Webcam Buying Tips: 5 Things You Must Know
While lots of laptops have a built-in webcam, many desktop computers don’t. If you’re video calling with family members and loved ones living overseas or meeting virtually with remote or international co-workers, you’ll want a decent webcam. When it comes to webcam buying tips, the best thing you can do is keep an eye out for quality. Our buyer’s guide explains the five things to keep in mind when you’re looking for one.
1) Picture Resolution
For a decent picture quality, go for a webcam with a high resolution. Low-resolution webcams create grainy and sometimes even blurry images. Resolution is typically determined by the number of pixels (aka tiny dots of colour) in the image.
We’d suggest choosing a webcam with 640 x 480 pixels, although HD webcams can offer a higher resolution. For computers with HD compatibility, we recommend a higher resolution webcam, such as one with 1280 x 720 pixels.
2) Frame Rate
Frame rate controls the smoothness of the video and goes hand-in-hand with picture resolution when creating quality images. These rates are measured by the number of frames displayed per second. When looking at frame rate, we’d recommend choosing a device with at least 30fps (frames per second) but a webcam with a higher frame rate, like one with a 60fps rating, will likely create a better quality image.
3) Lens Quality
Webcams are available in different lens materials, with most products featuring lenses made out of either plastic or glass. Lens quality greatly and unsurprisingly determines picture quality. A shoddy lens will only result in a poor image, so it’s best to choose a webcam with a high-end lens. In our opinion, webcams with glass lenses usually produce the best results.
4) Motion Sensing or Autofocus
Autofocus or motion sensing helps the webcam stay focused on you, regardless of how much you move during the video chat. More high-end webcams use autofocus features alongside facial recognition so that it can identify and focus on you. This prevents your webcam from becoming confused about the subject and focusing on people or objects in the background.
5) Low Light Quality
If you’re video chatting with family or co-workers living in a different time zone, it’s likely that you’ll be using your webcam at night. As such, you’ll want one that can create a decent image, even in low lighting. Some more high-end webcams have red light features, which means that you’ll be able to video call regardless of natural lighting.
Built-in Webcams vs. External Webcams
If you have a built-in webcam on your laptop or desktop, you probably haven’t ever considered buying an external webcam. It’s worth remembering, however, that external webcams often offer better quality images than built-in devices, as external webcams have more space for the lens and include superior features such as red light, wide-angle lens or advanced autofocus.
These additional features help the external webcam to achieve better resolution, photo, video and audio quality than built-in webcams. If picture quality is important to you, an external webcam is an essential purchase.
When you’re shopping for a webcam, the device you choose will largely depend on your intended use. If you want to create professional videos, you may want to invest in a higher-quality, more mobile webcam. On the other hand, if you're going to chat with friends via Skype, one of the cheaper options will do the trick. Thankfully, webcams are available to suit all budgets. Take a look at some of our favourite webcams for each budget.
At the rock-bottom price of £20, the LifeCam is a grand bargain. Despite only having a relatively low picture resolution of 720p, the picture quality is good enough for casual Skype and video calls. The LifeCam also includes some useful features like automatic colour correction, a noise-cancelling microphone, and a firm stand compatible with both laptops and desktops. If you’re looking for a low-end webcam, the LifeCam is ideal.
With a 2160p resolution (3x the resolution of the LifeCam), you’re guaranteed to get excellent images. The webcam's HDR compatibility and RightLight 3 feature, which makes automatic adjustments for low light, bright light, and high contrasts, will further improve image quality. The Brio Webcam also has some pretty cool features like infrared-based facial recognition for additional login security, a 5x HD zoom, and Windows Hello compatibility. For those wanting a brilliant webcam at a reasonable price, the Brio is an excellent choice.
At the far high-end of the market, you’ll find the Mevo with a price tag over £300. Don’t let this hefty price tag put you off as the Mevo is one outstanding webcam. The Mevo is compatible with most mobile devices so you can stream quality live videos from literally anywhere with 3G or WIFI. Plus, its small size means it will remain unobtrusive wherever you’re filming, and its high image resolution of 2160p ensures you’ll capture quality images. You can also edit live video and audio in real time making the Mevo webcam the perfect pick for professional journalists or videographers.