Buying a webcam? Read this first


Black Friday deals are in virtually full swing right now despite not it not being Friday yet — Cyber Monday is likewise quickly maturing and we’re already seeing record sales, like the lowest price ever for Apple’s AirPods Pro. Deals aside, you may not have given much thought to the webcam in your laptop when it was a once-a-month portal to Grandma. But now that many of us are working from home for the long haul — with some companies even switching to permanent remote work — a good webcam is crucial for those face-to-face meetings (as is a microphone if the one you use isn’t cutting it). We’ve covered plenty of other work from home enhancements for you to consider, from ergonomic keyboards and mice to ergonomic chairs, laptop stands, monitors and more. So if the webcam in your laptop isn’t up to snuff, we compiled some of the best USB webcams worth considering right now. The pandemic has made certain models harder to find over the course of the year, but stock seems to be a bit more stable right now — though you may have to shop around a bit more to find the best price on a certain model.

LEARN MORE A simple guide to webcam features

Best webcams in 2020

If you’re not entirely sure what you want your of your new webcam, check out our simple overview below these top options.

Best webcam overall: Logitech

1. Logitech C920s Pro HD Webcam

If you want a good quality image and decent audio at an affordable price, Logitech‘s C920 and C920S models are widely considered the best bang for your buck. Stock is limited, but if you can find it for under $100, grab it — the C920 is the standard model while the C920S has a privacy shutter that I definitely recommend using.

Best webcam with 4Kresolution and facial recognition: Logitech

2. Logitech Brio Ultra HD Pro Webcam

Stepping up in quality, the Brio is Logitech’s high-end offering, boosting the video quality up to 4K and adding an infrared camera for facial recognition. This allows you to log into Windows without entering your password, which is so convenient you’ll never want to go back.

Best webcam with a built-in ring light: Razer

3. Razer Kiyo Gaming Webcam for PC

Your camera is only part of the equation: Good lighting can go a long way to making you look better on Zoom — that’s why ring lights have become so popular this year. Razer’s Kiyo webcam is designed for video game streamers, contains a high quality camera and a built-in ring light to make you look your best, if you’re willing to pay a little extra for lumination.

Best affordable webcam with built-in ring light: Vitade

4. Vitade 960A USB Pro Webcam

If you like the idea of built-in lighting but don’t want to spend much, there are quite a few off-brand webcams on Amazon you can grab at relatively lower prices. Vitade is one such brand, offering its webcam with a built-in ring light that’ll do well enough for most people.

Best basic, affordable webcam: Firsting

5. Firsting HD Webcam

Maybe you want something with no frills that’ll get the job done in a pinch. Firsting may not have the best video quality around, but if you just need something to get you by, it’ll do the trick for a very, very low price.

Or stick with what you have lying around

You may not have a webcam right now but if you have a DSLR camera, you might be able to hook it up to your computer and use it for video calls. Camera purveyors Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm and Panasonic all have free software that can turn their recent cameras (like the Sony Alpha a5100 or Nikon D3500) into streaming webcams. GoPro also has similar software, as does budget tech brand Wyze, so check what you have lying around — you may already have the gear you need for those face-to-face video calls.

How to find the best webcam for you

When shopping for a webcam, don’t just look at the “1080p vs 4K” and call it a day — there’s a lot that goes into a good-looking picture. Specifically, keep an eye on some of the features below to find the right fit for your needs.

Resolution and frame rate

Resolution isn’t the end-all-be-all, but it is still part of the package. All other things kept equal, 1080p is going to look better than 720p, and 4K is best of all — though probably overkill for Zoom calls. You’ll also want something that can at least record at 30 frames per second.

Lens quality

Some cameras use cheap plastic lenses with narrow fields of view, which will make the video look smudgy and cramped. Ideally, you want a camera with a higher aperture (i.e. f/2.8 instead of f/2.0) a glass lens, and a field of view above 65 degrees.

Autofocus, auto-brightness and color

Some webcams just spit out whatever picture they take, while others audo-adjust the brightness, color, and focus for the best picture. These are all good to have if you want to look your best.

Microphone quality

Remember, you aren’t just showing people your face—you’re also talking to them, and good quality audio is just as important (if not moreso) than good quality video. You may even want to invest in a separate USB microphone for best results (and if you do, your webcam’s mic is of little consequence).

Lighting, privacy and other extras

Finally, some webcams have extra features like built-in lighting, a privacy shutter to keep the lens covered when you aren’t using it, or detachable cables. None of these are strictly required (after all, you can light your face with a desk lamp and cover your webcam with tape), but they are nice to have.

Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Looking for the perfect gift? Check out the Shop TODAY Holiday Plaza.

Whitson Gordon, Shop TODAY

Whitson Gordon is a freelance technology writer with bylines in the New York Times, Popular Science Magazine, PC Magazine and more. Previously, he was the editor-in-chief of Lifehacker and How-To Geek.


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