The very first webcam on record dates back to 1991, just one year before the first commercial webcam appeared on the U.S. market. Many changes and advances have occurred since then: the development of the internet, the advent of internet communication technologies, and the proliferation of devices with cameras in or on them.
While many new devices come with cameras built directly into the hardware, and these cameras continue to get more and more sophisticated, webcams continue to be incredibly popular devices.Their main use continues to be videoconferencing with friends and family, or use within a work environment, but they are also now mainstays of streaming and podcasting.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Our Selection: The best webcams on the U.S. market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about webcams
- 3.1 What is a webcam exactly?
- 3.2 A brief history of webcams
- 3.3 What are the main uses for webcams?
- 3.4 What are the advantages and disadvantages of webcams?
- 3.5 How do I use my webcam?
- 3.6 For whom are webcams tailored?
- 3.7 What types of webcam are available out there?
- 3.8 What are the best programs available for webcams?
- 3.9 What care does my webcam require?
- 4 Shopping Criteria
- 5 Summary
- The most common use for webcams is to make personal or professional video calls.
- They are generally not very different from the rest of digital cameras available on the market.
- One of their great advantages is that they can be used with different devices. Moreover, they can easily be transported as they are small and light.
Our Selection: The best webcams on the U.S. market
In the below section we have put together our ranking of the five best webcams currently available on the U.S. market. Each one has unique features and something different to offer, while all of them offer great value for money. Continue reading the below list and you will hopefully have all the information you need to make the best purchase possible.
- Logitech – C270 Desktop or Laptop Webcam
- LarmTek – 1080p HD Webcam
- Unzano – Stream Webcam
- Logitech – C920S
- Microsoft – Lifecam HD-3000
Logitech – C270 Desktop or Laptop Webcam
Logitech is one of the most storied and respected names in computer accessories and their webcams are some of the best on the market. Their C270 webcam features 720p resolution and a great widescreen option for video calling and recording. It also has 2GB of RAM and 200MB of hard drive space, making it great for recording meetings, podcasts, or online lectures. It is capable of taking clear 3MP photos and is compatible with all new Windows and Mac OS.
Another great feature of this webcam is that the built in microphone helps filter out background noise, so you only capture clear, crisp speech. If you have spent your life using sub-par webcams, this great HD webcam from Logitech works perfectly with your favorite applications like Skype, Whatsapp and more, and, for the price, provides you with a picture and sound quality that is really hard to beat.
LarmTek – 1080p HD Webcam
LarmTek might be a name that you have not heard mentioned too often when it comes to computer accessories in general, but they make a great, well-liked 1080p HD webcam at a reasonable price point. If you are not used to 1080p HD quality with your webcam, you will be pleasantly surprised at just how sharp and clear the images and video are with this product. This is a widescreen laptop camera that gives you a 75 degree viewing angle so those on the other end of your video call really feel like you are in the room with them.
This webcam also has great dual noise reducing microphones built it to get rid of any unwanted ambient noise while you are talking or recording. It is flexible, so you can point it exactly where you want it, and it works with all of the most common video calling and conferencing applications. With this webcam you get high quality stereo audio, and clear recording within 10 feet of the device.
Unzano – Stream Webcam
Unzano’s Stream Webcam is a great webcam for streamers and podcasters that packs a lot of high quality studio features into this mid-market price tag. The HDR sensor and facial enhancement technology help correct flaws and imperfections, and the low-light correction means you get optimal light settings even in areas that are naturally low light. This product gives you fantastic 1080p video quality that makes for clearer, smoother, and faster video calling and streaming.
The adjustable clip base on this webcam attaches easily to any latop or PC, and the dual noise cancelling microphones let you record superb audio from up to 10 feet away. This webcam is compatible with virtually any device and operating system you are likely to find on the market today, making it highly versatile. All of this is packed into quite a compact little package that is durable and easy to take with you on the go.
Logitech – C920S
Logitech’s C920S 1080p webcam is made for streamers. The privacy shutter allows you total control over what you show and also keeps the lens well protected with a nice cover. The full HD 1080p gives you the image and video quality that fans and subscribers have come to expect from professional streamers and YouTubers, and the light correction and autofocus let you record with confidence in any setting.
With Logitech’s C920S you can record from two webcams at the same time, create vertical videos, and stream live to YouTube. It also features great studio-like controls and customization so you can optimize the webcam for a range of different uses, streaming or otherwise. Download the Logitech Capture App and take video creation and online content to a whole new level with this great webcam.
