Logitech C270 webcam
Those of us in our thirties, and older, will remember how much it used to cost to buy something that could make video. And of course, those same people remember how hard it was to handle, edit and share that video. Now, for less than £20 you can have a camera that makes video and streams it all over the world, allows you to see distant family and does all of that in HD.
Progress is inevitable, but the Logitech C270 is still a very cool little device for almost no significant financial outlay. In fact, when combined with Skype it's actually sort of hard to understand how anyone makes any money from anything these days.
Our C270 came with a fetching design on the front. White with a swirly pattern, it really looked rather lovely and a stark contrast from all the other webcams we've seen, which are generally a little bit more boring and industrial looking.
As webcams usually sit atop your monitor, there needs to be a way of keeping it there. Here, the Logitech has a solid hinged arrangement that should allow you to clip it on your monitor, and get any angle you need to make video calls or have a cracking session of chatroulette - if that's even still a thing.
The small lens is located on the left, and next to it is a microphone on one side, and a green LED to let you know when you're broadcasting video. A USB cable runs out of the back, and has a decent length too, so you won't be too restricted about where you put the camera.
Video and audio quality
As with most webcams, even those that claim to be HD, the picture is not all that brilliant. It might have a 1280 x 720 frame size, but it's not packed full of detail. Indeed, we found images from the C270 to be very soft. There's lots of noise from compression too, with noticeable blocking on certain areas.
At night, when you're using artificial lighting things are bright enough, but the cost of that is extra noise - we noticed blue sparkles and blocking. Perhaps the best way to describe it, is that it's a lot like looking at a VHS recording. It very much has that feel and style to it.
Of course, it's perhaps churlish to expect more from a device that costs less than a night for two at the cinema, but we think you should go into any purchase aware of what to expect. And while the video quality is fine, for say, Skype, it's not the sort of thing you're going to want to upload to YouTube in an attempt to be the next internet sensation.
On the plus side, the Logitech driver does give you quite comprehensive control over the camera. You can tweak the white balance, exposure, brightness and zoom in to get a tighter crop on your image. But the camera is fixed focus, so there's no option to tweak the focus - and shots are always a little soft, as always with fixed lenses.
Interestingly, sound quality from the built in mic was genuinely brilliant sounding. Very clear, and one of the better microphones we've used for Skype calls.
For Skype use, we had no problems at all. The built-in microphone is handy, as most people don't keep a microphone attached to their computer. It's also well located, as you'll be speaking directly at it when you're chatting to someone, so as an all-in-one package it's a good deal.
The feedback we had from people we called was that there was plenty of detail in shots, but that they seemed to be very sensitive to light. We had a play with the exposure settings during a call, and while we were able to make this a little better, it came at the cost of our shining face being slightly shaded. To some extent, this is inevitable where there's no direct lighting happening, there is, after all, a reason TV studios use quite carefully placed lights.
We found that when it came to widescreen video, the Logitech suffered more than most cameras do with Skype. There's always a delay in the app switching to a wide, HD image, but with the Logitech in most calls this never happened. Testing, we made other cameras produce wide images far quicker than the C270 did, although occasionally it would work just fine. Odd, and Skype's fault, more than the camera. We tested in Google+ Hangouts to test this and video was always 16:9.
For £20 this webcam is surely a bargain. In decent light, the quality is good on the whole, especially sound which was crisp and clear. Low light performance was a bit lackluster in terms of noise, but the brightness of the image was actually quite impressive considering the ambient light.
It's good value, works well and if you go for one of the versions with a pretty design, it's far nicer to look at than 99 per cent of the webcams on the market. A small point, but some people will have thought about how their computer looks, and it's nice to be able to chose something a bit different.