woman in conference call
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What to Look for in a Webcam in 2021

Picking the right webcam can be trickier than you might expect. Like any camera, specifications can be deceiving when it comes to the actual picture quality. Focus on specs and you’ll be sifting through a list of numbers that may not tell you as much about a camera as you’d think.

Take image resolution, for example. Many built-in webcams found in laptops still use a resolution of 720p. That sounds like a bad thing considering the image quality of TVs and monitors, but most people don’t have the sort of internet connection speed to stream high-quality video. On the other hand, if you want to use a webcam to make a local recording, a higher resolution can make a significant difference to the crispness of the picture.

Ultimately, a resolution is only a small part of how good the picture will look. Larger sensors with better lenses do more for image quality than resolution. So, generally, bigger webcams tend to give better results. Likewise, the ability to deal with low-light conditions and properly expose an image is important for clear video capturing.

Frame rate, meanwhile, is a low priority for most. Although some cameras offer 60 frames per second, there aren’t many webcam use cases that justify it. A talking head at 30 frames per second is no problem for the average viewer, and aiming for better image quality makes more sense than higher FPS.

Finally, an oft-overlooked aspect of webcams is mounting versatility. Can the webcam be hung on a flat panel? Can it stand freely? Does it have a tripod mount thread? What about adjustable angles? A webcam that lets you get the perfect framing and angle is worth its weight in gold.

Keeping all this in mind, here are our picks for the best webcams of 2021.

Best Webcam Overall: GoPro Hero 9 Black

GoPro Webcam
GoPro

Pros

  • Much better picture quality than dedicated webcams
  • Incredibly versatile mounting options and cable length choices
  • Offers multiple fields of view
  • Doubles as other types of camera

Cons

  • It's quite expensive if you only use it as a webcam
  • Limited to 1080p in webcam mode despite being a 4K camera
  • You need a separate microphone
  • It can be fiddly to set up at first
  • Needs enough USB power or the battery slowly drains

You probably think that this is a bold choice, but hear us out. Early in 2020, GoPro made it possible to use selected models of its cameras as webcams. While this works with Hero Black models 4-7, only the Hero 9 Black and Hero 8 Black can be used as a webcam without buying a third-party accessory.

All you need is an updated GoPro Hero 9 or 8 Black, a USB-C cable, and a Windows or Mac computer with the GoPro Webcam Utility installed. From there, it works just like any other webcam, and you’ll see it listed as a video source in apps like Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

The sensor and optical elements of the GoPro are far superior to almost any dedicated webcam on the market. It also offers three fields of view, with the narrow field offering a more typical webcam framing and a wider FOV that can capture a sizable group of people. Using the Hero 9 Black offers a fantastic picture and lighting quality that you can’t get with the tiny sensors in most webcams.

Apart from the video advantages, you also have the entire GoPro universe of mounting solutions to choose from. For example, the GoPro Jaws let you attach the camera to virtually anything. Combine this with the option to use really long USB-C cables, and you have one of the most flexible webcams in existence at your disposal.

There are some drawbacks, of course. At present, the onboard microphone does not work in webcam mode, so you’ll need a separate microphone. Something like the Samson Go Mic is a great choice for most people, but there are plenty more options available too. The entirety of the GoPro setup process still needs a little bit of polish, but once you hook it up and activate webcam mode, it’s not really an issue.

Also, if your USB port doesn’t provide enough power, the GoPro battery will slowly drain. GoPro says that any USB port that supplies more than 500mA will prevent battery drain from happening. That’s the standard minimum output for a USB port, but if you’re sharing a port with other devices via a splitter, the amount of available power can be less, so it’s something to watch out for.

The final point of contention is price. The GoPro Hero 9 Black is an excellent camera for the money but quite expensive to be just a webcam. If you’re looking to use a GoPro for other video capture, it’s cheaper than buying an additional dedicated webcam for your computer. But if you have no use for its other features or don’t need that professional look from your webcam, save your money and buy something less expensive.

Best Webcam Overall

GoPro Hero 9 Black

The GoPro Hero 9 is expensive, but if you want a webcam that does it all, you can't go wrong. Join that meeting, create content, and take it on all your adventures for stunning picture quality.

