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.