Lighting and audio are more important than raw image quality.
Getting an expensive camera to send heavily compressed 320p low bandwidth video doesn’t really improve a whole lot.
Honestly the #1 improvement most people need to work on is speaking clearly and loud enough. #2 would be having literally any light source in front of them rather than being purely backlit.Reply
So when using the barebones webcam protocol, the webcams look bad, when using custom software for the webcams or iphones, the results are much better.
Why is the conclusion that the hardware is bad, not that the method of using the hardware is bad?Reply
Mh, I wonder what article author think for webcam use cases... Personally I consider them useless 99% of the time in the sense that there is no need for video. When a video is needed 480p is enough, eventual dropped frames or artifacts does not matter much. If we really need hi resolution it's beyond webcam, something about YT, TV, ... not webcams anyway. If we need to share paper docs (LIM alike) it's better scan them before.Reply
You can download the app "iriun webcam" and then run your iPhone or Android phone on the same wifi network and it will feed your phone camera in as webcam input. No tech setup needed, just download the app and you're done.Reply
I having been successfully using the Anker PowerConf 300 webcam. Using the AnkerWork software on my M1 mac, I find it has excellent autofocus, auto exposure, and zoom and pan capabilities. The cost is $130, but it is often on sale at $100.
I have used it with iGlasses, but that has tended to crash after about an hour. So I use AnkerWork though it is less convenient.Reply
Even if i hook up a great camera, chrome/Firefox's webrtc will squeeze my bitrate and lower res to 720p. There is no way from the client to upgrade basic quality for Meet/Teams/Zoom web apps.Reply
What is going on in the video of the C920 exposure test? It’s not clear if he’s changing lighting, changing camera settings, or letting the driver change some internal settings, but the view out the window is getting less and less overexposed while his face remains exactly as overexposed at each step. It’s like it’s exposing different parts of the frame differently and all poorly. WTF?Reply
Webcams don't have to be good because people have low expectations.
People with high expectations use DSLRs as webcams.Reply
Before you look at buying a new webcam, look at just using DroidCam with an old Android.Reply
Surely the adult webcam industry has solved this problem?Reply
This made me laugh.
> Using an iPhone as a webcam is easily the best option without dropping an excess of $1,000 for professional camera gear. Using the iPhone you already own, or a recent hand-me-down, a moderate investment in lighting, and Reincubate Camo, you can get excellent results and none of the frustration and hassle that accompanies standalone webcams.
I don't have an iPhone. So if I want to buy one that is better than any of the webcams reviewed, I'm spending a couple hundred bucks at least. Then I need to spend $50/year or so on their Camo software.
For a couple hundred bucks I can get a used Sony Alpha, OBS is free. And arguably with effort I can make the Sony look much better.
This is a stretch, of course. The average person isn't going to fuck around with OBS.
Let's think of it another way. For <$100 you can have a webcam that works. It's better than nothing. Is an iPhone plus TFA's software better? Yes. Is it better proportional to the cost? Absolutely not. I'm not even convinced it's twice as good. I have some colleagues who use Camo, happily, but as a viewer in a Zoom meeting, I don't care. They're usually the size of a postage stamp on my screen. Most folks can't even upload full resolution streams of their cheap webcams in real-time.
Camo is cool, it's great that you can use your phone as a webcam, I love it, but "Why $90 webcams aren't as good as a $1000+ iPhone" would be a better title.Reply
I ran into this problem when streaming on twitch. After I switched from a webcam to a sony a7r2, I never looked back.
I even use it for zoom calls too, because why not?Reply
I briefly worked with a guy whose previous startup had been premised on the idea of combining several consumer-grade phone-cameras into a small array and using software to build a far better image than any one of the cameras could accomplish individually, yet remain cost effective because these things are sold in such absurd scale.
I don't know what became of it, but it sounded plausible (at least the computer vision parts that I understood were sane-sounding).
Does anyone know if people are doing this sort of thing? (I'm aware that the expensive iPhones have more than one camera but IIUC that's for different reasons).Reply
This makes me wonder whether there's some relatively simple configuration of cameras that can be used to give a basic 3-d type experience. Nothing crazy like the oculus, but maybe something where a computer can use head tracking so that as you move your head, you see a little bit around the other person's face so it feels a little more lifelike.
I assume this would only be relevant for the primary speaker, of course.Reply
We just use webcams to say "hi!" and all that stuff, then turn them off, someone has a powerpoint on, and even if someone else left their camera on, noone is looking at them.
