The ultimate guide to choosing the best webcam
You can dress up for your next Zoom meeting as much as you want, but if you’re using your laptop’s tiny webcam, you’ll likely still look hazy or out of focus. Especially if you regularly work from home, you probably need something a little better. If you’re new to webcams, the vast array of options can be overwhelming. Let’s go over the types of features you need in a webcam and some of the best options available.
What to know before buying a webcam
Before buying a new webcam, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind, starting with:
When it comes to cameras, pixels and resolution matter a lot. That’s why your laptop’s built-in camera looks pixelated. When buying a new camera, 1080p is the benchmark. Don’t buy a 720p camera.
If you can afford it, go for a 4K webcam. This will help you frame and crop better (if you plan to use the webcam to record videos for YouTube).
Frame rate means the smoothness of the video. A 30 the fps video is quite good, but a 60 The fps camera will give you better and more natural video.
Again, the bigger the goal, the better. A larger lens means more light hits the sensor, making you look better. This is called aperture size, and it is measured in f/(number) format. Most webcams are in the f/2.0 to f/2.8 range, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Field of view
The lens also determines the field of view. This indicates the area captured by the video. A wide field of view will capture much more of the room. Webcams generally have a field of view between 60 and 90 degrees, and 78 degrees is the most common.
Most inexpensive webcams you’ll find on Amazon are fixed-focus. This means that if you move your face or raise your hand to show something, it won’t automatically change the focus. We recommend using a webcam with autofocus for the best experience – most webcams these days offer this feature.
Some budget cameras have microphones, but you don’t need them. It’s best to use your headset’s microphone. Many high-end cameras, like the Dell Ultrasharp webcam, no longer have microphones.
Can we get by without a webcam?
If you can’t find a webcam (due to supply chain issues) or just don’t want to spend $50-100, it may be better to use your smartphone than buy a cheap webcam unbranded online.
Although it may seem like a logistical problem, using your smartphone as a webcam is quite simple. You can use free software available for both iPhone and android smartphones to connect your phone’s camera as a webcam for any video call application on your computer. You can even turn your DSLR camera in a webcam.
It’s a good solution in a pinch, but if you make frequent video calls, a real webcam will serve you better. Here are our picks.
Logitech is a well-known brand in the webcam industry, and the StreamCam is the culmination of decades of development. This is a square 1080p webcam specially designed for the YouTube generation.
Even at default settings, it’s great for recording video interviews and podcasts. Moreover, it shoots 1080p video at 60 fps, giving you smoother and more natural videos. Due to its unique shape, you can also use it to make portrait videos (for TikTok or Instagram).
StreamCam has a very versatile mounting system and comes with a tripod.
If you’re looking for a good camera under $50, try the Nexigo N60. At $40, it’s a basic webcam whose fundamentals are clear. It’s a 1080p webcam that records at 30 fps. But where Nexigo shines is its software. Although the camera is basic, the software gets pretty good video quality out of it.
There are a few downsides: the 110-degree viewing angle is too wide and zooming in doesn’t help. Low-light performance is decent at best, and getting good results requires a lot of tweaking in the software. But for only $40, it’s a good buy.
The Original C920 webcam was released in 2012. This series of webcams have been performing well for 10 years, and we are still confident in recommending it for your home setup. The reason is simple: it’s an absolute workhorse – you’ll find this camera in virtually any office conference room. It doesn’t have the best image quality (the StreamCam will eat it for breakfast), but what it does have is reliability and customizability.
The 1080p webcam will record at 30 fps, 78 degrees field of view and with autofocus. Once set up, use Logitech software to adjust brightness and contrast, and you’re good to go.
Razer, the company behind Baller RGB gaming components, makes a really good webcam for under $100. Razer’s Kiyo X is a polished version of their previous Kiyo webcam. They added the X and dropped the microphone and ring light. But the webcam is still good at what it does, which is image quality.
You get 1080p video at 30 fps or 720p video at 60 ips. It has autofocus and a versatile mounting system. Where Razer wins is in its customization and video settings.
Razer is good at white balancing and exposure on its own – give it just enough light.
If you have the cash to spend and are looking for the best video quality, go with the $200 Dell Ultrasharp camera. The 4K camera lets you shoot high-quality video right on your computer, and it lets you zoom in on your face with less degradation than a 1080p camera. It also supports 1080p at 60 or 30 fps if you don’t have the bandwidth to stream 4K video.
The camera doesn’t have a microphone, but as we mentioned above, you don’t really need one. What the camera has is customizable software that helps you adjust video quality and lets you use presets.