Opal has good functions that are worthy to be reviewed. Seeing the camera in action was more persuasive than any answer I heard.
The C1 hopes to deliver DSLR-like image quality (with plenty of bokeh) for a fraction of the price of a decent camera-turned-webcam, without the dongles and other hassles.
Kenny Sweet, creator of the charming but mistaken Google Clips camera, among other popular tech items, designed the C1.
This ID comes through, but it nearly appears as if Essential made it. The C1 comes in white or black and has a matte paint finish with glossy speckles that only show up under specific circumstances.
What Are Its Features?
The C1 has a light that indicates when the camera is active. The webcam has dual mics on the front and a noise-cancelling microphone on the back.
My voice is as clear as my MacBook Pro’s built-in microphone, but with the C1, it has more resonance and depth.
Even though the noise cancellation effects weren’t fantastic, I was able to pull my voice out of the noise when I was recording a sample.
The rear resembles a heatsink for an M.2 SSD in a custom PC, and it does help dissipate heat (in addition to looking rad). It also has a USB-C port.
What About Its Webcam?
Opal’s webcam comes with a strong attachment for a monitor or MacBook lid, but it can also attach to any 14-20 tripod mount.
The C1 has a Sony IMX378 sensor (used in Google’s first Pixel smartphone released in 2016) and an f/1.8 lens to capture 4K video at 30 frames per second.
Because Opal warns that 4K can break videoconferencing apps, it defaults to 1080p at 30fps.
The higher resolution is optional and can be used for streaming or recording. The C1 cannot record at 60 frames per second, but it performed better in video conversations than other webcams I had on hand, such as Elgato’s $199.99 Facecam.
What About Its Sound Quality?
Opal’s pitch for the C1 now sounds more like a phone than a webcam. Many of the greatest smartphone cameras rely on software to function.
Opal, like the top phone makers, is focusing on the software side of the C1’s performance, not simply the specifications.
The C1’s automated settings make me look better than any webcam I’ve used thus far.
The default settings also outperform my Olympus E-M10 Mark II mirrorless camera.
It would have been a tighter race if I had spent more time adjusting my camera’s settings, a talent I regretfully lack. That’s the C1’s huge edge.
Verge readers who own current flagship phones know how powerful software can be in improving photo quality.
But it’s not just software. The C1 has an Intel Myriad X chip inside that powers the macOS app’s features, which are a combination of what you’d expect from a webcam plus some unusual enhancements.
The software is presently in beta and Opal promises it will be expanded in the future.
My workstation is set up so that I am backlit by windows, which makes it difficult for cameras and DSLRs to properly light me and make my skin look natural.
But I was willing to let the C1 decide what was right because it always made me seem nice.
The macOS app’s settings include focus locking at various distances, brightness, exposure, saturation, contrast, vibrance, and white balance.
The app’s bokeh slider can add artificial blur to your background. Despite minor halo effects reminiscent of phone portrait modes, the finished result is easily mistaken for the actual thing, especially when viewed during a streaming video conversation.
It Also Has A Bokeh Effect!
To create a more believable Bokeh effect, Opal claims their webcam has its own “graphic rendering pipeline.
Opal, like many phone makers, developed a software solution to this hardware issue to overcome the limitations of these tiny lenses.
The C1’s fake blurred background is significantly more convincing than Zoom’s, but it doesn’t provide the same level of privacy – it’s still easy to see what’s in the background behind you.
It’s more like Apple’s new Portrait Mode in macOS.
Face Lock is an optional feature that works like Apple’s Center Stage on the iPad Pro.
With high settings, it nearly seems to predict your movements instead of reacting to them.
On high, it can look hazy and distracting (see video below), so I expect most people will want to leave it on low to medium for a more subtle tracking effect.
Another feature I appreciated about the C1 was that any adjustments I made to the camera’s settings were automatically updated, even when it was in Zoom.
Many of these functions aren’t new, but the company has bigger plans for its Intel chip and software.
The Gesture Recognition Would Amaze You!
Gesture recognition is an ambitious idea. Opal will allow users to cancel video calls by making a peace sign or zooming in on their photo by pinching in the front of the C1.
The company is also testing an update that will employ machine learning and neural networks on the Intel processor to improve your appearance and sound.
It intends to create a feature called Studio Sound that uses a neural network to increase speech quality to match a specialised podcast-grade microphone.
It also wants to use the C1’s software and hardware to grade your call conduct, such as how much eye contact you made or how effectively you avoided filler words like “us” and “uhs”.
Opal didn’t give a date for these ideas or say whether they’d be opt-in, but they’d take the C1 far beyond existing webcams’ capabilities.
Limitations And Promises?
We’ll have to see if Opal can deliver on any of these promises, but for now, it’s a plausible DSLR substitute.
It’s easier to use and handle than my big camera or even a smartphone as a webcam
No batteries, no space limits, no various cords and dongles, no driver issues.
The C1’s main deterrent is its $299.99 price.
If you work from home and appreciate having a great picture in videoconferencing programmes, this may be worth it – especially if you’ve considered buying a costly DSLR.