So basically, a vga camera would be enough to recognize my face, smile and wave, and after that, it's audio only.
Laptop mics are a different story, especially with fans on high,... and bluetooth headset mics.. or cabled earphones mics... some seem to work really great, and some people seem to be talking from somewhere deep inside a well or even worse, and there is no seeming price/audio_quality correlation.Reply
good audio is better than good video, I don’t care if you look like a potato, I just need clear low-latency audioReply
Webcams are good enough for their purpose which is video conferencing and calls. In the end your video is likely going to be encoded in like 360p low bitrate. I personally prefer not being in razor sharp detail on calls anyway.
Anyway this is the one I've been using. https://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Webcam-Built-Stereo-Micropho... I like the integrated shutter better than the cover thing for the c920.Reply
I had a Logitech C920 that died a couple years ago and when I went to find a better replacement I ended up buying a... Logitech C920. I couldn't find anything that seemed significantly better that wasn't a lot more money. I regret the purchase, but I'm glad I didn't just spend 3 times as much on a still-not-that-great webcam. I was thinking of finding a second-hand digital camera on eBay, but maybe instead I'll see if a friend has an old iPhone.
Though you'd think with the WFH revolution there would be at least one company out there making a high-quality purpose-built webcam.Reply
This is from 2021 by a good margin. Anything new since i last read it, or should this have 2021 in the title?Reply
It honestly doesn’t matter if you primarily use your webcam for zoom, teams, etc. you could have an 8k cinema grade camera and the image other people will see is still compressed to death dogshit.Reply
The whole webcam market is in a sad state with little to no R&D and ridiculous prices. How else is it explainable that the 8-year old C920 is still considered a quality leader?Reply
During COVID I had to shoot some remote video for a short segment. Ended up putting my Sony Alpha 7 iii and my (relatively awful) Logitech C920 on an Elgato mount setup with roughly the same viewport. Connected the camera via a Magewell USB 3 capture card to OBS (really great software), and made a virtual output so the producer could remotely setup the camera exactly as they wanted. For shooting I just swapped scenes so they would watch the live Logitech view, and recorded directly onto the device. A wonky setup, but the video quality was great.
Getting good lighting was more of a challenge for the next few vids.Reply
I don't need to see every pore in my coworkers' skin when I meet with them over Zoom. The regular (company issued) MBP camera is fine.Reply
I did quite a lot of research to find a camera with decent picture quality in low light conditions. I do multiple work calls almost every evening. I ended up buying also a key light and a microphone. I think in this age of remote work, it’s the right thing to do for your colleagues to invest in this equipment. It’s kinda annoying when 20 people on the call cannot hear your or see you properly.Reply
> Originally, Logitech's higher-end webcams, such as the C920, also included dedicated MPEG processing hardware to encode the video signal, but removed it at some point
Anyone knows if this is detectable on the hardware side? By checking the revision number or features using v4l2-ctl perhaps?Reply
I have bought Elgato Facecams for our offices. The image quality compared to the previos webcameras I had my hands on is on a different level. The sharpening effect was a bit too much but their software can be used and save the profile to the camera so you only have to fix it once. Otherwise the picture quality is amazing and is useable even in badly lit conference rooms.Reply
I recently got the Obsbot tiny 4k webcam. Even though 4k won't come through on videoconferencing software the color seems much more natural than Logitech webcams.Reply
I can't find it but I distinctly remember a HN post a few (1-2?) years ago, a blog post rant about how webcams are so bad relative to phone cameras.
I think the guy wanted to do a kickstarter to disrupt the industry (and 90% of the HN comments were telling him he would fail).Reply
I use Camo (lifetime $79 license) and an iPhone SE I picked up on eBay for $200.
I've had dozens of people comment how clear my camera is. Many now purchased a similar setup. I used OBS for a long time since it was free, but the quality wasn't close.
If you're in a line of work that requires you to stream it's a worthwhile investment by a great company that just keeps getting better.Reply
There are good USB cameras, just not a the price point reviewed here. For personal use (sitting in front of a normal display at a desk), I strongly recommend and use https://www.huddly.com/conference-cameras/one/.
It's a device you likely use every day. Spend the money, get setup once, and move on.Reply
How fast does my Internet upload connection need to be to share 4k video, the CPU fan ramps as it is on the 2019 MBP I’m using.
