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Published Oct. 26, 2021

With so many people working from home, unable to travel, or just far away from loved ones, webcams went from a useful PC accessory to a must-have gadget in 2020. Many laptops have built-in webcams but the restricted angles and resolutions often mean we’re not looking our best on calls. Using a dedicated webcam gives you a clearer picture and more customization options for video calls. So here’s the, well, big picture on what goes into the best webcams and what to think about before picking one up.

How we picked the best webcams

When selecting webcams for this list, we consulted our own experience, reviews from other technology publications, and popular brands. We stuck with reputable, well-known brands to make sure that the webcams we selected would provide consistent experiences to most users, and so that they would be available at common electronics stores, both online and physical. Further, we sought to pick a variety of webcams with different features to fit a host of needs for different users.

Things to consider before buying a webcam

When preparing to pick a webcam, you’ll want to think about how you plan to use it. Are you hopping on Zoom calls every day at work? Maybe you’re looking to start streaming on Twitch? Do you only plan to use it for streaming, or will you also use it to record videos and take photos? Some key factors and features may lead you to one webcam or another as you figure out your specific needs.

Resolution

Picking the right webcam starts with its resolution. You want your camera to create the clearest possible picture for the other end. You don’t want to use a resolution lower than 720p, as it will appear grainy and pixelated. A 720p picture is readable, but not especially sharp; 1080p, often referred to as “Full HD,” is the sweet spot. 

Above 1080p, you will get diminishing returns, especially for streaming and video calls. In general, 4K webcams are expensive and many video call services, such as Zoom, do not support 4K video. A 4K webcam is really only necessary if you’re recording footage for a film project or know for certain that you need that additional clarity.

Framerate

The other video spec you’ll want to check after resolution is frame rate, measured in frames per second (FPS). This is the speed at which the camera captures images. For reference, most films are at 24FPS, TV runs at 30FPS, and gamers prefer 60FPS for fast-paced gaming. Most webcams record at 30FPS when set to their highest resolution settings, though 60FPS isn’t unheard of. Some webcams may split the difference and offer 60FPS recording, but only at a lower resolution. In those cases, we’d argue you should prioritize resolution for your webcam and stick with 30FPS.

Built-in microphone

Many webcams come with a built-in microphone, allowing them to be a one-stop shop for video calls. Though some webcams get better audio quality than others, they generally tend to be clear enough for conversation, but don’t deliver the crisp, clean audio of dedicated USB microphones. If you’re streaming or care about delivering the best possible audio in video calls, you will likely need a separate mic, but most webcams are fine for standard meetings and chats.

Physical privacy options

A camera plugged into a compromised computer can quite literally be a window into your home. There are plenty of measures to take to avoid someone hijacking your webcam, such as downloading one of the best antivirus suites, but the simplest fix is often best. Many webcams come with physical lens covers to curb how much access a digital intruder can get. If the camera is physically blocked, it can’t be used to spy on you.

Ease of setup

A webcam doesn’t need to be a complicated piece of equipment. Some allow for advanced configuration to get the best possible picture, but the best ones get you pretty close without any tinkering. If you’re planning to produce livestreams or cut video, you may want to check and make sure the camera plays nice with all the app(s) you plan to use.

Lighting

When perfecting your video call setup, a good webcam helps but can only go so far. To look great on Zoom, you need a well-lit room. There are lots of options for improving and evening out your lighting—sometimes moving a couple of lamps around will do the trick. But if your room is dark, or your face isn’t properly lit, you might consider buying a ring light to brighten you up. There are even webcams with built-in lighting that might help.

Best webcams: Reviews & Recommendations

Now that you know how to pick out a webcam, let’s talk about the best of the best. These webcams should address different needs for different types of users, from streamers to office power-users to casual video callers. Frankly, if you pick a webcam from a reputable brand, it’s tough to make a bad choice. But it’s just as difficult to make the best choice.

The best webcam for most people: Logitech C920s

The Gold Standard

It’s the best-selling webcam for a reason.

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Why it made the cut: The Logitech C920s is a fully featured video conferencing workhorse.

Specs

  • Max Video Resolution and Framerate(s): 1080p at 30FPS
  • Sensor Type: 3 megapixels
  • Focus Type: Autofocus
  • Mic Type: Stereo
  • Field of View: 70°
  • Lens cover: Yes
  • Additional Software Required: Logitech Capture (free)
  • Mounting Options: Monitor or Tripod Mount
  • Price: $69.99
ProsCons
Affordable without sacrificing quality Built-in mic isn’t great
Full HD video Sometimes hard to find
Good autofocus
Included privacy shutter

When you need to get the job done, the Logitech C920s is the best webcam for most people. It is truly the gold standard of webcams, offering good video quality at an affordable price. If your requirements when webcam shopping stop at “I need a webcam,” this is the one for you. It has all the features you want—solid autofocus, privacy options, built-in mic—without having to scrutinize the complicated settings that come with advanced features like high frame rates and built-in lighting.