Microsoft – Lifecam HD-3000
Microsoft’s Lifecam HD-3000 is a fantastic entry-level HD webcam that offers you 720p widescreen video quality, chat and recording. While, perhaps, not powerful enough for professional streamers, this great little webcam is still advanced enough to do the job for most casual webcam users. It comes with a noise reduction microphone, so you can keep ambient noise out of your recordings and conversations, as well as TrueColor technology for bright, full-color videos.
This webcam’s universal attachment base is easy to connect to any laptop, notebook, or desktop. You get a 30 frames per second imaging rate that, when combined with the 720 widescreen and TrueColor technology, makes online conversations feel much more natural and real. At the end of the day, this is a fantastic little webcam for under $50 dollars that will take your video recordings to the next level without breaking the bank.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about webcams
Before purchasing your webcam, there are certain features you need to have in mind if you are going to choose the one that is best for you and your needs. There are a great many models and varieties on the market, and it is important you keep a number of important factors in mind when perusing the selection out there. Below we will answer and go into detail on some of the most commonly asked questions by laptop buyers.
What is a webcam exactly?
If you had to define a webcam, it could be accurately described as a small digital camera that you connect to your computer to capture video and transmit if across the internet. You can transmit the video either directly a variety of web pages, or straight to another device using a range of different programs and applications.
The constituent parts of a webcam typically consist of an image sensor, the requisite circuitry or it to function properly and an image sensor. In general terms, they are not that different from the rest of the digital cameras you would find on the market today. The primary difference is that they often come with special proprietary software that allows them to work on a bunch of different devices.
A brief history of webcams
The first webcam on record was used by the Department of Computer Science of the University of Cambridge back in 1991. A year later, in 1992, the first commercial webcam called XCam was released on the market. A long time has passed since, and webcam performances have considerably improved.
What are the main uses for webcams?
The most common use of a webcam is to make video calls through Skype or any other similar program. In the 21st century, many Americans have family members across the country and around the world that they like to stay in touch with, and a webcam is a great way to take the intimacy of a conversation to another level. Webcams are also used to record videos for YouTube (both professional and amateur), as surveillance cameras, or to broadcast live video (aka streaming).
But we’re not done just yet. They are also commonly used in certain areas of scientific research such as astronomy, cognitive psychology or neuromarketing. They are naturally very present in the world of video games, so much so that you can find specific models tailored for this industry.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of webcams?
A good quality webcam will give you noticeably better video quality than you are likely to get from almost any built-in camera on a laptop or desktop computer. Because they are stand alone devices they can also be used with a variety of other devices, and in different places.
Webcams allow you to add video to phone calls, transmit live video, or even conduct in-home or office surveillance. A webcam, therefore, provides a lot more versatility than built-in cameras do.
How do I use my webcam?
When you first unbox your new webcam, the first thing you will typically do is attach it to your laptop or desktop, adjusting it so that it is the right height and angle for your face and body. If you are putting it on a laptop, you should fix it to the center of the screen. The next step is to connect the camera to your computer, typically via USB, and to install or download whatever software is needed in order to use the webcam.
You may need to configure certain technical elements of your webcam. Depending on the model, this might only require you to adjust the basic settings (contrast, resolution, frame rate, brightness etc.). It is a good idea to run some tests before using the camera for real to make sure you have set everything up properly.
For whom are webcams tailored?
Many people opt for a stand alone web cam because their laptop doesn’t have the camera features they are looking for, or because they are using a desktop (which often don’t come with built-in cameras). If you are a streamer or a YouTuber, you will also need a good quality webcam, and you may even want it for security purposes.
What types of webcam are available out there?
Webcams can be divided into two main categories. First off, you will find that many webcams are specifically designed for videoconferencing purposes. You also have those that are tailor made for streaming and gaming. The first category usually contains the cheaper models, while those in the latter category are often more expensive.
|Webcams for videoconferencing||Webcams for streaming|
|Price||They are much more affordable, as they are more basic devices.||Their price is usually higher.|
|Features||They offer reduced features.||They offer better features. Above all, they provide much higher resolutions.|
What are the best programs available for webcams?
Many programs are available to get the most out of your webcam. If you plan on using yours for videoconferences, you will probably use Skype or a similar program. If you want to record videos and take pictures, you may be interested in YouCam, which will allow you to add many different effects to the image.
FLV Enconder is another very interesting program, with which you can upload the videos you record with your webcam to the Internet.
Vitamin D is a great tool for surveillance tasks. If you want to edit video at a more professional level, you naturally have Photoshop at your disposal, a powerful and comprehensive editing tool.
