Opal Tadpole is "smallest webcam ever built" — but it's not the cheapest!

Opal Tadpole webcam
(Image credit: Opal)

Opal has released what they're calling "a new species of webcam," the Tadpole, designed to clip onto the top of a laptop yet provide mirrorless camera quality. That's quite a promise, and one which might hold a lot of appeal for creatives making do with the built-in cameras on modern laptops.

The device is all about portability, with even its corded cable serving as a kind of carrying strap at the same time, with a bead on it that can be pulled to keep a safe grip. The camera itself is a 35mm square clip shape, with the lens projecting from the front and looks ultra-stylish (so it should go with all those MacBooks with crummy cameras). 

There is also what Opal is calling a "category first" directional mic as part of a two-mic array (one-directional, one omnidirectional) which, they say, is inspired by insect auditory systems.

(Image credit: Opal)

At the computer end of the cable (USB-C, naturally), a touch-sensitive button with a concealed indicator light lets you mute the mic without trying to find the right icon on screen.

The video output is 1080P at 30fps – not the 4K you might have imagined for a premium device – but it is binned from a 12.7mm 48-megapixel Sony IMX582 Exmor RS sensor, so it is not short of detail. My take on that is the use case is more about good-quality video calls on the go than reaching broadcast quality, in which case very few feeds would end up being 4K. The camera is f/1.8 with a 70-degree field of view and autofocus which, in itself, is often a step up versus built-in cams.

Materials choice, however, is where the real premium starts to show – the painted aluminium (offered in black or white) with silicone rubber clip and glass lens cover. The camera weights 35g, with the strap/cable adding another 10g (total 1.6oz).

(Image credit: Opal)

None of this comes cheap, though. The camera costs $175 and is available for order now, though shipping might take a few weeks.

We have an early model in for review, so we'll be letting you know exactly how good the picture is soon, but I can reveal that the DCW team's first impressions when I used it this morning – instead of my MacBook's built-in camera – were positive.

The Tadpole is expected to ship during December, but if you can't wait that long, perhaps check our list of the best webcams or the best Mac webcams.

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Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook