Webcams cover a wide range of devices designed to capture video images and send them to a computer or network. These cameras are usually pretty small, often designed to hook onto a monitor or sit next to a computer on your desktop. There are also webcams designed as part of other hardware, usually integrated into a computer monitor, tablet, or laptop.
As internet streaming has become faster and more widely available, webcams have advanced to include high-definition video and other convenience features. With so many different models available (and a number of accompanying technical specifications) to consider, you should check out our webcam buyer’s guide below to determine which one is best for you.
Best Webcam Overall:
As solid state photo sensors have become less expensive to produce, the prices for PC webcams has dropped steadily while their quality has only continued to increase. Today, many people use them for video chat on internet services such as Skpye and for video streaming on websites such as Twitch. We’ve chosen the following best webcams overall because they all feature lenses which are auto-focus, or wide angle or both. These webcams are also capable of full motion video at thirty frames per second (FPS) as well as video capture at between 1920x1080 and 1280x720 pixel resolution depending on the camera. This enables all of them to create stills in the popular 16:9 image format that is perfect for display on the majority of PC monitors. Finally, they all feature built-in microphones with noise reduction technology.
This fine offering from Logitech brings a lot to the table with several features like a 16 megapixel camera and full HD video to help create the best webcam experience possible. However, it comes at a cost that’s higher than many other web-cams. Read Full Review
It's hard to go wrong with this fine offering from Microsoft which offers a full HD camera sensor. Outstanding image quality and versatile mounting options make this camera a candidate for your web-cam short list. Read Full Review
This is a fine offering from top-tier Logitech offering several great features that create a lot of bang for the buck. Best of all, its high quality comes at a cost that is not high. Read Full Review
This camera from Creative brings a lot to the table including 1280x720 pixel image resolution and integrated surveillance software. With a number of additional essential features, it’s an outstanding value. Read Full Review
Best Budget Webcam:
While these best budget web-cams may be inexpensive, they certainly don't skimp out on essential features. We’ve chosen these picks because they all offer the ability to capture full motion video of thirty frames per second (FPS) at minimum resolutions between 1280x720 and 640x480 pixels. Next, these picks can do full HD image stills at between 1920x1080 and 1280x720 pixels resolution. In turn, this allows all of them to create images in the popular wide-angle 16:9 format. Finally, they are all designed with built-in microphones that are either wide angle, noise canceling, or even both.
This camera for Logitech brings great features such as built-in noise reduction microphone and automatic color correction. Capable of delivering HD-quality video, it tops our list for good reason. Read Full Review
This is an outstanding offering from Genius with a 12 megapixel lens offering resolution of 1920x1080 pixels and ultra-wide-angle video capture. It’s defiantly worth a look if you’re in the market for a budget web cam. Read Full Review
This is an excellent offering from tech giant Microsoft that offers a full suite of versatile features including a fixed focus lens, Truecolor technology, and a noise reduction microphone. If you're on a budget, this camera is well worth your consideration. Read Full Review
This is a great low cost solution for Creative with a full HD resolution camera and auto focus for sharper images. These and other excellent features easily land this web cam a place on our list. Read Full Review
This is a fine budget web cam offered by Macally offering a great deal of features such as capturing full motion video, auto focus, and integrated microphone. However, its low cost comes at the price of lower video capture resolution. Read Full Review
Best Wireless Webcam:
Wireless web-cams are often used by individuals for supplementing their home security as they can subtly keep track of what’s happening in your home when you’re not there. We’ve chosen the following best wireless webcams because they all are able to display a minimum full HD resolution of 720p (1280x720) or 1080p (1920x1080). These webcams also feature night vision capability, making them able to capture images in complete darkness between 10 to 26 feet. They all also possess excellent field of view of between 66 and 345 degrees. Finally, these webcams all use one quarter inch megapixel CMOS image sensors for clear imaging capabilities.
This is a great remote camera which provides great features for not a lot of money. This award winning design deserves to be on your short list with its only downside being a field of view that’s a little narrower than some of our other picks. Read Full Review
This good-looking offering is designed with both home surveillance and remote viewing in mind. It’s an outstanding choice if you want a good dual purpose camera. Read Full Review
This is a great indoor camera with several exceptional features including a very generous 340 degree field of view. It’s well worth a look so long as you don't need an camera that can be used outside. Read Full Review
This is an exemplary offering from Netgear designed with security as its primary function. If you want a camera dedicated to home protection, this product deserves your serious consideration. Read Full Review
Webcam Buyer’s Guide
While webcams are often used as fun devices to let people communicate online across long distances, they are still digital cameras so it is important to consider technical elements like pixels, video resolution, and frame rates. You also want to keep in mind the available focus settings and the image sensor used for the camera, as these both impact how well the webcam works and the overall picture quality. The actual setup of the webcam is also important, so consider how the unit connects to your system, mounts to your computer or desktop, as well as if there are additional features included like built-in microphones.
