I’m back with another product review and hope you all like it.
This time its Philips Webcam SPC640NC.
Again I have tried to include a short user guide as well within the post for better understanding along with some useful tips.
I hope it helps you.
All comments are welcomed.
Before starting I would like to inform that this post contains many images and hence might not load properly on slow connections.
Also, the images shown here are of small size only and you can open the image in new window to view it in full in case you are not able to read some details.
▬▬▬▬◦◦◦۩ _ Philips Webcam SPC640NC : Small Wonder! _ ۩◦◦◦▬▬▬▬
PRODUCT PACKAGING AND CONTENTS:
Well the product comes enclosed in a transparent, moulded plastic case.
All the features and minimum PC requirements are well displayed on the box itself (discussed later).
On opening the box you will find the following contents:
- The webcam
- Software installation CD
- Quick installation guide (only a paper pamphlet)
LOOKS N FEEL: PORTABILITY REDEFINED
The craftsmanship of the Webcam does complete justice to its brand-name. Small size, weightlessness and easy cable management are some of the key features which you would appreciate. Not to miss the superb finishing of the product.
LIGHT & COMPACT
The webcam is ultra small in size owing to its foldable design and is very light weighted. In fact the cord feels heavier when compared to the weight of the webcam alone.
Technically going the webcam is 37×37×68mm in size, weighs 90 gm and the length of the cable is 1 meter. But if you are like me, not interested much into the technical figures, I would just say that the webcam is around the size of your thumb and is practically weightless, it is only the cable that accounts for its weight.
The jet black outer surface is given a glossy finish and so you will find the webcam shining always. In contrast, the front panel is in silver which adds more to the beauty.
The body architecture of the webcam is ‘bold’ with sharp and straight edges and gives it a pure professional look.
There are two legs, the short (front) leg bears a you tube logo (might vary) in front and a rubber cushion at back while the long (back) leg bears a rubber cushion in front.
(The legs are also referred to as clamps)
EQUIPPED TO SURVIVE
The product includes all the features one would expect in a good webcam.
A light indicator is present at the top of the webcam that turns red when the device is functioning. In the centre of this indicator an easy snapshot button is provided so that one can even take pics without having the need to move the mouse even. Despite being autofocus, a manual focus ring is present in front too for the perfectionists. The lens is seated well inside the outer focus ring and so there are little chances of it being scratched or damaged. Just below this you can find the microphone opening which is designed in a broad fashion to add to the looks.
The long (back) leg of the webcam can be easily brought forward and folded upon the front area thus reducing the size to almost half.
This foldable design provides excellent portability and the product can be carried anywhere with minimum space required.
EASY CABLE MANAGEMENT
As said earlier the product comes with a USB cable that extends 1 meter in length. This 1 meter long cable ensures you can always reach the USB port no matter where you place the webcam.
Now the amazing part is you can actually get rid of all the extra wire clutter since the webcam allows the surplus cable to be wrapped comfortably around its leg. There is a rubber locking notch present behind wherein the cable can be tucked and locked in so that it doesn’t comes out and you always have your workplace neat and tidy.
Similarly when keeping back the webcam, the cable is conveniently rolled around it and the USB end is tucked in the space between the two legs.
This easy cable management ensures no wire clutter as well as adds to the compactness making the webcam very portable.
I also found an additional benefit of the cable being wrapped around the webcam. It acts as an excellent cushion and prevents damage to the webcam in case it falls.
The quality of cable is however not upto the mark. In fact it can be termed poor compared to the rest of the components. Once it is bent at a point, it will remember that shape real good and wont easily straighten up until the bend is removed carefully in opposite direction.
360 DEGREES ROTATION
The best part which I like about construction of this webcam is the ball and socket joint provided between the main body and the legs(clamps). This enables the webcam to turn around 180 degrees on both sides easily (total 360 degree) ensuring nothing remains away from its focus. It can also be moved up and down, but this movement is limited to 90 degrees beyond which the legs will be a hindrance. Anyways who wants to focus the ceiling fan
Separate legs and foldable long (back) leg makes placing of the webcam versatile.
