If, like many of us, you have found yourself stuck at home in recent times, you will no doubt know how much of a lifeline video conferencing can be. Using apps like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facetime or Messenger has become even more crucial in this time of crisis. But if you now need a webcam to communicate with colleagues every day, or to regularly keep in touch with family and loved ones, you may well have found your phone's selfie cam or the built-in camera in your laptop just isn't up to the job.
Upgrading to a standalone webcam will instantly give you better positioning options, and most likely a boost in audio and video quality, plus additional features.
These are the main things to consider when choosing a webcam:
• Resolution is a key specification. 720p is basic high definition (and will be a huge step-up from the VGA cameras built-in to some older laptops. But 1080p is better, and 4K the best, at least in theory. But when limited internet bandwidth is an issue, smoother lower resolution video is much more desirable for video conferencing than stuttering high-res footage.
• Audio is probably more important than video with video conferencing. Most webcams have a better microphone to help improve sound recording, and some will offer stereo.
• Controlling your background, as well as how your head is framed, is key to setting a good impression at home - so being able to angle the camera is really useful, as is the option to zoom in and out.
• Look out for extra features too... our top choice here offers built-in ringlighting, to help you look at your best on screen even in a dingy room.
Webcams, fortunately, don't need to cost a fortune - and are very much plug and play add-ons nowadays that are easy to get up and running. However, due to the demand of Covid-19 lockdown, the best webcams have been in short supply - and if you can find them in stock they are often at higher prices than they were before the crisis.
Here are six of the best webcams for home working around right now…
The best webcams for home working
A poorly lit room is not the best place in which to show yourself to the world. So if you want to give yourself a visual edge over your video conferencing colleagues, or just impress other members of your family, then lighting is key. The Razer Kiyo takes care of this by having a built-in ringlight. Made up of twelve LEDs set in a circle, this is designed to give illumination that flatters the face – with adjustable intensity, and a daylight-balanced color temperature. As for the camera itself, the Razer Kiyo captures video at an impressive 1080p Full HD resolution at 30 frames per second, and a 60fps at 720p option is also available.
Looking like a mini CCTV camera, you will either love or hate the Microsoft LifeCam Studio's industrial design. As a top model in the Microsoft webcam range, it's meant for business use and offers 1080p recording or 720p live video calls - easily enough to keep yourself looking sharp on a VC call, while also maintaining smooth stutter-free video. There's a built-in microphone to improve the sound quality of your calls, too. It boasts Microsoft's TrueColor system which is designed to expand dynamic range to ensure you look your best on screen. The camera can also rotate through a full 360 degrees, enabling you to frame the perfect home scene for presenting to the outside world.
The Logitech C922 is our favorite camera for streaming and the perfect choice if you also fancy broadcasting live to YouTube, or sharing your gaming exploits via Twitch. The camera simply clips onto the top of your computer screen, or it can be attached to a tripod if you want to get more creative with your angles and framing. You can shoot and stream live in Full HD (1080p) resolution at 30 frames per second, plus there's also a ‘hyperfast’ mode for streaming 720p footage at 60fps. Twin microphones provide great quality stereo audio, and the camera comes with an 18.5cm-tall tabletop tripod.
A fantastic cheap webcam for those on a strict budget, the HD-3000 proves you don't need to spend a fortune to get a decent upgrade over most built-in laptop cameras. Resolution is restricted to 720p HD resolution at 30 frames per second, but that’s still high definition and few friends, family members or work colleagues will notice you're not broadcasting in 1080p or higher. The camera provides face tracking and low-light adjustment, it has a built-in microphone, and it easily attaches to your computer screen. There's also a manual focus option to help you guard against any ugly autofocus hunting moments should reach for something out of shot.
This newly-introduced budget webcam is an interesting option for those that want to show a wider angle view with your Zoom meetings. The 90° wide-angle lens has a fixed focus that keeps everything up to 5m in sharp relief, with your video being transmitted at 1080p HD at 30 frames per second. The plug-and-play device is as comfortable with Macbooks as with Windows laptops, and features two microphones. The hinge-type attachment is reasonably sturdy, but if you want a more interesting camera angle the eMeet has a handy tripod attachment.
If you fancy setting up a YouTube channel or doing some vlogging from home, Logitech's StreamCam is for you. This webcam is capable of live streaming 1080p Full HD footage at a super-smooth 60fps, while automatic face tracking keeps autofocus reliably locked on to you and nothing else. The same AI trickery also keeps exposure metering in check, ensuring you're always lit to look at your best. What's more, the camera's docking holder also lets you easily rotate the camera into portrait orientation to perfectly suit the 9:16 aspect ratio for Instagram Stories. The StreamCam doesn't let audio take a back seat, either, as dual front-facing microphones ensure you sound crystal clear.
The Logitech Brio Ultra HD Pro is one the highest-quality webcams around. This camera can record in Ultra HD 4K resolution. The lens has different angles of view - 65, 78 and 90 degrees - ensuring everything stays in frame, and can be tweaked to suit your office layout. This webcam can stream in 1080p Full HD at 60 frames per second, and it offers 5x digital zoom that crops a 4K image to 1080p with minimal image quality degradation. There is also a 90fps option at 720p resolution if you want super-smooth video, and the camera can record HDR (High Dynamic Range) video for improved contrast. Two omni-directional microphones and a PC monitor clip complete this brilliant webcam package.
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