I’m just curious since so much internet has asymmetrical speeds with the focus on downloads.
I’m on 35/5 Mb until upgraded sometime this year I hope.Reply
What do other folks think about the impending ability to use an iPhone as the camera for your Mac, with bokeh/blurring built in?
One thing I wonder about is whether the largest phones will be too heavy, especially for laptops that were built before this capability was anticipated.Reply
Considering how so many people on remote video calls look like they just got out of bed (wearing a hoodie, messy hair and beard) - I want to see less of them, not more.Reply
The only thing I would like more out of my 10 year old webcam is better night vision...Reply
If you want a great webcam, then you can buy something like a Canon m50 mirrorless dslr or wire up your phone iphone (or samsung!) to you Pc. Eitherway you will end up spending close to $1000. Standalone webcam's just dont have the CPU or firmware to create great pictures.
The courious thing for me is why the Webcam on my Mac m1 so bad, when you know the hardware/firmware involved is so closely related to the hardware in the iphoneReply
A nice device is the Nexigo N970p, it is expensive with about $200, but the good part is that is has very good quality and comes with a remote. All settings are made in an OSD and are stored on the Webcam. It just works, not software drivers or anything is needed.
Only downside is the power draw, it is quite warm. It seems to suck so much power that the USB plug next to it in a dell docking station was not working correctly.Reply
Well, there's Polycom , and their pro/business solutions were delivering an exceptional results back before Zoom . Idk about their current product line, thoughReply
The logitech C920 can put out incredible video, if you have access to every setting. For some reason logitech puts the training wheels on and doesn't let you adjust every single setting like gain. There was an incredible app called "webcam settings" for mac that let you refine that webcam like putting a dslr into manual mode. I was able to get it so dialed in you thought it was a top of the line webcam. That software unfortunately is gone but sometimes it's not the hardware, it's the software. That said I refuse to pay monthly or yearly for software to use my phone as a webcam.Reply
The iPhone's camera has more engineering resources poured into it than the other three webcams reviewed added together, it is disingenuous to expect similar quality.Reply
I would pay good money for a solid dedicated camera for video calls. I know I can just use my phone, but I'm one of those weird people who only has one iPhone and it's really annoying to have to undo my camera rig every time I need a 2FA code. I would happily spend hundreds of dollars if the product was good.Reply
The webcam market is a niche market. Even game streamers, arguably the most "consumer" like target audience that cares about quality, will often put the image of their face in a corner of their screen.
The simple fact of the matter that the target for webcam seems to be to be either good enough or to be better than the competition. Neither of those are very high bars.
There are some improvements in webcam land. There's a trend towards more higher-quality consumer webcams even if they're ridiculously expensive for what they deliver.
One problem I have noticed with using phones as webcams is that often the image will look distorted if you're not right in the center of the camera. The closer you go towards the edges, the more your face will get distorted in width or in height. This is a natural consequence of how these tiny lenses are able to get such a wide picture so I can't really fault phone manufacturers for this, but it's something to keep in mind when you pick the more obvious solution and just stick your phone to your monitor.Reply
Unfortunately there aren't any FOSS solutions for using an android phone as a webcam.Reply
I am using my phone and Ip Webcam so I can compress the stream directly from my phone and use the compressed stream on my computer as native webcam input via vl4c (or whatever the kernel module is called)
This way I get high quality and high frame rate in a manageable format and my computer can focus on streaming, while my phone does what it was (also) built for, providing a quality video feed.Reply
I wish I could use Camo. But my company doesn't allow third party software without admin approval. Makes the process of installing Camo substantially more obnoxious.Reply
Are webcams not good enough, or are larger CMOS sensors locked up into dSLR and dSLR sucks? The situation feels that way to me.Reply
>The Razer and Adwaita webcams offer no settings
*On mac. Kiyo has settings on windows. I had a lot more luck setting up on a windows laptop then using on Mac & separately on linux. The ring light is dimmable and i won't post them, but i think my selfies look better than his.
Zero affiliation with any vendor and it shits me to tears razer do windows only settings and razor's whole software experience it's something I dislike intensely. It's a reasonable option for your consideration along with a blue yeti mic for a Linux based home Office setup where you look ok, your voice sounds sound clear and the money isn't as bad as it could be.Reply
Panasonic released a "beta webcam" software for several of their more recent cameras in September 2020. Luckily i have one of the supported models. Unfortunately, it has bugs, it doesn't support Apple Silicon and it hasn't received an update since.
