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How to buy the best webcam for your needs

The eyes of your system

Webcams have a wide variety of functions, from the basic ones like recording videos, clicking pictures and video chatting, to the more complex and coveted ones like home security, video podcasts, training webinars, vlogging and more. Although many laptops and some PCs come preinstalled with a webcam, you will probably need to hunt for one that best suits your needs. The best part about webcams is that you can obtain a great one for a very affordable price, in most cases. However, like most tech products, the price range and model options of webcams are vast and you should know what exactly what you should look for before investing your money in a random product. You should avoid paying for features you will probably never use and stick to the basics to get the best out of your webcams.

What to consider

  • Resolution – Webcams with lower resolution will often compromise your video output quality and will produce grainier images. It may be tempting to go for webcams with the highest resolution, but it often won’t make a world of difference. Cameras with HD support of 720p should be sufficient to get you a good video quality in your daily usage. However, if you are a content creator, you might want to invest in webcams with a 1920x1080p resolution. Remember that webcams with a higher resolution require more bandwidth. 4k webcams have also made their way into the market, however, they are ridiculously expensive. The Logitech Brio 4k Pro webcam is priced at an exorbitant Rs. 26,400 which may be unnecessary for the average consumer. For most users, 720p resolution will be perfect, given the small sensors and lenses that are usually present on webcams.
  • Frame rate – Frame rates are extremely important in webcams and it is measured in frames per second (fps). Look for fps on your webcam packaging to check the device’s frame rate before buying it because webcams with a lower frame rate will cause images to stutter and, in some cases, freeze for some time. A minimum of 15 fps is required to stream video, but steer clear of fps that low. Anything higher than 30 fps is recommended as the higher the frame rate the better the quality. However, higher frames rates, again, leach for bandwidth.
  • Adjustability – A high-resolution webcam is rendered almost useless by the lack of adjustability. Having a webcam that is rigidly stuck to shooting the wall is quite frustrating. You must look for webcams that at least have the ability to tilt up and down. There are webcams available that have 360-degree adjustability which is a bonus. Make sure your webcam has some level of adjustability to avoid facing the restrictions a rigid webcam incurs.
  • Lens – Webcams are available in plastic and glass lenses. While many plastic lenses webcams boast having great image/video quality, it is always better to invest in a webcam with a glass lens. It dramatically increases the quality of the video and produces better images, without raising the price by too much. This particular feature is not always spelt out on the box of the device, so make sure you inspect the device for this particular functionality before buying.

What not to consider

  • Megapixels – You may notice that some webcams do not produce good quality videos but take brilliant still images. Webcams may be able to take 20MP interpolated images, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the webcam is capable of doing that, instead it is the software that enhances these images to a higher megapixel count. Buying a webcam in accordance to the megapixel count may be a bad idea since it shifts the attention away from the video capturing aspect of a webcam.
  • Autofocus – Many high-end webcams sport autofocus these days. This refers to the webcam being able to focus on an object even if he is moving in the frame. However, since most users will utilise their webcams for video chatting or other such activities which usually have them sitting in one place, this feature is not particularly necessary for those scenarios.
  • Microphone – A built-in microphone is on its way to becoming a standard feature on webcams, however, do not let their availability and quality be a deal-breaker or instigator to buying the device. Most built-in mics in webcams, whether it is in a 300 or 3000 variant, are usually lacklustre. It is often a better option to buy an external, dedicated microphone for your PC or laptop. The ‘Podcast’ microphones often work great and are affordable as well.
  • Motion sensing and special effects – These additional features come preinstalled in a few high-end webcams, however, they should not deter you from buying a device that does not have these features since both of them can be obtained from downloading the software in many cases. You will just need to check the manufacturer’s website to check if the software is available for your particular device.

The best place to get it

  • Pan-India – Amazon / Flipkart / device-specific websites
Dhriti Datta

Dhriti Datta

Reader, thinker, writer. Dhriti spends most of her time engrossed in technology reviews and gaming walkthroughs. When not at her post-graduation college studying journalism, she can be found eating, singing out loud and whining incessantly about the smallest things.