The world’s a small place these days. The ability to communicate across the planet in an instant is testament to the impact the internet has had on the global society. Sure, talking to your globetrotting friend abroad or closing out that deal with your business partner in Hong Kong is achievable using only a mic and a speaker.
But most of us need that extra layer of professionalism, added by a more personal device. For that, you’re going to need a webcam. Here are some things to consider before you take the plunge.
Central to anyone’s thought process for any image-based purchase should of course be, resolution. For still images, the first port of call is megapixels. Images are made up of countless tiny dots named pixels. Broadly speaking, the more pixels in any image, the better quality that image will be. One megapixel is equal to one million pixels. Whilst megapixels aren’t the be-all and end-all for any camera purchase, they can provide a good yard stick of overall image quality. 1.3 megapixels has to positioned itself as an industry standard, and for most users this will churn out a more than acceptable performance. However, if you’re planning on using your webcam for taking a lot of snaps, consider shelling out that bit extra for a 2-megapixel camera and beyond.
Model Pictured: Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000
For video, HD recording is becoming an increasingly less expensive outlay. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time on video conferencing services such as Skype, HD is the only way to go. You could easily grab a standard HD (720p) webcam for around £20. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, higher resolution webcam’s are still unlikely to make too much of a ruckus in your wallet. For a Full HD camera (1080p) realign that budget to around £45 and above. Also, ensure you ponder the resolution of your monitor. It’s no use investing in a Full HD webcam if your monitor only displays images at 720p.
A number of additional factors will contribute to the overall quality of your webcam’s imagery. Perhaps most important of which is the lens. Cheaper and thus lower quality webcams will have a plastic lens with a fixed focus. For a greater quality output, purchase a webcam with a glass lens and an adjustable focus. Look out for higher-specced webcams that come with constant autofocus, meaning the lens can adjust to objects moving on screen quickly, maintaining a crisp stream.
Model Pictured: HP 720P Light and Compact Webacam
Exclusively regarding video production, consider a webcam’s frame rate. Frame rates are concerned with how many times the image refreshes itself, usually allocated in frames-per-second (fps). The higher a camera’s fps rate, the smoother and less jarring a stream will be. Anything below 30fps is going to produce a fairly choppy image, particularly if there are any sudden movements. But again, the 30fps benchmark is not all that pricey. Those who need more than a general purpose camera can invest in refresh rates of 60 fps and beyond, without too much extra cost.
Image quality may form the brunt of your webcam buying decision, but be sure to consider the more nuanced design choices that could bring out the best in your chosen webcam. First of all- attachability. Webcams will tend to come in one two designs, clip-on or freestanding. Clip-ons are great if you’re unlikely to be moving your camera around as you use it. It sits on your monitor and streams you sat straight in front of the screen. Freestanding are more flexible in terms of picking the device up as you move around a room. If you need to adjust the angle of your stream then a freestanding webcam can move from sitting bedside your monitor to point in whichever direction you wish, standing firmly all the while.
Model Pictured: Logitech C525 HD Webcam
Closely linked to the design feature above is connectivity. Fiddling around with wires can become a little irritating if your webcam is often on the move. If you need a portable webcam you can move at your own leisure, it’s probably best to consider a Wi-Fi connectable product. Most wired devices are connected via a USB port, so take into a consideration how crowded your valuable USB slots are.
One final consideration is audio. A number of webcams on the market today will come with a secondary capability for sound. If you don’t have an inbuilt mic on your laptop or PC, or your speakers are a little bit naff, then look for a webcam with an inbuilt mic and/or speaker.
As I’ve hinted a couple of times above, webcams enter the market pretty low. The development of a new type of lens is responsible for such reasonable prices. A CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) lens is much cheaper to manufacture. As a result, the majority of devices on the market today are likely to house a CMOS lens over their more expensive counterparts the CCD (charge-coupled device).
Depending on how many features you want, webcams can range from as little as £10 to well in excess of £100. Whatever your needs are, Ebuyer.com will no doubt stock the ideal webcam for you.