A Guide to Selecting the Best Web Camera
Nowadays, virtual meetings via Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts are more and more commonplace. Also, a teacher can give a class to 30 or more students over the Internet. One thing is for sure: you can exchange much more information when you can see the person that you’re talking to, instead of just hearing them. But all of these applications require a good web camera that can both capture good-quality sound and video, without any loss or distortion.
We’ll look at some of the best web cameras on the market for consumer use. They have much better specs than the built-in camera in your laptop, both in terms of sound and picture quality. They can also employ artificial intelligence to filter out any background noise so that the other people in the conference can concentrate only on hearing you. They can also zoom in on you so that you’re always in focus, with exactly the correct lighting. A good web camera may cost a bit, but, as we’ll see, they’re worth it!
Why would I need to purchase a web camera if my laptop already has a camera?
There’s a difference between the quality of your laptop’s camera and a separate web camera. The laptop's camera is typically used for video conferencing and other purposes that require capturing video from a close distance. A web camera is typically used for capturing video from a greater distance, such as for video blogging, making online videos, or taking pictures for a website.
What are the “frames per second” of a webcam? Why does it matter?
Frames per second (FPS) is a measure of the number of images displayed by a video source per second. It is used to measure the smoothness of the video. A higher FPS means that the video will be smoother. Many webcams record at 30 or 60 fps, while others can record as quickly as 90 fps!
What is the difference between HD, FHD, and UHD resolution?
HD (high definition) resolution means that the picture has 720 horizontal lines and 1280 vertical lines. FHD (Full HD) means that the picture has 2160 horizontal lines and 1080 vertical lines. UHD (Ultra HD) means that the picture has 3840 horizontal lines and 2160 vertical lines.
Types of Web Cameras
There are two main types of web cameras (besides the camera that is built into your laptop):
USB webcams: The vast majority of web cameras use a USB connection for both power and data transfer. An excellent example of a USB web camera is the Logitech for Creators StreamCam WebCam. You can mount it on your computer monitor or on a camera tripod.
Logitech for Creators StreamCam WebCam
Wireless webcams: There are also webcams that can hook up to your computer with a WiFi connection. They can transfer images to your computer wirelessly. You can also control it with your smartphone, and even print pictures out to a printer with wireless printing. The Logitech Mevo Start Wireless Live Streaming Camera can be hooked up with a USB cable.
Logitech Mevo Start Wireless Live Streaming Camera
What reviewers say
Here are some impressions of customers regarding their choice of web camera:
Great for business settings: A customer who wanted a webcam for serious business meetings was always disappointed by the quality of previous webcams, which were more for amateurs uploading videos of themselves for social media. Now, with web cameras that are capable of zooming in on a person giving the presentation, or panning out to see the whole staff, he’s finally found what he’s been looking for all this time.
Verify that the camera matches your computer’s specs: If you buy the most state-of-the-art webcam, make sure that it matches your computer’s software and hardware. While most webcams are suitable for Mac, Windows, and Chrome operating systems, there can still be some glitches with hooking up the right type of USB port on your computer.
Here are some tips and important features to look for when selecting a web camera:
Camera resolution: You’ll notice some web cameras have a resolution of “1080p”, also referred to as Full High Definition or FHD. That typically means 2160 horizontal lines ×1080 vertical lines. (You’ll also see it referred to as “2K video capture resolution”.) There is also 4K resolution, or Ultra HD, with 4x the total number of pixels as compared to FHD (3840 horizontal lines × 2160 vertical lines).
High Dynamic Range: Besides resolution in terms of the number of pixels in the image, you’ll also see “HDR” in product descriptions. That stands for “High Dynamic Range”. It’s a technique of combining several images of the same scene, thus capturing the lightest tones and the darkest tones possible. That’s also a desirable feature in a web camera. While more pixels mean a sharper image, HDR provides more contrast in the colors available, which is also a plus.
An illustration of the Insta360 Link Webcam’s HDR feature
Privacy cover: Many web cameras include a cover to shield the webcam’s lens when it is not in use. This is because there are computer viruses, Trojans, and malware that can access a webcam, even disabling the light that indicates that the webcam is working! So, Internet security experts advise that it’s always best to cover your web camera when it’s not in use. Also, there is also a disadvantage with WiFi web cameras. If the camera is wireless, it means that it has an IP address. In principle, a hacker can gain access to the camera this way, compromising your security. So, a WiFi webcam should be secured with a different password, as well as virus protection and firewalls.
Adjustable field of view: On many webcams, you can adjust the field of view. (You’ll see it abbreviated as dFOV, for “diagonal field of view”). The Anker PowerConf C200 Webcam allows you to select between 65°, 78°, and 95° fields of view. This way, you can allow viewers only to focus on your face, and eliminate any distractions from the background (or so that they won’t be able to see what’s in your room).
Dual microphones: Some webcams have two microphones so that listeners can hear you in stereo. This lends greater clarity to your voice. Also, many web cameras use AI in order to enhance your speaking voice and filter out background noise.
Toggle between modes: There are also cameras, such as the Insta360 Link Webcam, which allows you to switch between camera modes with simple hand gestures! You can toggle between zooming in and out of the picture, or changing to whiteboard mode, where you can write notes on a whiteboard while lecturing!
We went through some features of the best web cameras on the market. Whether you need it for serious business purposes, for teaching, or just for uploading to social media, you’ll be amazed at the difference in quality that you can achieve with a good web camera! You can rely on them to capture videos with crisp stereo sound and high-quality video!