When it comes to looking at any kind of digital camera, it’s important to remember one major concept; the more pixels in an image, the better it looks. Digital camera image quality is often indicated in terms of megapixels, which indicate how many million pixels, or picture elements, are used to capture an image.
The bare minimum you should accept is about 1.0MP but 5.0MP is really what you want if you’re looking for good picture quality. If you’re willing to go higher, some webcams provide up to 8.0MP for incredible clarity and high definition.
Maximum Video Capture Resolution
While pixel counts are definitely important when considering picture quality with a webcam, don’t overlook the maximum resolution available. Resolution is a measurement of the height and width of an image, in pixels; the higher the resolution, the more pixels within an image which result in a crisp, sharp image. The minimum you should look for is 640x480 which should be acceptable for casual use. If you want picture quality that looks really great, then a resolution of 1280x720 is really what you should choose. This is also the resolution you will probably find for HD video, so keep that in mind.
Although you can typically use a webcam to capture still images, you ultimately want to look for a unit which provides you with exceptional video performance. Pixel count and resolution are both important, but a large, clear image is meaningless if the frame rate is so low that it looks like a series of still images instead of true, flowing video. You want to get a frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps) or higher because anything less than will be noticeably choppy.
Focus Settings and Controls
Focus refers to the way in which any camera, including a webcam, adjusts the depth of field to clearly capture an item or person that is either close to the camera or far away. Most webcams have autofocus, which lets the camera adjust to focus on a near or far object without you making any adjustments. While this is convenient, since you do not have to adjust it manually, it also means you have no control over it.
Manual focus settings let you change the focus, usually by physically adjusting a ring around the lens of the camera. This gives you control over what is in focus, but you need to make these adjustments each time you want to change it.
If you want manual control without any hassle, your best option is a webcam which includes a remote control to adjust the focus settings. This lets you alter near or far focus, but you can do so from across the room or without physically touching the camera.
Just about every webcam uses a USB connection to plug into your computer. The one thing to really look at is the type of USB interface and make sure you have an available USB connection on your computer.
USB 2.0 or 3.0 is ideal, since it ensures data transmission at high rates, preventing bottlenecking and frame loss due to slow data. USB 1.0 or 1.1 can work pretty well, but 2.0 is certainly ideal.
Also, keep the webcams cord length in mind as you look at your USB connections and be sure you have an available port in an area of your computer accessible to a webcam with a three or six-foot long cord. From there you can choose a model with a long enough cable for your setup.
There are two common types of image sensor used in webcams to capture light as a picture.
Charge-Coupled Device (CCD)
In the past, CCD was demonstrably superior in terms of image quality, but also more expensive. They’re often used in medical imaging equipment and cameras used on telescopes for taking images of astronomical phenomenon.
Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)
CMOS sensors were typically inferior but also less expensive, making it ideal for lower resolution webcams. This distinction has diminished in recent years, however, as CMOS webcams have become better and better.
Ultimately, you should look at pixel count, resolution, and frame rate, but just be aware that CMOS webcams have largely caught up with CCD models in terms of picture quality.
There is no particular mounting design that is superior to others; instead you need to make sure you pick a model that works well with your setup and computer work area. Clip models usually fasten to the edge of a desk, top of a monitor, or other relatively thin area. Other models have a stand that you rest on a monitor, shelf, or other surface and the webcam sits on it.
You need to decide where you plan on placing your webcam and then choose a mount that works with your setup. One thing to keep in mind is that some webcams can lift off or detach from the mount, so that you can move the camera around if necessary, and then place it back onto the mount for stationary use.
While image quality and resolution might be your primary consideration, there are also some great secondary features worth looking at before picking a webcam.
If you need audio and don’t want to buy a microphone, then look for a camera that includes a microphone built into it. Some webcams include not only remote focus control but also remote directional control, letting you turn the camera up or down and side-to-side without physically touching the device.
The software included with the webcam is also important, as the right package can let you effortlessly capture images and then load them into other programs/social media. You should also consider additional options like motion-detection that lets you use a webcam for security, facial recognition to quickly (and securely) log into your computer, and low-light or night-vision compatibility.
Manufacturer and Warranty
Like any other computer peripheral or electronic device, look at the manufacturer and consider your options for reliability and performance.
Companies like Logitech and Microsoft are well known for making excellent webcams that work a long time and provide clear, high definition picture quality at high frame rates. Cisco and Creative Labs also produce excellent webcams, so consider all of your options before making a purchase.
You should also look at the warranties available that cover your investment in a webcam. A one-year warranty is pretty standard for webcams, even on fairly expensive models, and anything less than that is unacceptable.