The webcam can be clamped on to any place as well as made to sit steadily in case of broader surface after folding the leg (clamp)
As discussed, the legs bears a rubber cushion that will protect both the webcam and the surface to which it is fixed upon from damage/scratches and also provide a frictionless grip.
GENUINENESS AND WARRANTY:
This is the part I always stress on. The product is manufactured in China.
Like all other products even this one bears a unique serial number which is located on the front side of the long (back) leg. This can help you distinguish a genuine product from a duplicate one.
In case you have slightest of doubt regarding genuineness, you can quote this serial number in a mail and send to the online customer support and they should be able to tell you if the device is original or not.
Also always make sure to ask for a signed and stamped/electronic bill since it would be required to claim for warranty if need arise.
Philips provide 1 year warranty on this product.
To fully benefit from the support that Philips offers, register your product at www.philips.com/w…me
There are two important factors that we rely on While using any computer related product – The hardware part (product’s own capability) and The software part (Tools that run the product).
If the Product is rated on a ranking of 10, the software application deserves 11.
I am in no way exaggerating, the “Philips CamSuite” and “ArcSoft WebCam Companion” applications meant for the purpose of Video and Audio Enhancement provides humongous options to tweak all things to full satisfaction.
So lets begin with this part.
- Sensor: VGA CMOS
- Real video resolution (Max.): 640 × 480
- Real still image resolution (Max.): 640 × 480
- Interpolated still image resolution (Max.): 1280 × 960
- Frames per second: 30 fps (maximum)
- F-number: 2.6
- Lens view angle: 55 degrees
- Interfacing: USB 2.0, UVC compliant
- USB cable length: 1 m
- Microphone: Digital built-in
- Power: Supplied via USB cable
- Voltage requirements: 5V, 0.5A
The product is fully compatible with all versions of windows from XP SP2 onwards.
However it shows limited compatibility with Mac OS where the tweaks and enhancement wont work. Though it can still be comfortably used as a normal webcam for video calls.
A big off for Mac users but Windows user can cheer up here.
This is a piece of cake for all you guys so I’ll go through this section pretty fast posting only images. (Should you need to see any details, just open the respective image in new tab to view it full size)
DO NOT connect the Webcam to the system.
Insert the installation disc first.
The Setup should pop up, otherwise select ‘setup.exe’ from your disc drive and run it.
Select the language and proceed as per the instructions.
You will also see a warning message indicating not to connect your webcam first which I have already discussed.
Follow up the instructions and keep proceeding. The Webcam Driver Setup, Arcsoft WebCam Companion Software and Philips Intelligent Agent applications will install in a sequence one after the other. You may skip the ‘Philips Intelligent Agent’ application in case you want to save some of the disc space since it is just an auto-updating software.
Once finished, you will be prompt to restart the system (Do not connect the webcam yet).
Restart and connect the webcam now.
Windows will install the drivers automatically now.
All the devices in the market are now ‘Plug n Play’ and this is no exception (The installation done above was to take advantage of the applications part and make sure we have the correct set of drivers). If it is connected, it will take over the job automatically whenever you start using any instant messaging or VoIP application (Skype, Windows® Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, etc.). Well it is supposed to do so, so nothing much amazing here. However, there is a handy ‘Launch Utility’, ‘The Philips CamSuite’ and a robust ‘Arcsoft Webcam Companion’ Software which are worth noticing.
It is a small launch application which provides a very handy user interface to install some of the most popular chat clients and/or launch them in one click.
It even has the option of launching the integrated Webcam Companion Program.
It thus provides access to everything at one place (nothing more).
Whenever any instant messaging or VoIP service is started, the Philips CamSuite control panel will appear automatically. Otherwise, it can be accessed from the taskbar by clicking on the ‘Philips CamSuite’ icon.
It provides with 4 options.
1. The first icon launch the Webcam Companion application (discussed later).
2. The second icon launches Image Settings where in you get to access the ‘Digital Zoom’ and ‘Face Tracking’ options.
- Digital Zoom
The Digital Zoom enables you to zoom upto 3x by moving the zoom slider and also Pan the image to desired area by moving the panning frame.
- Face Tracking
This is a remarkable feature. When turned on, a special tracking mode sets in which automatically detects and keep your face aligned in the center of the screen. It even zooms in/out accordingly to make sure the other person is receiving our best view.
I was infact surprised to see that it could keep me in the center of the screen even when I moved out left or right way beyond the webcam view.
One thing I noticed more was that it is a motion sensor. It will detect the face only when it sees some movement (even slight is enough). In case a person sits still in front of the webcam, it wont automatically zoom and center the face on the screen.
Note: You won’t be able to activate both the features together since Face Tracking feature zooms in/out automatically depending upon the distance from the screen.
3. The third icon brings up the Audio Settings providing access to the ‘Noise reduction’ feature.
With this feature, all stationary noises picked up by the webcam’s microphone, such as ceiling fan noise, air conditioner noise or the noise made by the fan inside the computer etc can be significantly reduced. This enhances clarity of speech in both quiet and noisy environments. This comes helpful in not only better communication while chatting but also recording own videos/tutorials.
4. The fourth icon is for the Advanced settings (Property pages).
This advanced settings page includes all the discussed features along with other fine tweaks to customize the image/video to our desire.
The first ‘General’ tab gives access to ‘Flickerless Image’ and ‘Region’ settings.
- Flickerless image
This option ensures that image remains balanced constantly even in flickering light quality such as fluorescent/neon lamps and no ‘ghost like’ images are seen in between.
It is recommended to choose this parameter based on the region frequency to optimize image quality. I could however find no difference in the quality regardless of the value I chose. Perhaps it is too minute to be apparently visible.
The second tab is the ‘Video’ tab. I would call this ‘The God’s tab’.
It includes all the tools you actually require to customize the video/image quality
- Frame Rate
The higher the frame rate, the better the video display but the higher the load on the processor.
- Auto Exposure
Turning this On will enable the webcam to automatically control the sensitivity based upon the light perceived by sensor.
- Shutter Speed
It determines how long the camera shutter remains open as a picture is taken. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the exposure time. The shutter speed controls the total amount of light reaching the sensor.
Increase in gain increases ‘whiteness’ in a video.
- Auto White Balance
If the automatic white balance is selected, the webcam will look for a reference point which represents white. It will then calculate all other colors based on this white point and compensate the other colors accordingly, just like the human eye.
There are also three prefixed settings [Indoor], [Outdoor] and [Fluorescence] and the ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ effect can be used to meet the best results manually.
Adjust the brightness using the slider
Adjust the contrast using the slider
Adjust Gamma using the slider. Those who are not aware, Gamma is used to brighten only the dark areas without much affecting (over brightening) the light areas.
More saturation means more colour density.
- Black & White
Turns the video/image in Black & White mode
- Backlight compensation
Though it is not advisable to have the light source at the back, but there might occur some instances where this becomes unavoidable. Turning on this feature will help to some extent in those cases improving the image quality.
Flips the image horizontally.
The third tab is the ‘Audio’ tab, again allowing access to Noise Reduction feature as well as Microphone Volume.
The fourth tab is the ‘Features’ tab. This provides access to face tracking and Digital Zoom controls that I discussed already.
Best part is that we can even Save, Restore and Reset our personalized settings thus avoiding repeated manipulations under same light conditions everyday.
[Arcsoft Webcam Companion]
Again a nice application with a user friendly interface. The start page will show six icons which I am going to discuss one by one.
This allows you to capture images or record videos in one click comfortably and then save them on the disk, share them over mail or print them instantly all from a single interface.
Snap can be taken by clicking on the camera (first) icon. The image is stored by default and a thumbnail is generated which can be viewed in the left panel. Below, you will find the shortcuts to perform the desired tasks of previewing, mailing, printing or deleting.
One can also select the image size from the drop-down list. The list is present till 5 MP but there would be no noticeable difference (except the image size) from 1.3 MP. Though you will notice drastic difference comparing other options like SQVGA, QVGA, VGA, 1.3 MP etc.
The second icon is the “Burst” option wherein simultaneous multiple snaps are taken. The no of burst can be specified under settings.
The Video Recording icon is the third icon which allows one click video recording.
There are also 4 icons present at the top right corner.