Best Budget Webcam: Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000

microsoft lifecam on pink background
Microsoft

Pros

  • Delivers better image quality than most integrated 720p webcams
  • Can be screen mounted or stood on its own
  • Deals adequately with poor lighting
  • Versatile integrated stand
  • Plug and play experience in Windows

Cons

  • Customers say some new model units have a defect which causes hum or buzz
  • No tripod mount thread
  • Mediocre image quality compared to other more expensive free-standing webcams

Unless you’re willing to delve into the world of white label and unbranded webcams, you don’t get more budget than the Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000. The 3000 has been around for 10 years now, and that’s probably why it’s so cheap.

Don’t let the age fool you though, as this is a great little gadget. We’ve used the LifeCam HD-3000 with the latest Windows 10 build without any issue. While we’ve seen some customer reviews note that recent versions of the LifeCam have a buzz or hum over its microphone, it’s generally worth exchanging for another as this isn’t a widespread problem.

While this model of the LifeCam doesn’t have autofocus, it handles relatively low light conditions well, thanks to Microsoft’s “TrueColor” feature. It also sports a clever stand that allows the camera to be mounted on a screen or stand freely. Sadly, there’s no tripod thread, but otherwise, it’s surprisingly versatile for the money.

If you’re working from home, the LifeCam HD-3000 is a cheap webcam that’s worth the upgrade from the low-end built-in laptop camera for video chatting.

Best Budget Webcam

Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000

If you just need an upgrade from a laptop camera for the office, the LifeCam HD-3000 is budget-friendly and effective.

Best Webcam for Zoom: Microsoft Lifecam Studio

LifeCam Studio
Microsoft

Pros

  • 1080p webcam with good optical elements offering a significant upgrade over integrated webcams

Cons

  • Barebones features
  • Should be a little cheaper

If you’re spending a lot of time on Zoom, especially for professional purposes, it’s a good idea to sharpen your image a little. We mean that literally, since the 720p pinhole cameras that many laptops ship with have a distinct grainy, blurry look to their image quality. Software enhancements do help, but there’s no substitute for good glass and bigger camera sensors.

Although the LifeCam Studio was first released all the way back in 2010, it’s still a solid choice for Zoom, Skype, and other video conferencing needs. While it’s much more expensive than the LifeCam HD-3000, it’s not expensive compared to other options.

With the LifeCam Studio, you’re getting a no-frills 1080p webcam that focuses on the most important core elements a webcam should have. The Studio has a quality wide-angle lens, a microphone that focuses on vocal clarity, and a versatile stand with tripod thread. It’s an excellent way to elevate your Zoom image quality without breaking the bank, and you’ll stand out from your other colleagues using blurry pinhole webcams.

The main downside here is that this webcam has no fancy additional features for the relatively high price. It offers 3x zoom, but it’s digital, so it’s not the best choice if you want to maintain image quality. It’s just a quality barebones camera with good fundamental components.

Best Webcam for Zoom

Microsoft LifeCam Studio

The LifeCam Studio offers a clear 1080p picture that perfect for Zoom and conference calls. A wide-angle lens allows you to capture a group of people, too.

Best Webcam for Streaming: Logitech C922x Pro Stream

Logitech C922x Pro Stream
Logitech

Pros

  • Designed as a one-stop solution for professional streamers
  • 1080p 30 fps or 720p 60 fps modes
  • Compatible with Xbox
  • Stereo microphone array
  • Automatic light compensation
  • Includes 6-month XSplit Licence

Cons

  • Slightly pricey for casual buyers
  • 5-foot cable will need extension in some streaming setups
  • If you already own the C920, not worth the upgrade

The Logitech C922x Pro Stream is a newer, more advanced version of the legendary Logitech C920. The latter camera is still widely considered the gold standard for Twitch streamers and other content creators, and it’s still for sale at an excellent price.

However, the C920 is not that much cheaper than the more refined and focused C922x, so if you don’t already have the 920, it’s worth grabbing the C922x. Logitech has essentially looked at what made the older webcam a success within the streamer community and took some lessons on board for the Pro Stream model.

What you get with the upgraded C922x is a camera with exceptional low-light performance, class-leading stereo audio capture, and autofocus optimized for people who move around energetically on stream. The webcam also comes with a 6-month XSplit license, which very nearly makes the camera as cheap as a LifeCam HD-3000 if you were going to get a subscription anyway.

