Most laptops and a few monitors have cameras built in for video chat. But if your PC has none or you want better quality, you’ll need a standalone webcam. Here are six of the best…
Like phone cameras, webcams now go up to 4K resolution. Unless you’re an agent of SPECTRE, the person you’re talking to probably Isn’t watching you on a massive screen. So, that’s far more pixels than you need. In fact. It would generally be daft to try to transmit in 4K. You’re better off using the available bandwidth to get a smooth frame rate in 1080p Full HD. With a quarter of the data per frame.
Even 720p HD cameras can produce an adequate feed. But, higher resolution gives you the option of zooming in: webcams, don’t have real zoom lenses. So, you’ll Just be magnifying the pixels. Remember, picture quality depends on more factors than resolution, including the camera’s exposure. (making sure the image isn’t too bright or dark). How well it copes with dim light or bright sunlight. Whether color looks natural. And whether it can autofocus on your face or relies on fixed focus to keep anything more. Than a foot or so from the screen looking sharp.
Sound quality also matters, and more than one microphone, in a stereo or ‘array’ setup. will help. Also, check what mounting options are provided: Do you want to dip your cam to a laptop or monitor. Stand it on your desk. Or use a tripod mount to attach it to an existing accessory?
Finally, while some models have an LED light to show the camera. Is watching you. a few have a shutter to make sure it isn’t.
£54 from Amazon Logitech, C920 HD Pro Webcam
Logitech C920 HD Pro
This is very popular with demanding users, and It’s obvious why. The 1080p feed Is generated by a proper glass lens and a good-quality sensor. That records each pixel more accurately giving real detail
that makes the image crisp and clear even In low light. Autofocus locks on to your face to keep it sharp. Dual mics produce excellent sound. and the versatile stand has a metal tripod screw for accessories. Thu can also get the C920s (£85). Which adds a clip-on privacy shutter, and the C922 (£77,or £130 with tripod). An update that tweaks the original’s white balance, which sometimes looks too blue but can be changed manually
£47 from Amazon Microsoft LifeCam Cinema Webcam – Black/Silver
Microsoft LifeCam Cinema
With a barrel-shaped case similar to Apple’s 2003 iSight, this is a distinctive webcam that prioritises everything but resolution. There’s a glass lens, auto-focus and Microsoft’s Tricolor processing. Which detects your face and adjusts exposure and white balance to render it as clearly and naturally as possible. Whatever, the lighting It can also zoom automatically to keep you in the center of the fram. Although more pixels would have helped with this. The LifeCam Cinema’s compromise Is that It’s only 720p. Even so. we were impressed by the picture quality and sound was better than average too. The LifeCam Studio (£58) upgrades the resolution to 1080p.
£31 from Amazon AUKEY 1080p Full HD Webcam
Aukey Webcam 1080p
This is a good example of an all-round webcam at a decent price. It’s clearly inspired by big-brand designs like Logitech’s C920 HD Pro (see above), with some compromises. Focus is fixed, giving the best results at 0.3 to 0.5 meters accounting to the manufacturer. We found it sharpest a bit further away. The simple hinged mount can be laid over a laptop or thinnish monitor, or stood up. The stereo microphones don’t have noise reduction, but we were happy with the crisp and clear sound. As for the picture. Color looked natural and it coped well with low light. But we didn’t find the 1080p resolution produced a better image overall than Microsoft’s 720p LifeCam Cinema (above).
£89 from Amazon Razer Kiyo 1080p
If you find others can’t see you clearly on your webcam. Because It’s too dark one answer would be to turn some lights on. But if you prefer to get the full effect of your LED-Ill PC and accessories. Or your room lighting just isn’t wry good, the Kiyo’s adjustable white ring light is a very effective solution. Casting even and flattering illumination. The camera has a chunky mount with tripod screw and shoots at 1080p/30fps or 72op/6ofps. Our only complaint Is that the mic is a bit quiet. A separate condenser mic, to maximize quality and minimize background noise. Is available for £110 – or just £67 if you don’t mind it being pink (Razer RZ19-02290400-R3M1 Seiren X).
£149 from Amazon Logitech Brio Gaming Webcam 4K Streaming
Logitech Brio 4K
Sold as a ‘gaming webcam’. This is aimed at video bloggers and supports both 4K resolution and 6 fps, to match fast-paced video games. In reality, you’d need a top-end PC and very fast broadband to stream at the highest supported quality. And only viewers with similar would get the full benefit. You could also use it for recordings. If you have a modern smartphone with a good camera. Using it with a tripod mount would give equally Impressive results. But, the Brio does work well, with better color balance and exposure than the C920, Including HDR for tricky lighting. It also enables Windows Hello facial-recognition login for your PC.
£16 from Amazon Logitech C270 HD Webcam
Logitech C270 HD
It’s a pleasant surprise that you can get anything decent for this price. But, the C270 has been around for years and remains a usable budget choice. The mount has a longer neck than Aukey’s, accommodating thicker screens or standing taller on a surface. And, the 720p picture is nice and clear even in fairly dim light, thanks to Logitech’s RightLight processing. The single tole cuts background noise a bit, but sound quality Isn’t a strong point. Logitech’s software (for Windows only).. Adds the same features as with its pricer cams, letting you zoom and pan the fixed-focus image. But with less resolution to play with, this loses some clarity.