Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 review

The Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 is a no-frills webcam that simply gets on with the job

Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000
(Image: © Alistair Charlton/Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

Pros

  • +

    Superb image quality

  • +

    Great design

  • +

    AI-powered auto framing

Cons

  • -

    No microphone

  • -

    Limited Mac support

  • -

    Expensive

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As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 lives by this mantra more than almost any other consumer technology product – and it has done so for over a decade.

The LifeCam HD-3000 webcam arrived way back in 2010, just three years after the first iPhone generation, and at the time its compact size and 720p HD resolution were no doubt considered cutting-edge. Now, 12 years later, this is a circa-$20 webcam that doesn’t wow us, but still gets the job done commendably.

Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 specifications

(Image credit: Alistair Charlton/Digital Camera World)

Resolution: 720p HD

Field of view: 68.5 degrees

Frame rate: 30fps

Digital zoom: 4x

Inbuilt microphone: Yes

Autofocus: No

Privacy cover: No

Connection: USB-A

Key features

(Image credit: Alistair Charlton/Digital Camera World)

There’s not a great deal to say here, as the 720p resolution, compact size and adjustable monitor mount are all fairly unremarkable. But for $20 / £20 that’s all you really want, isn’t it?

We really like the LifeCam’s compact size, and it truly is a plug-and-play device, with no software, drivers or setup required at all. It even plugs straight into a Mac and starts working right away with video conferencing apps like Zoom and Skype.

Build and handling

(Image credit: Alistair Charlton/Digital Camera World)

We were at first a bit confused by the flexible rubber stand of the LifeCam, but after a few minutes we realized it makes perfect sense. The stand still grips to the top of almost any monitor like those of all other webcams. But it can also act as a foot, so the webcam can be sat on a desk or shelf too.

Furthermore, the stand offers left/right panning adjustment, which is something we very rarely see from any other webcams. Usually, it’s a case of turning your monitor to get the right angle, but here you just turn the camera itself.

There isn’t any vertical adjustment as such, but the rubber mount is flexible enough to allow for some up/down movement while still gripping securely onto your monitor.

Microsoft hasn’t fitted the LifeCam with a privacy shutter, which is fair enough given the compact size and very low price. Those who have privacy concerns about a webcam staring at them can always move it away from their monitor when not on a video call. 

The camera comes with a 1.5m USB-A cable that is hard-wired into its rear. This should be long enough for most users, but it’s worth bearing in mind that a longer cable cannot be connected instead, due to it being permanently attached.

Performance

(Image credit: Alistair Charlton/Digital Camera World)

It is important to understand the technical limitations of this webcam before expecting too much of it. If you don’t care for Full HD, HDR and precisely-controlled whit balance, then this webcam will fit your needs just fine. The 720p resolution is still HD, and is arguably all you really need, since the video seen by your audience is always compressed by whichever video conferencing app you use.

A 1080p Full HD webcam will always look better, and a 4K webcam (opens in new tab) gives you the ability to zoom in without dipping below Full HD. But if you only need a webcam to briefly log into a once-weekly meeting, or to have the occasional catch-up with a far-flung relative, then the LifeCam is perfectly acceptable.

All of that said, we were actually pleasantly surprised by the performance of the LifeCam. Our face was correctly exposed despite a bright window behind us, with the webcam’s automatic light compensation doing its job well.

Microsoft’s own LifeCam software can be used to make adjustments to the brightness and digital zoom, while Mac users can tweak these parameters using a free app like Webcam Settings. The integrated microphone is perfectly acceptable, but buyers might want to use their own USB microphone (opens in new tab) if audio quality is more important to them than video.

Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000: Verdict

(Image credit: Alistair Charlton/Digital Camera World)

If you are on a limited budget, or only need a webcam for a few minutes’ video calling each week, the Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 is a decent option. Yes, it’s seriously old in consumer technology terms, but it still does the job and is very easy to use. It is also compact, with a stand that actually offers more adjustability than those of some webcams costing five or ten times the price.

There are no bells and whistles, but that is entirely the point. Simply plug the webcam into your computer, attach it to the top of the monitor, and join a call with higher video quality than what your laptop is probably capable of.

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Alistair has been a journalist since 2011 and used to be Deputy Technology Editor at IBTimes  in London. His specialist tech subjects include smart home gadgets, phones, wearables, tablets and dashcams. He is the host of  The AutoChat Podcast.