Working from home has opened up so many possibilities, but if you're still using your laptop camera for video chats, conference calls, and live streaming, it's time to invest in a better webcam. The quality of your laptop camera isn't flattering; it was acceptable to have grainy footage a couple of years ago, but if you want to make a good impression or create quality content, you won't get very far without a webcam. Webcams improve resolution, frame rate, focus, and can incorporate some pretty handy features. If you're ready to get yourself looking professional and crystal-clear on everyone's screens, check out our picks for the best webcams.
— Best Overall: OBSBOT Tiny PTZ Webcam
— Best for Streaming: Logitech StreamCam
— Best for Mac: Elegato Facecam
— Best with Microphone: Logitech Brio
— Best Budget: Logitech C310
— Best Premium: AnkerWork B600 Video Bar
How We Picked the Best Webcams
Many of the same features that are important for a standard camera apply to a webcam. For example, we considered the field of view, focus features, and resolution. With webcams, we also considered if they had a microphone and the quality of that microphone. Finally, we had to factor in the quality of the build, including the lens.
Field of View: The field of view needs to be wide enough that you can sit within 18 to 24 inches of the camera, between 60 degrees to 95 degrees, and appear sharp and clear.
Focus Features: Fixed focus webcams have their place and usefulness, especially when they offer a clear image at the prescribed focal length. Models with autofocus get bonus points for the added clarity they offer to moving images.
Resolution: We looked for models with good performance at their set (or adjustable) resolutions. Some people may only need 720p, while others need the clarity of 4K for content creation.
Microphone: Webcam microphones aren’t too much better than a laptop microphone. However, we considered how many and the type of microphone the webcam had when making our picks.
Build quality: A webcam with a high-quality build will last longer. If the rest of the materials, including the lens, are of similar quality, it can create better images, too. Take better pictures when you're not working with the best digital cameras.
The Best Webcams: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: OBSBOT Tiny PTZ Webcam
Why It Made The Cut: OBSBOT's Tiny PTZ Webcam can sense your movements and keep in you in frame without resorting to digital cropping, which sacrifices video quality.
— Video Resolution: 4K
— Weight: 5.1 ounces
— Microphone: Yes
— Rotating base and camera
— Excellent video quality
— AI that actually works
We'll cut to the chase: OBSBOT Tiny PTZ Webcam is the best webcam we've ever tested and has features no other model can reasonably match.
The 4K webcam delivers excellent video quality in both well and dimly lit rooms, though the more light you have, the better your end result will be. What sets this webcam apart from the rest is its rotating stand, which allows the webcam to follow your face as it moves around. Many webcams can crop and zoom their image to keep you in frame, but that feature sacrifices some of your video's resolution. Digital zooming has gotten a lot better, but the Tiny PTZ Webcam can keep you in frame without losing a pixel of video quality.
We found the AI to work very well in our tests — it was sensitive enough to follow us when we made large movements but smart enough not to flinch if we made smaller ones. OBSBOT also allows you to adjust the positioning of this webcam manually using a free app available on both Windows and macOS. The software was intuitive to use, and also allows you to update the firmware of your webcam to improve its AI and maintain compatibility with your computer's operating system.
Our favorite feature of OBSBOT's app was the ability to create three video presets, which allow you to move the webcam to a precise location and zoom level at the push of a button. This is extremely helpful if you videoconference in a handful of locations, and want to make sure you look your best at a moment's notice. The webcam would immediately respond when we pushed the button, and we were ready to open our video chat app of choice in a matter of seconds.
The Tiny PTZ Webcam is expensive, but it's well worth the money if you're on video calls for work or school more than twice a week. The participants in your call will recognize your improved video quality immediately, and the webcam's AI features aren't gimmicks. OBSBOT's Tiny PTZ Webcam isn't just the best option in its category, it's one of the coolest gadgets we've gotten to test this year.
Best for Streaming: Logitech StreamCam
Why It Made The Cut: The Logitech StreamCam offers automatic framing and crisp video at a wide range of frame rates and orientations, making it the best webcam for streaming.
— Video Resolution: 1080p
— Weight: 10.23 ounces
— Microphone: Yes
— Automatic framing
— Variety of recording options
— Includes two mounts
— Logitech Capture can jam up smaller systems
The Logitech StreamCam is an excellent option for those entering the livestream space. The package includes everything you need to get started, including two microphones and mounts. While the microphones can’t compete with standalone models, they’re much better than a laptop microphone.
