Working from home is becoming the new normal here in the UK. If your blurry laptop webcam just isn’t cutting it for video calls and meetings you might want to look into a separate camera altogether.
But webcams come in all shapes and sizes, so which is the best for your needs? Maybe you don’t need a webcam for video meetings, but are flirting with the idea of firing up a vlogging channel or livestreaming on Twitch instead. Or maybe you just want to Skype your family and friends with greater clarity.
Whatever it is you’re after, here we explain what to look out for when on the market for a new webcam, along with reviews of what we think are the best webcams around.
Want to get into game streaming? Check out our tutorial on how to stream on Twitch and our selection of the best game streaming software to get started.
Webcam buying advice
While resolution is usually a good measure of overall video quality, it isn’t the only aspect to consider. Your requirements will largely depend on how you’ll be using the webcam; if you’re using it for Skyping your friends or livestreaming gameplay on Twitch or YouTube, 720- or 1080p HD should suffice. That’s mainly because the vast majority of video apps, from Streamlabs OBS to Skype, support a maximum of 1080p, and we can’t imagine that changing any time soon. It’d take a pretty solid internet connection (minimum 25-45Mbps) to perfectly stream 4K, after all.
There’s no real need for a 4K webcam at the moment unless you’re looking to record video locally instead of stream or chat. In that case, a 4K webcam could offer the quality that you’re after.
Plastic vs Glasses lenses
Some high-end webcams will boast glass lenses over plastic lenses used by cheaper webcams, but in general, the difference isn’t that noticeable – especially when used for video chat or livestreaming.
A built-in microphone is very handy for video calling as it negates the need to use a headset, and provides a more natural experience. But while it’s a welcome feature for video calling, it’s not a feature used very often by streamers. Streamers tend to use dedicated microphones, or headsets with built-in mics, as they generally provide much clearer audio and some offer advanced features like noise cancellation to reduce the sound of clicking keys and other ambient noises.
Not all webcams are created equal, and some may offer advanced features that help separate them from a sea of competitors. These can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from image correction capabilities to background removal and, in the case of the Razer Kiyo, a built-in ring light for even lighting.
It’s worth doing research about how well these features perform as, especially in the case of background removal, results can be very hit-and-miss depending on the amount of light and other environmental factors. But, if you can find one that does work well, it’ll give you a more professional-looking webcam feed without having to invest in a physical green screen for chroma keying.
Another feature to consider is compatibility. Generally speaking, all webcams should work with the likes of Skype, Google Hangouts, XSplit Gamecaster, OBS and more, but some offer specific support for certain apps. Though it’s dependant on the webcam and app that you use, buying a supported webcam could provide access to more advanced settings and features.
And, in the case of XSplit Gamecaster, supported webcams may provide a free trial to the premium livestreaming software. It’s certainly the case with the Logitech C922 Pro, featured below.
Best webcams 2020
1. Logitech C922 Pro
Logitech, in many regards, is the leader in the PC peripheral market with high-quality products that don’t break the bank (most of the time, anyway!) and the Logitech C922 Pro doesn’t buck that trend. It’s small, produces great quality video and offers multiple mounting options.
The camera has two resolution settings: 1080p at 30fps and 720p at 60fps, giving you the choice to focus on either frame rate or overall quality. High frame rates provide a much smoother camera stream and won’t look out of place if you’re streaming 60fps gameplay. The webcam also boasts a Carl Zeiss glass lens with smart and adaptable autofocus that produces crisp, clear videos. It works well in low light and backlit environments too, thanks to built-in light correction that boosts light levels when required, making it ideal for late-night Skyping.
The C922 Pro also offers automatic background removal and while it’s not perfect, it’s more than enough for most gamers that want to stream gameplay without showing off their home environment. It performs better with simple, uncluttered backgrounds, and those that demand perfection always have the option of picking up a dedicated green screen.
It offers support for XSplit Gamecaster and with a three-month trial in the box (worth around £25), and also features a stereo microphone. As mentioned above, it’s not really a factor for streaming, but it’ll make video calls and using Cortana much easier. There’s also Logitech Camera for Windows app that allows you to preview your webcam and change settings that’ll be applied to all apps that use the camera.
It features a flexible grip that can be placed both on the top of your PC display and folded over and placed on your desk. That’s not all though, as the C922 Pro also features a tripod mount and even comes with a handy mini tripod in the box to get you started. It’s the little things, after all!
Available directly from Logitech or from Amazon.
2. Papalook PA452
If you’re hesitant to spend a lot of money, then it’s worth considering the Papalook PA452. Coming in at a price of £69.99/US$79.99, it manages to produce an impressive 1080p video quality at 30fps with its 5-layer film-coated optical glass lens.
