With coronavirus (COVID-19) forcing many workers to retreat from their offices in favor of video conferencing into meetings from home, webcams have become the hand sanitizer of the tech world. And even months later, with parents facing down a potential remote back-to-school season, the shortage persists.
While even the best webcams won’t help you fight off sickness, demand for them is just as high as hand sanitizer, and for good reason. Showing your facial expressions and reactions is very important for human conversation and, if you have a laptop with a built-in camera, it's probably terrible.
That’s why popular webcam mainstays, like the Logitech C920 series, are selling out everywhere from Best Buy to Amazon. But if you're willing to expand your horizons, there are plenty of other choices, from entry-level streaming cameras to webcams from lesser-known brands. These are the best webcams you can get right now (or soon).
Quick Shopping Tips
Here’s a few details to keep in mind when shopping for the best webcam for your conference calls.
- Streaming vs work cam: The webcam market is mostly split into two categories: work, and livestreaming. Livestreaming webcams can run on the expensive side, sometimes up to $500, in exchange for additional features such as 4K, professional-level microphones, and wide-angle lenses.
But since video compression and lag are still problems for most conference call apps, you probably won’t need these features for a home office, with 1080p and often even 720p support being appropriate for most situations. However, if you're willing to spend the money or find one at a good price, a webcam that's designed for streaming will be more than adequate for work.
- Built-in mic: The best webcams on the market always include some sort of built-in microphone, but that doesn’t mean the audio quality is always top-notch --or even good. With webcams usually situated above and away from your face, it’s not uncommon for built-in mics to be quiet and include plenty of background noise or echo.
Many users opt for headsets or separate mics, but if these aren’t options for you, make sure to choose a webcam with good reviews on the microphone and do what you can to isolate your work environment from background noise.
- Lighting is a bonus: While built-in lighting isn’t a standard feature on most consumer-level webcams quite yet, manufacturers like Razer are doing their best to change that. After all, it doesn’t matter how capable your camera is if your office’s lighting is too dark to take advantage of it. If you don’t have a lamp next to your desk, consider either looking into webcams with built-in lighting or desk lamps that can help your coworkers actually see your face.
Best webcams at a glance:
1. Razer Kiyo
2. Logitech C920 / C920S
3. Logitech C930e
4. Microsoft Lifecam Studio
5. Logitech C525
6. Logitech StreamCam
7. Ausdom AF640
8. Ausdom AW615
9. Ausdom AW635
10. Papalook PA452
11. Raspberry Pi --- a DIY alternative
12. Your Phone --- cheap and effective
Best Webcams You Can Buy Today
At about twice the price of the standard casual use webcam, the Razer Kiyo is an entry-level model for professional streaming. Still, it’s far more approachable than other options like the $400 MeVo.
Its almost $100 price tag will net you standard 1080p recording at 30 fps, but also 720p recording at 60 fps. It also includes a built-in omnidirectional microphone, but it’s key feature is an adjustable ring light, which will help with dark offices.
Tom's Hardware Senior Editor Andrew Freedman wrote a Razer Kiyo review for Laptop Mag when it came out in 2017, where he praised this webcam's excellent image quality and flexible design. He also said the image capture was about on par with Logitech's C920 series, the industry leader.
If you’re willing to spend a small premium to get a name-brand webcam, this webcam will not only be great for conferencing, but also for game streaming if you want to start your own Twitch feed.
Unfortunately, while Razer was selling the Kiyo earlier on into the lockdown, it’s now sold out from official sources. That said, there are a number of eBay sellers with 100% feedback currently selling it for close to the original price.
An oldie but a goodie, Logitech's C920 has been the gold standard for webcams since it launched way back in 2013. Even after seven years, nothing has taken its place as the best webcam for video conferencing. There are other versions of the camera, notably the C920S, which comes with a privacy shutter, and the C922, which is designed for streaming.
All versions of the Logitech C920 have the same excellent 78-degree field of view lens that can show not only you, but the room behind you or the people sitting next to you. The 1080p sensor is excellent even in low light and its color reproduction is the best we've seen. Senior Editor Andrew Freedman wrote a Logitech C920 review for Laptop Mag back in 2016 and he was impressed with both the image quality and width.
He also noted that the dual microphones picked up clear sound, though in a crowded office, they also picked up some background noise. If you're in a quiet room, these should be fine, though.
As of publication time, unfortunately, the Logitech C920 and C920S were sold out at every store we checked. It’s also price gouged well over its usual $69 price through most third party stores, but we have managed to track down a few 100% rated eBay users selling it for only $10 - $20 over its usual price.
Like its popular sibling, the Logitech C920 / C920S, the Logitech C930e has excellent image quality with superior color reproduction, sharpness and low-light performance. However, it one ups the C920 series by providing a Carl Zeiss lens that has a 90-degree field of view.
One of the very best webcams you can get at any price, the C930e also comes standard with a privacy shutter. Its dual, omni-directional mics also provide better noise cancelling than the C920. The main advantage that the C920 and C920S typically have is price as the C930e's MSRP is $129 as compared to $69 for the C920S.
