How to choose the best webcam
There are so many webcams out there that it’s hard to know which one and what specs will get you the best with the least amount of effort. Here are four that I’m really loving right now, with important shopping lessons that each embodies.
the Dell UltraSharp is a new entry from a company known primarily for computers. The build quality of this sleek barrel camera is wonderful, as are its magnetic mount adapters and lens cap. Not so wonderful is its lack of internal microphone or Mac compatibility, but the latter isn’t too surprising from a major Windows PC maker.
The UltraSharp is a 4K camera with an 8.3 megapixel sensor, 5x digital zoom and a field of view ranging from 65 to 90 degrees. The premise isn’t so much about moving cinematic detail to the other end of your Zoom call, but rather automatically panning through the 4K image to keep you properly framed as you move around. It works really well and is the smartest use of 4K in a webcam, rather than going for the ultimate resolution that most telepresence platforms can’t transmit anyway.
the Tiny Obsbot comes in both HD and 4K variants, but I find the HD version sufficient, as it uses a small motorized gimbal camera to physically pan, tilt, and zoom rather than doing it digitally in the pixels of 4K resolution. Most of us don’t move much once we start a video session, so consider this camera’s banner feature essential only if you were looking for it. Auto pan and tilt relies on clever image processing which isn’t smart enough, in my experience, clipping the top of my head with some regularity. Luckily, the camera app makes it quick to fix any framing flaws.
The Obsbot Tiny also supports a rudimentary set of two-handed gestures to center it on your face or to zoom in and out. But you’ll probably only use these gestures before a conference call starts, otherwise the host will think you have a question all the time. As with most gesture control cases, that’s no reason to buy this camera, but its motorized head and generally excellent color and light capture are.
the Logitech Brio became something of a COVID icon – hard to find and obscenely marked up – as millions started “zooming in” and wanted to grab a flagship camera from a hugely popular brand. The Brio is still a good camera with 4K resolution and a 13-megapixel sensor, but I find it lags a bit behind the other cameras on this list in terms of focus sharpness, its ability to even out the wonky lighting and its list price of $165.
Read our Logitech Brio 4K Pro webcam preview.
the Anker PowerConf C300 is proof that you can spend a lot closer to $100 than $200 and get a great webcam. For its $100 list price, you won’t get 4K resolution or a robotic gimbal head, but you’ll get excellent light handling and focus. And it has the best privacy cover of the bunch: a simple slider that you can’t lose and that’s so easy to move it won’t hit your camera lens when you open or close it.
The C300’s street price is often under $100, which makes its very good image processing all the more reason not to sweat its lack of 4K, cutting-edge gadgets or stunning design.
The camera in your laptop lid or tablet frame probably doesn’t do you justice in a world where showing up clearly and naturally on the other end is essential to being fully heard and seen.