Mac Web Camera News

External Mac Webcam Buying Trends : Down But Not Out

webcam-for-mac-interestA quick peek at Google Trends shows a slow but steadily declining interest in external Mac compatible web camera hardware. Market demand for Apple friendly webcams peaked in 2007-2009 as online chat and video capture (especially for YouTube uploads) was on a massive upswing. Other factors however are lowering overall demand for external USB webcams, so expect some consolidation in the marketplace moving forward:
  • The trend towards handheld computing devices
  • Incorporation of video recording cameras into cell phones and tablets
  • Apple iMac's and MacBook's shipping with built-in iSight cams
  • Market saturation since USB webcams have a long service lifespan
  • Shrinking demand in general for desktop computing peripherals
That's not to say there still isn't a healthy interest. Web camera's remain in the Top-10 of most in-demand computer peripherals. In particular, the trend towards higher-quality 720p and 1080p HD cameras have spurred a new buying cycle as Mac users sought to upgrade to high-definition and wide-screen video formats. There's also a compelling and ever-growing market for high-end group videoconferencing cams. They've enabled businesses to save a fortune on travel expenses and conduct multi-party video chats with premium conferencing cameras ideal for local and remote collaboration. Apple Internet marketers are leveraging Mac video marketing strategies keeping demand for high-quality webcams going strong.

Logitech remains the Go-To brand for a high-quality web camera for Mac OSX users - at a wide range of price points. Sadly, Creative Labs seems to be phasing-out of the webcam scene - and focusing on their primary market: Premium audio solutions, speakers and headsets. Ipevo continues to deliver exceptional document cameras for the business and education markets. And the industrial camera and laboratory microscope scene is clearly moving in a digital direction. Rising interest in Apple compatible wireless security, monitoring and surveiilence cams is seriously bucking the trend both on Mac OS and iOS platforms.

Of course at the low-end, China has mountains of cheap UVC-compliant USB web cameras for the low-end consumer market. It's slugging it out with mediocre webcams largely in the $10-20 range for budget-conscious buyers with lean wallets and low expectations.

Shrinking Creative Labs Webcam For Mac Offerings In Store

Creative HD Web Cameras For Mac OSX
In a recent visit to Creative Labs online store I noted a sharp reduction in the number - and type - of Creative HD webcams listed that are compatible with Mac OSX. Creative has long been a supporter of the Apple friendly UVC - USB Video Class web camera standard and have implemented it in every camera since around 2008. Some of the very first cameras listed here on this site were Creative Labs models, back when the Live Cam Optia series was introduced.

Today, only THREE webcam models are listed, One, the dual-sensor 3D webcam - the SENZ3D - is only supported on the Windows platform for it's unique gesture control technology and face-sensing that might appeal to Windows game developers. The only other two suitable for Mac OSX are surprisingly low-end and midrange models - The Live! Cam SYNC 720p HD and the notably better Live Cam CHAT 720p HD - both of which are only 720p maximum HD resolution. Their high-end 1080p resolution offerings to compete with Logitech for the premium webcam market are no longer listed (but may be in-stock elsewhere). Neither of the remaining two cams support H.264 hardware video compression which select models of their 1080p HD cams did.

It's no secret the desktop computer accessory marketplace is under terrible pressure from Mobile and Handheld device popularity. No doubt demand for external USB web cameras has shrunk as more PC and Mac users use their iPhone, iPad or other iGadget to video chat with on the go. For mobile users, wireless Bluetooth speakers are now all the rage and a multi-billion dollar market. Historically, Creative Labs SoundBlaster and it's audio products are what made the company a leader in computer peripherals. Continuing to manufacture webcams for Mac and Windows desktop PC's probably isn't as lucrative as it used to be. Lastly, it's become even harder to compete with Logitech for a narrowing slice of the USB webcam market, especially given what a great range of very high-quality webcam hardware Logitech delivers to Mac and PC users.

Huddle! Logitech Group Conference Web Camera For Mac

With the introduction of the Apple-friendly Logitech ConferenceCam Connect, Mac OSX users will get an opportunity to experience the latest innovations in group video conferencing technology that even small businesses can afford.

Whether you use it personally at home with Skype for OSX, or in a company with Microsoft Lync collaboration, it's portability and PTZ - Pan / Tilt / Zoom functionality makes it ready for any collaboration environment.