What care does my webcam require?
One of the key aspects to pay attention to with webcams is the security of your computer. It is absolutely vital that you use a powerful antivirus software to ensure your webcam is not hacked and people are not spying on you. You should always keep your webcam turned off until you plan to use it.
Let’s have a look at a series of important criteria that you should take into account before purchasing your webcam. While some are aspects common to most purchases, others are specific to this type of device and are often unknown to the general public.
- Personal use
- Design and quality of the materials
- Lens quality and field of view
- Frames per second
This is definitely the first question you should ask yourself. You are not going to need the same kind of camera for videoconferencing as you are for live streaming. If you just need something for the former, a lower end model from a respected brand like Logitech will get the job done just fine. As previously mentioned, YouTube and streaming requires you to invest in a higher quality HD webcam.
For streaming, you are going to need something that has at least 1080p HD resolution at 30 frames per second. You should also make sure it is widescreen so you and your surroundings are adequately captured. The best of the best are 4K resolution at 30 fps. The higher performance the device, the higher the price tag, naturally.
Design and quality of the materials
While webcams, first and foremost, need to be made to complete the task at hand – be it streaming, or video calls – they are also made with aesthetic appeal in mind. The wide range of webcams out there vary considerably in terms of what they can do and how they look.
While you need to carefully consider the capabilities of your product, you also want to get something that is going to be durable and last. Therefore, you need to consider the materials a webcam is made of too.
As mentioned earlier, high resolution is a key aspect of a quality; the lower it is, the more pixelated the image will be. We recommend you look for a product that has at least 720p resolution. As previously mentioned, if you want something for professional streaming or podcasting, you are going to need, preferably, 4K.
The aperture of the webcam is the hole through which the light passes. The aperture determines the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor. Just like on any other camera, a larger aperture, or f value, allows more light to pass through, and a smaller f value, vice/versa.
Lens quality and field of view
How well your webcam performs is also a function of the lens quality. There are webcams out there with plastic lenses, but it is preferable to get one made of glass. There is not a dramatic increase in price between the two, but the quality difference that comes with glass is stark.
The field of view a lens provides indicates the amplitude of the shot that the camera catches. This value generally ranges between 90º and 180º. 90º should be more than enough if you need the camera for video calls with friends and family. However, you will need a much larger field of view to record videos for streaming.
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Webcams tend to have automatic focus. However, as you can imagine, some models will offer better performance in this field than others. You want to go for a focus that is both fast and accurate. High-end devices will allow you to set up the focus and adapt it to your specific needs.
Frames per second
Don’t forget to take into account the number of frames per second when recording videos with your webcam. We recommend that your product of choice allow you to record at least 30 fps at 1080p. However, don’t forget that a higher resolution will generally lead to a lower fps rate.
One of the great advantages of webcams is that you can use them on different devices. This is why it is important that you opt for a model with several connection options.
A USB port connection is a particularly interesting feature for your webcam, as this offers the highest transfer speed.
You may also be interested in having a camera with either a WiFi or a Bluetooth connection. While the transfer speed of these methods are clearly much lower than that of the USB connection, they will allow you to connect your webcam to computers that lack USB plug-ins.
Microphones have become a standard feature in webcams. Make sure that the webcam you choose comes with one such feature and check its specifications. This is the one feature that is practically universal in all webcams, as not having one kind of defeats the purpose of a webcam in the first place.
While most new webcams are compatible with virtually all operating systems, it is still a good idea to check before you buy. Also make sure that the webcam you are buying is not going to be limited by your computer’s software or hardware. You might have a really old computer that will not work so well with many of the newer, more sophisticated functions of your webcam.
In the same vein, plug-and-play devices are much more practical, allowing immediate use as soon as you connect them. This means no more installing drivers or making boring configurations. Just connect your webcam and start using it. If you want to use your webcam for professional purposes, you will have to make certain adjustments.
Cameras have become increasingly large parts of modern life. Webcams are great for videoconferencing with friends, taking classes online, organizing business meetings via video calls or streaming broadcasts. They are also widely compatible with a range of common devices and operating systems.
There are myriad reasons for why you might want to get yourself a webcam. Whatever those reasons might be, you should always have all the necessary information on hand so you spend your money wisely. Keep in mind the above technical aspects we have laid out – like field of view, resolution, compatibility and connection method – so you get something that meets your needs and purposes.
We hope that this guide was helpful to you. If so, we would appreciate it if you could share it with your friends and leave us a comment!
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