Having one of the best webcams is more important than ever for many of us, as they’re one of the few ways we can see and talk to our colleagues, friends and family during the pandemic. With many people working from home and isolating themselves to avoid the coronavirus, video calls have become the lifeblood of social interaction thanks to services like Zoom and Skype. They’re also useful if you’re planning on streaming on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, and can even double as a standard camera in a pinch.
But what should you be looking for in the best webcams? In truth, that depends on what you’ll be using it for and how much you’re looking to spend. If you just need something for the occasional family Zoom chat, there are some excellent budget options out there that have decent specs and are easy to use. Streamers will want a higher quality camera though, as you’re trying to create a professional looking product for your fans. The same goes for people who are recording videos for YouTube or other video platforms. In that case, you want a 1080p resolution webcam at the least, and maybe even a 4K webcam if you’ve got the cash to flash.
It’s worth noting that the best laptops come with a built-in webcam that’s usually fine, but nothing special, while home computer users will need a standalone webcam. Laptop webcams are fine for video chat and conference calls, but we would still recommend a separate webcam if you’re doing any video or streaming work.
When it comes to the best webcam brands, it's fair to say that Logitech is dominating the space at the moment with its extensive range of excellent quality webcams, ranging from budget models all the way up to 4K powerhouses. There are still great options from other manufacturers too though, so feel free to shop around.
1. Logitech C922 Pro Stream - best webcam overall
When its webcams take up four out of the five slots in our guide, is it any surprise that a Logitech webcam topped our list? The Logitech C922 Pro Stream is the perfect jack of all trades webcam offering great image quality and features, while keeping the price reasonable. The build quality is fantastic too, as we’d expect from Logitech.
The Logitech C922 Pro Stream can be used in either 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second or 720p at 60 frames per second modes, giving you the choice between image quality and smoothness, depending on what you’re using it for. It also has some great features like 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. The most impressive feature though, is the price. At just $99, the Logitech C922 Pro Stream is affordable, without skimping on the quality. That’s why the Logitech C922 takes the top spot as our best webcam.
- Read the Logitech C922 Pro Stream review.
2. Logitech Brio Ultra HD Webcam - Best 4K webcam
It’s somewhat bizarre that most webcams are still sitting in the 1080p or lower camp these days, when we consider how prevalent 4K technology is today. Luckily, there are a few 4K webcams out there and the Logitech Brio Ultra HD Webcam is the best of the bunch for our money.
The Logitech Brio Ultra HD Webcam has a fully ultra HD lens which can record and stream video at 4K resolutions at 30 frames per second, or at 1080p at 60 frames per second. There are also a host of extra features including auto-focus, digital zoom, and RightLight - proprietary software that automatically adjusts lighting and contrast on the fly to make sure you look perfect in front of the camera.
As with all the Logitech webcams we tested, the Logitech Brio Ultra HD Webcam has premium build quality and an understated look that manages to be classy without looking boring. The price is steep, but the quality you’re getting here is undeniable.
- Read our Logitech Brio Ultra HD Webcam review.
3. Logitech Streamcam - best for streaming
One of the most stylish looking webcams we’ve reviewed, the Logitech Streamcam has an air of sophistication around it that none of the competition can match. Its styling is very reminiscent of the Amazon Echo. Fortunately, it isn’t all looks and no luster - the Logitech Streamcam is a fantastic bit of kit.
Like most of the webcams we reviewed, the Logitech 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. This is ideal for burgeoning streamers, but it’s also great for normal video calls too. The Streamcam is also super easy to set up, so it’s perfect for beginners.
The microphone isn’t anything to write home about though, and the price is a little steep, especially when you consider that you can get Logitech’s 4K Brio webcam for just $30 more.
- Read the Logitech Streamcam review.
4. Razer Kiyo - Best for gamers
Razer has built its brand on the back of gaming peripherals, so it may seem strange to see it enter the webcam market, until you think about streaming. Streaming while playing games is an enormous market, so it makes sense for Razer to want a slice of that pie. Luckily this isn’t just a quick cash grab, as the Razer Kiyo is a surprisingly good webcam with a nifty party piece - the Ring Light.
The Raser Kiyo 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 itself is great too, offering 1080p video streaming at 30FPS, or 720p at 60 FPS.
The microphone lets the side down somewhat though. It’s fine for voice calls, but streamers should probably look into getting a separate mic.
- Read the Razer Kiyo review.
5. Logitech HD C615 - Best budget webcam
If the Logitech HD C615 gets any older, Indiana Jones is going to insist that it belongs in a museum. And yet, despite ist senior age, the Logitech HD C615 remains an excellent choice if you’re looking for a budget webcam.
While the Logitech HD C615 is only capable of streaming video at 720p, that’s fine for most people and in line with what built-in webcams on laptops typically manage. It can still record video in full HD though and the image quality is pretty good for a camera this cheap.
There are some sacrifices that you’ll have to make in the name of cost cutting though - the Logitech HD C615 can only stream video in 720p resolution (though it can still record video at full HD). You also give up on fancy extras like digital zoom.
- Read the Logitech HD C615 review.
What to look for when buying a webcam
When you buy a webcam, consider the quality of the camera, the microphone and the build. Webcams costs as little as $5 on Amazon, but these models have either poor cameras or poor construction. The most popular and highly rated webcams fall between $30 and $100. However, if you use your webcam often and need the highest quality video, audio and maneuverability, choose one that costs between $500 and $950. These webcams have the best cameras as well as robotic frames and bases with remotes to adjust the camera from a distance.
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.
Whether your webcam’s lens is made of glass or plastic also has an impact on the overall image quality. Glass, obviously, is the higher-quality material, but it contributes to a higher price. The top webcams use high-end glass to create resilient, crystal-clear video and photos. Plastic lenses are less expensive but are easily scratched and make for lower image quality.
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.
Should You Buy a Webcam?
Many laptops have webcams built in. However, they usually aren’t as powerful and feature-rich as standalone units, nor do you have control over what kind of focus system or video capture speed it has; however, few people choose a computer based on the integrated webcam.
If you just need a simple webcam and could use the camera built into your computer (or smartphone), you don’t need an external webcam, but if you’re live streaming your video game channel, vlogging or having a conference call, having a high-quality standalone webcam that you have control over can really make a difference in your video and audio quality.