ConferenceCam Connect

New Logitech Group Cam

The 1-piece ConferenceCam Connect is highly portable: All you need is a MacBook and a Wi-Fi connection to collaborate anywhere. Housed in a compact, tubular body it incorporates both a razor-sharp 1080p HD web camera with a wide, 90 degree field of view and optical quality Carl Zeiss glass lens in the upper section. It's camera supports H.264 video compression and is UVC 1.5 compliant with SVC - Scalable Video Compression to automatically negotiate the highest quality image and frame rates when available bandwidth allows it.

For audio, an omnidirectional full-duplex speakerphone with multiple noise-canceling microphones are both front and rear in the lower part of the base. A remote control for digital zoom, pan & tilt of the webcam image also features buttons for volume, mute and call control. The remote snaps smartly into the camera assembly, protecting the lens for storage and transport. NFC pairing and Bluetooth 4.0 support allows Apple iGadget and cell-phone users participating in a voice conference as well. The unit can operate for up to 4 hours on it's internal LiOn battery, or be powered / charged via the included AC adapter - or via USB as well.

It also has an HDMI video out port to display your conference on a meeting room display or projector. Direct Wi-Fi video transmission using MiraCast technology is supported on a Windows PC, but sadly not available on the Mac at this time. (MiraCast is similar to Apple's competing AirPlay standard.)

The next-generation ConferenceCam Connect hits a price-point above the very affordable Conference Cam BCC950 - which is great for individuals and sole-proprietors wanting an all-in-one remote-controlled zoom, pan and tilt camera and speakerphone solution for several participants at a street price around $200 USD.

In the corporate business-class ConferenceCam C3000e - Logitech delivers a complete, multi-piece hardware solution with a high-end mechanically controlled camera, speakerphone and webcam control base, remote, power and wiring hub for larger groups of 6 or more participants. The C3300e's pricing well-under $1000 USD sent shockwaves through many corporate videoconferencing competitor's spines: Suddenly, the proprietary $10K plus meeting room solutions just weren't that appealing anymore once Logitech entered the scene.

With a manufacturer's suggested list price of $499, the new ConferenceCam Connect strikes a midpoint in affordability while offering a complete re-think and some very awesome next-generation innovations. Portable, compact and elegant, it's optional battery-power will let you dash with your MacBook and camera in tow to the next meeting. You can have an on-the-spot video conference anywhere there's WiFi access and a laptop computer available.

Kudos to the Logitech For Business division for taking voice and video conferencing to a new level - and for keeping Apple users in mind!

Mac Webcams And The UVC 1.5 Specification : USB Video Class Cameras

UVC Compatible Webcam And Video Device Spec Logo
UVC compatibility was an important development for the Mac compatible webcam market. With UVC drivers built into OSX 10.4 and up, custom Mac OSX webcam drivers (of which few even existed) no longer needed to be installed for the camera hardware to be recognized. 'They Just Worked' by plugging them into a USB 2.0 or faster port. UVC eventually became the DEFACTO standard preferred for web cameras on all personal computing platforms: Mac OS, Windows, as well as Linux.

USB Video Class compliance isn't just for webcams. Analog video capture gadgets, Digital video cameras, still image cameras, USB TV tuners and other video devices can leverage the evolving UVC device specification. The latest version of the spec is now at v1.5 and is incorporated into (notably) some of Logitech's most recent premium webcams for Mac and PC.

The USB-IF Video working group at is chartered with updating the current USB Video Class (UVC) specification to natively support modern encoders like H.264. H.264 is an open standard that allows highly efficient video compression techniques for reducing the use of network bandwidth as well as significantly decreasing drive storage space requirements.The USB-IF working group also addresses known limitations with the UVC Specification and adopts new features to address evolving product technologies and market demands. Area of interest to the UVC working group include:
-  Native H.264 support -  Flexible metadata for each video frame -  A windowing API for digital sensors -  Ability to set a Region of Interest in the camera's field of view -  Support for additional color spaces and color depths
-  QOS - Quality Of Service scaling and negotiation -  Support for additional video codecs -  Support for multi-view stream management -  Support for scene content depth information

In terms of the latest UVC 1.5 spec, H.264 and QOS matter a lot. There so many different video devices - from cell phones to PC and Mac desktop computers to dedicated group conferencing platforms. Available internet bandwidth can vary greatly. And delivering the optimal video resolution, image quality, or frame and data rates appropriate for each device is an important challenge the UVC committee strives to address.