Our new telecommuting culture means that popular webcam mainstays, like the Logitech c920 series, have been selling out everywhere from Best Buy to Amazon for the past few months. As we enter the end of the year, there's now more listings for these popular choices, but they're still not always available at your favorite stores. Also, their absence from the market has given rise to plenty of enticing alternatives, some with unique features of their own.
So 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. That’s why we’ve collected this list of the best webcams...and the best back-up webcams for if you can’t find them at the stores you like or with the features you need.
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.
- 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. Consider supplementing your purchase with a headset or desk mic.
- 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. It doesn’t matter how capable your camera is if your office’s lighting is too dark to take advantage of it.
Best Overall Webcam
The webcam market is in a strange place right now. Normally, we would just give you our recommendations for which options we think have the best specs for the price, but most of those recommendations have been sold out for long enough that a new list of enticing but less well-known contenders has sprung up to challenge them. That’s why we’re going to break down what has long been our gold standards, plus which new releases are also worth looking into. This is important, since even though classics like the Logitech C920 are largely available now, we can’t say that for every webcam from a well-known manufacturer.
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.
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.
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.
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 C525 webcam is still sold at some major retailers like Amazon, but we have seen it at stores like B&H.
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.
At $170 officially, the Logitech StreamCam usually sells for just $30 less than the Logitech Brio 4K Ultra, but since most streaming platforms don’t support 4K yet, its unique bonus features still make it an enticing buy.
Best Webcams Available Right Now
Normally, the best webcams on the market are pretty cut and dry. The Logitech c920 for casual 1080p use, the Logitech Brio 4K for premium use and maybe a specialty webcam like the Razer Kiyo or Logitech StreamCam for streaming. But with cameras from well-known brands still recovering their stocks, telecommuters have been spending most of 2020 resorting to lesser-known webcams from lesser-known companies. And now, even with webcam inventory starting to stabilize across brands, the features and prices that these newcomers have used to stand out are still worth considering.
Here are just a few that we personally tested to help you navigate the free-for-all that the webcam market has become.
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 more, 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.
At just $70, the Looca 4K webcam is one of the cheapest 4K cameras on the market, which makes it an ideal choice for people who prize quality regardless of the display resolution of the monitor. For instance, I don’t have a 4K monitor in my apartment, but that didn’t stop me from using this webcam on my FHD display to get some crisp visuals that almost rival the Logitech c920.
The big drawback here is the zoom, which focuses primarily on the face. That might actually be a plus if you’re only planning to use it for video conferences, but it’s not a great option for capturing your background.
The built-in microphone produces audio that is decently clear and loud, if a little on the sharp side. The included miniature tripod also attaches to the Looca securely, and can adjust to dozens of heights. It feels stable during use, as does the included cover, which you can attach to the camera simply by snapping it into its slots on either side of the lens.
If you don’t mind some zoom, this is easily one of the best webcams on this list.
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.
The Amcrest is a decent webcam with one big flaw holding it back: its fish eye lens. Some people might find this fun, but I think it’s a bit too disorienting to want to use for my daily video chats with my colleagues. That said, its image quality is decent enough and its price approachable enough that some people might be willing to stick with it, especially since it comes with a cover- though you’ll have to attach it yourself via the included adhesive strip.
In our testing, it seemed to perform better in low light light conditions, with colors appearing a little too warm in normal lighting. It captured texture well, though our test images came out a little grainy.
The lack of a horizontal swivel was a little disappointing given its presence on much of the Amcrest’s competition, though the Amcrest has much more coverage when tilting vertically.
The microphone was almost unusable, though, sounding quiet and muffled with plenty of background noise accompanying my voice.
We’re hesitant to recommend this one, but of the three top selling webcams on Amazon at the time of writing, this was our favorite.
The use case for this one is pretty cut and dry- it’s a knock off Razer Kiyo, and a pretty good one at that. We talk about the Razer Kiyo a little further down this list, but it’s essentially a 1080p webcam built for streamers. That means it has included rim lighting to help brighten up the face, a unique feature that Angetube has copied fairly well here.
