There was a time when webcams were only used by the über-techy or the cyber-sophisticated, and often solely for the purpose of exposition in a science fiction or thriller movie. When looking for the best webcams to meet your particular needs, there are plenty of reasonably affordable choices out there.
Today, webcams are standard issue with any Internet-compatible device and are used by just about everyone, from new parents to grandparents. We even have webcams on our phones. People use them for lots of reasons, but sometimes the factory-embedded version just isn’t a good fit for certain functions.
Best Webcams: Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
For a near perfect all-purpose webcam, the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is an excellent candidate, earning 10/10 from Top Ten Reviews based on, among other factors, the number and quality of features, design, and ease of use. Once mounted, the top shelf Carl Zeiss lens gives you a pretty spectacular view of an entire room without having to pan, which it can kind of do using a modified digital zoom function.
It shoots up to 1080p at 30 frames per second (the same as HD television) and snaps beautiful stills with its 15 megapixels that can be shared to social media with a simple drag-and-drop. It also sports a stereo microphone setup for interactive conversation that can be adjusted to eliminate background noise so you can hear clearly if you’re checking in with loved ones while you’re on the road.
The C920 also includes facial recognition technology for extra sophisticated security. Once you establish your features by letting the camera scan you, the need to remember a list of passwords becomes a thing of the past. It also features an auto-focus that keeps you clear (and audible) no matter where you are in the room, which is great if you want to use it for Skype, for which it is certified.
One drawback to this one is that it’s really intended only to be PC compatible, though users have reportedly used it just fine with Macs. You can find the C920 for as little as $65, but plan to budget closer to $100 most places.
Best Webcams: Dropcam HD
If home surveillance is what you’re after, there’s the Dropcam HD. This one is universally praised for its super easy set-up and general ease of use since everything is Cloud based. There are both iOS and Android apps for monitoring when you’re not at your computer, and even the ability to communicate through the app via the two-way mic system. Now you can watch Fido in glorious 720 HD and scold him for getting into the garbage right as it happens, even in the dark using the Dropcam’s night vision.
The biggest complaint for the Dropcam HD is also what makes it so simple. Since the system is Cloud based, it’s very easy to set up and use, but it’s also difficult to deal with whenever there is any sort of malfunction, the most frequently reported of which was the camera dropping off the network and having to be manually re-established. At $149 it’s a bit pricy for a webcam, and there’s a monthly service fee, which increases per camera, for anything but streaming live video.
A similar option is the HomeMonitor from Y Cam ($199). Reportedly just as easy to set up, this one is also Cloud based, with free iOS and Android apps. You can also have several cameras (including the HomeMonitor Outdoor, $349) on one account.
Best Webcams: Creative Live! Cam Socialize HD AF
One of the best webcams for general use at a more affordable price ($39.99-$69.99) is Creative Live’s Socialize HD AF. This one has nearly all the same options as the Logitech C920, but at half the price.
It also has some snazzy video and audio overlay filters you can play around with to make your chat sessions more fun. Chat as a kitten using a robot voice from behind electric bars, or a baby talking like an old man inside a cloud. One thing that helps set it apart from other webcams is that the facial recognition software actually allows the camera to follow your face and maintains focus no matter where you are in the room. It also comes with parental controls, which is not yet a common feature in webcam manufacturing.
The biggest drawback to this one is that the mount is not as secure as it could be. The “face follow” function, which makes the camera point at you wherever you are, doesn’t always kick in either. There were also reportedly issues with not being able to upgrade the firmware from a Mac, though the camera is billed as Mac compatible.
We hope our listing of some of the best webcams out there has been helpful, especially since they were in several different price ranges. A great webcam should make you forget it’s even there.
Photo credit: Carlos Magaña