The best webcam is your ticket to internet stardom, a way to get your beautiful mush onto the monitors of the world at large, or at least a way to prove to your boss you actually are out of bed. But which webcam should you choose? For much of last year it was purely a question of whatever the hell is in stock right now, but things have improved and you can now make an educated choice depending on what means the most to you.
If you're simply looking for the best picture quality at a reasonable price, the Logitech C922 HD Pro is a solid 1080p choice. Alternatively, the Razer Kiyo comes with its built-in ring light, so it's a good option if you don't have the space for mounted key lights. On the higher end of the price scale, the Logitech StreamCam sits at number one on our list because, while it's undoubtedly flashy, it's also incredibly versatile and boasts superb picture quality
Whether you're recording yourself streaming for Twitch, conferencing with friends and/or colleagues on Zoom, or creating cooking videos for your YouTube channel, one the best webcams will have you coming through crystal clear. The list below contains our picks of the best webcams, along with our thoughts on each webcam. Take a look.
Logitech has managed to dethrone one of its own webcams, the C922, from its consistent top spot with its new StreamCam.
The StreamCam was designed with content creators in mind, as it can easily switch from landscape to portrait by merely rotating the camera. The smart autofocus and exposure take a lot of the guesswork out of setting up the perfect shot. Logitech essentially made a better, upgraded version of the C922. The fact it records at a steady 1080p/60fps means this webcam will help produce some genuinely great looking video. The StreamCam manages to focus consistently, even in low-light environments—like a bedroom or a closet. We don't judge here.
Even though the StreamCam is one of the pricier non-4K options out there, the picture quality alone is worth every penny, especially if you're serious about your game streams or video content.
Most readers can stop here. Unless you're looking for specific features in a webcam, then there is no better value than the Logitech C922 HD Pro. Its sharp 1080p images, paired with a wide field of view and great autofocus, make it a fantastic video conferencing choice. Lowlight performance is great; the noise level didn't shoot through the roof when I turned off a few lights. White balancing was accurate most of the time, although the default saturation can make the scene look a little washed out in bright lighting conditions.
Most of the settings can be adjusted through Logitech's Camera App. Streamers should also appreciate C922's excellent compatibility with the background replacement app, ChromaCam. All in all, the Logitech C920 performs its core duties exceptionally well and won't break the bank.
For streamers, the C922 is a versatile webcam that will help make you look you're best when live streaming to your legion of rabid followers.
The most dominant factor in image quality is lighting. Having good lighting can reduce the need for exposure compensation and curb noise. The Razer Kiyo has a ring light baked right in, making it suitable for any lighting condition, even pitch black. The light's intensity can be adjusted by turning its dial in its outer circumference, giving you full control over how brightly you want your face to appear. If you like streaming horror games in the dark, then the Kiyo is the webcam for you.
The Kiyo's 1080p sensor boasts excellent sharpness and captures plenty of detail. Autofocusing is speedy, and its white balance is on point too. Out of all the webcams I've tested, the Razer Kiyo has the highest color saturation. When the lighting is good, it can help add a great deal of vividness to your images. In darker scenes, however, the saturation boost can make images look pastel-like. The lack of a driver software means you'll have to readjust the color profile for every app individually, and as that's something you'll want to do, that is a bit of a pain.
Still, all things considered, the Razer Kiyo has excellent image quality and is worth considering. The attached ring light adds an extra bit of flexibility, earning it the most versatile webcam.
As expected, the BRIO's high resolution bumps up the detail to a much higher level than any standard 1080p webcam. Besides, its 90-degree field of view can easily capture your entire room and any guests in it. So be careful; you will be in the shot.
White balance and saturation are both perfect, as is its low light performance. The only slight detractor in image quality is its iffy auto contrast settings. Alongside the main color, the sensor is infrared, making the BRIO fully compatible with Windows Hello, Microsoft's facial sign-in feature.