Hello Panasonic... please fix the issues and release an update, including Apple M1/M2 support!Reply
Look, my work laptop isn't shit, the hardware specs are actually pretty good, much better than my my personal laptop.
Yet for some reason my personal laptop has great camera, display is clear, adjusts well to lighting.
My working latptop camera on the other hand is utter garbage. It's grainy as hell and seemingly randomly radically changes the exposure making me go from vampire in the shadows to a divine, blinding glow I have and ISDN H.320 videophone that captures in 480i and still displays better, though the camera is much more significant than a tiny webcam and can manually adjust setting which for reason isn't an option for many laptop webcams.Reply
Placement, I perch my C920 on top of the 4k 32” monitor, ergonomically at eye height, but that means it’s far too high for a webcam.
I’ve been thinking of having a little sling to hold an iPhone in the right place but of course that obscures the screen.
Perhaps several cameras that could simulate the image from a camera in the centre of a screen is one option, a bit daft, but how else.Reply
I am hoping that Apple's Continuity Camera "just works" as the camera and lighting are excellent. I was on the hunt for a decent webcam last year and surprised this didn't "just work" already without flakey 3rd party apps, etc.Reply
The poor auto exposure and white balance touched on by this article really affected my webcam’s quality. A lamp in the background of my office caused my webcam to choose some setting that caused my face to be very red and blotchy.
I’m not being vain. People noticed it and it strained conversations. It’s harder to effectively communicate when your audience is uncomfortable by your appearance. Something to think about elsewhere in life.
But I digress. The Logitech software is horrible. I found CameraController  to adequately solve the problem. It allows me to adjust exposure and white balance. Now conversations feel more natural at work.Reply
I use these guys’ software on my Mac to use an iPhone as the webcam. It really does a better job, since I can adjust the camera settings.
The next macOS will have this capability baked in so I probably won’t need the third party software.Reply
Not good enough for what? All the problems the author describes are certainly issues I'd worry about in photography, but that's not the purpose of a webcam.
The quality of images produced by modern webcams rivals that of professional gear from 20 years ago. I'd say that's more than "good enough."
And if you really want professional photography quality images from your webcam, it is possible to use a DSLR as a webcam.Reply
If I could I'd still be using my 480p external 2003 iSight camera through an increasingly ridiculous series of dongles:
Support though has been removed from Apple Silicon Macs :(
Would be a good project for someone to hack support back in.Reply
You can use you phone's camera as a webcam with Reincubate's Camo App. This required a wired connection iirc.
You can also use OBS Studio along with a virtual camera plugin to use any device which can output directly to your computer.
But most of these solutions do not work on Safari or FaceTime unless you manually modify the app.
Now, Apple is going to soon introduce their "It Just Works" solution with the next release of macOS and iOS. You will be able to use your iPhone's camera as a webcam wirelessly with your Mac by just sticking your phone on the back (Apple is partnering with Belkin for this stand) 
I personally don't care about the camera as much as I care about the sound quality.Reply
I recommend testing the Webex Desk camera. If you're a company you can get a significant discount (my company gets ~60% discount afaik).Reply
We don't need to do video calls. They are superfluous. In fact, most interactions can just be emails.Reply
Yeah I always wonder.. Why don't they put those cams they put in phones in a webcam?? Sure they're expensive but so are some webcams. And $200-300 buys you a great compact photo cam. So why not a webcam that needs less components?
It's not even just the sensors, the optics totally suck as well. Even the top webcams often have a huge 'fake lens' that's actually just flat glass and being it is just the usual tiny lens. The logitech stream does this, for example. It looks impressive but it's still the same crap in prettier plastic.
I kinda had to laugh at that odd iPhone clip they introduced at Apple's last keynote. It's basically an admission that their webcams suck.
I know some colleagues that use their phones as cam and while the quality is great it's also super annoying not being able to use your phone when a text comes in or something. I know Apple has some built in tricks to handle that stuff on a Mac but for work I don't always use one (and I don't have an iPhone). So I never use my phone for this. I'd spend 200-300 bucks on a great webcam though. It's just that right now there aren't any.Reply
If Apple can equip their iPhone with such a great webcam, why won't they just put the same camera in MacBook/iMac?Reply
Question for people using Came: isn't it annoying having your phone locked up for the whole video call? No way to even check your notifications or do anything else on it? And constantly having to plug and unplug it, adding more wear to the delicate USB C sensor?
