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The Opal C1 is a $300 DSLR Style Webcam For Apple Macs

Opal C1
(Image credit: Opal)

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.

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt (Staff Writer) likes taking computers apart to see how they tick, from hardware to code. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.

  • w_barath
    @michelle: This is not a "DSLR Webcam". DSLR means Digital Single Lens Reflex. This product may have a single lens, but it does not have an optical viewfinder with a mirror or prism for directing the objective lens focused image from the digital film back to the optical viewfinder.

    I urge you, for the sake of your reputation and that of THG, to reconsider the title of this article. Perhaps DSLR-Quality WebCam is what you are really shooting for. But even then, it would be irresponsible to make such a claim without exploring the relative performance of this product against a real DSLR - even a relatively cheap one. I think you'll find this product's low light performance is sorely lacking. Meanwhile there's a variety of 4k action cams which can perform this role at the same price point with vastly larger aperatures.
    Reply
  • deesider
    Rather then using a DSLR standard sensor, it uses a sensor size commonly found in compact digital cameras. Not many details are given but it seems identical to the 'High Quality Camera' unit for the Raspberry Pi, which uses the Sony IMX477. A good sensor no doubt, but the at least the Rpi version has an option for different lenses.

    Being overpriced and aimed at Mac users, I'm sure it will be very successful.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    "so why not just strap a smartphone-shaped DSLR to the top of your computer monitor"

    Because the concept of a DSLR makes absolutely no mechanical sense on a camera without a viewfinder.

    "mirrorless 7.8mm 4K Sony sensor"
    See, so it's not a DSLR, because its mirrorless... Although every webcam is mirrorless.

    Does this webcam use interchangeable lenses, or what? Because the best I can tell this webcam is just an ordinary webcam, with the same tiny webcam-sized sensor. All they've brought to the table is the hack-fraud marketing and insane overpricing that one would expect from "former Apple, Beats and Uber employees".
    Seriously, their marketing is so wanky that it must be sarcastic.

    Opal themselves claim "DSLR technology on a webcam for the first time", but make no real attempt to explain what that means... Unless they legitimately believe a glass lens counts as "DSLR technology". Two paragraphs later, they call it a "mirrorless miracle".
    Reply
  • AdultsHaveToysToo
    I actually registered to comment here because this is so annoying. As others have said DSLR actually has a real meaning, not just "good camera". The blame isn't all on the company either. The company says "DSLR technology" which could mean a few things, but the author then makes the leap to "the first DSLR webcam" which is just bad journalism. And the sensor size measurement is intentionally misleading because no one uses diagonal sensor size to measure image sensors making it difficult at best to compare to other cameras, but looking a bit deeper this is a common size for cheap cell phone and web cam sensors. Sony pretty makes the majority of sensors so that's pretty much meaningless too. This is TH pretty much advertising a product that is a step above a scam.
    Reply
  • TheDane
    This isn't a DSLR webcam as there is no mirror.

    The sensor diagonal size is a puny 7.8mm which mostly resembles an ordinary 1/2.3" sensor = 6.30x4.72mm, a FAR cry from a typical DSLR/mirrorless sensor size of 22.30x14.90mm (Canon APS-C) or 24x36mm (standard 35mm full frame).

    This is very close to being a scam. At least it seems way overpriced to me.
    Reply
  • dperreno
    Not a DSLR. A Digital Single Lens Reflex camera has these key features:

    1) Removeable/Interchangeable lenses

    2) A mirror and prism system to divert the image from the sensor to an optical viewfinder, thus allowing the photographer to see directly through the lens (and not via an electronic screen)

    This tiny webcam has neither of these features. It is a digital camera only.
    Reply