Tuesday, August 16

The Opal C1 wants to be the ultimate webcam: it promises to offer DSLR-like quality, but beware, it doesn’t come cheap.

Webcams weren’t especially important in our lives, but with the pandemic everything has changed, and now videoconferencing is a fundamental part of the routine of millions of people.

There had hardly been any news in this section, but now the Opal C1, a high-end webcam that costs $ 300 and it tries to offer a quality in these videoconferences similar to what a DSLR camera would offer.

A (very) high end webcam

The webcams on our laptops usually record at 720p hopefully, and although there are also 1080p webcams and even some models capable of recording in 4K – we reviewed the Razer Kiyo Pro recently -, the quality of those images is often not ideal.

Precisely to try to solve this problem is the Opal C1, a webcam that has been created by two former engineers from Google and Uber and that it has in its ranks Kenny Sweet, one of those responsible for that project called Google Clips that ended up failing.

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This webcam has un sensor Sony IMX378, which is the same that Google used in its first Pixels in 2016, and while it may seem that a sensor from five years ago may not be the best option, it has long been proven that post-processing software is just as important (and even more) than the sensor used to take photos and videos.

In reality, this sensor is, at least according to its creators, the largest ever used in a webcam, and is normally reserved for smartphones. When combined with an f / 1.8 aperture lens and six glass elements (many phones use plastic elements), the Opal C1 is capable of capturing video at 4K and 30 fps, although at the moment that option is not enabled natively because it is not well supported in most videoconferencing applications.

The Opal C1 development team showed in this top video the image quality comparison with the webcam of the new MacBook Pro (in which a new webcam capable of recording at 1080p and with improvements also at the post-processing level has been integrated) and with one of the Logitech webcams.

The image quality is even compared to that offered by a DSLR camera, the Sony A6300 with a 24-70mm lens using it at 24mm and with f / 2.8 aperture. Judging from those images, the Opal C1 really stands out from its competitors.

Development is over attracting the interest of renowned investors: Alexis Ohanian – co-founder of Reddit -, Chad Hurley – co-founder of YouTube -, Mike Krieger – co-founder of Instagram -, Kevin Li – co-founder of Twitch – or Hugo Barra – former director of Facebook and before Xiaomi – have ended up investing in Opal.

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This webcam with an integrated microphone – and a technology called MicMesh to filter the sound of the voice and isolate it from the environment – also has a differential design available in two colors (black and white) and that It is finished in the hardware section, but not so much in the software.

There are options like “studio sound” which have not been added yet, and for example shortly after reaching the first users, an update was released to be able to use 4K resolution and to improve autofocus.

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For now the application associated with the webcam, called Opalsoft, is only available for macOS, so at the moment it is only possible to use the webcam with a Mac. The version for Windows computers will arrive according to its managers next year.

With this software it is possible adjust things like bokeh with apertures ranging from f / 2.8 to f / 0.7, and there is also an option to track our face called “Focus Lock”. We can also apply filters in real time to change the skin tone or even pixelate the video, in addition to more traditional controls such as those that affect exposure, brightness, contrast or saturation.

Those options are reinforced no longer with the Sony sensor, but with an Intel chip, the Myriad X, specifically integrated to be able to execute Tensor artificial intelligence operations on the images. At all times, between four and five neural networks are running on the device, “explained one of its creators.

All those advantages, yes, they do not come cheap. The Opal C1 costs $ 300, and access to the webcam is currently restricted and to be able to buy it you need an invitation, a mechanism designed to try to control the distribution of the product. One that effectively takes a leap into an increasingly important section for many users, and that with this webcam offers a promising alternative.

Via | Input

More information | Opal


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