You get a focus ring on the front of the camera, which can sharpen your lens to the level you want and is easy to use. Manual focus is a rarity on webcams, so if you’d prefer this to be fixed or automatic then this isn’t the product for you.
The f/2.0 aperture gives you the ability to make your background more blurred out, providing that professional portrait style.
It also comes with auto low-light correction, which seems to work reasonably well when recording in the evenings. The field of view is 65 degrees, which isn’t the widest out there but is still large enough to capture a backdrop setup.
The Papalook PA452 comes with a built-in omni-directional, noise cancelling stereo microphone. Whilst audio is clear enough for video calls, it’s on the tinny side. If you’re using this for more professional use, you should consider getting a separate microphone.
The mount of the PA452 isn’t able to grip thinner screens well. Whilst using it on a desktop was fine, on a laptop the grip struggles to stay balanced. If this is a major issue, you can unscrew the webcam from the mount and put it on your own tripod.
You can download Papalook software for taking photos or capturing video, but I personally prefer working with third-party apps. There aren’t any further gimmicky features on this webcam, but forgoing that for an affordable price is a fair deal.
Buy it now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.
3. Logitech StreamCam
Logitech’s StreamCam, the latest camera from the brand, is the first to mount vertically – that’s because the device is created with aspiring content creators and video game streamers in mind. The camera boasts features like AI-enabled face tracking, smart image stabilization and Full HD video capture at up to 60fps.
It works via Logitech’s recording and streaming software Capture which users can use to fine-tune how the feed looks. The easy-to-use software lets you composite two separate StreamCam feeds, overlay titles and graphics and use a green screen too.
The camera is compatible with third-party software like Open Broadcaster Software and XSplit too, so you can stream directly to YouTube, Facebook Live and Twitch if you prefer.
The StreamCam is available in white and graphite and ships with one tripod mount and one monitor mount. Pick it up directly from Logitech or from Amazon for £139/US$169.
4. Razer Kiyo
While many webcams look alike, the Razer Kiyo offers something different; namely, a multi-step ring light surrounding the camera to provide even lighting, even in dark conditions. The ring light comes on automatically when the webcam is in use, and can be adjusted (or turned off completely) via a dial just behind the light.
It’s the ideal for those that don’t get a lot of natural light near their PCs and want evenly-lit video. Though the ring is quite large, the good news is that the camera folds back on itself when not in use and doesn’t take up much space.
That’s not the only unique design feature either; the Kiyo features a L-shape joint and a wide, flat base that can be used to either prop the camera on top of your computer display or placed on a desk and angled upwards. It’s easy to find the right angle with the Kiyo, and for those that want something a little more stable, it also features a tripod mount.
The Kiyo boasts a 4Mp camera sensor and like the Logitech C922, it also offers a variable resolution; [email protected] or [email protected] The camera quality is great, and even with the ring light turned off, it handles low-light environments surprisingly well.
It doesn’t have an accompanying app for PC, meaning the camera settings will have to be edited on a per-app basis. It’s not the end of the world, but a simple camera preview app with access to camera settings would’ve been nice – especially for the price.
Overall, though, the Razer Kiyo is an impressive webcam and is the ideal choice if your PC is in a dimly-lit environment.
Pick it up directly from Amazon or from Scan.
5. Microsoft LifeCam Studio
The Microsoft LifeCam Studio isn’t a new entry to the market – in fact, the camera launched back in 2010. But, eight years on, the camera still provides amazing quality video that can best many of the webcams available today. Why? It’s mainly down to the inclusion of Microsoft’s TrueColour and ClearFrame technologies.
TrueColour provides incredible colour and brightness control and can tackle almost any lighting situation. Whether your room is flooded with natural daylight or you barely get a glimmer of light, the Studio will intelligently tweak the camera’s settings to provide even lighting and colour.
ClearFrame is the final step in the process, reducing graininess without losing detail and making the video ‘soft’. The end result is a webcam that provides incredible quality video in a range of environments.
Due to the age of the camera, it can’t compete in every department. The LifeCam Studio offers both 720p and 1080p video, but unlike the others in our chart, the camera is capped at 30fps. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker though – we think the quality of the camera and the price (around £50 on Amazon) are enough to overlook the omission of 60fps capture.
It’s also incredibly small in design, and thanks to a pivot joint, the camera can be rotated almost 360-degrees. The attachment base has an adjustable rubber clip that can be bent and attached to PC monitors and a tripod mount, but can’t be placed directly on the desk like the Razer Kiyo.
Another downside to the age of the camera is that the accompanying software was designed for Windows 7 and isn’t compatible with Windows 10, so you’ll have to adjust video settings on a per-app basis.
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