Friday, November 15, 2013

FInally, a USB camera with Pan/Tilt/Zoom

If you've done any work with presentation or lecture capture software, you've dealt with the gap in USB camera technology.  Webcams make decent video if you're within 3 feet of them, but get farther away, and you look like you're in the next room - or the next county.

It stinks.  And so do the camera options.

Sony, Canon, Vaddio and others make nice P/T/Z cameras as long as you don't mind paying $2000 to $4000 or more per camera.  Not something most people - or most schools or universities - can pay for in large multiples.

What to do? You either get the $80 consumer webcam or you're stuck for a megabuck camera if you really need USB input to your computer.

At this dramatic juncture...enter the VDO360 camera. Website:
This camera isn't perfect, but it's a big step in the right direction.  Retail is about $1400 and educational price will come in around $1200. Not cheap, not ridiculous.

For that, you get a camera with 180-degree tilt range vertically and 180-degree pan range horizontally.  You also get a 12-power optical zoom lens, meaning it's not a fake zoom which magnifies pixels.  Control is via RS-232 and also via the handy IR handheld remote included with the camera.  Most users will surely use the IR remote, but I'm sure that the RS-23 will come in handy for many.

Mount this camera on a wall-mounted monitor or electronic whiteboard using the handy mount which is included with the unit . You will be able to shoot anywhere in the room 180-degrees from side to side, and from straight up to straight down.

The biggest fault I found with the camera (other than the price, which I'd like to see closer to $600) is that although it is autofocus, it does not focus continually.  That means that if you have a wide shot and zoom into a close-up,  the camera shot goes badly out of focus during the act of zooming. However, once you complete the zoom, the autofocus kicks in and the camera re-focuses immediately.  All things considered, that's not a fatal flaw, and it's sure not worth paying another $1000 for most users.  The 12x zoom is capable of capturing close images in a 40'x40' or larger classroom, is very well suited for conference room applications, and the camera image is clear and crisp.

The camera does come with a wall wart (AC adapter), meaning that AC power must be available within about six feet of the place where the camera is to be used or mounted.  That's also not a fatal flaw for most users, although many simpler cameras power themselves from the USB port on the computer where it's connected.

If you need a capable USB output camera with P/T/Z capability and a nice 12x zoom, this could be the one for you.

As Drive-In Movie Critic Joe-Bob Briggs ( used to say, "Check it out."

Specs from the website:
Lens: low-light CMOS
Lens area: 1 / 2.7"
Effective pixels: 1920.1080 Pixels
Zoom: 12x zoom lens
Focal length: 4.0 ~ 48.0 mm
Lens angle: maximum 43 °, minimum 7 °
Video format: MJPG, 1080p, 720P, 1280x720, 640x480, 848x480, 800x600,VGA, CIF, QCIF
Pan: 300 ° left to right
Tilt: 90 °
Operating voltage: 12 V external DC
Operating Current: 800mA mechanical PTZ
Video unit: 110mA
Dimensions: W90 x L110 x H105

1 comment:

  1. Nice find! Thanks for sharing. This is an affordable option too.