Webcam Buying Guide: Ars Picks, from the affordable to the extravagant

Annette Lucina

Webcams are having a moment. With video chats and teleconferencing becoming a normal face of life in a world riddled with pandemics, having a device that brings you the best of yourself can be invaluable.

The best webcams will greatly enhance your online presence over the average cameras built into most laptops, whether you’re working at home, video chatting with family, teaching online classes, or streaming on Twitch. The best part is that most webcams are plug and play, allowing you to instantly improve video quality.

There are countless webcams on the market today, from affordable options designed for the basics to feature-packed models that can cost hundreds. Some perform better in daylight. Others more accurately display colorful LED backgrounds or produce attractive skin tones. A few records in ultra-high definition like 4K, which would be nice, but it’s not necessary. The video quality you get will always depend greatly on the lighting and general composition of your surroundings, but some webcams will make looking sharp a little less of a hassle.

To make it easier for you to find the right model for you, we’ve tested a number of highly rated webcams. Here are our top picks, from a low-budget option to a more professional all-in-one setup, and we’ve evaluated them all across a variety of lighting scenarios.

An affordable option

Creative Live Cam Sync 1080p V2: $30 on amazon

SPECIFICATIONS AT A GLANCE: Creative Live Cam Sync 1080p V2
Dimensions 3.3 x 2.3 x 2.4 in (83 x 58 x 60 mm)
Weight 0.2 lb (96 g)
communication USB 2.0
sensor CMOS
field of view 77 degrees
slot The lens aperture is f / 2.4
focus range 19.7 inches (50 cm) to infinity
supported resolutions 1080p 30fps, 720p 30fps
microphone Built-in double
program creative app (Windows only)

Compact and ultra-lightweight, the Creative Live Cam Sync V2 probably won’t be your go-to solution for high-quality broadcasting or recording, but it’s a good budget option at $30. For this low price, you still get a camera that shoots in quite decent 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second (fps) and a 77-degree field of view.

In natural light, it captures fine details and autofocus adjusts smoothly. We found that the image quality looked better when using natural light coming from the side. In these conditions, the camera gave proportions to the faces and avoided looking washed out. However, it would be useful to have image controls in the Creative app, for example, to adjust white balance and color tone since skin tones tend to be more green.

You can mount Live Cam Sync V2 directly to your monitor—or attach it to a stand or tripod if you have one—and connect using the supplied USB 2.0 cable. Like most of our picks, it doesn’t require any software to be downloaded, so you can use it right away.

If you’re a Windows user, Creative’s companion app lets you change a few additional settings—though these all apply to audio, not video quality. For example, you can enable VoiceDetect, which will automatically mute and unmute your microphone during a call. You can also manually change your voice and environmental noise level or let the camera set it automatically.

The camera has a soft white light to show when it’s in use and a basic privacy cover that doesn’t come off. The webcam has a built-in microphone; Recording quality is acceptable for calls, though audio did sound a bit hollow even in a small carpeted room. Still, it’s good enough if you need an integrated webcam for work or personal calls.

The good

  • Embedded audio composition app
  • Decent microphone
  • Acceptable video quality in most lighting scenarios
  • low price

bad

  • The application has no image settings
  • Low quality build

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