Webcams that just work with Ubuntu Linux

The GNOME Foundation Board asked me to buy a webcam for the GNOME Events Box, so we could show Cheese on our stands. This could be cool together with the box’s new projector. I also wanted a webcam for my own use so Liam’s grandparents can see him in motion more often. So this was an opportunity to discover if any two available webcams really “just work” with Ubuntu, after doing some research and guessing. The results were great.

I bought a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 and a Creative Live! Cam Optia AF, both 2 Megapixel webcams. The video for both “just work”ed perfectly in Ekiga, Cheese, and Skype, on Ubuntu Linux Gutsy (7.10) and Hardy (8.04, currently in beta), though all these programs require you to choose the video input from a list, regardless of how well the webcam works. The Logitech one has a built-in microphone without an extra cable. The Creative one has a separate cheapish in-ear headphone+microphone headset for the regular 3.5mm “minijack” socket.

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I recommend the Logitech because it has a convenient built-in USB microphone that avoids non-USB microphone hell, though you’ll obviously then need speakers for the output. I added it to my Ubuntu Hardware. That page has almost paid for the costs of the USB Wi-Fi sticks that I bought to discover one that worked. Maybe it will pay for my webcam too. What other hardware should I use that page for, to discover just one model that really “just works”? As I’ve said before, I think the hardware lists on the Ubuntu wiki are mostly useless for real users because nobody is insisting that “just works” really means “just works”, and nobody is flagging the ones that really do just work.

It was nice to see that these products have dire warnings about not attaching them to your Windows PC before installing the special software, and to see that Amazon has lots of comments about how people couldn’t get them working with Windows.

21 thoughts on “Webcams that just work with Ubuntu Linux

  1. I can only speek for ekiga, cause i didn’t used the other two. That you in ekiga have to select, if you want to use video4linux or video4linux2 is plain stupid. The application can decide it for itself (I know it, cause I’m the main author of the wc-lib, a webcam library for ruby and linux and of Klötzle, a stop motion program wich mainly uses webcams (http://det.cable.nu/kloetzle) . I think the problem with this is, that most application programmers don’t see theire programms from the users side.

    These days a program can get that much information from the system, that it can decide most things on its own. The programmers only have to use this information.

  2. The cheaper Logitech Quickcam STX also works ootb if anyone is interested; I chose it because I didn’t want to spend too much on a video camera. It’s also usb which avoids setup hassles.

  3. Murray,

    The Logitech OrbitView AF is a nice one. Not only just works, it also has a pedestal and you can move the camera by software. It doesn’t have any microphone builted in.

    For a microphone/speaker solution, you have the ClearOne Chat50. It has a microphone with echo cancellation. You can have the speaker loudly and the microphone open, and you won’t have any noise. It also just works. Even more, when you plug the usb port, Ubuntu hardy plays nicely a sound, so you get the feedback it’s working.

  4. Amusing.
    I got a Pro 9000 around Christmas because I read that it “Just Works”. It did not work in Ubuntu 7.04. I chased and chased and could not solve it. See the forums for the sad trip. It did not work in Fedora 8. It worked in SuSE 10.3 very simple. Now in Ubuntu 8.04 it just works. It’s taken me 3 months to get it to work, solution was new Ubuntu. Now that it works, I bought a second one for a PC I’m setting up for my Mom.
    Wanna get jealous look at all the features in Windows when installed properly. I installed it on an old PC with Windows to verify the problem was Linux and not the camera. I hope someday Logitech will let Linux have the features they provide to Windows.

  5. I also recently discovered that Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000 just works. Actually the camera is not mine, it has come to me from my friend while on the way to his sister. :-D
    AFAIK, the reason it just works is because it is UVC compliant. Check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB_video_device_class

    And a correction. Cheese doesn’t have any interface to select input devices. It will just use the default devices set by gstreamer (command gstreamer-properties).

  6. While it’s great to hear that these devices works out of the box on Linux, is the fact that people are having problems with them on Windows really “nice to see”? Let’s be glad that Linux is so good and not be gleeful towards other platforms.

  7. After reading this at planet.gnome.org i have bought a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000. Sadly it doesn’t work with Fedora 8. I have tried the Ubuntu 8.04 beta live-cd. Here it works with kopete (but with really bad quality) but not with Cheese.

    So while it works at least with some applications i’m a little bit disappointed and wonder how does it works “out of the box” for you.

  8. @pinky,

    What you are referring as bad quality in kopete is the adjustement of color balance, saturation. Try adjusting them. I also was having reddish picture initially.
    And regarding cheese it will use the default device set by gstreamer. So try command ‘gstreamer-properties’ which will launch a device selection/testing dialog. Set the camera as default device there.

  9. pinky wrote:
    > have tried the Ubuntu 8.04 beta live-cd. Here it works with kopete (but with really bad quality) but not with Cheese.

    I said “though all these programs require you to choose the video input from a list”. Unfortunately, although Cheese apparently does some auto-detection, I have found that you need to choose the camera via the gstreamer-properties UI. I had already filed a bug about it – Cheese will apparently have its own preferences for this in a future version:
    http://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=524668

  10. Thank you Onkar and murrayc!

    I have now set the “Default Input” in gstreamer-properties to “Plugin: v4l2” and “Device: UVC Camera” and the test works great (it has a much better quality than with kopete) but with cheese i still get only the “test screen”.

    Maybe it is a problem with the “Default Output” in gstreamer-properties but i have tried all options, nothing worked. :(

    What have you set as Default Output?

    Thanks!

  11. Hi!

    Regarding Cheese, I have a rather frustrating problem: I make all the required changes via gstreamer-properties to set my Logitech QuickCam Messenger as the default video input device, yet Cheese somehow bypasses that setting and uses another input (a PCI TV tuner card which I haven’t configured yet).

    I’m using Ubuntu 8.04, with Cheese and everything else downloaded via the Synaptic Package Manager.

    Thanks in advance for any helpful comment!

  12. Murray,

    I am new to Linux/Ubuntu. I have the Logitech 9000 Pro camera working but can you me understand how to get the audio input (mic) working? I want to use it for Skype and other things.

    Thanks,

    Josh

  13. Another webcam which worked for me out of the box is the “eye-D” from TnB.
    It is cheap and cheerful, uses the gspca driver and has an integrated microphone (using an extra lead – not supplied).

    I am using it in Mandriva 2008.0 (KDE) and have run it with Kopete, Cheese, Skype, Camorama etc.

    It cost ?13 — bought in France – and was the cheapest in the TnB range on display.

    See this site for more details : http://www.t-nb.com

    All the best,

    Tony LIttlejohn

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