by Sarah Meyer
Webcams are one of those helpful products that just don’t get much attention. Sure, a webcam is useful for video conferencing and chats (or for spying on your nanny) but if you’ve seen one webcam you’ve seen them all … right? Philips is ready to shake things up with their latest high-resolution webcam that delivers video up to 90 frames per second! Let’s take a closer look at how awesome a webcam can be.
The SPC1300NC Specifications
- 6 megapixels, 8x digital zoom
- Frame rate: Up to 90 frames per second
- Wide-angle glass lens
- Two built-in digital directional microphones
- Features: Face tracking, pixel plus, digital natural motion and motion detection, noise cancellation, and echo reduction
- Dimesions: 40 x 82 x 88 mm
- Weight: 3.88 ounces or 110 grams
- OS: Windows XP, Vista, and Vista Home; Pentium III 800MHz or faster
- Cable length: 2.1
Design and Aesthetics
The Phillips SPC1300NC webcam is mostly black with silver accents. The lens, microphones, and detailing is all done in silver. The power button on top glows a bright blue when the camera is on. The webcam is attached to Phillips unique laptop clamp so that it swivels 360 degrees to capture the perfect angle.
The SPC1300 is USB powered but has more than two feet of cable so it can be set up anywhere around your laptop. The clamp also works as a stand so the webcam can be freestanding.
There is an installation CD with the SPC1300. It takes about five minutes to install the software and a restart of your computer. I didn’t have any problem with the installation and once I restarted, the webcam worked perfectly.
Using the camera
When you first restart your computer, a shortcut to the Phillips VLounge pops up on the desktop. This is where all the magic happens in regards to the SPC1300. Once you open the VLounge you have several options.
The default page Vlounge opens is the Capture page. At the top there is a box where all the captures you have taken reside. You can view a slide show, rotate, e-mail or print these captures from this page. You can also move them to a new folder or delete them if you are done working with certain images. If you want to be more organized, you can sort the captures into images, videos and folders to make them easier to work with.
At the bottom of the Capture page is the live camera window. Above the actual live camera box are several tools. The first and largest buttons are the image button and video button. They are pretty self explanatory, click the image button and the camera takes a picture; click the video button and the camera starts recording. Pretty simple. The SPC1300 is a 6 megapixel camera and takes good images but it’s a web camera – not a digital camera – and it lacks high resolution.
Video is where the SPC1300 can really show off; at 90 frames per second, this webcam has almost no competition. Movement in the video is clear; no lag, no blurred images. Check out the sample video below with some moving traffic outside our office. Even the speed of passing cars isn’t a problem for the SPC1300 frame rate.
Below the image and video buttons but above the live camera window are 11 more buttons. Going down the row left to right they are: full screen mode, pixel plus, noise reduction, echo reduction, face tracking, digital zoom, add logo, video attributes, video FX, PC camera settings and capture settings.
Full screen mode is easy enough to explain; when you click this button the entire computer screen becomes a live camera window. What was cool about this mode was that you don’t lose much quality when blowing up the screen.
Pixel Plus turns on Phillips Pixel Plus 2 feature. This features increases the number of lines and the number of pixels in order to enhance picture quality. I didn’t notice a huge improvement with this feature on but it did seem to make the live camera window crisper.
Noise and Echo reduction are two separate buttons with one common goal: to make communicating with someone on a web camera easier and clearer. Noise reduction blocks out background noise while echo reduction suppresses echos on your end so that the person you are chatting with can hear you more clearly. When I tested these features, I couldn’t tell a huge difference between my friend’s web camera’s audio qualities and mine not to say they were faulty in anyway, I just didn’t notice a huge improvement.
Face tracking is a common feature on webcams, the SPC1300 is no exception. This feature works well, finding the person easily and zooming in on their face.
Digital zoom allows you to control how close up or far out you want the camera to capture your image. You can also move the camera angle left, right, up and down using this feature without physically touching the camera.
The add logo button adds a default Phillips logo to your image. You change this logo under PC Camera settings.
Video attributes adds a default military frame to your image. You can change the frame under PC Camera settings.
Video FX adds a default tint feature to your image. You can change this effect under PC Camera settings.
The PC Camera settings button is where you can change the options that come with the SPC1300. There are four tabs in PC Camera Settings: General, Video, Audio and Features.
General is where you can turn the flickerless feature on and off and change regions between the U.S. and Europe (the difference being 10 Hz).
The Video tab under the PC Camera settings can be used to adjust picture enhancement, frame rate, exposure, white balance, brightness, contrast, saturation, backlight compensation, etc. If you’re not sure about where these should be set you can hit the full automatic control box on this page.
The Audio tab is strictly to turn noise reduction and echo reduction on and off. The audio format is 44100 Hz, 16 bits, Stereo, CD quality.
The Features tab controls all the camera effects. Backgrounds, logos, attributes and video FX can all be changed from the default settings as well as turned on and off. You can also turn on face tracking and digital zoom in this tab.
The final button on the Capture page is capture settings. Here you can change the snapshot resolution, video resolution, audio device and input (you can also access most of this buttons from the preferences drop down menu in the tool bar).
The second page in the VLounge is the communication page. On this page you can connect to multiple programs to talk to friends, family and coworkers. The programs are Skype, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, QQ Messenger, and AIM.
I tested the SPC1300 with Skype. While the resolution quality was normal with what you would see from a typical webcam, the frame rate was much better, with almost no lag. When I was on the video chat using Skype, my bandwidth use jumped up to 65 KB/s, which is an average amount for the program I was running (you can also access most of these buttons from the links drop down menu in the tool bar).
The third page in the VLounge is the Monitor page. Here you can set your web camera to monitor for motion. Anytime it picks up any perceived motion in the area it takes a picture and logs it in this section.
The final page is the broadcast page where you choose one of two sites to broadcast live video over the internet. The site choices are www.camcentral.com/and www.ww.com/.
The SPC1300NC webcam goes above and beyond any other webcam I’ve ever used. The images are clear, there is virtually no lag and it comes with great features such as face tracking and digital zoom.
Best of all, it is priced competitively with other webcams on the market at $100 and can purchased at your local Walmart beginning in .
The only problem I detect with the SPC1300 is that it comes with no warranty. In fact, in the owner’s manual, there are three separate disclaimers. Also, while I’m being picky, it would have been nice if the webcam had a carrying case or at least folded up to protect the glass lens.
- 6 megapixels
- 90 frames per second frame rate
- Phillips unique clamp
- Excellent features
- Competitively priced
- No warranty
- Not compatible with Mac OS
- No carrying case
Pricing and Availability
Phillips SPC1300NC webcam will be available for purchase in for $99.99.
UPDATE: Phillips says the SPC1300 has a standard 1-year warranty (90 days parts and labor).
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