Best webcams from 1080p to 4K for 2021
With a good webcam, it used to be merely requisite for business travelers, long-distance couples, and other geographically challenged communicators. But, as we are socializing from afar and working remotely, this once-second-string class of goods has been thrust into the spotlight. Due to a sluggish demand for specialized external webcams for most of last year, you simply couldn't find ONE. The crunch has eased, making it a great time to upgrade to fewer models you might have been able to obtain before.
It's not difficult to find a decent webcam: Market-leader Logitech makes most of the most popular name-brand models on the market, including the $90 C920x and basic, education-focused $30 C270, and you'll be able to rest assured that you will find one that fits within your budget. You can quickly get lost in a sea of commodity models if you go beyond well-known brands.
But, you don't have to worry about being weighed down by specifications. Frame rate (30 or 60 frames per second), resolution (720p, 1080p or 4K) and microphone (mono or stereo) are all about it. That doesn't mean they don'' t have a lot in common. Some are better than others in less tangible ways, such as how well the automatic exposure, white balance, or focus works. Those are the characteristics that separate the just-OKer webcams from the better, more expensive ones.
How do you know what you need? Well, if you have nothing right now, then anything's a step up. Most laptops -- even expensive ones like MacBooks- have 720p webcams, while most of the standalone web cam models on the market are 1080p. The latter usually has video quality that looks significantly better than the former, since the greater number of pixels makes your image appear sharper for video calls, video conferencing, and live streaming. Because you can mount a webcam on ipods or perch it higher than if it were on your laptop, you may bring it closer to eye level, which is much more flattering than the from-below-view capabilities of laptop web cams.
Read more: Best vlogging camera for 2021: Sony, GoPro, Panasonic, and many more compared for YouTube
If you want to see yourself better without looking soft, crunchy, or blocky, as well as to show physical objects, consider going 4K. You may also use your phone or, if you have one, an DSLR camera as a makeshift webcam using an app or utility from the camera manufacturer. The software that allows you to use a digital camera as 'a webcam' typically limits the resolution to 1,920x1,080, but you may get better zoom results than from -as opposed to utilizing.
Improving your environment with good lighting or a better angle can often improve the quality of your webcam video more than upgrading your camera. Nevertheless, be aware that even the most powerful camera will not guarantee clear video and sound on the other end; that may be determined by the quality and consistency of your network connection.
We'll update this page with more tips and picks as we test webcams, so stay tuned.
Best basic webcam under $50
When I first decided to include the Creative webcam to this list, I thought it was $40; it jumped to $60, which made it much less of a no-brainer for its basic features set. It's back to $40, but only from Creative, and it'll be a great option that will provide better video quality than many 720p laptop webcams. Its facial white balance is decent, but the autoexposure could be improved, and it has a conference-friendly 77-degree field of view as well as the ability to tilt and swivel, which cheaper competitors tend to lack. Don't expect a 1080p picture quality for full-size viewing, though. At that size, you can clearly see all the noise, but when you scaled it down to a typical laptop viewing size (think laptop), it looks pretty good. Even with the smallest adjustments made by the Smartcomms kit in the Creative App, voice quality is much better than without, but since the software is Windows-only, it's not a great option for Mac users.
Best webcam for under $100
This wasn't one of my favorite laptop webcams until the price dropped, but for less than $100 you get a great 1,080-pixel, 30fps video and sound quality -- as long as your lighting doesn'sn're not too bright. It has a built-in ring light, but it doesn't seem to make terribly much of an impact unless you're close to the camera.
Best webcam for frequent movers for easy use.
The 1080p Obsbot Tiny, a refined version of the Obposbot Tail that began life as 'backer's campaign' ten years ago with varying goals, replaces the Anker PowerConf 300 as my peripatetic pick. Though it's larger overall than most webcams, it is smaller than it appears, and the built-in gimbal that lets it tilt and rotate to track you is worth the extra weight. That means it can expand you to over 180 degrees without you having to zoom out until you're only a tiny head in the frame. And it works pretty well. It also has a few gesture controls -- to control face lock for tracking and zoom -- that are useful. The design is impressive as well, with a magnetic attachment to the mount and soaring LED that not only tells you if it's on, but also indicates 'if its currently focused on anything. Instead of a cover, you can tilt the camera down so you don't have to worry about losing hoods.
