In an era where almost everything has become digitalized and a large number of people work or study from home, the importance of webcams has significantly increased. In fact, teleworking and e-learning have become even more common after the outbreak of COVID-19, which forced everyone to stay at home since last year. Even in the year 2021, most countries are still dealing with the ongoing pandemic, and thus, schools, universities, offices, and many other places are yet to open again.
As the result, more and more people are either studying or working from home these days. Based on various analyses, it seems that digitalized learning and remote working are here to stay, even in the post-coronavirus era. So, it is only natural for people to upgrade their current systems or purchase a computer with different accessories to be more prepared for taking an active part in their work and education.
As we have covered before, in order to fully prepare and have an effective remote workspace, you need to acquire both suitable software applications and proper hardware devices. Naturally, one of the most important hardware devices to have is a webcam.
Using webcams, you can truly connect with your colleagues, students, and teachers during the time of remote collaboration. By allowing you to be visually present in remote meetings or classes, a proper webcam helps you feel fully present in whatever online activity you are participating in. However, before purchasing a webcam, there are various features that you need to consider and pay attention to in order to choose a device that would fully meet your needs and demands. In this article, we will delve into these features and hopefully help you decide what features would benefit you the most. Let’s get into them.
Resolution and frame rate are often the first factors considered before purchasing a webcam and are probably the most important ones.
A webcam’s resolution is measured by the number of pixels it displays on a screen, and its frame rate is the number of frames played per second. Webcams with a higher resolution produce better image quality. On other hand, the higher their frame rate is, the smoother the displayed video becomes. Both the resolution and the frame rate of a webcam are important, but the degree of their importance depends on a person’s intended use for the webcam.
The most standard resolutions are 360p, 480p, 720p, 1080p, and most recently, 4K. And as for frame rate, 30fps and 60fps are the most common ones, with 120p being on the rise during the last recent years. There are varying combinations of picture resolution and frame rates among the webcams on the market since each is designed for different purposes and suitable for various people in different situations and conditions.
For instance, most video calls over Skype, ZOOM, and other collaboration software applications stream in 720p video, so a webcam that supports such quality suffices for this particular purpose. Logitech C270 is a decent option with great value for these types of business purposes. Full-HD 1080p resolution, on the other hand, is usually used for recording professional-looking presentations and many other business areas in which having good quality is more important. Logitech C920 is a great webcam for displaying and capturing 1080p resolution, and it brings a lot of value for only AED 375 on Amazon.
The frame rate is most important for video game streamers who play fast-paced action games, in which having smooth-looking footage is essential. In these cases, 720p resolution at 60fps is preferred. However, YouTube content creators who stand in front of the camera and talk to their audience might prefer 1080p picture quality at 30fps. For these purposes, a webcam such as Logitech C922x Pro Stream is a perfect option since it can be set at both 720p at 60fps and 1080p at 30fps.
Some webcams support 4K video quality or 120 frame rate that also come with a premium price. These models are suitable for specific conditions and professional jobs that require very smooth footages with the utmost quality. Delivering 4K Ultra HD quality with HDR, the Logitech Brio Webcam is one of the best options available.
One of the key features of new webcam models is the autofocus capability. Autofocus allows webcams to automatically focus on the main person or subject of the video rather than the background. Autofocus is an excellent feature, especially for those who live with their family members and work or study from home. These individuals’ backgrounds might become filled with different activities at the same time as they are having an online class or a meeting. However, autofocus can keep the focus of the webcam only on the persons sitting in front of it, thus not showing unnecessary distractions.
While almost all new webcams have the autofocus feature, the speed of detection and precision vary in each model. High-end webcams often come with a faster and more precise autofocus feature, whereas budget webcams tend to struggle when focusing on the main subject. Since high-end webcams are more expensive, you should pay attention to how accurate and capable you need the autofocus capabilities of your webcam to be.
For instance, if multiple sources of light and glare are present in your home office, it might be challenging for many webcam budget models to accurately detect the subject(s) and capture a clear picture. But professional webcams such as Logitech C930e include a proprietary technology that can distinguish people from windows and walls and apply the necessary optimizations in order to deliver a more vibrant and natural look.
Even though most individuals nowadays might have a separate headset, many webcams come with a built-in microphone. These types of webcams have their pros and cons, which is why you need to consider a few things about their built-in microphones before making your purchase.
The majority of webcams on the market always come with at least one built-in microphone. For many people, these webcams decrease the need for a headset or a separate microphone. Therefore, they are considered ideal for those who rarely have remote conferences or phone calls.
However, this does not mean that their audio quality is top-notch, or in some cases, even acceptable. It is worth noting that a built-in microphone is not a feature that users should find comfort in if they are professionals because the capability of a webcam microphone is not comparable to a microphone that accompanies a headset. Since webcams are often situated above and away from your face, it is only natural for their microphones to be quiet and emit plenty of background noises.
