Five Best Webcams

The best webcams are the ones that are affordable, easy to set up, offer great video quality and don't make you look like a blurry mess when you wave at the screen. There are plenty that fit that description, but here are five of the best choices.

Photo by Tom Hamilton.

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 ($149.95)

If you work from home and use video to stay in touch with colleagues, the Logitech C920 HD webcam offers stunning video quality — including Skype and other video calling (when supported) in 1080p, autofocus, sensitive dual stereo microphones and full HD video recordings. The C920 clips to your monitor easily, but if you need portability, the webcam even has a standard screw attachment on the bottom to fit a tripod so you can position it anywhere you need it. If you need to take still images, the C920 will snag up to 15-megapixel still images. Plus, Logitech's cameras are compatible with almost any operating system, including Windows, Mac and Linux.

Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000 ($49.95)

Microsoft's LifeCam HD-5000 trims back some of the bells and whistles for a more affordable price tag. It packs 720p HD video recording and video chat in Skype and other video-calling apps, autofocus and face tracking. Video recording comes in at 720p as well, and Microsoft's TrueColor technology automatically adjusts for bright or low-light scenarios. The HD-5000 is also a portable camera.

Microsoft LifeCam Cinema ($79.95)

The LifeCam Cinema offers additional features that some of Microsoft's other camera models don't have, including a rotating neck that allows you to position the camera at almost any angle, a wideband microphone mounted on the top to snag your audio as well as video, beautiful autofocus to keep recordings and video chats crystal clear, and crisp 720p HD video recording and video calling. That microphone also comes bundled with noise-isolation technology. Though Microsoft only touts its Windows compatibility, many people find that it works just fine on a Mac.

Microsoft LifeCam Studio ($99.95)

At the high end of Microsoft's webcam lineup is the LifeCam Studio, which is well known for its stunning full HD video. Microsoft says you will get 720p in video chats and calls over Skype or Google Hangouts, and 1080p if you're using a service that supports it and have a computer that meets the system requirements. If you want to mount it on a tripod, the LifeCam Studio sports a standard screw attachment. Microsoft bundles its TrueColor technology with this camera as well, along with the glass lens cover from the LifeCam Cinema, all designed to perform well in odd lighting. The LifeCam Studio also packs a noise-isolating microphone.

Logitech HD Webcam C270 ($59.95)

If you want simple HD video calling and photos without all the bells and whistles, the Logitech C270 offers a simple camera with a rubberised clip to attach to your monitor. You get 720p video with the C270, three-megapixel still photos and a built-in noise-isolating microphone. The C270 does a good job of auto-correcting for low or bright light as well. It works great on Windows and Mac without additional driver installs — which also makes it a great webcam for a hackintosh!

Honourable mentions this week go out to the now-discontinued Logitech Webcam C160 for being DIY-friendly. It's not the best — it's not even in the same league as most of the above, but at least you can take it apart and play with its optics. Also worth a nod is the webcam installed in your laptop or desktop.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Discuss in the comments below.


Comments

    The Apple Isight (2003- 2006) should be given special mention just for design. Well ahead of it's time. No one else seems to be able to design a webcam that looks good.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ISights.jpg

      But....shouldn't it be more about performance rather than design only?

      Does a webcam really need to look good? realy?

        Reminds me of someone who told me that it's very important to her that the cups at a cafe she frequents look stylish. Yep, she's not worrying as much about the quality/taste of the coffee as the look of the cup it's in. Some people seem to be just obsessed with impressing others.

          I mean, ok he does say it should get a special mention just for design

          But, a webcam is a little thing that sits on your monitor and lets you have video calls to people

          It isn't a bright red Ferrari or a designer dress or anything

            Specifically: The people who you use the webcam with can't see the webcam itself. You'd need a mirror to show it off to them.

              That's right

              As if you would be like "Oh this webcam is so stylish and matches the contours of my monitor perfectly"
              The other person then says "I can't quite see your face, it's all blurry"
              "Oh didn't I tell you, its a Luis Vuitton Webcam, horrible webcam functionality but its looks phenomenal"

    "Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 - $149.95"
    $80.00 delivered from Amazon, just picked one up thanks for the tip :)

    I agree with spaghett's comment. How much of this hd capacity can be used in practice? Will the 1080p cameras automatically crank back to a lower resolution or will they stutter on uselessly at the higher resolution in skype? Are there minimum and opitmal internet connection speeds for these cameras?

      They will scale back, and optimization tool will pop-up (at least on the MS ones) which allows you to fine tune the quality/speed. It will do the same if you try running it on a sub-par PC/Laptop.

    Except it's ugly. That first Logitech would look much better sitting sleekly atop my monitor than some grey barrel awkwardly sicking out.

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