Or do you use an old phone for Camo instead?Reply
Even worse (for me), is the fact that there aren't any decent and affordable microscope/desktop cameras for home/semiprofessional use. Unless you shell out a few thousand dollars, you get the same crappy camera modules that webcams use.Reply
I have been testing various solutions for semi-professional-looking interviews with remote staff and concluded that a dedicated microphone plus the rear-facing camera of whatever smartphone they have at home is by far the best bang for the buck solution. webcams are too terrible and mirrorless/dslr cameras are too expensive and complicated to set up and use.Reply
Dash cams, even the higher end ones, have the same image quality problems.Reply
I don't _want_ a good webcam. There's really no need for my colleagues to be able to count freckles on my nose. All I want others to see is my general contour and expression on my face. In fact I wouldn't use it at all if it weren't mandated by company policy and no one used one until after HR drones started complaining about it. We had one guy join the weekly call with some crystal-clear, HD cam once and entire office started joking about his alleged "online side gig".Reply
Alternative: Elgato camlink hdmi capture interface with a used Sony A6000 system camera is one way to het better quality. Its about sensor size and optics. A mirrorless system camera has for example APS-C sensor which captures much more light than a typical web cam sensor.
Gphoto2 camera to webcam capture tool if you are runnning Linux. Then you can turn system cameras into webcam given the right camera model.Reply
This article was written from the perspective of someone who has not kept up with the webcam market at all and judging by the current state of the comments here, neither has anyone else. Products like the Dell WB7022 and the Elgato Facecam blow the previous generation out of the water, and the Dell is even microphone-free, which I much prefer to the compromised microphones jammed into most cheap models. The Dell model is also bog-standard UVC compliant, unless you want to play with face-tracking or HDR modes; these for some reason require a Windows program to toggle, instead of being exposed as UVC settings. The Elgato model is entirely proprietary.
As much as I like the WB7022, it turns out that nobody notices or cares if I hop on a meeting on my wife's computer with her Logitech c922; at the end of the day and for the majority of business needs the cost/quality cusp has been nailed for about a decade, and I don't predict a major shift toward higher quality any time soon. If you need to produce high-quality video, a webcam will never be enough, and if you don't need to shoot a movie, webcams have been fine for a long time. Even in the linked article, all the criticism is from the owner of the webcams, with strong opinions about photography. Not one iota of attention or interest has been paid to whether anyone on the other end of the meeting even notices.Reply
This is one those markets that clearly doesn't appreciate picture quality enough. I have at least 6 different web cams and have the same experience as the author that they are all crappy in slightly different ways.
It seems the point-and-shoot camera makers have all the parts and technology available to their teams to make a really nice pro-sumer web cam and given they are looking for adjacent markets I'm kind of surprised there aren't any out there. They all seem to have the equivalent of 'camo' (aka software that turns the camera into a web cam) but none of them seem to have packaged a camera specifically for this niche.Reply
If you feed 4K at 60fps to your computer, that's another thing it has to digest on top of your running application, and 4K screen presentation downsized to 720p.
Besides, have you ever wanted to see every pimples on the face of your co-workers?
The image needs to be good enough to capture body language and minor frowny attitudes, but a stunning picture won't fix the fact that your product is late, your co-workers are slow, and it's Monday.Reply
It depends on what good enough means. For meetings, a cheap Razr webcam is good enough for me.
If I would need a high quality video, I would use a DSLR or mirrorless camera.Reply
I have an odd webcam given by our company. When I plugged it in, I thought something was badly broken - it was just a giant blur. Messing around with the thing, I noticed my hand came in focus. Turns out that I had to manually adjust a ring around the camera to focus. Once I did that, the quality is crisp and clear, and I’m not moving closer and farther away from my desk, so I can see how autofocus isn’t needed. I think the simplicity of the design may actually be helping the quality in this case.Reply
As I had a Canon DSLR lying around during Covid, I have repurposed it to a webcam using Canons webcam driver: https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/support/se...
Image quality is top notch and the ability to Zoom in/out using the zoom lense is nice. You also get some nice background blur, depending on your used lens. For power there are modified "batteries" allowing to plug the camera into AC for power.Reply
Here's a question: why do people care so much about what they look like or how the camera displays them? Personally, I care more about the content being delivered than what someone (including the scene) looks like.Reply
Two points I feel I have to make here:
1. If you absolutely need the best quality image you can have on a video call, use a mirrorless or DSLR photo camera that has 'clean HDMI out' and couple it with a HDMI capture device (which are now quite cheap for 1080p capture).