With 4 brightness modes (including off), you’ve got plenty of control over your lighting here, and you also have great control over positioning thanks to the wide-ranging vertical tilt and the full 360 degree swivel. This means you can give your photos the best chance they have to come out well, and our testing ended up giving us some great shots with good color and texture reproduction alike. The fear with a webcam like this is that the lighting would just be a cosmetic feature that wouldn’t appear photos, but the Angetube significant affected how well lit my face was on all of its settings.
Audio is a bit more mixed, with my voice coming across clear but quiet in recordings.
The Angetube streaming webcam also comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth.
Aukey is more well known for making some of the best chargers on the market than it is for making webcams, but with big players like Logitech potentially absent, its 1080p Logitech c920 clone is one of the better options people have.
It helps that this comes from a company I’ve heard of before making this list, and while it’s not exactly on par with a Logitech, the Aukey webcam’s image quality beats most of the other contenders on this list while remaining competitive on pricing. Colors were a little warmer than real life in normal lighting conditions, but the angle for my shots was nice and wide while texture was impressively accurate.
This camera also has a few features the c920 lacks, namely its robust vertical tilt and 360 degree horizontal swivel. Audio recorded on its built-in microphone was clear and loud, though a little sharp and prone to picking up background noise.
We mostly chose to look at this one because it sounded fun. The PQ Labs webcam is a rare 1440p camera, though our testing showed that it doesn’t handle texture well and has an annoying fish eye angle in its shots. Color was for the most part accurate and audio was impressively loud and clear, but that’s not what’s most interesting about the PQ Labs webcam. What’s interesting here is that buying it also nets you access to two unique pieces of software that the marketing makes sound like something out of Minority Report.
The first is an AI Face Swap program that the webcam’s store page would have you think can live swap your face with another person’s or will let you superimpose it over any image you like. In actuality, what you actually get is a canned list of 7 videos that you have limited control over. Despite the program’s UI promising otherwise, all you can do here is upload a photo of your face, and then the AI will badly cut it out and superimpose it over a person in the video.
It’s fun for maybe two minutes, but the video selection is so limited and frankly bizarre that the novelty wears off quickly. It’s clear that this barebones program is only here to set the webcam apart from the pack, but you’d be better off just downloading one of the many similar apps from the mobile store of your choice or just using Snapchat’s Snap Camera app.
I’m also not sure that it’s safe to run this software. Despite only being able to download the software using a code that comes inside the webcam’s box, you also need to sign up for it using your email. I’m not sure why they’d need your email for a program like this, so I’m guessing that they might be selling it to advertisers. It’s not uncommon for apps like this to look flashy but offer limited utility, mostly because their main goal is to attract users to scrub data.
Which is why I ran this program in a virtual machine and fed it a fake email address during setup. The second program you get with this is a “holographic meetings” app which is supposed to let you move windows with gestures and which has marketing material that shows the webcam straight up displaying holograms. I was already pretty sketched out from the face swap app, so when this program wouldn’t run in my virtual machine, I decided not to even bother with it. There’s no way that it could live up to its promises.
Don’t buy this for the apps. They’re a marketing gimmick at best and spyware at worst. Still, at $45, the webcam itself is decent for the price.
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.
Didn’t Make the Cut
While testing, we ran across a few webcams that we just don’t feel comfortable recommending. Some of these are top sellers on Amazon! Here’s a few picks that we suggest staying away from, and why.
|Wansview 1080p Webcam||Great texture detail, Plenty of tilting options||No autofocus option, No swivel, Won't securely attach to monitor, Overly sharp image, Muffled audio, Lesser known company|
|Hrayzan 1080p Webcam with Cover and Tripod||Decent color reproduction, Comes with cover (attached through adhesive), Plenty of tilting options||Blurry image, Low texture quality, Fish eye angle, Tripod sounds prone to breakage, One LED constantly lit, No swivel, Lesser known company|
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