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. While even the best webcams won’t help you fight off sickness, demand for them is just as high, 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 C920S
3. Logitech C930e
4. Microsoft Lifecam Studio
5. Logitech C525
6. Logitech StreamCam
7. Avinia 720p HD Webcam W2
1. Razer Kiyo
Most premium still available and affordable
FOV: 81 degrees | Video Resolution: 1080p 30 fps, 720p 60 fps
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, and notable, is a name-brand webcam still being sold by the official seller (as of pub time).
Currently set to restock on Amazon on April 7th, its almost $92 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 and he praised this best webcam's excellent image quality and flexible design. He 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 and can wait until early April, this best webcam will not only be great for conferencing, but also for game streaming if you want to start your own Twitch feed.
2. Logitech C920 / C920S
The Best Webcam Overall (if You Can Find It)
FOV: 78 degrees | Video Resolution: 1080p 30 fps
And oldie but goodie, Logitech's C920 has been the gold standard for webcams since it launched way back in 2013. Yet, 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 or available at gouged prices (it should cost around $69, but some places are charging $250) at nearly every store we checked. Dell.com has the C920S listed as in stock, but we can't say for sure whether this is accurate or an oversight.
3. Logitech C930e
Great wide angles
FOV: 90 degrees | Video Resolution: 1080p 30 fps
Like its 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. Dell.com still lists it as available for $129 and there are sellers on eBay showing it for as little as $69, though many of the sellers are shipping from China so it won't arrive until mid-April.
4. Microsoft Lifecam Studio
Resolution: 720p for conferencing, 1080p for recording
Available in a number of places, including 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.
5. Logitech C525 HD Webcam
Basic and Portable
FOV: 69 degrees | Video Resolution: 720p 30 fps
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 if big box stores run out.
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 C525 is currently available for $52.99 on Dell’s website, but again, we can’t speak to the accuracy of the listing. It’s also available on Logitech’s site for $59.99, with a limit of 5 per customer.
6. Logitech StreamCam
Bells and whistles at a premium
FOV: 78 degrees | Video Resolution: 1080p and below, 60 fps and below
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 at $169.99 on Logitech’s site, with a limit of 5 per customer, it is at once one of our more expensive contenders while still perhaps not offering 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. However, the StreamCam is currently in stock, while the Brio is not. Gamestop is also currently expecting to be able to ship the StreamCam for the same price starting on March 30th.
7. Avinia 720p HD Webcam W2
Cheap and basic
FOV: ? | Video Resolution: 720p 30 fps
We haven’t been able to test this webcam, and the main listing for it offers few details aside from its 720p resolution. It also lacks user reviews, but Newegg reviews for its recently sold out 1080p cousin point to solid picture quality and easy plug-and-play use. Neither listing advertises extra features like autofocus or a rotating lens, but this webcam is the least expensive on our list, currently selling for $26.99 on Newegg.
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