2. Most (if not all) video conferencing software applies heavy compression to the image of your video feed. Even if your local preview image shows you in ultra-sharp focus with fine detail, you can almost guarantee that people at the other end are seeing a soft fuzzy picture that looks like it's been upscaled from 240p.
So you have to ask yourself, is my laptop webcam, or the £50 no-name USB camera 'good enough'? - in most cases, the answer is probably 'yes'.Reply
When will 4K HDR video conferencing or even 1080p SDR become the norm? 3 years out? 5 years?Reply
Honestly if I were to buy another webcam beyond the cheapest "yeh that'll do" one I could find, the main thing I'd be looking for is microphone quality and features. Sure, I could and have brought a USB mic, but a webcam is pointed directly at you (like a shotgun mic, which seems ideal for this kind of thing), whereas the bulk of a USB mic can be harder to position in a way that doesn't block your forward monitor. If it had a configurable mute shortcut, with a little light on it to show its mute status, I'd buy one in a second.
In fact, saying all that I don't even think what I want is a webcam, I want a USB webcam-mounted microphone. I do remember seeing one once, but its very old now and has none of that mute functionality. Wish someone would make one againReply
I upgraded my video and audio setup during the pandemic since I figured even at up to $1k it was cheaper than the office space it was replacing.
After about a month of research I was surprised to find how difficult it was to evaluate options and how few of those options were plug-and-play.
I had assumed the explosion in livestreaming over the last few years would mean best practices would be easy to find and great high quality cameras purpose built for streaming would exist, but didn't find that to be the case at all.
Ultimately I took a chance on a heavily discounted open box ZV1 but it wasn't until I married it with a 4k capture card (USB streaming was meh), a key light (lighting matters so much!), a mic (& arm to hold it), AND an ali-express battery-to-dc connector (so it could run all day) that I finally hit the sweet spot of "clearly better" and "easy to use all day".
Worth it in the end, but a lot of work.Reply
I bought a samsung a51 phone on clearance at Target and installed iruincam on the mac (for Linux I use droidcam). Much higher quality than a the Brio it replaced.Reply
There is a reason that for hundreds of years painters and (later) photographers have preferred working in spaces with North-facing windows, and that is because it's a simple way of ensuring neutral, even light. My home office is (by design) in a room with one North-facing window.
I use a Logitech C920. Many people have told me how good my webcam feed is. I don't think it's that the C920 is particularly brilliant, it's that if you know even a little about photography, you can do an awful lot to help ensure a good picture.
 assuming they were in the Northern Hemisphere, of courseReply
Webcams feel like a deadend technology like self-rewinding cassettes on the eve of the release of the compact disc.
The fidelity is garbage relative to something like a DSLR inside an Errol Box and miles away from Starline style holography. Eye contact is poor. Putting in a software filter to fix eye contact should be universal practice at this point. Hell even getting basic ring light next to your lens is universal amongst gen-z streamers and completely absent from gen-x remote workers.
With the chip shortage mostly over I'm amused how many people working at MANGA, nominally our most proficient tech workers bringing in half a million dollar salaries, are just phoning it in with garbage setups, trivially fixed by watching a 15 minute youtube video on how to position your desk to capture natural light, use a wired microphone that you already have in your drawer somewhere, and check three boxes under settings.
I'm not proposing to get a studio, just maybe give your fellow humans the decency of picking up your emotional nuance if you're transitioning to not seeing them in person.Reply
I first saw this article years ago, and I'm glad to see it has been updated with some more modern webcams.
I'm also sad to see that the state of the art in this space hasn't changed much for webcams, especially on the Mac.
I do have an older iPhone 7 that I could put to use like this, but I'm starting to become convinced that maybe I actually do need to buy a somewhat newer iPhone device with multiple lenses, and use that instead -- for the same reason that my iPhone 7 is now obsolete for personal use and has since been replaced by an iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Camo looks nice!Reply
Why can't apple put the iphone rear camera in the MacBook?Reply
I wish webcam manufacturers would focus on sensors and optics instead of rubbing lipstick all over low quality hardware with an undeniable porcine quality.
Fixing it with AI is nonsense. Fashionable nonsense but still nonsense.