Best webcam with built-in lighting: Razer Kiyo

Light Up Your Life

Getting lighting right is tough. Let the camera do it for you.

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Why it made the cut: The Razer Kiyo’s built-in ring light shines bright and stands out from the competition.

Specs

  • Max Resolution and Framerate(s): 1080p at 30FPS / 720p at 60FPS
  • Sensor Type: 4 megapixels
  • Focus Type: Autofocus
  • Mic Type: Omnidirectional
  • Field of View: 81.6°
  • Lens cover: No
  • Additional Software Required: Razer Synapse 3 (Free)
  • Mounting Options: Monitor or Tripod Mount
  • Price: $99.99
ProsCons
Adjustable ring light Poor mic quality
Great image quality No privacy options
Razer Synapse software 60FPS limited to 720p capture
Physical light controls are easy to adjust on the fly

A built-in ring light sounds like a novelty but, as the best webcam with built-in lighting, the Razer Kiyo shows that it’s an incredibly effective feature. If you’ve spent lots of time on Zoom or Discord chats in the last 18 months, you’ve probably noticed how hard it is to get flattering lighting. Whether you’re in a lit room or a dark one, a simple tweak can instantly improve the lighting on your face. You can easily adjust it on the fly by rotating the outer rim of the camera. Even without the light, the Razer Kiyo has above-average low-light performance, which can be useful for streaming video games. The only caveat to our Kiyo endorsement is that the mic isn’t great, even by webcam standards. Its real focus is on image quality. If you’re picking the Kiyo, you’ll probably want a separate mic or a good headset for this one.

Best webcam for streaming: Elgato Facecam

Pure Picture

For when your mic needs to be in the shot, not on the camera.

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Why it made the cut: For streamers who already plan to use a separate microphone, the Elgato Facecam offers incredible video.

Specs

  • Max Resolution and Framerate(s): 1080p at 60 FPS
  • Sensor Type: Sony® STARVIS™CMOS
  • Focus Type: Fixed Focus
  • Mic Type: N/A
  • Field of View: 82°
  • Lens cover: Yes
  • Additional Software Required: Elgato Camera Hub (Free)
  • Mounting Options: Monitor or Tripod Mount
  • Price: $199.99
ProsCons
Full HD, 60FPS video Tied for most expensive on this list
Fixed Focus Shots can feel overexposed before tweaking
No Mic
Camera Hub software is solid

While a built-in microphone can be helpful for many people, it can become a real pain for streamers. There’s nothing more annoying than being told that your audio sounds like junk, only to find your computer selected your webcam instead of your fancy, dedicated mic. Made for hobby-grade streamers, the Elgato Facecam takes the less-than-stellar webcam microphone out of the equation. For some people, losing the feature is a perk, not a problem. Adding to the “streamers-only” focus of this camera, it has a static focus—streamers are generally sitting in one place and want the focus squarely on themselves. It also offers uncompressed 1080p video at 60FPS. At $200, it’s a comparatively expensive piece of equipment for a very specific purpose.

Best budget webcam: Microsoft Lifecam HD-3000

Plug-and-Play Not Pay

You don’t need a crystal-clear image to call your mom.

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Why it made the cut: If you’re just hanging out with family, you don’t need pro-grade features or the price that comes along with them.

Specs

  • Max Resolution and Framerate(s): 720p at 30FPS
  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Focus Type: Autofocus
  • Mic Type: Omndirectional
  • Field of View: 68.5°
  • Lens Cover: No
  • Additional Software Required: None
  • Mounting Options: Monitor mount
  • Price: $29.99
ProsCons
Ultra-affordable Basic in every way
Mount can act as a stand

The Microsoft Lifecam HD-3000 is for everybody, which means that it’s not going to be for everyone. It tops out at 720p and 30FPS, a lower streaming output than the rest of the cameras on this list. But it’s also $29.99, which is substantially less than every other camera on this list, making it the best budget webcam. The Lifecam is a tool to get your video calls done without concern for video or audio quality. It’s a camera you send home to mom or buy your niece and nephew when they want to hop on Discord or Zoom for the first time. It won’t break any records, but your wallet will easily withstand the burden.