In addition to its astounding capturing resolution, the BRIO is also the only webcam that supports HDR capturing. This means that viewers who have an HDR-compatible screen will be able to enjoy richer, more vivid colors.
The BRIO has three major weaknesses, however: buggy autofocus, high price, and narrow niche. Our test unit consistently had trouble re-focusing on objects farther away after locking focus on things up close. This was very annoying as I had to either adjust it manually or maniacally dance around, hoping that it would eventually track me again. Considering 4K is its only major strength, the nearly $180 asking price is hard to accept. Lastly, widespread support for 4K streaming isn't here yet. So, while you can still upload your 4K recordings to Youtube, it's impractical for conferencing or streaming as the stream quality would automatically be compressed.
You might not have heard of ClearOne products since they really only see their products in an office conference room. Outside intense (and expensive) teleconferencing gear, ClearOne also makes a pretty decent 1080p webcam for at-home streaming or video-chatting under $100.
The Unite 20 Pro offers a pretty wide 120-degree field of view, which means you can fit a lot more into your frame than most webcams. Great, if you're trying to stream a large group for a DnD session or want to fit your entire band for a Twitch performance. Not so great if you're trying to hide a messy bedroom on your morning video call with your boss.
How we test webcams
Discord's video conferencing feature has taken the world by storm. As such, we've included it in our testing software suite alongside Skype. In both apps, we test the video quality at the maximum supported resolution. OBS is still our choice go-to app for streaming and video recording, while images are captured in the default Windows Camera app.
We used OBS to stream and record videos from each camera, testing them both fullscreen and scaled down to a "face cam" size. We also used each manufacturer's webcam software to take the highest possible resolution pictures with each and manually adjusted settings like white balance, brightness, auto-focus, and others where applicable. Each of these situations was tested with multiple lighting setups, from overhead fluorescent bulbs to nothing but the monitor's glow in front of me.
The process of selecting the right webcam is much like choosing a good camera. Most of the metrics we use to determine camera quality also apply to webcams. You should pay attention to the image quality, color accuracy, focus speed, and customizable features. Although many of us have dedicated microphones, the onboard microphone can come in handy too.
One of the greatest determiners of image quality is the amount of noise present in an image. When lighting is ample, most webcams have no trouble producing good image quality. The extra quality of the best webcams is more accurately reflected in low light; however, the camera needs to compensate for the lack of light digitally. Generally speaking, more expensive webcams come with higher quality sensors and usually have less pesky color blots compared to cheaper ones.
The other crucial aspect is the color of the images. Before we even begin to examine the color quality, we should pay attention to the white balance. White balance gauges the temperature of the lighting from your surrounding environment and sets the white point accordingly. If the white point is incorrectly set, the image may be masked with a blue or yellow tint. Unless a tuning utility is included, the white balance is usually automatically adjusted by the webcam's processor.
Next is exposure, saturation, and contrast—all three are equally important. Exposure is the brightness of the image, saturation is the depth of the colors, and contrast is the difference between black and white. Brightness ensures that you can be seen clearly, while saturation and contrast make your images pop. Again, unless the software is included, these settings are normally adjusted automatically by the webcam's processor. More expensive webcams are more adept at replicating the most accurate scene.
Some webcams also have built-in microphones, which we test by recording a short video in our studio or home offices.
Software for webcams is just as critical—if not more so—than other peripherals. Although many streaming and conferencing apps have built-in adjustment options, using the manufacturer's driver software allows you to adjust the settings globally.
Aside from the video quality, I also took a look at their ease of use. Each manufacturer has a different method of attaching a webcam to the monitor, so I tested them across different monitor shapes and sizes. I considered whether the webcam cord was long enough to reach from the top of a monitor to a case underneath a desk. I tested how easy they were to angle, readjust, and if they would fall off or reposition themselves if I bumped the desk. I tested the plug-n-play nature of them and noted whether the webcams downloaded drivers or software automatically. Lastly, I recorded audio with their built-in microphones, but this was not a heavily influencing factor as a webcam should be bought with video in mind first.