The Logitech QuickCam Fusion's sleek new design and impressive software bundle make it one of the best Webcams we've seen. Though it won't replace your digital camera or video recorder, this $99 device can take clear still pictures and video, and it works seamlessly with multiple instant-messaging clients.
Installing the Logitech QuickCam Fusion is easy. In addition to MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), and Yahoo Messenger, the included installation CD includes drivers and plenty of software: Logitech's QuickCapture app for taking still photos and videos, an application for sending e-mail with video, and Logitech's Desktop Messenger software, which automatically checks for software updates. You can select the software you'd like to install or install it all at once. Both applications are easy to use and fairly self-explanatory, though two brief setup guides are included.
The Fusion's flexible tail can fit atop a CRT, an LCD, or a laptop display. The tail is adjustable but not very stable. It doesn't hold its shape particularly well, and adjusting it can be a balancing act. We prefer the stands that come with the Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000, which offers a more stable tail-style stand and a desktop stand. The Fusion's camera tilts back 90 degrees but doesn't tilt forward and can't swivel from side to side. With the QuickCapture application open, you just push the unlabeled button on top of the camera to make the Fusion take a snapshot. The small, fairly sensitive microphone built into the front of the camera can record a conversation from six feet away.
The included QuickCam software lets you adjust a myriad of settings, including brightness, saturation, contrast, white balance, hue, sharpness, gamma, and backlight. You can also change exposure, gain, and the ambient-light setting. In the less-useful-but-cute department is the Avatars feature, which tracks the movements of your nose, eyebrows, and mouth and applies them to a cartoon character such as an alien or a shark.
The Fusion performed well in our tests, though we noticed digital noise in both still and video images. Video was generally clear and smooth, but we noticed blurring during fast movements, such as waving a hand. The Fusion can take still pictures of up to 4 megapixels, though it interpolates anything larger than 1.3 megapixels. It can record video at resolutions up to 640x480 and at a maximum of 30 frames per second (fps).
The Fusion works well with AIM and Yahoo Messenger, but it works best with MSN Messenger. In our tests, video looked smooth when sending and receiving, and color distortion was minimal, even in low light. Video over AIM also looked smooth, though colors were a bit more distorted than on MSN, especially on the receiving end. We were disappointed with Yahoo Messenger's performance: video played very slowly and looked more like a series of stills--we attribute this to Yahoo's software, not the Webcam. With the built-in microphone, voice messaging worked well over all three messaging services; the included headset provided the best call quality.
Logitech backs the Fusion with an industry-standard two-year warranty. You can get service and support online or from a toll-free phone number. Logitech's support Web site also offers software updates, driver downloads, and user discussion forums.