Considering the enormous webcam market and the number of products available it's hard to believe that anyone could come up with anything new, novel and useful but, impressively, that's just what Logitech has managed to do with its Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam, a really well-designed webcam for OS X and iOS only.
Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam.
The Broadcaster is an HD 720p camera that has a 3x digital zoom and digital pan and tilt, a built-in mono mic with an external mic jack, and can be powered by a USB power supply or by an internal two-hour battery. It also has a built-in illumination lamp and can also shoot at 320x240 and 640x480 resolutions.
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The Broadcaster comes in a slick case where the lid has a magnetic depression that mates with the bulge on the bottom of the camera, turning the case into a stand. The lid also has a standard tripod screw thread on its underside.
The camera setup procedure is clever: Using the free app you specify the Wi-Fi network details (SSID and password) and the app then displays a QR code. You point the camera at the displayed code, press the big button on the top of the camera, and the code is scanned and tells the camera how to configure itself! The same technique is used to reconfigure or reset the camera. Brilliant!
Once the camera is set up, on power-up it will automatically connect to your network and can be found by the free Logitech app you're using. The top face of the camera has a battery level indicator, Wi-Fi connection and signal strength indicators, and that large button that not only configures the camera but also triggers the connected app to record. Video can be stored locally on the device or streamed to Ustream, depending on what you've configured the app to do.
The iOS app is very good on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, but it's the OS X version that's really cool because it shows you the host's built-in iSight camera as well as the Broadcaster camera at the same time. You can record from either or from both sources simultaneously and, in the latter case, the app will create two separate video files in QuickTime (.mov) format. These files will, of course, be in perfect sync and suitable for editing into a single video using the software of your choice. This makes it really easy to present subjects like product reviews or interviews where you want to cut back and forth between two viewpoints.
The fact that the Broadcaster is so small (roughly 5 inches by 2 inches by 1 inch), Wi-Fi connected, portable and has a decent battery life makes it a great tool not only for presentations but also for documenting anything that's hard to get at or to.
Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam and case
In fact, using the Broadcaster with a device like the Globalgig Hotspot which I discussed a couple of weeks ago, or the Seagate Wireless Plus, you could use the resulting mobile, battery-powered local Wi-Fi hotspot and your i-device to record video more or less anywhere.
During testing I found no major problems with the Broadcaster other than if you should, as I did, try to use the camera with an iPad, then an iPhone, then an iMac, then back to the iPhone, ad nauseam, it can be hard to get the camera to connect with each new device in turn without power cycling. As this isn't something that normal users do, it's excusable, though I'd hope to see this remedied in a future release.
What does need fixing -- though these aren't deal breakers -- is the zoom, tilt and pan functionality; these are slow to respond and "jump" rather than slide smoothly. I'd also like to see the iOS apps able to switch between the built-in cameras and the Broadcaster video stream as well as support for services other than Ustream (such as Livestream and Justin.tv). I'd also like to be able to capture the Broadcaster output on Windows and network attached devices such as IP video recorders.
Bottom line: Given the great design and what the product offers for $199, the Logitech Broadcaster Wi-Fi Webcam gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5.