As I explained in the related article Skype goes HD, Skype software now supports full-raster HD 720p (1280×720) for Windows computers, and I expect the same support for Mac computers very soon. So far, Skype has certified HD webcams from two different manufacturers. All of these certified models use onboard H.264 hardware encoding to alleviate CPU cycles and bandwidth, and are expected to be available in early 2010. In this article, you’ll see the their photos, prices, and published specs. Each manufacturer has chosen to emphasize different types specifications, as you will read.
So far, Skype has certified HD webcams from faceVision and In Store Solutions. I have already contacted both manufacturers to write reviews about their offerings, and will do so as soon as they cooperate.
faceVision’s FVTouchCam N1 webcam
Here are the FVTouchCam N1 published specs so far:
- Weight: 90g
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Cable: 150cm
- Power supply: 5V (USB bus power)
- 1G4P+IR, VCM auto-focus
- Depth of focus: 10cm ~ infinity
- Aperture: F/2.0
- Field of view: 78.1°
- Effective pixel:1280×800 (maximum)
- Output image size: HD 1280×720, WVGA, VGA, CIF, QVGA, QCIF
- Framerate: 22fps at HD (1280×720) with H.264/30fps at WVGA (768x 480) with YUV
- Unidirectional dual microphones: Frequency 100-12000Hz/Sensitivity -47dB ±4dB/SNR >60dB
In Store Solutions’ two HD models
In Store Solutions announced two different HD models: the US$120 FREETALK TALK-7170 HD PRO, and the US$140 TALK-7181 HD PRO PLUS. In Store Solutions is actually the same company that runs the online Skype Shop.
The FREETALK TALK-7170 HD PRO comes with two built-in microphones, while the HD PRO PLUS has four. According to the manufacturer, the four built-in cardioid microphones enable a four-meter (±13 feet) audio pickup, which, together with Skype’s beamforming algorithm, promises to deliver crystal clear voice quality and help improve echo canceling.
Both webcams should be be available as of March 2010.
Published specifications for both the TALK-7170 and the TALK-7181 include :
- 5 megapixel HD sensor
- High performance optical lens
- 24-bit true color depth
- Auto Exposure and auto white balance
- Manual focus capability
- HD video encoding at resolutions up to 1280×720 at 30 frames per second in H.264 format (Hopefully they mean 29.97!)
From the published specs, it seems as if the FREETALK models from In Store Solutions will be more appropriate for remote TV guests via Skype since it is the only one that promises ±30 fps. Then again, for talking heads applications, that may not matter so much. Regarding audio, for general use using onboard microphones, in theory the TALK-7181 should be better. However, for pro use, it will likely be desirable to use an independent, pro mic. When I review them, we’ll all know for sure. I’ll certainly include clips with both audio and video. I’ll test the audio with the onboard microphone (or microphone array), as well as test how feasible it is to maintain lip sync with an independent, professional microphone.
See also the related article HD goes Skype.
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