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Logitech ClickSmart 510 Review

Highs

  • 3 devices in one
  • Loaded with Features

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 7

Lows

  • Audio Sensitivity
  • Video sensitivity
  • lack of a zoom lens
There truly is no other webcam that offers as much as the ClickSmart 510, especially for around $130 US.

Summary

There truly is no other webcam that offers as much as the ClickSmart 510, especially for around $130 US.  Though Logitech manufactures a couple different versions of the camera, namely the ClickSmart 310 and the 420, the differences in capability and price make these less desirable.  It is important to keep in mind that though this device is not without problems, the majority of the problems are not unique to this device.  To a certain extent, they can be experienced with almost every other webcam out there. What can’t be experienced with other webcams is the versatility and capability that makes the ClickSmart 510 so great.   Webcams have come a long way, and no doubt will continue to advance.  This device should not be judged strictly on its ability to do any one of its functions exceptionally, but rather on its ability to provide the user with a host of functions that it does remarkably well for being a single device in this price range.

Introduction

The Logitech ClickSmart 510 is a dramatic departure from the average run-of-the-mill webcam.  This is truly an exceptional and incomparable product.  The ClickSmart uniquely combines the features and function of a webcam, digital camera and video camera into one competent and stylish unit.  The camera also comes with an amazing suite of software unparalleled by other manufacturers.  Webcams have been a lackluster accessory of the modern computer system, often overlooked and even disliked because of their reputation for poor video quality, their complexities of operation and their unappealing appearance. At least until now…

Features & Performance

Consisting of silver and gray molded plastic and rubber, the ClickSmart 510 is a stunning accessory to today’s trendy black, gray and silver PCs.  The ClickSmart’s rounded kidney-shaped chassis easily fits into the palm of the hand.  It’s comfortable to handle and easy to manipulate. It doesn’t take much to recognize that a lot of thought went into the design of this product.  It is not over-complicated with an abundance of buttons.  In fact, the camera has been simplified down to a total of 5 buttons; power, select, mode, download, and the shutter button.  The camera is equipped with a built-in flash.  It also has a minute built-in speaker that produces audible tones when the camera turns on, prompts for downloads, and even has a simulated shutter click sound when the shutter button is pressed and a picture is taken.  It even emits a unique sound when a snapshot is taken with the included lens cap covering the lens.  Incidentally, when this happens, the camera will not take a picture.

The controls and adjustments to the camera, namely camera mode (stills, multi-snap and video), resolution level (low, medium and high)  flash, timer and trash can are nested within the “mode” and “select” buttons on the camera and are simple to navigate and use.  The “multi-snap” feature is another thoughtful function of this camera.  Essentially, it takes a sequence of 5 pictures, giving the user the ability to capture motion and providing the groundwork for creating animations in the software suite.

The ClickSmart’s USB and SmartMedia ports are nicely concealed behind soft, gray rubber tabs that fit flush to the body of the camera when closed.  There is a green LED light on the front to remind the user when it’s on and a red one on the viewfinder side that blinks rapidly until the flash is charged.  Both LEDs will blink red when the camera’s timer feature is being used.  The viewfinder is rather small, but provides adequate sight for both stills and video capture.  The lens has an adjustment to focus the lens; however, there is no LCD display to determine if the picture is actually in focus, until the photos are downloaded to a PC.  Therefore, the user should probably experiment with the lens in the beginning to determine the proper focus position and leave it there, or mark the lens and chassis confirming where it should be, to be in focus.  It should be noted since this product does double-duty as a digital camera, it could be improved by adding functions like auto-focus and a zoom lens.

The ClickSmart comes with a pedestal that clips to the bottom of the camera so that the camera can sit on top of a computer stably or wherever it is placed.  The pedestal has a pivoting swivel allowing the user to tilt forward, backward and side to side depending on the circumstances.  The ClickSmart also features a tripod socket, a unique and very handy feature enabling the user to mount the ClickSmart on virtually any existing camera tripod.  For photographers who are reluctant to shift completely to the digital realm, this will allow an opportunity to experiment and test the digital medium with minimal expense for equipment.

A built-in microphone is nicely incorporated next to the lens and eliminates the need for a grotesque boom mic, like what was required just a few short years ago.  However, the microphone exhibited difficulty at times with capturing good audio.  For instance, in video mode, the audio came out muffled if the subject was more than five feet from the camera.  If used outside, even a mild breeze is audible.  In webcam mode, if the user is not sitting directly in front of the camera or is sitting more than five feet away, the audio can be somewhat muffled and distorted.  The tear-drop sized opening for the microphone protects it, but unfortunately channels its capture ability directly forward.

Initially, an 8 MB SmartMedia card seemed inadequate, but daily use for over a month, revealed that this was an adequate amount of storage as long as photos and/or video was downloaded to a PC and not stored on the card.  The 8 MB of storage is enough to take 120 pictures at high resolution (640 x 480). There doesn’t appear to be any compatibility problems using SmartMedia cards with larger amounts of memory.  The camera will accept SmartMedia cards up to 128 MB. Strangely, when the camera is used in video mode, the camera limits the length of video recording to a maximum of 130 seconds.  However, you will be able to take multiple videos, each one approximately 4-5 MB in length.

The ClickSmart 510 is very easy to use as a webcam and yields good video.  The camera’s CCD is somewhat sensitive to high and low levels of light.  When video conferencing or sending video email with the ClickSmart 510, it is necessary to have adequate and balanced lighting, otherwise the image quality will be unsatisfactory.  It is important to note, though, that this is a problem experienced by most webcams.  It is also beneficial to note that the included software provides camera adjustments that help compensate for low or high levels of lighting and color calibration on the postproduction side.  The frame rate of 30 frames per second was more than adequate for fluid, smooth motion and clipping was almost unnoticeable, except during very fast movements.

The ClickSmart is also a capable digital camera.  The camera’s 1.3 megapixel resolution places it in the lower end of the spectrum of digital cameras.  Nowadays, digital cameras are capable of 4- and 5-megapixel resolutions and as the resolution and capabilities have advanced, so have the prices.  However, it really wasn’t that long ago that 1.0+ and 2.0 megapixel cameras were considered cutting edge.  This camera is perfect for the beginner or even intermediate user who needs, or wants a camera to take photos and quickly and easily send them off to friends and family.  The ClickSmart is more than adequate in taking photos indoors and outdoors for that matter.  The same issue that affected image quality as a webcam, is noticeable in camera mode and video mode. For instance, photos taken indoors with low lighting or outdoors on a very overcast day tended to be very dark.  If it is a bright day or there is a glare, the camera tended to take light or even washed out photos.  In both cases, through the included software or other software suites, the pictures can be cleaned up significantly.

Features and Performance Continued…

Using the ClickSmart as a video camera, provided acceptable video.  It makes possible the capture of special moments to send to friends and family if a true video camera is not available.  As a portable video capture device, the ClickSmart takes 15 frames per second, while it takes 30 frames per second when plugged in as a webcam.  This yields rather choppy video, especially if the subject of the video is moving.

When the camera is plugged into the PC via the USB cable, the system is quick to recognize it for what it is regardless of whether you are running Win98, Win2K or WinXP. The camera will produce an audible chime and the kidney-shaped button on the front of the camera will light up green.  By pressing this once, the camera will begin downloading your photos and/or video.  The software will then ask you where and how you wish to store the images and will provide you automatically with choices.

Second only to its capabilities, the next greatest feature of this device is the QuickCam software that comes with the device.  I found the software to be thoughtfully laid out and extremely easy to operate.  When the QuickCam interface opens, you are presented with all the options of the ClickSmart 510 laid out in a tab format.  Open the video tab, and in one or two clicks, the camera will begin recording.  Click on the Gallery Tab and you can view or organize all the stored and downloaded photos. With a couple of clicks, you can instantly download pictures and/or video and send them out via email.  It is also possible to produce live web video to stream across the net.  The QuickCam suite even goes so far as to incorporate controls that compensate for color contrast, brightness, etc of the camera for video and even photos that have already been taken. Finally, another pleasant surprise, was the ability to set up the ClickSmart through the QuickCam suite to be used as a motion detector that takes photos when movement exceeds an adjustable threshold.  A nice security feature if you want to monitor your home when you are away.

The QuickCam suite is bundled with other software that truly makes this purchase worth its higher than average price.  In particular, if the user is not familiar with photo and video editing software the included MGI PhotoSuite and MGI VideoWave are great entry-level tools for the beginner up through intermediate user.  However, there is no comparison of these tools to Adobe’s venerable Photoshop. . . except that MGI’s programs comes with the camera, compared to the $700 list price of the latter.

Conclusion

There truly is no other webcam that offers as much as the ClickSmart 510, especially for around $130 US.  Though Logitech manufactures a couple different versions of the camera, namely the ClickSmart 310 and the 420, the differences in capability and price make these less desirable.  It is important to keep in mind that though this device is not without problems, the majority of the problems are not unique to this device.  To a certain extent, they can be experienced with almost every other webcam out there. What can’t be experienced with other webcams is the versatility and capability that makes the ClickSmart 510 so great.   Webcams have come a long way, and no doubt will continue to advance.  This device should not be judged strictly on its ability to do any one of its functions exceptionally, but rather on its ability to provide the user with a host of functions that it does remarkably well for being a single device in this price range.

Score

Style & Design:          9

Ease of Use:              9

Features:                   9

Performance:              8

Price:                         7

Overall:                       8.4

The Good

3 devices in one, Loaded with Features, portability, great value,

Lots of software capability, built-in flash and mic

The Bad

Audio Sensitivity, Video sensitivity, lack of a zoom lens

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