It's the era of video calls and online meetings. In order to participate in these activities, you need a webcam. Not sure where to start? Check out our webcam buying guide for all the information you need before purchasing one.
When choosing a webcam, one of the most important factors to consider is resolution. The resolution of a webcam is the number of pixels it can capture. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image will be. Most video conferences and chats these days are in HD, so you'll want a webcam that can capture at least 1920 x 1080 resolution. Often this is referred to as 1080p. Anything less than that and some people on your video conference or chat will look far less sharp than others.
The frame rate of your webcam is important because it affects the quality of your video. The frame rate is the number of images your webcam updates per second. This is usually quoted in terms of frames per second, or fps. For video conferencing and chat, a frame rate of 30fps is often fine because of the delays of the Internet. That said, for video conferencing and gaming, you may want to consider a webcam with a higher frame rate, such as 60fps, to get a smoother picture. Keep in mind that if you are recording videos or streaming, you will need a webcam with a high frame rate to produce smooth videos.
When you're looking to buy a webcam, the lens is one of the most important factors to consider. The lens will determine many facets of the picture quality, including clarity, focus and brightness. The aperture is especially important, as it determines how much light is captured. The wider the aperture, the better the picture is likely to be. In line with other photographic lenses, it is measured as an ""f"" number. The lower the f number, the wider the aperture. This means that you'll be able to take pictures in low-light conditions without them appearing too dark or grainy.
Field of view
The webcam field of view is another important aspect of the lens you should consider when purchasing a webcam. The actual field of view in terms of the angle of view is given in degrees. Figures of 65° to 90° are common, although some are available with 120° - a really wide angle! It all depends on how much of the room you want showing and how close to the camera you want to get.
Fixed or variable focus
The focus of your webcam is one of the most important things to consider when making your purchase. Just as with a regular camera, the focus should be on whatever it is you're trying to capture. If you're always chatting with friends and family online, and you want the best quality possible, a webcam with fixed focus might not be the best option. Many budget webcams have this feature, as they assume that you'll be sitting in front of the camera when using it. However, if you're looking to use your webcam for things like vlogging or gaming, a webcam with variable focus may be a better choice. This will allow you to adjust the focus to your desired distance, ensuring that everything stays sharp and in focus.
If you're looking to buy a webcam, it's important to consider the quality of its microphone. After all, the whole point of using a webcam is to communicate with others in the best possible way. In most cases, it is assumed that a webcam will come with a microphone built-in. This isn't always the case, but it's rare that you'll find a webcam without one. That said, not all microphones are created equal. Some are better than others, and it's worth taking the time to consider this before making your purchase. Many webcams have stereo microphones - this means that there are two microphones positioned on either side of the camera. This can often (but not always) be seen by the way the camera has a grill either side of the lens. If you can, check the frequency response of the microphone before buying - this should extend below 100Hz to give a nice natural sound.
Virtually all webcams use a USB interface. This can easily be plugged into the computer - virtually every computer has USB. However check that the right type of USB connector is one the end of the lead, otherwise an adaptor may be required. If your computer has a USB 3 interface using Type C connectors then an adaptor or even a USB hub with USB Type A connectors will be needed.
Normally, webcams have an arrangement that enables them to be mounted very easy. For example, one type of webcam mount fits well on the top of the monitor. This is ideal for many meetings because it gives an almost eye-line view and not the one common with laptops, where the person is seen looking down into the computer. The eye-line type of webcam gives a much better view.
A specification that is often seen in the specification is the encoding type used. This is normally H.264, which is the most common form of encoding. Virtually all webcams use this, and even if it is not stated, this is likely to be the form of encoding used as it is compatible with most laptops, etc. It's worth noting that different operating systems have different preferred video codecs. For example, Windows uses the WMV9 codec, while iOS uses H.264. However, in reality, most webcams will work with most operating systems and computers. So don't worry too much about this—just check that your chosen webcam is compatible with the device you're intending to use it on.
When buying a webcam, it's important to consider all the features that are important to you. Resolution is key for capturing crisp images, while frame rate is important for determining how smooth motion will appear. Make sure to also consider the webcam lens and field of view, as well as whether you need a fixed or variable focus. With so many great webcams on the market, there's sure to be one that's perfect for you.
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