Video & Audio
Help & Support
How to Choose a Webcam
We spent over 40 hours researching and evaluating 10 webcams. We worked with webcams that had varying lens materials, focus types, mount types and feature sets to see how well they could capture and relay video and audio, as well as how easy they are to use. We recommend the Logitech HD Pro C920 as the best webcam for anyone needing a quality webcam for streaming, vlogging or professional endeavors, and also for techies. Along with being exceptionally easy to use and having unbeatable video quality, it also offers the most features and has a high-quality, smart design.
If you need a webcam with top-shelf features but don’t want to pay top-shelf prices, consider the Logitech HD C615. It offers much of the same functionality and feature set as the C920 but it can only capture video in 720p at 30 fps and has a lower resolution for still images. Despite that, it’s under half the cost of the C920 and is a great option for most users.
The Genius WideCam F100 offers 1080p video at 30 fps, equal to the C920. However, it lacks some key features like digital zoom, face tracking and motion detection. If those aren’t a big deal for you, then the F100 is a solid choice worth considering, especially since it’s fairly inexpensive.
No matter your budget, there’s a webcam option. At just under $15, the TeckNet C016 lets you shoot in 720p at 30 fps, and it offers decent still image resolution. Despite having a short cord and missing the mark with some advanced features like digital zoom, the TeckNet is a great value and comparable to some of the better webcams we reviewed.
Webcams: How We Tested and What We Found
Video & Audio
The main specifications to look at when comparing the picture quality of web cameras are video resolution and framerate. If you’re also looking to take pictures with your webcam, you’ll want to look at the still image resolution as well.
Video resolution is essentially the number of pixels in your video. The more pixels you have, the clearer and more detailed your picture will be.
For webcams, 1080p is considered high definition, and this resolution should give you the clearest and most detailed images. As resolution decreases to 720p or 480p, you’ll begin to lose details and notice more pixilation. It’s best to invest in an HD webcam, but if you don’t need the details, you can certainly save a few bucks by opting for a unit with lower resolution.
Video is made up of a series of images, or frames, played in quick succession to give the appearance of motion. The number of frames that your camera can capture per second determines how quickly these frames can be displayed and how smooth your footage will appear.
If, for example, your camera can capture 30 frames per second (fps), there will be less space between each frame than there would be at 15 frames per second, so your video appears fairly smooth. Units that can capture a high number of frames per second at a high resolution will give you the optimal picture. So, for the best-looking video, opt for a camera that offers 60 fps at 1080p. Keep in mind that this combination means a pricier camera; budget-friendly units typically shoot at only 30 fps at 720p or lower. If you’ll be using a webcam for streaming games or other footage, your best bet is one that can capture high-def footage at 30 frames per second.
Often there are many other factors that influence the image quality of a particular PC camera, whether it’s the lens, your internet speeds, compression or sensor issues. For this reason, we tested each webcam’s video and audio quality and assigned each a score based on their performance. This, combined with your new-found knowledge of resolution and framerates, should help you select the webcam that’s best for you.
If you’re looking to take pictures with your webcam, you’ll also want to pay close attention to the still-image resolution specs of each cam. While some merely offer a 1- or 2-megapixel image, others can capture images with resolutions up to 15 megapixels, which obviously provide a higher quality and more detailed image.
Webcams may be equipped with auto, manual or fixed focusing systems. Auto and manual focusing allows the camera to be adjusted to achieve the best focus point for the situation. Fixed focus lenses have a predetermined focus range and cannot be adjusted. Each system has pros and cons.
Autofocus is precise and convenient, but it’s the most expensive of the three. Manual focus is less convenient but still allows for precise focusing and is typically less expensive. Just keep in mind that it’s up to you to readjust the focus if you or the camera move around too much. Fixed focus is the cheapest of all three options and is pretty convenient, considering you’ll never have to adjust it, but it’s much less precise and flexible than the other two options.
Some webcams offer digital zoom up to 4x. Digital zoom, however, is sort of a misleading term as it’s actually something more akin to cropping and enlarging your image. When you do this, you reduce the number of pixels in your resolution rectangle, which results in poorer image quality. It can be useful at times, however, especially if your webcam shoots in 1080p and can sustain a slight reduction in resolution. The only way to get high resolution when you zoom in is with optical zoom, a feature really only found in higher-end digital cameras.
Noise reduction cancels ambient noise by focusing on the frequencies of human voices and turning others down. This can help filter out sounds like air conditioners, dishwashers and vacuums. If you live in an area with lots of ambient noise, getting a camera with a noise reduction feature is a solid idea.
Webcam lenses are made of either plastic or glass. While plastic is obviously the less expensive option, it’s much more prone to scratching than glass and tends to produce lower image quality overall. The best webcams use high-end glass lenses that are resilient and produce the most visually pleasing images.
Most webcams can either be placed on a desk or mounted on top of your monitor. These two options are likely fine for most users, but if you’re looking for a little more control over exactly how and where your webcam is placed, get one that is tripod compatible. These cams can still be mounted or placed on a desk, but they afford you much more flexibility should you need it.
Another way to get a little more control is to get a webcam that allows for both up and down tilting and left and right panning. Most models will allow you to tilt the camera, but only the most flexible allow for both. It’s not a huge issue, but rather a nice feature that you might as well have if you can.
Help & Support
Webcam warranties typically last between one and three years, though some offer a lifetime warranty and some none at all. The most inexpensive models are usually the ones that don’t offer a warranty, and so if it fails, at least it wasn’t an expensive investment. Whether or not you take that risk is up to you.
The more expensive and feature-rich models typically have better support too. On their product pages you’ll usually find email and phone contacts, downloadable manuals, FAQs and sometimes even a community user forum.
What Else Is Important When Selecting a Webcam?
There are a just a few more details you may want to consider when purchasing a webcam. While none of these should necessarily be deal breakers, they may help you decide between devices.
Although most people use webcams for simple things like video-chatting or taking a quick photo, there are those that allow you to do just a little bit more. Some cameras, for example, have a motion detection mode that automatically initiates recording when movement is sensed. This could help you keep tabs on what’s going on around your computer without having to be in the room.
Another feature that’s somewhat useful is face tracking. This feature means that the camera can sense exactly where your face is in the frame at all times. This makes it much easier for the camera to automatically adjust focus, exposure and white balance settings in order to display your face in the best possible light.
You may also want to take a look at the included software offered by your webcam. Although most people likely have similar, photo-booth type software on their computers, it may be beneficial to you if you don’t.
Cord lengths are also an important factor to consider. Typically, they range from 3 to 6 feet, but keep in mind that a foot can make all the difference when you’re pulling the cable through a large desk. Consider your setup and practical needs before making a purchase.
Webcams: Our Final Recommendations
Webcams offer a wonderful way to achieve a little more freedom in the way you stream video on the internet. Being detached from your computer means you can set them up wherever you like – on a tripod, on your desk or just right on your monitor like a built-in webcam. They can also offer an upgrade in features as well as image and sound quality. Of course, they’re also great for those who don’t have a camera at all and just want something that works.
What’s important is that you get what you need out of your webcam. Whether you’re a gaming streamer who requires all the latest bells and whistles or someone who needs just enough of the basics to get connected, our individual product reviews can give you more in-depth information on finding the best webcam.