The StreamCam comes with two mounts, one for monitors and laptop screens and a tripod mount for flat surfaces of any kind. This model works with standard streaming and recording software, but you also have the option of using Logitech Capture. If you choose the Capture software, you’ll access several extra features on the StreamCam that are worth accessing. The webcam automatically records in the Capture software, so you can use the raw footage from an outside software or the processed footage from Capture. This model also includes a wide range of recording options, including 1080p, 720p, and 360p at 24, 25, 30, 50, or 60 fps (frames per second). You get access to autofocus, image stabilization, white balance, and digital zooming that keeps the camera focused on your face. All of those features come at a high price. And, if you run the Logitech Software, it may jam up your system if you don’t have enough memory available.
Best for Mac: Elegato Facecam
Why It Made The Cut: The Elegato’s resolution impresses, as do the manual adjustments, and it comes with a fantastic companion app that makes it stand out as the best webcam for Mac.
— Video Resolution: 1080p
— Weight: 3.63 ounces
— Microphone: No
— Excellent vertical adjustment and 360-degree swivel
— Sharp images
— Consistent video quality thanks to the fixed focus
— Requires tweaking to prevent overexposure in natural light
— No microphone
The Elegato Facecam offers bright, clear images and excellent manual adjustment options, making it the best webcam for Mac. However, it takes some tweaking out of the box to get your images to look just right, but that tweaking comes with some benefits.
One of those benefits is the Facecam’s fixed focus design. Autofocus models can keep you in focus as you move. However, sometimes there’s a jumping effect that happens as the camera tries to refocus. That doesn’t happen with the Facecam. It brings more vertical adjustments to the mounting than comparable models, and it can swivel 360 degrees for even more recording options and angles. The Facecam app does some awesome things, too, like letting you adjust the exposure settings. That lets you get reasonable images in dim light and perfectly adjusted video in natural light. However, there’s no microphone. That’s not too big of a problem, considering you’ll get better audio with a standalone microphone anyway.
Best with Microphone: Logitech Brio
Why It Made The Cut: Two omnidirectional microphones capture better audio than you usually find on a webcam, launching the Logitech Brio into the best webcam with microphone category.
— Video Resolution: 4K
— Weight: .74 pounds
— Microphone: Yes
— Compatible with Windows Hello
— Outstanding audio
— Great Ultra HD 4K resolution
— Adjustable field of view
— No optical zoom
The Logitech Brio offers much more than two omnidirectional microphones (even though those features are why it’s on this list). The microphones pick up sound while dampening the ambient noise that plagues other webcam mics.
With those mics comes Ultra HD 4K resolution. If you’re only doing conference calls, you don’t need 4K since current conferencing software doesn't support it. But content creators can certainly use the visual boost of 4K. You can also adjust the field of view to 90 degrees, 78 degrees, and 65 degrees.
This model is compatible with Windows Hello for yet another recording and editing option. With all of that, it’s missing optical zoom, which isn’t a deal killer but would be nice on a webcam at this price.
Best Budget: Logitech C310
Why It Made The Cut: The Logitech C310 may only have 720p resolution, but it’s superior to built-in webcams and comes at a price that makes it the best budget webcam.
— Video Resolution: 720p
— Weight: 4.6 ounces
— Microphone: Yes
— Easy to install and setup
— Works well with video conferencing software and apps
— Autofix lighting
— Choppy video at higher resolutions
— Poor microphone
The Logitech C310 offers excellent 720p resolution for video conferencing and video chats. If you’re looking for a webcam for home use that’s a step above your built-in webcam, this is the model. It includes an autofix lighting feature that adjusts brightness for better visuals in changing light conditions.
The C310 can also take five megapixel still shots for fun reminders of your favorite chat moments. However, at higher resolutions, the video can get choppy. Also, the microphone definitely doesn’t help your audio much. It’s on par with your laptop microphone, rather than a step up.
Best Premium: AnkerWork B600 Video Bar
Why It Made The Cut: In the words of Bill Hader’s Stefon, this has everything. With a 2K resolution MagicSight LED light, and dual speakers, it provides a sleek, professional video conference setup.
— Video Resolution: 2K
— Weight: 0.66 pounds
— Microphone: Yes
— 4-mic array
— High-quality image
— Smart lighting
Tired of all your video conferencing equipment piling on your desk? Us too. Enter the AnkerWork B600 Video Bar, which includes a 2K camera, four-mic array, smart LED lighting, and dual speakers. The microphone setup cuts down on background noise for clear audio, while the 2K camera uses artificial intelligence to autofocus and color correct. Dual speakers amplify sound, and MagicSight LED lighting automatically adjusts to complement the light levels in your room. Best of all, it’s lightweight and compact, so it’s easy to bring wherever you work.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Webcam
Resolution and Frame Rate
Resolution determines how sharp the camera’s image appears. Today, 1080p is pretty standard, though some of the less expensive models may have 720p. A 720p webcam offers an improvement over the laptop’s camera and works well for lower bandwidth connections. If you want and need the best resolution, 4K webcams can zoom in while staying crystal clear and sharp.
