Gadget hands-on review: Obsbot Tiny 4K webcam

Up and down, side to side, zoom in and out – if you need to move during calls or online presentations, this compact camera will track your movements in crisp quality video.

For years, as a tech reporter, I joked, “Thank goodness video calls haven’t taken off” alongside “I have a face for radio.” Then came Covid and the rise of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. Those of us who had never used our laptops’ built-in cameras much suddenly caught them…and realized they weren’t very good.

Enter: a range of webcams designed to perch at the top of your screen. They offer better specs than the built-in camera, and they connect via plug-and-play USB, so camera footage simply appears in the same place as your built-in camera. You can even easily switch between cameras. The only challenge then is deciding which external webcam to buy.

This innovative webcam is a new 4K version of the Obsbot Tiny, an integrated camera on a gimbal, with gesture control. The dual-axis gimbal provides smooth filmic movement, and the camera uses AI to track you as you move. The technical term is a PTZ webcam: it pans, tilts and zooms to follow you everywhere. Hop up and down like a comedian and the camera follows. You can make your Zoom presentations more interesting, give your YouTube videos a professional touch, or look more dynamic when leading an online yoga class.

Gesture control means you can create an L shape with your hand to zoom in and out. You can also hold an open palm next to your face to lock or unlock you as a target – setting whether the Obsbot Tiny 4K follows you or not. It works like those smart smartphones that take the picture when you smile.

Video quality is a crisp 4K, which is the big improvement over its predecessor, and the camera base has two omnidirectional microphones with noise reduction.

Image Credit: Obsbot Tiny 4K in use

Unboxed, the camera comes in a neat carrying case that will come in handy when using your laptop on the go. And it comes with two cables. There’s USB (C to C, but there’s an adapter to convert to current A) and also a separate USB power cable. Basically plug it into a USB 3.0 port and you only need one cable, but if your laptop has a USB 2.0 port you might need the second cable to plug it into a second USB port for additional power. The base of the camera is magnetic and attaches to a stand that sits comfortably on top of a laptop or flat screen. The camera base is also threaded for use on a tripod.

It has an 86° field of view, can pan over 150° and tilt 45°. You control the zoom level (up to 4x) and whether or not to use HDR for better contrast. Small lights on the front of the camera base indicate what mode it’s in and whether it’s locked to a subject. Privacy mode is a nice feature: use your hand to point the camera straight down and both video and audio are muted, with the lights dimming to confirm this.

When plugged into USB, my Windows 11 laptop immediately recognized the camera and it showed up in the Camera app as well as software like Zoom. The button to swap cameras (the one that makes it look like you’re switching from the front camera to the rear camera) lets you switch between your camera options.

The picture and sound quality were superb. The image is of course better in bright light than in low light. Zooming was simple. Hold your hand in an L shape next to your face and the camera zooms in or out. It automatically zooms 2x, the gesture just switches between zoom in and zoom out. But in the settings, which you find in the Obsbot app which is installed automatically, go to Gesture Control-Zoom Setting and you can select the preset zoom level, up to 4x. After testing them all and seeing my skin at 4x zoom in high definition, I would say 2x is enough. Don’t forget: face for the radio. The app also allows you to manually control the gimbal. One could almost imagine using it for the cinema.

To select whether the camera follows you or is static, the gesture raises an open palm next to your face. It works well enough but isn’t recognized as consistently as the L. The green lights on the front of the camera base turn blue to indicate it’s noticed one or the other gesture.


Obsbot Tiny 4K with Laptop

Image credit: Obsbot

There’s no visual indicator on the camera to tell you if you’ve zoomed in or zoomed out. Looking at your mug on screen works of course, but if you’re sharing the screen of a presentation and you can’t see your own face, you don’t know for sure what your zoom level is. But the green lights under the camera indicate whether or not it tracks your movements. If you have a wide bar of three green lights, it follows you. If you have a narrow bar of a single green light in the middle, it’s not. It’s useful, because moving your head just to see if it looks awkward.

Tracking is smooth and not too fast. And it uses two axes, so when you get up from your chair and step back, it looks at you and follows you side by side. The microphone always picks up what you say. It picks up your speech anywhere in the room but does not pick up surrounding noise. The train passing at the bottom of my garden (back door open) barely registered and when my doorbell rang it didn’t pick up much of what I said there.

The only annoying thing is that the Obsbot is quite heavy sitting on your screen. If you’re working at a desk, that’s not a problem until you change the screen tilt. But work with the laptop on your lap and it moves quite a bit as you type… enough for the camera to tilt.

If you don’t mind it being a bit bulkier than your average webcam, the Obsbot Tiny 4K is a great buy for anyone who likes to move around while video calling.

£205 obsbot.com

Alternatives

Tiny Obsbot

Spend around £25 less if you’re happy with Full HD 1080p video quality instead of 4K with HDR. You get a 90° field of view camera with AI tracking, pan, zoom, tilt and gesture control. But we’d say it’s worth paying the extra for better video quality.

£179 obsbot.com

Logitech BCC950

Logitech makes high-end PTZ webcams for the meeting room that cost five times as much. This original alternative is a motorized 1080p camera with a remote control but no automatic tracking. You manually control the camera. It has a 78° field of view, can pan over 180° and tilt 55°.

£219 logitech.com

j5create 360° panoramic webcam

Another innovative design with a meeting room in mind. The 1080p camera can be tilted back to face the ceiling, at which point its ultra-wide-angle lens can give a 360° view, putting everyone around the table on screen at the same time.

£105 j5create.com

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