The C922x Pro Stream webcam works on Windows, macOS, and Xbox One consoles. Webcams that work with Xbox One should work with Xbox Series X|S consoles, but we weren’t able to find explicit evidence that the C922x works on the newer systems. It might be best to wait for Logitech to confirm that it is supported if you’re looking to stream video from your Xbox Series console.

Best Webcam for Streaming

Logitech C922x Pro Stream Webcam

An upgrade to the popular C920, the C922x has some nice tweaks to make the increased price worth it. With better low-light performance and autofocus made for moving around on camera, these are features made with streaming in mind.

Best 4K Webcam: Logitech Brio

Logitech C922x Pro
Logitech

Pros

  • Offers some of the best quality webcam footage possible
  • Excellent automating image correction
  • Has all the sensors needed for Windows Hello
  • Offers three fields of view (at 1080p)
  • Dual noise-cancelling omni-directional mics

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Requires USB 3.0 for 4K video
  • 4K streaming is currently overkill for most users and there are better non-webcams for recording purposes

Televisions with a 4K resolution are quickly becoming the new standard, and virtually every new games console or streaming device has a 4K logo prominently displayed on its packaging. So, you would be forgiven if you thought that it’s time to throw that 1080p HD webcam in the trash and buy a 4K model instead. The truth is that the market for 4K cameras is quite small, and there aren’t that many options to choose from.

The Logitech Brio is, in our opinion, the best 4K webcam for those who have a legitimate need for one. Who are these users? 4K isn’t necessary for video calls or for game streaming since many don’t have the internet broadband to stream 4K content.

For content creation, the Brio is an excellent choice. The Brio offers an affordable and convenient way to have both a webcam and 4K recording quality in one package, so it’s easy to make video essays or unboxing videos with stunning quality. You’re also future-proofing yourself with a Brio purchase since 4K video conferencing will eventually become more common.

Other positives for the Brio include its multiple fields of view. You can choose between three different framing options, as long as you’re happy to drop to 1080p. The Brio also has the required sensors for proper Windows Hello authentication, and it’s equipped with dual omnidirectional noise-canceling mics. No need for a separate microphone!

You do pay a premium to have 4K recording at your disposal, but if you want it, the Logitech Brio is a solid choice that should stay relevant for many years.

Best 4K Webcam

Logitech Brio

If you're looking to be on the bleeding edge of webcam technology, the Logitech Brio is one of the few 4K webcams on the market. It's a purchase that helps future-proof your setup for years to come.

Best Webcam for Mac: Logitech StreamCam

Logitech Streamcam
Logitech

Pros

  • Good for content creators
  • Allows for vertical and horizontal video, good for social media on phones
  • Native USB-C
  • AI-powered facial tracking for focus and exposure
  • Monitor and Tripod Mount included
  • Full HD at 60 fps
  • Stereo mic

Cons

  • A little pricey
  • Not a great style match for Mac setups

All of the webcams we’ve looked at so far work with macOS. But will a webcam work with what most Mac users will be using a webcam for? That might be a different story.

Mac users are more likely to be content creators on platforms such as Instagram and social media sites that the audience access via smartphones. Also, in particular, MacBook users appreciate native USB-C devices when traveling since it means reducing the amount of USB-C dock or dongle usage. Virtually all Mac users need an alternative to the generally lackluster integrated cameras in their computers. Apple doesn’t escape the trap of subpar built-in cameras, after all.

That’s where the Logitech StreamCam comes in. It allows you to create vertical or horizontal footage for social media platforms, a rarity for webcams. It’s also a native USB-C device, so no dongles are required. The StreamCam even has a monitor mount and tripod thread.

Notably, it’s one of the few webcams to offer 1080p 60 fps streaming, assuming that your computer meets the minimum specifications for it. Most webcams opt for 720p 60 fps or 1080p 30 fps, so this is a pretty nice perk.

The only not-so-Mac aspect of this camera is the styling. Whether you go for the White or Graphite model, neither quite blend well with Apple’s design sensibilities. If you can get over that (and the high price), we think the Logitech StreamCam is the perfect choice for Mac users.

Best Webcam for Mac

Logitech StreamCam

The Logitech StreamCam is great for content creators, with the ability to record vertical video formats that work well on mobile devices.

Sydney Butler Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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