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Jabra PanaCast 20: Overriding Intelligence: Page 2 of 3

The PanaCast 20 is an impressive webcam, but you may need to ditch its AI features to achieve optimum results. By Matt Whitlock

First Experience

Firing up the Windows Camera app, I prepared to revel in the beauty of my glorious mug in pristine clarity and ... wait, what? The field of view is enormous. I could practically see the entire room behind me as I sat like a background fixture in my chair. The image quality itself was also not blowing rainbows into my eyeballs, being dark, yellow/reddish, and slightly noisy.

Going through a serious Charlie Brown moment I asked myself, “Is this it? Where’s the great picture? Where’s the artificial intelligence! Everything I review turns into a disaster! I guess I don’t know what AI-powered webcams are all about. Is there anyone who understands what AI-powered webcams are all about?!” Unfortunately, Linus was nowhere to be found, which meant more experimentation.

It’s certified for Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Skype for Business, so the next step was to try one of those. Sure enough, firing up a new Zoom meeting and switching to the PanaCast 20 showed me, in frame, in my chair (pictured right). The picture quality still wasn’t amazing, but at least the focus was on me. And then I leaned right … and it followed me (cool!). I leaned left, and it followed me again (still cool!). This must be that whole AI thing Jabra was talking about.

Does that mean it only works properly in Zoom and Teams? No, it turns out. When forced to operate at 4K resolution the AI engine doesn’t have the spare pixels to digitally zoom and pan. After returning to the Windows Camera app and changing the camera resolution to 720p or 1080p, it worked as expected.

Intelligent Zoom

The AI-powered Intelligent Zoom feature is what sets the PanaCast 20 apart. It’s designed to utilize the camera’s 4K sensor to digitally zoom and pan around to keep the subject in frame. It’s powered via a chip in the camera itself, so no CPU resources or software are required to work correctly, which is awesome. It’s also why the webcam gets very hot when in use.

The AI engine does a good job keeping the subject in frame overall, automatically making digital zoom and tilt adjustments as the subject moves. It hesitates making changes until the subject reaches certain thresholds in the frame, which makes some sense. It would be annoying and distracting in meetings if everyone’s camera was in full Michael Bay mode, but it does mean the subject may not always be centered.

It works well most of the time. If I had to nitpick, the zoom level it chooses isn’t always consistent. It would be great if there was a setting to influence the AI to favor how much of the frame should be background versus subject.

Audio and Video

For an AI-powered camera that’s supposed to optimize the image in real time, the PanaCast 20 leaves a lot to be desired. That’s where the Jabra Direct software goes from being optional to necessary.

The software provides a settings area to set the Intelligent Zoom feature on or off by default, adjust the field of view and flicker, and toggle for the internal microphone. If I changed the field of view to anything other than 90 degrees, the Intelligent Zoom feature wouldn’t work.

You’ll want to have the camera controller handy during use. It allows you to enable/disable the Intelligent Zoom to set the framing manually. There’s also a built-in Picture-in-Picture mode that allows you to zoom in on a particular area while keeping the subject in frame in the corner, which would be useful for demonstrating physical products, for example.

About the Author

Matt Whitlock's picture

Matt Whitlock is online director and technical editor for ChannelProSMB.com.

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