I have spent lots of money on various webcams. Including cameras that promise “AI”. The truth is not even my $1000 “AI” webcam gets close to my aging iPhone 7. As a video conferencing camera it is an over-priced, over hyped-piece of junk. The damn thing can’t even do basic white balance and has no control to set it because “it is an AI camera”. I either look like I’m about to die or as if I have a sunburn. And after countless firmware upgrades, it is still horrible. The expensive camera has one thing going for it though: it has decent microphones. That’s actually more important than good video.
To anyone who makes AI webcams: please give me manual controls and focus on image quality instead of marketing. Don’t be clever. Hire someone who obsesses over image quality and is a decent photographer to judge the visuals. And put a good microphone system in the thing.Reply
The webcam in the MacBook Pro seems to be way better than most. Complementing that is an extremely good mic. Arguably these are two of the truly "professional" touches in their line as of late.Reply
Camo is fine, but is there a third party app that I can just buy without a subscription?Reply
A substantial advantage to Reincubate's product is the ability to control the camera settings that would otherwise be relegated to some auto-focus auto-lighting software. In a dark room, for example, one can choose to slow the shutter speed way down, trading some motion blur for a better static image. I hope they can continue to provide those features on top of Continuity Camera after it launches with Ventura.Reply
There is an industry that packages high quality Sony image sensors in packages with C or Cs mount lense compatibility and native UVC support on Linux/MacOS/Windows. Primary uses seem to be industrial cameras for manufacturing quality inspections, circuit magnification for repairs, installation onto telescopes, etc.
Prices range from $40 to multiple hundreds for extremely high quality sensors.
This sketchy site has comparisons of the sensors by area and signal to noise ratio.
I bought a 1080P one with very high SNR and 2-14mm lens using the Sony IMX291 sensor for $79.
Arducam 1080P USB Webcam,... https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0991XRFXB?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_shar...
For audio, I bought a Samson Q2U USB/XLR mic for $60. USB has been perfect, and the included stand works fine to the side of my keyboard.
Samson Technologies Q2U USB/XLR... https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001R747SG?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_shar...
Altogether, this is a cost effective way to increase audio and video quality for meetings / streaming.Reply
For a REALLY good webcam just get a Pi Zero (v1), Pi HQ camera, a good C-mount lens, and flash this firmware: https://piwebcam.github.io/ which makes the Pi Zero appear as a regular USB webcam when plugged in, and also gives you a telnet thing to control camera parameters.
It's particularly nice because it doesn't mount any filesystems in RW mode, so you can just plug and unplug it as needed.
There are also some enclosures you can 3D print for this combination.Reply
I bought an iPod Touch (~$100) to use with Camo Studio. It works great. Lets me keep my laptop lid closed all the time which I prefer, and the video quality is much much better than the built-in camera. The software costs a little but it's well-made and I don't mind paying for stuff that does what it's supposed to do.Reply
I'm quite fond of a raspberry pi hd camera and showmewebcam. The problem I've got is that the only lenses I've got to hand mean that I need to mount the camera about a metre behind the monitor, which is really annoying. Definitely need a wider angle lens.Reply
This is a symptom of the race to the bottom in the digital camera industry. Most webcams are built around low cost modules running firmware developed by an OEM who made it good enough to ship and nothing more. They don't have any incentive to improve the features beyond banner specs and their buyers have little influence.Reply
My theory is just that video conference applications should inject whatever horrible things you are doing to your image to the other image :)
If your camera shakes while you type, your view of the other person will shake too. If you have a horrible echo, so will the other person. If you are backlit with dim light, get ready for a dim, grainy view of the other person. Low res? Blown highlights? Yep, we can show you that. The goal is to setup the incentives correctly. Most people seem to appreciate a good view of their peer but many can’t seem to be bothered to do the work themselves.