The first icon is the Settings icon where you can adjust image and video quality, formats, select webcam (in case there is more than one attached), make audio settings and many more.
The second would launch the Advanced Settings (Property Page) we discussed under Philips CamSuite and again you can access those numerous controls to get that perfect image.
The third icons allows you to enter into Full Screen mode while the last one is shortcut for disconnecting the device.
Besides all the available options under the Advanced Settings (Property page), the capture page itself contains an additional feature of “Reduce Noise”.
Enabling this option unlocks 2 new features for us: Noise Reduction and Dynamic Lightning
Noise reduction smoothens up the image by removing noise, the ‘dots’ from the image while the Dynamic Lightning makes up the image more vivid and brighten it up increasing the quality drastically.
[‘Reduce Noise’ feature off]
[With Noise Reduction and Dynamic Lightning]
As the name suggest one can enjoy masking their face with some ‘special’ faces. The webcam would automatically determine the persons mid facial width and length using a 4 pointer system and morph the actual face image into the special face.
One can enjoy spending time on this, specially the kids.
Sorry for the blur but the feature is amazing.
3. Fun Frame
Again a small fun feature (not of much use actually).
This is an inbuilt easy to use photo editor. One can play around with settings and edit the photo.
However in case of video clips, besides just editing, it also provides option of . This means one can edit and upload the captured video directly to YouTube in few clicks.
Just click on the YouTube link >> Enter username and password >> Done!
Well another great feature, the webcam can boast of.
One can actually use the webcam as a ‘SPYCAM’ or a "SURVEILLANCE DEVICE’ using the monitor feature.
The webcam is capable of Motion Detection and Face Detection. One can set the threshold as desired using the threshold slider (again we see customizable settings.. phew!) and click the ‘Start Monitor’ button.
Now whenever a motion is detected, it will start automatic recording and the same will be saved on the hard disk. Same goes with face detection.
When you come back you can check the recordings easily and see who entered your restricted area. Just looking at the thumbnails on the left column would give an instant view of the number of times a motion or face has been detected since the same is mentioned beside each recording made.
Note: The smaller the threshold, the higher the sensitivity (would even detect small motions like curtain moving due to air etc.)
Also the recording time depends on your available hard disk space, so make sure you have enough disks in case you are monitoring for a longer duration.
6. More Applications
This is just a shortcut to download new modules or applications.
The webcam possess a CMOS sensor and is rated at 1.3 MP. The image quality is visibly better than many 1.3 MP Webcam.
However this cannot be compared with an HD webcam which are in turn superior in terms of image sensor. But to make use of an HD Webcam on instant messaging or VoIP services, one needs to have a sufficient bandwidth. This is the reason why some HD webcam mentions ‘1 Mbps Upload speed’ in the Requirements Column.
Anyways since we’ll use Webcams mostly for messengers and VoIP applications, I will test it in one of these only, lets take Skype for example.
I’ll take a LG 1.3 MP webam (same specs) as a control so that we get a better idea by comparison. Also note that I would be testing under artificial lighting and not daylight since the correct judgement of image quality can be best made while testing in a compromised condition only.
TEST 1 – UNDER GOOD LIGHTING SYSTEM
One main light (40 watt Tubelight) on the right side (image’s left) and a sufficient filler light (15 Watt CFL) on the left side (image’s right). Monitor light in front was negligible. (Hence not the ideal 3 point system light condition but good enough to carry out the test).
Here is what I got from the LG webcam while using sufficient lighting
Pretty decent. The main light on one side and the filler light on the opposite side gives ample amount of light for the sensor and also since the lights are balanced, it has eliminated any significant shadows. However the hairs of the teddy are somewhat smudged indicating the lack of sharpness.
Now turning to the Philips Webcam, it came up with this
Notice that the image is more rich in colours, significantly sharper and white balanced
There are no significant shadows owing to the lighting system and no smudging of hairs as well.
Lets just tweak it a bit to make it more satisfactory and here is what we have
The image now becomes more vivid and one can notice more fineness in the hairs.