Best 4K webcam: Logitech Brio

Pour Over Every Pore

When you need to get business done, buy a business webcam.

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Why it made the cut: With 4K resolution, the Logitech Brio is the best resolution you can get on a webcam.

Specs

  • Max Resolution and Framerate(s): 4K at 30FPS, 1080p at 60FPS, 720p at 90FPS
  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Focus Type: Autofocus
  • Mic Type: Omnidirectional Stereo
  • Field of View: 90°
  • Lens Cover: Yes
  • Additional Software Required: Logitech Capture (Free) or Logitech Tune (Free)
  • Mounting Options: Monitor or Tripod mount
  • Price: $199.99
ProsCons
4K video Priced for pros
Windows Hello support
Adjustable field-of-view

When you’re constantly on camera for work, you want to present yourself digitally as you would in real life: sharp, crisp, and exuding quality. For that, you need the best 4K webcam. The Logitech Brio is priced for business use but it has the features to back up the price. It features two omnidirectional microphones and noise-canceling tech to capture your voice clearly without also grabbing the car horn outside and the dog barking at said car horn. It offers multiple field-of-view angles, from a 65-degree angle for close-up shots to a 90-degree shot when you want to get up and walk around. This is a camera that you could put in a conference room but it also works great in a home office. The Brio hits the high mark in two categories, too. It’s the only camera on this list to offer 4K streaming capture (at 30FPS) and the only one that can do 90FPS (at 720p resolution). That’s overkill for most people, but there’s no denying it looks great.

Best webcam for content creators: Logitech Streamcam

For Zoom and TikTok Alike

A webcam at home creating content and hanging out on Zoom calls.

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Why it made the cut: As the best webcam for content creators, the Logitech Streamcam can shoot at a variety of orientations and aspect ratios that other webcams can’t.

Specs

  • Max Resolution and Framerate(s): 1080p at 60FPS
  • Sensor Type: CMOS
  • Focus Type: Autofocus
  • Mic Type: Omnidirectional Stereo
  • Field of View: 78°
  • Lens cover: No
  • Additional Software Required: Logitech Capture (Free)
  • Mounting Options: Monitor or Tripod mount (tripod included)
  • Price: $149.99
ProsCons
The rotating lens offers portrait and landscape options Pricey
Myriad frame rate options No privacy shutter
Motion tracking

This one’s for the content creators. While many of the cameras on this list have a few different frame rates and resolution settings, none of them offer as many customization options as the Logitech Streamcam. It can record at frame rates from a buttery 60FPS down to a prehistoric 5FPS, and anywhere from Full HD 1080p to 320p. It offers the standard landscape orientation available on every other camera on this list, as well as the ability to physically turn the camera housing for portrait mode, a feature offered by few if any other webcams. While the $150 price tag is a bit higher than many of the other options on this list, the sheer number of framerates, resolutions, and orientation options will make it an appealing option for vloggers and streamers who are looking for flexibility.

FAQs

Q: Are webcams better than my laptop camera?

It depends on what webcam you buy but, usually, webcams are better than your laptop camera. Where built-in webcams are usually small and discreet, a dedicated webcam’s larger frame and lens allow for better image quality. There’s room inside your webcam for a lens stack, a set of multiple lenses that can produce a clearer picture under a wider set of circumstances. As a general rule of thumb, a dedicated piece of hardware will deliver better results than a built-in component.

Q: Is 720p good enough for a webcam?

A 720p webcam isn’t ideal but will get the job done in many cases. It’s good enough for home use and can get the job done if you just need your picture to look good in a little box in the corner of a screen. If you’re going to create content or lead virtual meetings in a professional setting—something where you want to make a strong impression—we’d recommend the sharper picture of a 1080p webcam.

Q: What Webcam works best with zoom?

Nearly every webcam is compatible with major video conferencing platforms, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Discord. In some cases, you may experience software issues with low-quality cameras from lesser-known brands but, generally speaking, your webcam should work with Zoom.

Final thoughts on the best webcams

The standard for webcams has reached a pretty high bar. Nothing on this list goes below 720p resolution or 30FPS for standard functionality. All but one offer built-in microphones and are compatible with major video conferencing and streaming software. It’s hard to get a bad webcam. Finding the best webcam for your needs is a bit tougher, but the Logitech C920s (and its uncovered cousin, the Logitech C920) set the standard for getting a quality picture with ease across every app and platform. As you can see, there’s room to optimize for specific uses, particularly streaming video games on Twitch, but that’s a discussion for another time.

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