Poly Studio P15 – The best webcam money can buy
Full disclaimer: The Poly Studio P15 Personal video bar was loaned to me as a review unit.
I recently wrote up a video quality comparison between the Logitech C922 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro that I also use via an OBS setup as my webcam. Since then, a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to test a proper professional webcam. That’s how I managed to get to test the Poly Studio P15 Personal video bar. And wow, what a webcam it turned out to be.
The Poly Studio P15 is not your typical webcam
When I received the unit, my first impression was how large the box was. I knew it was not small from the photos I saw online. But even then, the size of the Poly Studio P15 is still larger that my expectation. To give you an idea, the video bar is roughly the length from the tips of my hands to my elbow.
It comes in a simple box and inside, you will find the power brick, USB Type-C cable and the mount for the video bar.
Yes. It needs its own power source. Like I said, this is not your typical webcam, but some serious professional grade hardware. Below, you can see all the sides of the video bar. As you can see from the photo of the Poly Studio P15 below, the video camera unit is large for a webcam. Later you can see how tiny the Logitech C922 Pro is in comparison with the P15.
The bottom of the P15 is where you connect the power and USB-C cable to use the P15 video bar. There are also two USB-A ports where you can connect any other devices to the P15.
Mounting the P15 is pretty straightforward. Just attach the mount and set it on your monitor. That’s it. The mount itself feels well constructed and solid. Take note that it uses the standard camera tripod screw mount. So if you already have a boom arm or tripod attached to your desk, you can use it with the Poly Studio P15 as well and have better flexibility in positioning the video bar. You just need to make sure it can hold up the weight of the P15, which is roughly at 1.5kgs.
Check out how tiny the Logitech C922 Pro webcam is compared to the Poly Studio P15. It makes the C922 look like a toy!
As you can see from the photos below, the P15 is meant to be used with an external monitor. It is much wider than a 13″ MacBook Pro and would probably look rather ridiculous when used with a laptop. With the P15 needing to be powered using a power brick, this is not a webcam you can use on the go.
The P15 is the Ferrari of webcams
Let’s take a look inside the Poly Studio P15 using the image I found at Poly’s website and also some photos I took after removing the fabric cover from the video bar.
You can see that it comes with a rather large speaker. It should sound better than most built-in laptop speakers. However, since the P15 is meant to be used at your desk, you might have better speakers which will likely sound better. To me the speaker sounds decent, but lack any bass or warmth as compared to my Edifier bookshelf speaker. I was expecting better sound considering its price point and also the air channel at the back of the speaker. But perhaps that is really just to reduce any echo being picked up by the array of mics.
The P15 is equipped with a 3-element beamforming microphone array to pick up your voice. Most of the clarity and audio quality comes from the sound processing that’s built into the P15 hardware and software. Poly includes 3 key technology (Poly Acoustic Clarity, NoiseBlockAI and Acoustic Fence) that provides you with some serious echo cancellation and noise suppression without you needing to do anything. When using the Poly Studio P15 for my web meetings, my voice came through loud and clear, despite my typing on my rather loud mechanical keyboard and the audio being played out on external speakers.
The camera unit is the largest one I’ve personally seen used as a web conferencing camera. It uses an image sensor that is able to produce up to 4K resolution video streams at 30 frames per second with a 90° FOV. It also comes with a built in privacy lens cover which is rather nifty to use. When the lens is covered, the camera is also automatically disabled.
Using the Poly Studio P15
The camera works immediately out of the box as soon as I plugged in the USB type-C cable to my MacBook. No additional software was required for Zoom to recognise the camera. But to get the full potential of the Poly Studio P15, I highly recommend downloading the Poly Lens App. The Lens app also have some interesting wellness features like playing soothing soundscapes and hydration reminders.
The Poly Lens app gives you all the controls you need to control the video stream of the Poly Studio P15. You can control the video colour and quality as well as the framing of the camera with the app. With the app, you can configure multiple favourites of the settings for various configurations. For example, the screenshot below is one where I configured the camera to have a fixed framing with my green screen filling up my entire background. As you can see here, even with the digital zoom, the quality of the image is still sharp. The 4K raw resolution of the camera really shines here.
When you use the camera, you are not really able to control the resolution that you get out of the camera. In my test, it generally just sends out a 1080p video stream, even when the camera pans out to its full frame. But when using OBS, I can also see all the resolutions that Poly Studio P15 supports.
The Poly Lens app also allows you to control the settings of the microphone and noise cancelation tech. The Poly Acoustic Fence settings is to set how wide the P15 should pick up audio from. If you are using it just for yourself on the call, you can set it to Narrow so that any other voice or sound beside you would not be picked up. When getting on a call with a few person beside you, you can then choose to set it to Medium or Wide so that everyone can be heard clearly on the call. You can also enable (or disable) the Poly NoiseBlockAI. However, I don’t really see any reason to turn this off as it performs really well in my brief test.
The best webcam image quality I’ve seen
At the risk of sounding like a sponsored ad (I assure you I’m not paid to say this), the Poly Studio P15 really is the best webcam I’ve tested thus far. The only better comparison is using a full-on video camera, DSLR or a recent iPhone as a webcam.
Daytime image quality
During the day, the video colour balance is very consistent even when I just rely on natural lighting, or when I switched on my LED fill light.
Nighttime image quality with light only from the monitor
During the night with only light coming from the monitor, you can see that the colour is still pretty well balanced. However, it is not as sharp when compared to the image quality during the day.
Nighttime image quality with fill light source
With the additional light source from my LED fill light, you can see that the lighting of the video is quite consistent with the previous image where there is only light from my monitor. But this time, the green screen behind me is better lit. However, it is still not as sharp when compared to the image quality during the day.
The auto-panning feature is really cool!
The recent announcement of the new Apple iPad Pro includes a pretty cool AI-based auto panning to frame you in the video stream. And when there are more people coming into view, the camera auto zooms and pans itself to frame everyone in the video. The Poly Studio P15 does exactly the same thing as well. Here’s a video of my testing the feature out. I simple used my own selfie on an iPad to represent person #2 in the video. 😄 But you can see the P15 performs the auto-panning feature.
There are some settings you can set to control how this feature works. I find that setting the tracking speed to fast works best. Otherwise, it takes a while before the P15 pans out to get the other person into the frame. You can of course turn this feature off as well if you find this feature disorienting.
Should you get one?
If budget is not a concern, I would say yes. The Poly Studio P15 comes at a recommended retail price of US$599 and is listed on Amazon slightly cheaper as I am writing this post. It does not seem to be officially available yet (at least not on Poly’s SG site) here in Singapore. But a google search seems to point to some local online stores listing it at SGD$1,198.
As you can see, this is not a cheap webcam. You can buy 3x Logitech C922 Pro with change to spare. But as you can see, the quality of the Poly Studio P15 is far beyond what the Logitech C922 can achieve. The performance of the camera is so consistent that I do not need to worry how I look at the other end of my web conferencing call. If I’m to be absolutely honest, I am really tempted to get one myself, but at the moment, it is really out of my budget.
In some ways, this experience brings me to want to try out Logitech’s Brio 4K webcam and see how it performs. At about 1/3 the price of this Poly Studio P15, can the Brio 4K webcam perform as well as the P15? Or would it still be a class or two lower than the P15.
All in all, the Poly Studio P15 is a real beast of a webcam. If not for the high price, it would have scored a perfect 5/5 stars. But like I said, if budget is not a constraint, the P15 is everything you will ever need from a webcam, and more.
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