Friendlier alternative: Build classifiers for the 10 most common ‘you look bad’ situations and have the video conference app turn on the ‘dummy lights’ (to borrow from cars) that warn you what’s up and how to fix it.Reply
In the presence of in built webcams - peoples desire to pay for external webcams has reduced.Reply
This is something i've struggled with for a while, working remotely for years now, and not wanting to be depersoned by my team never seeing my face. I tried a logi 920, which i thought was pricey for a webcam, but the image quality is terrible. And every time it starts up, it runs in 60hz anti-flicker mode which flickers like crazy here in australia where we run 50hz power, so i have to start their awful software to change the setting. Eventually I returned it and got a canon m50. Image quality is good now. I saw some people on the internet saying it could be powered through the usb connection but that turned out to be false, so i have to change the battery every few days which is frustrating. I know you can get a pass-thru 'battery' that connects to a mains adapter, ive yet to try that. Also frustrating is having to reach up and turn it on before a meeting and off at the end. Next macOS has the feature to use an old iphone as a camera. If this works seamlessly (eg i can mount the phone behind my monitor and it charges itself and turns on and off automatically) it'll be even better.Reply
I used to be able to set the exposure manually on my webcams in windows (more granular than the 7 levels I'm offered now). That option just disappeared a few content updates ago on win 10, so now I can't even fix my own lighting. I think it was mjpg support that was just removed?Reply
The supply and demand curves for high quality webcams do not intersect.
There is no price/quantity combination that will satisfy both producers and consumers.Reply
I'm the cofounder at Lumina - we're building a modern webcam designed to solve some of these problems.
There's really been a lack of innovation in the entire home office space, with the webcam being particularly bad. It sucks that a decade-old product (Logitech C920) is still the bestselling product today -- that would be like if Apple stopped releasing new phones after the iPhone 4S (launched 2012), and it remained the bestselling phone through now.
A few thoughts to add to the article:
- On why webcams aren't seeing innovation, I'd disagree that the market is too small. There's enough gross margin to produce a $B company just by selling webcams , especially if you can actually get customers excited about the product.
- A big reason there hasn't been innovation is that the space doesn't attract entrepreneurs (because hardware is viewed as hard) or investors (because hardware is viewed as hard).
- Size isn't everything. As the iPhone shows, you can get very good image quality from a tiny sensor and lens if you have the right tech supporting it. (At Lumina, most of our eng effort is on the software layer)
I would've loved to see Lumina in his comparison. We launched a few months ago and are seeing many reviewers prefer us over the Brio (Logitech's flaghip) . Personally, I'd guess we're 60% of where we can be in terms of quality and think we can achieve a quality level between an iPhone and a DSLR, hopefully closer to the latter.Reply
One criticism I haven't seen brought up is that while UVC drivers are plug and play on Windows their settings are not persistent across reboots . I would painstakingly manually tune the exposure and white balance of my Brio and get it to be less than terrible and then windows update would reboot over night and I'd fire up a stream in the morning looking purple. I have softboxes and high-CRI lights too so this was particularly enraging.
The flipside is non-UVC driver are less terrible but less compatible: I've switched to an Avermedia PW513 which uses their own drivers -- this works great for OBS when I stream but nothing that uses UVC works without using an OBS Virtual Cam. Just don't run process monitor and watch what their software is doing to your registry every second.
So the driver system, at least on windows, is part of the problem IMO.
 After I switched to non-UVC I learned about a UVC driver restoring utility but I've never tried it.Reply
There’s a bunch of advice on improving video calls here: https://www.benkuhn.net/vc/ It touches on webcams. Some other important things for video calls apart from webcam picture quality are:
- latency. This matters everywhere (webcam, webcam driver, codecs, network, graphics pipeline, monitor software, physically switching the pixels) but I would expect webcams to introduce higher latency due to generally not being good
- audio matters a lot (as does audio latency and slowing down audio to synchronise it with slow video)
- some lighting things
- to some extent eye contact will also be wrong with a webcam so maybe the FaceTime style thing where your eyes are ‘corrected’ to appear to be looking at the camera instead of your screen would helpReply
Although this was a fascinating article, the quality of webcams is pretty low on my list of things that could use improvement in the teleconferencing experience.Reply
Unrelated, you (the article's author) have a seriously gorgeous mane of hair.Reply
I'd love to just use an old smartphone as my webcam, but unfortunately they really aren't made to be connected to a charger 24/7. If they at least let you charge the battery to 80% and then shut off the battery until the next cycle, or power on with no battery present, this would be a great alternative.
I got a OnePlus 6T here that I'm not using anymore, the camera is great, but I think if I tried using it as a webcam I'd just end up watching the battery balloon through the case (or worse).Reply
I didn’t see any mention of an important one for me. Size. Many of the higher quality webcams are massive. I actually had to buy a shitty webcam to find one that was a size I was happy with. I take my desk aesthetic really serious to me so that was a big reason I returned all my webcams.Reply