Like all other Logitech cameras, the Logitech C930e is sold out most places that you look. Normally selling for $129.99, the cheapest listings we could find for it were through eBay.
Currently available from third party sellers on both Amazon and eBay, the Microsoft Lifecam Studio is an older webcam, but it was top of the line when it came out. That means it features most modern webcam amenities, like autofocus and a built-in mono microphone, plus a few extra luxury features like a wide angle lens and being able to rotate 360 degrees.
The Lifecam Studio also comes with “Truecolor technology,” which automatically adjusts lighting and color for a better image, but can also be fine tuned manually for finer control and even includes some AR effects.
Unfortunately, the side effect of the Lifecam’s age is that, while it has a 1080p sensor for recording, it can only stream 720p footage over video chat programs like Skype. That gives it the lowest resolution on this list, but its solid features and reputable brand make it worthwhile if you’re not willing to go off-brand during the shortage.
The Logitech C525 HD Webcam is another 720p webcam, but balances that out by coming from the same producer as our leader, the Logitech C920. Its lower resolution and field of view do make it less powerful, but that also means it might have an edge on store availability. Like the Microsoft Lifecam Studio, this is also an older contender, making the used market a great place to start looking as big box stores have run out of stock.
The Logitech C525 focuses on combining basic features with a portable folding design seen in modern, sold-out contemporaries like the Asus ROG Eye. In addition to a 720p 30 fps camera, a 69 degree field of view, and a built-in mono mic, it also features auto-focus, a 360 degree swivel, built-in “HD light correction,” and one-touch photo-sharing to Facebook.
The Logitech StreamCam is a premium option, aimed at giving streamers and other content creators everything they need in one package. This means a higher price tag, but that in turn helps prevent it from selling out, along with giving those willing to pay some extra features.
The StreamCam is a special contender on our list in that it supports all resolutions from 240p to 1080p, and is able to stream or record each at any frame rate from 5 to 60. Though most will, of course, want to use the highest setting of 1080 60 fps, this lets those with low bandwidth customize their usage to their liking.
It also comes with a built-in omnidirectional microphone, complete with a small noise filter, as well as a white indicator LED, a standard tripod mount (in addition to a monitor mount), auto-focus and exposure, USB-C connectivity, and streaming software for fine-tuning filtering and other capture details. Those who prefer vertical video can also remove the camera from its mount and physically rotate it to shoot with full HD 9:16 video.
Currently selling used on eBay from highly rated sellers for a few dozen dollars over its original $169.99 price, it is one of our more expensive contenders. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t necessarily offer the best bang for your buck. The Logitech Brio 4K Ultra, for instance, has both 4K support and many of the same features of the StreamCam for only $30 more officially. However, the StreamCam has fewer price gouged listings.
The Ausdom AF640 comes from a lesser-known brand, but mimics the abilities of the Logitech C920. Its maker, Ausdom, might be more known for headphones than webcams, but after some hands-on time with the AF640, we feel comfortable recommending it to those who aren’t able to get their hands on a Logitech C920.
The big selling point here is, of course, the AF640’s no-frills 1080p @ 30 fps video capture, along with the webcam’s official Amazon listing still selling units direct from the manufacturer for just $10 more than the C920. That makes it an attractive choice for users who don’t want all the extra bells and whistles of a Razer Kiyo or Logitech StreamCam and who don’t want to wade into the reseller market.
For your purchase, you’ll get a webcam that’s mostly on-par with the C920, except for a few key differences. Most noticeable right away is the AF640’s wider field of view, which can be good or bad depending on your use case. There’s no way to adjust it, meaning that you might be left wanting if you prefer for more focus to be on your face than your background. But if you need to show off a wide area to your teammates, maybe for a demonstration, it could be better than competitors.
The AF640 also has more muted colors than the Logitech C920, though its 36dB omnidirectional microphone tends to pick up clearer sound with less background noise than the C920.
Despite costing $10, the AF640 is in many ways a lateral move from the C920 as opposed to an improvement. But with the webcam market as depleted as it is right now, that alone is enough to make it a compelling option.
The Ausdom AW615 is the only webcam on this list with a manual focus option, making it a good option for photo enthusiasts who want a little more control over their shots. This comes at the expense of autofocus, though, which leaves the AW615 a little less friendly to casual users.
Like the Ausdom AF640, the key selling point for the AW615 is its official availability on Amazon, selling direct from Ausdom for $76.99. For your purchase, you’ll get an f/2 aperture camera with a 3.6mm lens, which also has a 36dB omnidirectional microphone built-in.
In testing, the AW615 proved to be more of a specialty device than a practical general use webcam. Its lack of autofocus made it difficult to tune to the focus correctly, and made keeping up with motion on video difficult. Messing up the focus could also lead to egregiously overexposed or underexposed shots as well as a grainy effect across the whole image. However, when we did get the focus just right, it took more accurate photos than most other 1080p webcams on this list, especially in regards to texture.
Its microphone, unfortunately, sounded quiet, fuzzy and muffled, making its purpose as a picture-taking device even more apparent.
