Even the best webcams can’t always measure up to what you’ll find on smartphones and especially DSLRs, so why not just strap a smartphone-shaped DSLR style webcam to the top of your computer monitor? That’s the solution behind startup Opal’s new Opal C1, an upcoming $300 webcam with a purportedly DSLR level sensor (no mirrors or viewfinder though) made specifically with Macs in mind.
Opal’s made up of former Apple, Beats and Uber employees, although I doubt the C1’s going to be able to pick you up from the bar. Instead, it’s aiming to be “the first professional webcam,” which is a bit of a stretch given how much compression Zoom and Google Meet put on video calls anyway. The 4K you’ll find on the likes of the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam is already a bit overkill for most users, even in professional settings. However, higher fidelity still does have its perks if you need to do more with your webcam than make video calls.
Currently in private, invite-only beta, the Opal C1 is essentially a big rectangle with a mirrorless 7.8mm 4K Sony sensor, a microchip capable of making “4 trillion operations per second,” and a large omnidirectional “MicMesh” for capturing high-quality, noise-canceled sound.
It’s not clear whether the chip is custom; however, as the website says, the camera both uses “Intel’s new 14nm VPU chip” but also something called the “Opal Trillium.”
What is clear is that this webcam is made with Macs in mind. While you’re always free to use third-party software like Nvidia Broadcast, Opal’s own C1 software is “made exclusively for Mac.” This software is where you’ll find the camera’s ability to blur the background or use facial recognition to touch up and filter the image, so it’s a pretty hefty exclusion for PC users.
Still, this webcam aims for DSLR levels of picture, and at $300, it’s far less expensive than connecting a standalone DSLR to your computer. It also promises a 4K, 60 fps sensor with a 78-degree field of view, so it’s specced to keep up with existing webcam competition too. At the same time, with the compression that streaming and even video hosting services apply to devices, is it worth the extra $100 over the already high quality on devices like the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam and Razer Kiyo Pro?
I suppose we’ll have to wait to find out. The Opal C1 doesn’t have a public release date yet, but you can add your email to a reservation list for a chance to purchase a beta version.