There are also dual-mic webcams with two microphones on both sides of their lens, providing a more natural-sounding audio feed to users. These models may be more appropriate for content creators and professionals who have video calls and live streams more often. Yet again, built-in microphones, no matter how high-quality and well-designed they are, can only get you so far. More professional content creators are better off with a decent headset or desktop microphone.
Digital video streaming, especially when using webcams with high resolution and picture quality, creates plenty of data. If you want to stream HD videos in real-time over an average internet bandwidth, we need to compress the video. Video compression encodes video files to reduce their file size by removing all the redundant data in a video file, making it much easier for video files to stream and transmit over the internet quickly. It is also worth noting that video compression does not decrease your video’s resolution or frame rate at all.
Consequently, video compression is a significant feature to look at when choosing a webcam. Most professional webcams are designed with the H.265/HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding) or H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding) standard to deliver high-quality videos at smaller sizes. Some webcam models lack proper internal video compression, creating large files that are tough to share or straining your computer’s processor to compress a video.
Field of view represents the size of an area that a webcam’s camera can detect. There is no specific standard for the range of a webcam’s field of view. Some webcams have a narrow field of view, which is suitable for those who only want their face to be displayed when using their webcam, whereas others have a wide range of view that allows for multiple people to be present in front of the camera.
Some of the most common fields of view (FOV) are 60, 78, and 90 degrees. If only one person intends to sit in front of a webcam, one with a 60-degree FOV should be enough. For two persons facing a camera, a 78-degree FOV is great. If three or more people intend to sit or stand in front of the webcam without having to go too far away or sit uncomfortably close, picking up a webcam with a 90-degree FOV is recommended. A 90-degree FOV is also suitable for those who wish to show a whiteboard or a conference room table.
Lastly, consider whether the webcam you wish to purchase captures videos horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Many webcams only support one of these views, so you should be careful about which view you want before buying a webcam.
There are two key factors to look into when you are analyzing a webcam’s body: its design, the material used for making it, and the quality of its lens.
A webcam’s body material is typically made of either metal or plastic. Metal, compared to plastic, can withstand wear and tear much better and possesses higher durability. Therefore, heavy lenses in high-end webcams are attached to metal bodies. On the other hand, plastic bodies make the camera webcam lighter in weight and size and are naturally more affordable.
However, even though plastic bodies are more lightweight, they might actually not be the best for those who carry a webcam around, especially when traveling. A metal body is much more capable of protecting the lens than a plastic body is, so I’d argue that it is better to use a webcam with a plastic body if the user does not intend to travel with the webcam.
And as for webcam lenses, they are either made of plastic or glass. Plastic lenses are less expensive and are mainly used in average-quality webcams, whereas high-end, professional webcams use glass lenses. Using plastic allows webcam manufacturers to produce strongly aspherical lens elements, which is almost impossible to do with glass. Therefore, some of the most modern, high-performance lenses from popular manufacturers contain hybrid aspherical elements.
On the other hand, glass lenses are very resistant to scratching and have great optical properties. So generally speaking, plastic lenses are an adequate option to use for ZOOM or Skype. And if you want a camera with aspherical lenses, plastic lenses are your go-to choice. However, those of you who are looking to use webcams for professional reasons might be better off with glass lenses.
Overall, plastic bodies and plastic lenses are more affordable and have some unique positive qualities, whereas metal bodies and glass lenses are often used for high-end webcam models. Of course, there are always exceptions, but make sure to look into these features and how they fit into your intended use of a webcam you intend to purchase.
Software control is a feature that lets you manually control your webcam functionalities and enjoy using various software-based benefits. For instance, using software controls, you may digitally pan, tilt, or even zoom the lens in and out. Software controls in many webcams also allow you to adjust the brightness, color intensity, contrast, and much more in your videos. These benefits can make your meetings, streams, or even the content you create easier and even more enjoyable. So it is worth checking the supported software applications for the webcam you may consider purchasing.
Laptops have an internal webcam that is not replaceable. And unfortunately, a large number of them come with a low-quality webcam that presents a low resolution and a blurry picture quality. So, whenever you decide to purchase a laptop for work, be sure to also look into laptops’ built-in webcam specs.
Features of webcams are very varied and different that can make each webcam model unique in its way. However, by considering the above features, one would have an easier process choosing a proper webcam for their needs. Although resolution, frame rate, and the quality of the lens might be the most important factors for the majority of people when looking for a webcam, it is important to remember that other features should be considered as well, such as the webcam’s design and field of view. Hopefully, this article has made it easier for you to know what to look for before making a purchase.
Apart from webcams, you might also be interested in acquiring a headset to be fully prepared for teleworking or remote learning. In that case, be sure to read our article about quality headsets. Furthermore, if you are interested in reading more about any of the Logitech products mentioned in this article, please check out our products page.