The folks in the ThinkPad design group at Lenovo have spread their wings a bit and come up with a rather uniquely designed web camera. The Lenovo 1.3 megapixel web camera features a spring clip attachment feature for easy securing of the camera to your laptop screen. It can also fit on an LCD monitor or rest upon a desk and tilt towards the subject matter to be recorded. Flexibile usage and easy setup make this camera worth taking a look at.
In the box
The Lenovo web camera retails for $79.99 via Lenovo.com. In the box you get the web camera with its 6 ft. long USB chord, a small vinyl bag for keeping the camera in, a velcro tie for holding the USB cord, a software setup CD that includes the web camera drivers and Ulead photo explorer software, and a user guide.
A picture of what you get In the box (view large image)
The dimension specs on the Lenovo web camera are as follows:
- Depth: 1.97 in
- Height: 2.16 in
- Weight: 0.23 lbs
- Width: 4.53 in
The design of the Lenovo web camera is quite different to other cameras out there. The spring clip attachment mechanism ensures a secure attachment to the top of any laptop screen and the rubber covered legs ensure they won’t scratch the LCD should they come in contact. Below is a picture example of how the camera attaches to the top of an LCD screen.
The Lenovo web camera attached to the top of a ThinkPad notebook (view large image)
The camera is advertised as being able to easily fit on any LCD monitor as well, but this works more easily in written word than in practice. I couldn’t get the web camera to fit and attach to my LCD external monitor no matter how much stretching of the springs I tried:
I couldn’t get the clip to stretch far enough to fit on my Dell LCD monitor (view large image)
Even if you can’t get the web camera to attach to the top of an LCD monitor, or if you’re in the dark ages still with a clunky CRT monitor, the web camera is cleverly designed to stand-alone on flat surfaces as well. The camera itself is fitted in a ball and socket manner to the clip stand so you can rotate the camera up, down and around 360 degrees. Below is an example of the camera resting on a flat surface and pointing upwards towards its subject matter — me taking the picture.
The Lenovo web camera can stand in place and be pointed at the subject matter as well (view large image)
The lens can be protected by sliding the camera cap shut, this also makes the camera more compact and easy to carry as a portable device.
One thing I found odd regarding the design was the sheer amount of slack on the USB cord. There’s six feet of cord provided, if you attach the camera to the top of your notebook screen you get a spaghetti mess of cord behind the laptop. A retractable cord to adjust length or better yet some type of wireless communication between the camera and notebook would have been better.
Picture, video and audio quality
We live in an age where family members often live far apart and people do business with others in multiple locations around the world. Phone calls are nice, but video conferencing is the way to go to make calls more personable. High-end video conference systems cost thousands of dollars, but a simple web camera and your favorite web chat client or Skype can be used to video conference for under $100. The Lenovo web camera features 1.3 megapixels of resolution, this will provide for decent quality video. We’re not talking HDTV quality here of course, but enough detail to see freckles on somebody’s face that you’re talking to.
The camera is able to capture up to 30 frames per second, an amount that provides for quite fluid video. If only your internet bandwidth is enough to transfer that number of frames fast and reliably, the video chat with your sister living in Brussels will be the next best thing to being in the same room as her. A demonstration of the frame rate this camera can capture is demonstrated best by dogs in my local dog park — they’re always willing subjects for video:
As you can see, Fido was excited to see the camera. Thanks to YouTube and limitations of Flash software the footage is a bit blurrier and more choppy than the actual original video so what you see here in the video is not as good as the original source. For more kicks and giggles, I captured some 640 x 480 resolution video at 30 fps of cabs blowing through a Manhattan intersection:
The image quality of the web camera also holds up in poor lighting, even in a dimly lit room I found that the camera did a good job of displaying the subjects face.
The camera includes two beam-forming microphones. The microphone features noise reduction to separate your voice from background noises. It works really well and if doing a phone call you probably won’t need a headset, so long as there’s not too much noise and hub-bub in the background.
Software and Setup Ease
The Lenovo web camera was easy enough to setup. You get a setup CD that you need to place in your laptop first, it will launch a browser window and from there you can select to install drivers (the software necessary to run the web camera) and also a program called Ulead Photo Explorer. Photo Explorer is a photo organizing and editing software and also allows you to manage taking pictures and video with your web camera once it’s installed. Ulead Photo Explorer is a $29.99 value as that’s the cost when purchased by itself. It’s maybe a bit more powerful than Picasa, the free version of photo editing software offered by Google, but certainly nothing to flip about.
It’s always nice to have an integrated web camera in your laptop, but that’s a rare feature, and for those of us that would like the ability to video conference with friends and family or take some quick pictures of yourself to upload to your MySpace.com page, the Lenovo web camera is a nice option. There’s a lot of choices out there for web cams, but the unique design and flexibility of use for this Lenovo device makes it worth considering. The clever clip hold and 360 degree rotation ability of the camera make it a winner.
- Good frame rate capture and image quality, even in low light conditions
- Unique clip design makes it easy to use or mount this camera anywhere
- Dual microphones work well and audio is clear when picked up
- Not too bulky and lightweight
- USB Cord is too long at six feet, needs a way to be shortened
- Clip legs didn’t fit on some external LCD monitors