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Logitech QuickCam Sphere AF review: Logitech QuickCam Sphere AF

While the QuickCam Sphere produces excellent pictures and has impressed us with its automatic face tracking, these features don't justify the extra expense over the cheaper webcams in the Logitech stable with matching optics.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
3 min read

Design
Keeping the Logitech QuickCam Sphere AF on the desk by your PC could conceivably be either a confronting or comforting experience depending on your feelings about a leering robotic eye staring at you while you chase down recipes on Chow.com. The Sphere webcam comes bundled with a weighted base and a 30cm stand giving the ensemble the appearance similar to a cycloptic osterich when fully assembled.

8.0

Logitech QuickCam Sphere AF

The Good

Outstanding video quality. Great low light performance. Mechanical automatic face tracking.

The Bad

Intrusive design. Expensive.

The Bottom Line

While we have been impressed with the Sphere's ability to follow us around the room, for the vast majority of people who use webcams this freedom to move is overkill and Logitech's excellent QuickCam Pro 9000 is AU$100 cheaper.

The "head" and "neck" of the QuickCam Sphere come in glossy black plastic and make for quite an attractive gadget. For people who'd prefer for the Sphere not to be the centrepiece of their computer desk, the neck can be removed and the sphere can attach directly to the base. The Sphere is then attached to your PC using the USB 2.0 connection, also a part of the base.

Features
When compared to the typically low-quality built-in webcams you find in laptop and PC monitors, the Sphere stands head and shoulders above the competition. Similar to recent release Nokia mobile camera phones, the N82 and 6220 Classic, this Logitech camera features Carl Zeiss optics. Behind the lens the Sphere features a 2-megapixel image sensor but boasts the ability to take still images up to 8-megapixel resolution. In terms of motion video, the Sphere is capable of HD quality video (1,600x1,200) at 30 frames a second — making it compatible with Skype's new High Quality video service.

The real beauty behind the sphere design is this webcam's range of mechanical movement and it's ability to track your face while you move, talk, eat, doze, or whatever else you may want to be doing in front of your cam. The Sphere can rotate over 180 degrees horizontally and 109 degrees vertically, which we found more than sufficient for conducting important conference calls and for recording our video blogs.

As with most webcams on the shelves next to the Sphere in computer stores, this Logitech cam comes bundled with software, which not only calibrates the camera's video and audio settings, but also features a range of goofy motion-trackable animations. You'd have thought the novelty of transforming into a talking shark would become tired at some point, but we still found ourselves cracking up as we metamorphosed, and were genuinely impressed with the accuracy of the motion tracking.

Performance
The Sphere is the leading webcam in this latest range of Logitech cams featuring 2-megapixel image sensors and Carl Zeis optics, and as with its siblings, the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 and the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, the image quality is outstanding and works beautifully straight out of the box. Installation is completely painless, and the automatic settings work a treat. We did find we could achieve better results by tweaking the picture manually, but for users who want a thought-free automatic experience, the Logitech Sphere delivers.

The titular auto-focus feature also works a treat, but as with the camera's picture quality, we found we achieved the best results by switching to manual. The auto-focus function works well in unison with the motorised automatic tracking if you intend to move around the frame while you speak. Even in low-light environments the Sphere managed to focus well and produce a warm, if artificial-looking, image.

Overall
The Logitech Sphere produces the same high quality results we found in the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 and the QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, and offers users the freedom to move with auto-focus and its motorised lens with automatic face tracking. The real question to ask yourself is if you will make best use of this freedom, because the other Logitech webcams offer the same great performance and software but can be bought for AU$100 cheaper than the Sphere's AU$249 price tag. While we have been impressed with the Sphere's ability to follow us around the room, for the vast majority of people who use webcams this freedom is overkill.