The AW615 can be a handy device for people who know their stuff and need to take close-up stills, but its unwieldy nature means that it’s not for everybody.
The Ausdom AW635 is the cheapest Ausdom webcam on this list, coming in at $69.99 on the official Ausdom Amazon listing. It’s half the size of the AF640, records in 1080p @ 30 fps, and has a built-in omnidirectional microphone. What makes it unique is its zoom.
The Ausdom AW635 shoots zoomed-in video that fits about one head, making it ideal for video chats, but not much else. There’s no way to control the zoom on the AW635, but if you want the focus to be squarely on you and not on your background, it will do that for you.
As for its video quality, its colors tend to appear lighter than in real life, its autofocus tends to be sensitive and frequently adjust and it’s more prone to glare than the Ausdom AF640. Texture also doesn’t come across well on the AW635, making it a better choice for casual use than business use.
It’s microphone is about identical to the Ausdom AW615’s, with the same quiet, fuzzy and muffled sound quality.
Like the other Ausdom webcams, it will swivel 360 degrees. However, it won’t tilt up or down.
Its price still makes it cheaper than other options on this list, and while it might not be as reliable as the Ausdom AF640, it will work if options become even more limited going forward.
The Papalook PA452 is another webcam with a manual focus option, again making it easier to recommend to photo enthusiasts than the average person. Like the AW615, it also doesn’t have autofocus, which makes it less friendly to casual users.
As with the Ausdom webcams, the Papalook PA452 is officially available on Amazon, selling for $69.99. It comes with an f/2 aperture camera with a 3.6mm lens, and also has a 32dB omnidirectional microphone built-in.
Like our other manual focus webcam, the Ausdom AW615, it’s best to consider the PA452 a specialty device rather than a practical general use webcam. During testing, the lack of autofocus makes it difficult to tune to the PA452’s focus correctly, especially when trying to keep up with motion on video. Unlike the Ausdom AW615, the focus here is a little more forgiving- it was difficult to get any egregiously overexposed shots- but there’s still almost always a feeling that it could be better. However, on the odd occasion that we did get the focus just right, it took more accurate photos than most other 1080p webcams on this list, except for the slightly more detailed shots we got with the Ausdom AW615.
Its microphone, unfortunately, was very prone to background noise, though it was still easier to make out my voice with it than with the Logitech C920’s microphone.
The PA452 is another handy choice for people who know their stuff and don’t mind focusing on still photos rather than video, but its unwieldy nature keeps it from being a universal pick.
If you already own a Raspberry Pi and don’t mind some installation, you can actually use it to create your own makeshift webcam. We’ve written a guide for this process here, but the general idea is to combine any recent-era Raspberry Pi, any Raspberry Pi camera module, and a microSD card with the Raspbian OS installed on it, then connect it to your PC either through USB or ethernet/Wi-Fi, depending on your Raspberry Pi board.
We have recommendations for the best possible performance, of course- the Raspberry Pi Zero/Zero W’s ability to connect to a PC through USB will help the camera’s frame rate, and the official Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2 will help with low-light performance- but this is easily the most customizable option on our list. With shops either selling out of certain products or selling them for far higher prices than usual, the ability to substitute alternatives or even use parts you might already have lying around is a definite plus.
Unfortunately, the downside to this option is that it is definitely a project. While tech-oriented readers might appreciate being able to get an inside look into how their webcam works, folks just trying to show up on work meetings with a simple plug-and-play solution may not appreciate the hassle. Also, because most Raspberry Pi camera modules don’t come with mounting brackets, you might have to get creative when it comes time to connect your new homemade webcam to your monitor.
Most folks reading this list already have small cameras in their pockets plenty capable of carrying them through video conferences. So why aren’t we using these instead of searching through nearly sold-out stock for webcams?
Probably because, while it’s possible to take a video call from your phone on a number of apps like Facetime and Google Hangouts, some home-workers prefer to sit at their desk and take them on their monitor. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone’s camera for your input.
Apps like EpocCam on the app store and IP Webcam on Google Play allow both iPhone and Android users to use their phone as a webcam on their computer, whether through USB (EpocCam) or Wi-Fi (EpocCam and IP Webcam). Both have free options, although EpocCam requires an $8.00 payout for HD resolutions, so you can try before you buy.
Both apps are the most used and well reviewed phone-to-webcam options on their respective stores, so you can be sure you’re not settling for a knock-off. Although, while EpocCam’s setup is fairly straightforward, IP Webcam’s is a bit more involved. The tradeoff is that IP Webcam gives you all the features a casual user would need for free, with the premium version only adding UI customization and Tasker integration to the mix.
Still, both options are cheaper than buying a new webcam, and can be set up in about a half hour or so without any new gear or need to leave the house.
If you’ve got a DSLR, you can even go a step further and buy a $50.00 SparkoCam license to use it as a webcam by connecting it to your PC using the cable that came with it. There’s also a free version available, though it slaps a pretty large watermark on your video input.
We’ve written in detail about how to set up all these options here. Unfortunately, as far as mounting your phone to your monitor, you’re on your own.
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