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Microsoft LifeCam Studio Overview

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The Microsoft LifeCam Studio is currently (March 2012) at the top of the line for the company's webcams. It boasts high-def capabilities, a tripod thread and an extra-long cable -- as well as a top-of-the-line price -- so the true question is: Do you need these things?

Build

Dimensions of the LifeCam Studio are listed as follows: 1.77 inches high by 4.45 inches long by 2.36 inches wide. It weighs 4.52 ounces, according to the company.

The cord is listed at a whopping 5 feet, which is something of a blessing or a curse, depending on your needs.

Video Quality

The LifeCam Studio boasts a 1080p HD sensor, which means that it's technically capable to record in 1080p high-def quality. However, if you read the fine print, Microsoft notes that in order to do this, you have "commercial video software (not included); Intel Quad Core 3.0 GHz (or higher) or compatible; and 4 GB RAM." According to Microsoft, the software that comes with the LifeCam Studio supports 720p recording.

You also, of course, need a high-def monitor or TV to see the high-def video you record. If you're still using that old CRT monitor from years and years ago, don't even bother worrying about any of this because it's not going to matter.

It records at 30 fps. To find out what that means, read this article about frame rates and why they're important for webcams.

Features

This webcam comes with auto focus, which, -- as this site has noted in the past in the case of the LifeCam HD-3000 -- can sometimes wreak havoc with your webcamming experience. One can only hope that Microsoft allows this option to be turned off if it doesn't seem to be appropriate for your use.

It can take 5-megapixel still images, which is about average these days.

Other features include automatic face tracking, digital pan, digital tilt and 3x digital zoom. Microsoft says it has an 8x zoom on the main page for the product (the 3x is listed in the literature), so one can assume they're talking about its optical zoom. What is digital zoom and optical zoom and how are they different? Read this article.)

Lens and Body

The LifeCam Studio comes with a wide-angle glass element lens, same as the LifeCam Cinema. It also appears to have a body similar to the Cinema, with an anodized aluminum casing.

Microphone

The built-in omni-directional microphone is clearly visible on the top of the webcam. While the placement is not so visible as to detract from the Studio's aesthetics, one can hope that it will be able to pick up sound clearly without picking up too much ambient noise. (What is ambient noise? Click here.)

Microsoft Video Technologies

The Studio packs a few of these in, including TrueColor Technology and ClearFrame Technology. Both are meant to improve your video by improving the lighting and smoothness of what you're recording. It also has a Windows Live Call Button that lets you start a Windows Live Messenger video call with just one touch. It also has one-click access to Windows Live Movie Maker. (You have to have at least Vista for these two last ones, so don't bother if you're still using Windows XP.)

Bells and Whistles

It comes with a tripod thread, which is a neat addition if a steady cam is an important factor for your needs. A three-year limited warranty is also included.

Takeaway

For $99.99, this webcam seems to be geared toward those who use their webcams for making webisodes and other video content, and not to just casual video chatters. If you're looking for something to Skype with, there's no shame in stepping down to one of Microsoft's (or another company's) less-expensive models.

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