant shutter on the Microsoft LifeCams.
Logitech offers three video quality settings: Small (360p), Medium (480p), and Large (720p) in addition to toggling between standard and wide-screen formats. As described above, we successfully established video chat sessions using Skype, Google Chat, Yahoo Chat, and Windows Live Messenger with no hiccups during installation. Once in session, our contact on the other side described excellent audio quality from the Logitech C510 and sharp, but slightly choppy video on the 720p setting. As we suspected, they also preferred the lighting environment with RightLight and RightAudio "on."
Finally, Logitech understands the close relationship between Webcams and social networking and integrates easy one-touch access to send videos directly to an e-mail address, Facebook, and YouTube once you input your user name and password information. There's also an "empty" button labeled "Edit Video" that you can assign to your favorite motion-editing application like Adobe Premiere or Roxio Creator.