Installing the QuickCam Pro 4000's software is easy: simply drop in the installation CD to grab Logitech's ImageStudio 7.0, Yahoo Messenger, and IM Video Companion. The CD also installs the new Desktop Messenger, a small agent that runs on your machine and automatically updates you about new products. While it's an interesting substitute for spam in your in-box, we still find the occasional pop-up window annoying. The big news here is the IM Video Companion, which lets AIM and MSN Messenger users add video chat. Both participants must have the program installed for this capability to work, though. The service functions with dial-up and broadband connections, but it has trouble when both ends have routers or firewalls. A beta of a new version fixes some of the problems. You can install the IM Video Companion from the QuickCam Pro 4000's installation screen, or you can go directly to Logitech's Web site. Either way, the installation comes from the Web site, and it's free for anyone--not just Logitech camera users.
As with most PC cameras, the majority of the QuickCam Pro 4000's features are in the software. The camera sports a VGA-sized (640x480-pixel) CCD sensor, a glass lens, and a built-in microphone. The top-mounted shutter-release button lets you click off a snapshot using the ImageStudio software, though we found it too easy to hit by accident when positioning the camera. This Webcam also includes a privacy shade that you can flip over the lens if there's someone or something that you don't want the camera to see. This cover is mounted by the dimples on either side of the unit, though, and tends to fall off when bumped.
ImageStudio offers camera settings and control; still or video recording; time-lapse and animation photography; and a nice motion-detector utility. A notify tray icon brings up ImageStudio, as well as the camera control. You can view saved photos as you create them using the My Gallery utility, which also includes some modest editing capabilities. Still images are saved as JPEGs, while video is stored in the AVI format. If you click this QuickCam's E-mail Video button, the software compresses your AVI file into the Microsoft Windows Media (WMV) format. Interestingly, ImageStudio saves compressed videos to a file rather than firing up your default e-mail client. However, you can specify an alternate e-mail client from the Settings dialog box. You can also choose Compress from the QuickView window's Save As dialog box and select any compression codec that's present on your system. Our 2.1MB test clip shrank to 86K as a WMV file. While quality suffers in the compressed version, it's fine for sending baby pictures to Grandma.
As previously mentioned, the My Gallery utility provides very rudimentary image editing and the ability to add text to video. For more involved editing and special effects, you'll want to load MGI's bundled VideoWave SE 4.0 and PhotoSuite SE 4.0 applications. For a USB camera, video performance is good. You can capture 160x120 and 320x240 video at 30 frames per second (fps) with a reasonably fast PC. We tested the QuickCam Pro 4000 with a 1GHz machine and produced a 30fps video with a well-synchronized audio track. Audio quality with the camera mike is fine for normal speech. At 640x480, the frame rate drops to 15fps, though movement still appears smooth. We noticed very little blurring on normal movement in videos, something that has dogged all of the Veo cams.
When taking photographs, we found a delay of one to two seconds using the camera's Snapshot button. However, the Take A Picture control in ImageStudio grabs a shot at once. In both cases, the audio shutter sounds immediately, which is misleading when using the button on the camera since the photo is captured a second or two later. The VGA image sensor and the lens produce generally sharp photos, with the ability to focus down to 0.25 inches. The barrel distortion that plagued the earlier Logitech 3000 is gone, though the angle of view has been reduced slightly. The automatic white balance gives consistent color between different light sources, but overall color balance tends toward cool. Logitech has reduced the default color-saturation level, which more accurately reproduces colors but with less pop. If you are used to the rich color of the 3000, the QuickCam Pro 4000's photos will appear flat. Logitech claims that it has heard complaints from men who looked like they were wearing lipstick in the overly saturated images.
The camera's autoexposure performance is impressive. When going from dim to bright light, the QuickCam Pro 4000 recovered quickly and with a minimum of exposure bounce, providing better results for video recording. We also found consistent exposure between still images shot from at 4 to 500 foot-candles (40 to 5,000 lux) of lighting. In some of our tests, we got slightly better photos with the 640x480 setting than we did at smaller resolutions. The interpolated Megapixel setting (1,280x960) produced pleasing photos, though in lower light, we saw artifacts and streaking--especially in darker areas.