Test Result: ✓ Pass
TEST 2 – UNDER POOR LIGHTING CONDITIONS
Main lights as well as filler lights turned off, monitor light dimmed to minimum. One 7 Watt CFL as the only light source on the left side (image’s right).
Again lets see our control (LG webcam) first
Lets see now what this Philips Webcam can do in this case.
Hmm… not bad! The image can be comfortably distinguished. There is still not much smudging of the fine hairs (little is evident). Though brightness in the image is not much, the colours are distinguishable. You can also notice the big shadow on the opposite side (image’s left) owing to single light source on one side.
Lets see if we can lighten it up a bit. Here we have the image after some adjustments
The colour richness and brightness is increased. Image is a little more sharper now as can be judged by the hairs. The huge shadow still remains.
Test Result: ✓ Pass
TEST 3 – ZOOM TEST
The most common finding observed on zooming is loss of clarity and fuzziness of the image. So to keep a check on these fine details I’ll use ‘Text’ as a marker. The size of the text will also give an idea of the zoom extent easily.
This is what I am going to zoom and see. A far off poster containing some text which is barely readable (sorry for the mess in my room).
On Zooming to full 3x digital zoom and panning only the poster area here is the result
First of all I must say that the Pan feature works perfect on this webcam. Coming to our zoom part, we can notice that huge amount of magnification is done indeed. The text is also readable now. The larger font text ‘SMILE’ shows no major fuzziness which is a good sign. However loss of image sharpness and fuzziness in the red colour portion is very obvious. The other colour portions are comparatively fine. I’ll give it a pass.
Test Result: ✓ Pass
So this was all for the testing part. Now I would like to tell some useful tips which one should follow while using a Webcam.
No matter what Webcam one uses, the quality of image as well as the presentation can be improved a lot by following some basic rules.
One should always try to position the webcam at the eye level since it gives the best view, also the inclination should be adjusted so that it is not focusing way too up or down.
In case you are close to the webcam and a portion of the face is going out of focus, it is always better to compromise the upper portion, the hairs and forehead rather than the lower Chin area.
However, this Webcam do not face such problems once the ‘Face Tracking’ feature is turned on.
Note: For presentation/recording purposes always try to look into the webcam while talking.
This is the most important point which can improve the image quality to almost 3-5 times
It is specially of importance during evening or night when one has to solely rely on artificial lights. Adding an additional light source, may it be just a table lamp will improve drastically upon the image quality. It is better to place this light in the opposite direction to your main light so that it can act as a filler light and also the shadows are eliminated.
The best lighting conditions would be a three point system wherein there are two lights of equal intensity on both the sides and a third light source in the front.
Sometimes in cases of bright monitors even the light from monitor adds to the light source which is again beneficial.
So we should remember that some light is always better than no light.
I can even frame it as- the main light source should never be behind. In such cases there would be a bright background and you will yourself block the light to fall on your front thus resulting in a dark image in contrast to the over bright background. So make sure there isn’t a window at your back
(If such situation is unavoidable, you can use the backlight compensation feature to minimize the ill effects)
The last but not the least, a clean background would allow better reflection of light as well as provide a neat view to the other person thus making the image more presentable.
Using these basic and very easy to perform steps, you will end up with good image quality with the webcams.
PRICING AND BUYING OPTIONS:
The product is originally priced at Rs. 1999 by Philips.
However the best purchase a the moment would be to buy from Infibeam for Rs. 581
Hint : In case of buying from Infibeam, add the product to your magic box and wait. You will receive some extra discount on it.
PROS AND CONS
Listing them together would help you guys decide if this is the right one for you or not.
- Very light
- Foldable design and portability
- Excellent cable management
- Face Tracking feature is very superior
- Noise Reduction
- 3x Digital Zoom & Panning
- Wide options of customized settings including, flickerless image, gamma corrections
- Direct upload of videos to You tube
- Can be used as a monitoring system
- Universal Placement
- Old model
- Inferior to HD webcam
- Cable material not so good
- Software not compatible with Mac (Drivers are)
- No inbuilt light source
- Maximum real video resolution of 640 × 480 only
- The heavier cable part hanging down might sometimes dislodge the webcam from position (despite the rubber grip) in case of improper attention