A webcam’s frame rate affects how smooth the images appear. A slow framerate will make the video look jerky or blurred. To keep the video looking smooth and natural, you’ll need around 60 fps (frames per second). Less expensive webcams may have 30 fps, which works as long as you’re not using the video professionally. Higher-end models offer around 90 fps. Some cameras let you pick from several different resolutions and frame rates to fit varying recording situations and needs.
Lens and Field of View
The webcam’s lens, in large part, determines the field of view. Field of view dictates the framing or how close the image appears to the camera. A narrow field of view works if you only need to show your face for a video chat. You may need a wider field of view for conference calls that need to show several people gathered in a conference room.
Models with a high resolution may let you adjust your field of view or crop in and not lose any of the video quality. Lower-resolution models will lose quality if you crop in or have a fixed field of view. The most common field of view range falls between 65 degrees and 90 degrees, with 78 degrees being somewhere in the middle. Some models offer a wider field of view of over 100 degrees.
Fixed and Autofocus
Fixed-focus webcams cannot adjust their focal length. Consequently, they’re set to a field of view that’s most likely to capture someone within a predetermined distance, and you can’t change that field of view. Typically, they offer a clear picture if you’re sitting in front of the camera. However, when using a fixed-focus webcam, you can easily get out of focus if you move too far from or close to the camera.
Autofocus webcams cost significantly more because they automatically adjust the focus to keep an object or person clear and sharp, even if they move closer or further from the camera. A few high-resolution models may also include AI autofocus, which adds digital zoom to the autofocus capabilities.
Webcams microphones aren’t spectacular, but they often improve the audio that you’d get with your laptop’s microphone. The final audio quality depends more on the room setup, including your distance from the camera and the acoustics of the room, than they do on the webcam microphone.
Because webcams tend to favor video over audio, some models do not have a microphone at all, with the assumption that you’ll use a USB microphone or another audio device to improve sound quality. A model with a microphone will save you money in the long run, though you’ll get better audio quality with a standalone microphone.
Q: What should you look for when buying a webcam?
When you’re buying a webcam, look for a model that fits your budget and offers the resolution, field of view, and focus features you need. Content creators should factor in a larger budget for a webcam with autofocus, 4K or 1080p resolution, and possibly an adjustable field of view. For offices or home offices, a model with a wider field of view and autofocus will make sure everyone’s clear and visible. For general home use, a budget-friendly fixed-focus model with 1080p or 720p resolution will do.
Q: How much should I spend on a webcam?
The amount you spend should reflect what you want to do with the webcam. Professional content creators will probably want to budget $125 to $200, though there are a few webcams that fall around $100 that offer excellent video quality. If you’re buying the camera for business conferences or online gaming, factor in about $50 to $100. For general home use, you can get a camera that’s several steps above your laptop camera for under $50.
Q: How many megapixels is good for a webcam?
A good webcam will take at least two megapixel captures. Models that take five or higher offer better quality, with some taking up to 15 megapixels.
Q: Is a 720p webcam good enough for Zoom?
A 720p resolution is good enough for Zoom if you have limited bandwidth. Keep the available bandwidth in mind, too — if there’s more, 1080p will look better. However, 1080p may jerk or pause at lower bandwidths because it requires more compression.
Q: Is a webcam better than a laptop camera?
In almost all cases, a webcam is better than a laptop camera. It doesn’t take much of an investment, under $30, to improve upon some of the best built-in laptop cameras. You can also upgrade your workspace with one of the best laptops.
Q: Is it worth getting a webcam?
For professionals, it is absolutely worth getting a webcam. The quality of the video will far outpace anything your laptop can do. They’re also a great investment for a home office or office conference room. When it comes to general home use, it’s up to you. If you use your laptop camera a lot, it might be worth it. But if you only use it to communicate with family, it depends on how good you want to look for grandma and grandpa.
Best Webcams: Final Thoughts
The Razor Kiyo Pro takes the top spot as the best webcam for the combination of video and audio quality. The multiple resolutions and frame rates also provide versatility in your recording options. If you’re on a tight budget, Logitech C310 vastly improves the video quality for general home use and stays within a limited budget.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.