With working at home becoming a “new norm”, we have adapted by turning our portable work computer into something more like a stationary workstation. Thanks to items like the Cyber Acoustics DS-1000 and similar docking stations we can enjoy things like full sized keyboards, our favorite gaming mouse and multiple large format monitors to make our working experience as comfortable as possible.
Unfortunately, there is an aspect of working from home that has always been lacking, the camera. On a laptop the integrated camera if often located at the top of the screen in a fixed position. This location works well but, requires that you use a laptop on your conference calls and is generally is only looking at your face.
Or, if you are like me and leave the laptop closed you can struggle with getting a correct camera position.
In this review we will be looking at the Webcam Flex from Cyber Acoustics. This is a multipurpose web cam designed to make working at home a little more ergonomic and improve your efficiency at the same time.
The product started as a Kickstarter with over 870 backers and is now ready to ship!
The overall design is rather simple. We have an HD webcam attached to a boom arm that can then be repositioned in a variety of ways. There are three primary positions
Facing forward where the webcam is in a traditional position looking at “you”.
Facing downwards where the webcam is viewing your desktop and hands, this can be beneficial when you are teaching and showing things to your audience.
Facing upwards and this is where one of the unique features of the Webcam Flex comes to light. By extending the boom arm you can reposition the cam to the middle of your monitor.
Of course, given the many degrees of freedom you can position the Webcam Flex to point just about anywhere and mount to just about anything.
The base of the Flex is a pretty standard monitor mount to clip to the top of your monitor. As you can see from the photo the base is quite large and while I can get the camera to install on my HP monitor it is actually too wide unless I clip on to the handle located at the back.
Part of the trouble was a curve in the plastic frame that aligned perfectly with the camera mount making the clip ineffective. On panels that are flat this will be less of an issue.
For those of you with a tripod the threaded insert allows you to connect the Webcam Flex to any camera mount base and is a nice feature.
As mentioned, the Webcam Flex can be repositioned and to help with orientation and usability you will find three touch controls on the camera module.
The first is Zoom and gives you a total of 5 zoom profiles. Sadly, these are not macro controls but does help with framing when the camera is away from the subject.
Next you will find a flip and rotate button allowing you to fix the image when changing from a horizontal view to a vertical one. This button also had two modes depending on the length of your press. A 2 second press will flip while a touch will rotate.
The final button does turn the camera on and off though the center/autofocus didn’t seem to do much, at least on Windows. Seems that when an application takes control of the camera, it takes control.
It goes without saying that to be effective in remote and virtual communication you need to engage with the camera. That will then translate to “you” looking at your subject instead of you appearing to look off into space. On a laptop screen the difference between the camera and monitor location is minimal however, on large desktop monitors the difference becomes more apparent.
With the Webcam Flex you can position the camera to be direct and center on your monitor allowing you the ability to look at your screens while still engaging with the camera and your audience. This alone can increase your productivity while also improving your presence and engagement with your audience.
A secondary benefit is being able to view your physical desktop to compare notes or share in design ideas. In my testing I found it beneficial when showing 3D Printed models and some of the changes I wanted to make. Try as I might but, some people respond better to physical models over viewing something in 3D.
During my testing I use the Webcam Flex in a number of different roles. For some the product did exceptional and others I found left much to be desired.
The first scenario was a standard Zoom meeting. For this the Flex was attached to the top of my dual monitor setup and then dropped down into a variety of different positions from leaving it at the top of my monitor to having in the middle. The middle position worked well for me and offered a good presence. Of course, contrasting this with my Logitech C920 that normally sits under my monitor and requires that I look away from the screen to engage the meeting.
Video and Audio quality in meetings was no different from my Logitech C920 which is 100% what I had expected.
Some of the other roles didn’t pan out as well.
Mounting the Flex on a tripod was possible however, the base kept springing apart and prevented the camera from sitting flat. I also found that extending the boom would make the tripod unstable and thus unusable.
When using the Webcam Flex as a presentation device I discovered that distance was key. When you get too close to your subject the camera has trouble with the auto focus and the image shows a fair amount of grain. For instance, I captured a shot of my Mogwai and while they look pretty good, when the image is scaled up you can tell the focus was off slightly.
However, in full disclosure my Logitech cameras fail at this too. The issue really comes down to focal length with the camera lens and neither are designed for this.
Overall, the Cyber Acoustics Webcam Flex is a creative solution to one of the most unique problems when working in a home office. If you find yourself on conference calls often then a camera like the Flex could be a perfect addition to not only increase your productivity but can also make you look better to your peers.
Gamers using a face cam and even teaching professionals can benefit from the different ways the camera can be positioned along with the 1080p 30fps picture quality.
I do feel that this product could benefit greatly from a “macro” camera mode allowing for higher resolution images when used in the desktop configuration. I was also slightly annoyed by the flex and float the mounting hardware that prevented the camera from being positioned in certain ways and generally having it flop around when bumped.
For more information, please visit the Webcam Flex page on Cyber Acoustics.
Perfect Camera Position for Virtual Meetings
Good Image Quality
Mulit Position Camera
No macro image support
Mounting system has flex and bounce