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Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000 Review

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Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000 Review

Image courtesy of Microsoft

The Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000 is geared toward the budget-conscious user who also wants high-def (in this case, 720p with a 30 fps frame rate . At $49.99, it’s the most affordable LifeCam with high-def, but as with most things, you’re trading off a few features for the price.

At a Glance

The Good: HD video at a good price, versatile clip, strong color and light performance

The Bad: Auto Focus on crack

Performance

As with most webcams nowadays, the LifeCam HD-5000 is set up to be plug and play, so no software downloads are necessary. If you choose to download Microsoft’s accompanying software, it will download simply by plugging the USB cord into the port.

The first thing that’s noticeable is webcam’s Auto Focus. The feature is on hyper-drive -- any sudden movements (a wave, standing up) causes the device to refocus. The refocusing is not instant – it could take four to five seconds to completely refocus. While this may not sound like much, it becomes extremely annoying extremely quickly, and it relegates the device for uses like video chat only -- not creating video content. The higher you set the resolution, the more of a capture delay you experience, and the Auto Focus was triggered even more frequently.

For video chatting, the most optimal setting seemed to be 640 x 360; however, leaving it at this setting completely negates the purpose behind buying an HD webcam. Raising the resolution obviously results in a clearer picture, but unless you’re a statue when you chat, that Auto Focus re-jiggering can be tough to swallow.

You can take 4-megapixel still photos with the HD-5000.

Light and Colors

Testing the webcam in both daylight (with light streaming from just a small window) and nighttime (with a single desk lamp) proved the HD-5000 adept at handling various lighting environments.

Likewise, the colors reproduction demonstrated as even and accurate in the various lighting. The webcam boasts Microsoft’s new TrueColor Technology, and if you use the company’s software, you have free reign to adjust such things as brightness, contrast, saturation and white balance, among other things.

(Note: How vivid the colors appear can be affected by the type of monitor or laptop display you have.)

Lens

Instead of a glass lens like the one Microsoft’s LifeCam Cinema has, you get a plastic lens with the HD-5000. When I compared the two cameras side-by-side, I barely noticed a difference. What is noticeable is the Cinema’s better handling on Auto Focus. Even when in 1280 x 720, it rarely stops to refocus, and when it does, the transition is brief. That’s how it should be.

Sound

The noise-canceling microphone is sharp and crisp when you’re sitting in front of the webcam. It can pick up conversation from at least 17 feet away (in an otherwise quiet environment), but it’s not really meant for that. The sound is perfectly adequate for video chatting.

Construction

The HD-5000 has a plastic body to go along with its plastic lens. If you never plan to remove the webcam from your desk, this won’t be a problem. It’s certainly sturdy enough to withstand a fall from the top of a computer monitor, or even from the desk to the floor (I tried it).

It comes with the same flexible, rubber clip found on many of the other Microsoft webcams. The idea is to be able to fold the clip so you can set the webcam on your desk or clip it to the back of your laptop -- both easy enough to do and a nice choice to have.

Bottom Line

The HD-5000 seems to come with all the right things -- and I give it high marks for its light and color features -- but I just couldn’t get past that Auto Focus problem. If high-def is important enough to you to shell out the extra dough, don’t skimp and get stuck with a frustrating experience.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 1 out of 5
Microsoft LifeCam HD5000 JUNK, Member Ugottabkiddinme2

If you're contemplating buying a new Windows based Computer one thing for sure you need to check will your existing webcam,printer,etc work with it. Case in point just out of the box new windows 7 would not download my existing epson c88 nor my iomega webcam nor infact will it even install any iomega even though they say windows 7 compatable,and worse micosofts own LifeCam HD5000 will not install either. So much for their attempt at a monopoly on all extentions to their machines,and so much for the HD5000 it is Junk as far as I'm concerned thus back to the store it goes this day for my money back,as well I'm packing up Windows 7 and taking it back for a Netscape/Apple/Mac.

20 out of 89 people found this helpful.

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