Video has, and continues to be, a huge push in the Unified Communications market. The difficulty in this video-centric reality is that very seldom do video solutions provide a one-size-fits all approach. Polycom, for example, has a wide array of products to meet video needs from small rooms to large rooms, but it often requires special know-how and overall higher costs for implementation. Skype has ushered in the era of cheap and easy web-cam based communications, but those cameras seldom do good for setups that are more than just a person sitting in front of a computer monitor. Intermediate room systems (such as LRS) aim to add additional collaboration features, such as touch screens, to conference room systems, but they often are still utilizing smaller web-cameras for video which limit the quality and don’t sufficiently handle medium sized rooms. The difficulty for many organizations then is how to effectively integrate video into their conference room environments without requiring the capital outlay costs and custom installation experience that is required for many solutions but still offering premium quality and doing so without breaking the bank.
What’s a PTZ Camera
There are many different versions of pan-tilt-zoom cameras out there today, many of which tie into security systems, production camera studios, video classrooms or existing video teleconference systems. All of these cameras allow the ability, through motors built into the base, to move the camera through varying degrees of position so that the focus can be moved as the subject moves across the field of vision. The biggest difficulty with many of these PTZ cameras is they are typically $1,000 or more for HD quality and they seldom easily integrate with external systems unless those systems are H.264 or H.263 IP-based video distribution systems. To compound issues, those video based distribution systems are often siloed in design and implementation, especially when concerning Skype for Business integrations, so rarely is there a good way to integrate the flexible Skype4B approach into a system which simply wasn’t designed nor built for the cloud-first, mobile-first world we now live in.
What’s Different about the Logitech PTZ Pro Camera?
Imagine you could take all the best things about a PTZ camera and put it into a device that was USB based. Now imagine that device would be compatible with any software based Unified Communications solution such as Skype for Business, Skype, WebEx, Jabber, etc. Now imagine that device is available to you for less than $1,000. That’s the power of the Logitech PTZ Pro Camera – suddenly high quality room based conferencing is available to many organizations for a reasonable cost when compared to traditional video teleconference room systems.
- Remote Control
- 10 foot USB cable with integrated power adapter connection
- Power adapter
- Wall mount/Table base
- Quick start guide
The overall installation process is so deceptively simple you would think that it should be more difficult, but the truth is it actually should be this easy. In fact, the on the inside of the lid of the box, Logitech describes just how easy it is:
Step 1: plug the custom cable into the back of the PTZ camera base
Step 2: plug the power cable into the power connector on the camera cable
Step 3: plug the USB cable into an available USB port on your computer
Step 4: Fire up your Skype for Business client, set the video device for PTZ Pro Camera and GO!
Real World Use
PTZ Pro Cam – Range of Field View
C930e – Range of Field View
PTZ Pro Cam – Close Up View
C930e – Close Up View
PTZ Pro Cam – Max Zoom
- I’ve had many people notice a positive difference in video quality since switching over to the PTZ Pro Cam. They all claim the video is crisper, more detailed, and has better color – and that’s compared to my C930e web-cam. The Carl Zeiss optics definitely go a long way here.
- Even though the camera is USB based, it still allows you flexible deployment scenarios with physical camera location within a room by utilizing Cat5 or Fiber USB extenders from Extron, Creston, or BlackBox. If you’ve got a computer stashed away, you can still use those extenders to get normal USB connectivity from wherever you decide to place the PTZ Pro Cam to the location of the PC. I consider this a huge win for do-it-yourselfers and custom installers that will integrate rooms with Skype for Business in new and unique ways.
- 10X optical zoom is awesome, especially for rooms that may be longer than wider.
- The camera motors are mostly silent.
- The overall build quality is good. You can tell the device is designed for enterprise use and is built accordingly.
- The USB plug-and-play experience is top notch. It is no different than any other Skype for Business certified device – literally plug it in and go.
- Logitech provides a dual-purpose table stand and wall mount, no separate mount purchase required.
- The included remote is easy, simple and no frills. It just works and is easy to understand.
- The price is right. $799 MSRP will please many IT budget holders and is easily justified when compared to other room setups or travel costs for employees.
- The far end control app for Windows based systems allow custom control without requiring RS-232 integration.
- The audio solution is up to you and can be one of many existing audio solutions from Jabra, Plantronics, ClearOne, Polycom, etc. This truly is a DIY kind of solution and is infinitely flexible because of it.
- Autofocus is somewhat hit or miss at times. The autofocus generally does well and is fast, but occasionally in certain lighting scenarios it may go through a cycle of lose/re-gain that can be somewhat annoying.
- While Logitech provides the table stand and wall mount, the metal of the mount is a bit thin and worries me that the vibrations from the camera motors or HVAC systems within walls that may cause the mount itself to vibrate thus causing the picture to vibrate. A separate wall mount from your A/V vendor will likely be a worthwhile investment.
- The camera does not contain automatic voice tracking. This may be a big deal for some, as Polycom’s Eagle Eye solution provides it, but automatic tracking requires coordination and integration between the video processor and the audio processor which is why it is generally limited to single vendor solutions for audio & video. Overall I don’t see this as a big limitation, but one to note nonetheless.
- The camera base build quality is fine, but it ain’t designed to take a beating. Other vendors such as Vaddio have a bit more ruggedness to their devices which allow them to take a bit more abuse, but just make sure you keep the PTZ Pro Cam out of arms reach and in a safe place and you’ll have no issues.
- The camera motors are mostly silent, but then again they aren’t. I can still hear the whirring over a small fan that sits below my desk, so there is noticeable noise created.
- Far end camera control is just one more app to maintain on corporate systems and likely won’t be used anyway. In my opinion it’s a “nice to have” not a “have to have”.
- While camera quality is good, I’ve still seen better – albeit at much higher costs.
Overall I think Logitech has a big winner here. Super simple installation. Deployment flexibility. Good video quality. Reasonable cost. I’d be hard pressed to say that I’d prefer to pay additional money for a Vaddio solution over what Logitech provides. If you are looking for an enterprise class PTZ camera to work with your UC deployments (and especially Skype for Business deployments), the Logitech PTZ Pro Camera needs to be on your list.