I love FaceTime and use it a lot, especially on my iOS devices. When I’m in front of my MacBook Pro however I don’t switch to my iPhone or iPad to make or answer FaceTime calls. Why would I?
I guess I never paid too much attention to the video quality but a couple of weeks ago I noticed that the picture (or video I should say) of the FaceTime camera built into my MacBook Pro with Retina Display sucks, to be blunt.
So I started googling to see if this is an issue other people are having as well and I came across this thread on the Apple Support Forum, basically confirming that MacBook Pro’s with Retina displays are equipped with cameras producing low quality video.
I compared the video with that of my wife’s regular MacBook Pro and noticed her video looks better. So I called AppleCare but they just referred me to the Genius Bar at my local Apple Store. So I made an appointment and the grey-haired Genius at the Apple Store at Northpoint Mall, Alpharetta, GA (not to mention any names) grabbed his 13″ MacBook Pro and asked me to compare the video quality. The video on his machine looked much better than on mine and that’s what I told him. He acknowledged the difference in quality and took me over to one of the 15″ MacBook Pro’s with Retina Display they had in the store. He asked me to compare again. I did and pointed out, that the video looked just as bad on the store model. He acknowledged again and looked at me as if he didn’t understand what my concern was.
So I asked him how it could be that my $3.5k machine produces significantly worse video than an iPhone, iPad or any other (non-Retina) MacBook Pro.
His response, in a tone that led me to believe he couldn’t care less about my concern: “Well, this (the one Apple puts into MacBook Pro’s with Retina Display) is a low quality camera”. So I asked if he thought it was OK for a $50 Logitech webcam to produce sharper images than the camera in the most expensive MacBook Pro Apple has ever built. He confirmed.
This is contrary to what Apple promotes on its FaceTime webpage:
Say “hi” in high definition.
Your FaceTime calls are getting the HD treatment. Now FaceTime for Mac supports video calls up to 720p. All you need is an iMac, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air with a built-in FaceTime HD camera, and your calls display with next-best-thing-to-real-life clarity. The FaceTime HD camera also supports a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, so Mom, Dad, Grandma, your best friend, and even the dog can gather around for a video call.
This is how it really looks – or better yet, that’s how I look when I’m mad through a crappy FaceTime camera.
You see the difference? I logged a complaint with AppleCare and they urged me to go back to an Apple Store, which I will do. I don’t expect an immediate solution but I would really like to see how Apple intends to fix this problem, one way or the other.
Update: Went back to the Apple Store today to sign up for Joint Venture, Apple’s business program. I took the opportunity to bring up the FaceTime issue again, since I figured I had some leverage now. The Join Venture lead, store manager and a genius looked at my sample pictures and at a live demo on my rMBP and then concluded that swapping the whole system against a brand new model was the best course of action. Of course I didn’t object! Thanks Apple for keeping me a happy customer!
And here is a screenshot of FaceTime with the new camera in my new MacBook Pro with Retina Display – quite a difference!