It has all of the basics covered, including solid video quality and a surprisingly good mic (though it lacks features you might be used to from the mic in your laptop or headset, such as noise cancellation), as well as swivel-style controls to control camera position and zoom in software.
There are a few things that I don't like as much as others. In software, you can zoom continuously between 1x and 2x, but the gesture control only takes you all the way in or out, whereas 1.5x is probably your best general choice. Since it's 1080p, the 2x digital zoom doesn't look great. While the auto white balance and exposure works nicely, it doesn't handle low light as well as the cheaper Anker, which can also produce 1080p at 60fps (the Tiny is restricted to 30fpm). The latter wouldn't be an issue as much if the utility had image controls, but the Obsbot relies entirely on Windows' meh settings dialog and even then only supports white balance and exposure. You can change the aperture, but that doesn't seem to work on any webcam I've tested so far.
Because it's so tall, mounting it on top of a big monitor may not be advisable, although I've managed to get it perched on receptacles that fit 32-inch monitors. It's actually a plus if you're using it on your laptop, since most people use it well below their eyeline, which is incredibly convenient.
Best webcam for portrait-oriented video
This tiny webcam is meant for streaming (in case the name didn't give it away), but it has some advantages that make it suitable for general-purpose use. You can mount it horizontally or vertically, which makes it ideal for video chatting with people on phones or for shooting quick TikTok or Instagram videos. It shoots in 1080p at 60fps, which can often result in better quality video than 30fpps. Plus, it's tiny, so it can fit in more restricted areas.
Read more about the Logitech StreamCam.
Best webcam for streamers and poor lighting
Razer's unconventional-looking webcam supports 1080p at 60fps and because it doesn't compress the stream, it can produce some nice-sounding video. It also has a sensor and autoexposure capabilities optimized to compensate for dim and harsh lighting, as well as automatic white balance that preserves more natural-looking skin tones. It comes with a cover; not as practical as removing the lens shutter, but better for keeping dust from the front of the camera. The mount is also one of the most flexible we've seen.
Read our Razer Kiyo Pro preview.
Best image-quality webcam
Like the Logitech Brio, the Dell UltraSharp Webcam's 4K resolution allows it to zoom in on your face with less degradation than a 1080p model, and it'' s primarily used for streaming video or as opportune for shooting 4k video directly to your PC. Its cylindrical, all-metal body with magnetic mounts and lens cover feels more premium than competitors and is a nice change from typical webcams, as does the web cam's multi-element lens, which has amazingly distortion-corrected views. Like the Brio, it supports 1080p 30fps and 60ffpm for low-bandwidth connections and streaming.
Plus, if you've got a modern Dell laptop, it supports the company's Express Sign-In technology, which allows it to detect and shut down the system when you leave, and then wakes and signs you in when your body is relaxed.
There's no microphone, but the mic array on a decent recent laptop should be much better than any mic you'll find on an internetcam. And the program, which allows you to save customized presets and provides a lot of the features, doesn't work on the Mac.
Read our Dell UltraSharp Webcam preview.
Best webcam for presenters Best for web cams for businessmen
The Brio 4K webcam is one of the most popular models on the market because of its superb 4k resolution and Logitech web cam skills. 4K is ideal if you want to zoom in to your face or a physical object without losing the detail as much as ten80p models. If you have the network bandwidth to transmit 4K, you can produce a sharp picture and even use it handheld to show viewers objects rather than sharing your screen. If you want a high-quality video that's less burdensome on your network, 4K may be appropriate.
Logitech even develops a Brio specifically for the Apple Pro Display XDR, the 4K Pro Magnetic webcam, so it can sit elegantly on your expensive monitor.
View our Logitech Brio 4K Pro Webcam preview.
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