Whether you're taking part in a video call, using an online learning platform, or joining a team meeting through a program like Zoom, you need a webcam to show the best possible version of yourself. If you do live streams as a gamer or for your business, there are webcams especially for this, too. Here is our roundup of the best webcams for a variety of purposes.
Excellent build quality
The Logitech C922x Pro Stream is the perfect jack of all trades webcam offering great image quality and features, with a build quality that is fantastic and what we’d expect from Logitech. This Logitech webcam can be used in either 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second or 720p at 60 frames per second modes. It has digital zoom and auto-focus, which help you get the most out of your webcam with minimal effort. It also comes with a dual microphone set-up, which offers superior audio quality over a single microphone.
Built-in studio lighting
The Razer Kiyo is a surprisingly good webcam that takes into account important gaming peripherals. It has a ring-shaped spotlight that surrounds the camera lens, ensuring that the subject is always perfectly illuminated in the center of the frame. The camera offers 1080p video streaming at 30FPS, or 720p at 60 FPS. Colors are bright and vibrant and the auto-focus does a great job of keeping the camera centered on the target so you don’t look like a blurry mess. If you’re taking still images, the 4-megapixel camera captures at a maximum resolution of 2688 x 1520.
Plug and play
This webcam is easy to set up and start using without having to download software. It records in 1080p and has panoramic HD resolution. It attaches to your laptop screen or computer monitor with a multifunctional bracket that is also compatible with tripods. The built-in microphone is omnidirectional with noise cancellations and sound absorption to block out background noise and pick up your voice from any direction around the webcam.
Smooth in-motion video
The Logitech StreamCam is an excellent choice for someone looking to dip their toes into the world of streaming, while still being a great webcam for other uses, including virtual meetings and facetime. Like most of the webcams, the StreamCam is a 1080p HD camera, but unlike most others it’s capable of streaming at 1080p and 60 frames per second, making your video image look much smoother in motion. You also get some intelligent features like smart auto-focus and automatic exposure adjustments, which uses facial tracking to keep your image in focus and lit as you move around.
What to look for when buying a webcam
Video resolution and frame rate are some of the most important specifications to consider when looking at webcams. You should also look at still image resolution if you frequently take pictures. The webcams we compared top out at 1080p, which is high enough to create clear, detailed pictures. However, because of how much it costs to build webcams with that kind of quality, most less expensive models have lower resolutions. Webcams at lower price points more commonly shoot 720p video.
Similarly, lower price models shoot at slower frame rates. The webcams we tested max out at 30 frames per second (fps) at their highest resolutions, which works for most applications. More expensive webcams can handle up to 60 fps, which is useful for layering player video over a 60 fps video game stream, for example. Recently, webcams capable of 4K video quality have become less prohibitively expensive as well.
Another facet of video quality is the webcam’s software features, including light adjustment, color correction and face tracking. These features make up for bad or weird lighting and prioritize your face as the visual focus, as opposed to anything in the background. You shouldn't have to fiddle too much with a high quality webcam's settings for these features to work.
Though you probably won’t get fantastic audio from a webcam, your device should have at least decent sound quality so you can video chat. To that end, choose a webcam with at least one microphone and noise reduction, which is programmed to isolate the human vocal range and reduce the volume of ambient noise. However, for higher sound quality, you may need to invest in separate equipment like a standalone mic or a headset with an integrated mic.
There are three types of focusing systems available to choose from: autofocus, manual and fixed. Each system has its pros and cons. Auto and manual focusing lets the camera’s focal point be adjusted. Fixed focus lenses only focus on a single spot and can’t be adjusted.
Autofocus is the best, most powerful option as it automatically keeps you in focus, even if you’re fidgeting or moving around. Because it does all the heavy lifting for you, an autofocus system is great for beginners and advanced users alike, but it generally costs more. This is a critical feature to have if you’re streaming or doing video-intensive recording, as it works automatically to get the best picture. You can keep concentrating on your conversation or game without needing to worry about constantly adjusting the focus.
Manual focus also allows the camera to be adjusted to the optimal focal point. It gives you full control over where to focus, but you’ll have to adjust it every time you move or want to change the focal point. Having total control lets you create the perfect shot. Manual focus is found on pricey and budget-friendly options alike. Fixed focus, on the other hand, has a predetermined focal range that you can’t adjust. This option requires less technology to be built into the webcam, so it’s typically what’s found in lower-priced devices. It’s also a great option for novice users or those who know they’ll be sitting still while using the webcam.
How the webcam can be mounted is another factor to consider. Most devices can be mounted atop your monitor using an included clip or placed on a desk. One downside to this mounting style is lack of mobility, but many allow minor tilt and pan adjustments. These options work for most users. Some webcams also have universal mounts that give them compatibility for being mounted on a tripod. Typically, these units can still be mounted on a desk or on top of a monitor, but it gives you more flexibility, depending on your needs.