That webcams are now an important component of business communication goes without question. More and more businesses, irrespective of their size, are embracing remote working, and virtual meetings are gaining increasing prominence. Understanding different webcam features can help you make better buying decisions about which variety is best to source.
External webcams vs. internal webcams
The word “webcam” is now almost synonymous with laptops, though it didn’t used to be, and external webcams still have their benefits. While the average smartphone nowadays is loaded with cameras that capture fairly high-resolution images and videos to make a decent impression during virtual meetings, fast battery drain remains a serious limitation. This then makes laptops the more reliable option for such purposes.
However, one question still remains: “Is the average laptop webcam good enough?” Not always, for one simple reason: An internal webcam, such as a built-in laptop camera, is one of many must-have components that laptop manufacturers pack into their products while trying to keep them reasonably priced. It’s a tough balancing act and, very often, one that causes camera quality to suffer.
Compared to an external USB webcam, an internal webcam usually provides poorer image quality and voice clarity due to the use of inferior-quality components. Laptops also often have heating issues, and a camera’s light-filtering and focusing capabilities are generally compromised, making internal webcams less desirable for video conferencing purposes. Upgrading to an external webcam comes at a small additional cost but promises better quality, features, durability, and user experience.
Essential webcam features
Now that we understand the advantages of using an external USB webcam, let’s dive into which essential features to look for.
Picture clarity and video quality are some of the most obvious indicators of camera performance. Therefore, it’s key to check a webcam’s resolution. The three broad categorizations of resolution among external webcams are:
1280 x 720 pixels (HD Ready or 720p): This is generally the lowest resolution among today’s webcams but remains popular for livestreaming and video-conferencing purposes.
1920 x 1080 pixels (Full HD or 1080p): This higher resolution webcam is the preferred choice for business users who want a more professional-looking on-screen appearance.
3840 x 2160 pixels (Ultra HD or 4K): These higher-resolution webcams are mainly preferable for high-quality video editing purposes and come with a steep price tag.
Alternatively known as frames-per-second (fps), the frame rate is also an essential feature to determine a webcam’s performance as it indicates how smooth the video footage will be. Starting from a low 30fps and going up to as high as 120fps, optimum and affordable webcams tend to come with 60fps with a 720p resolution or 30fps with a 1080p resolution.
There are two important factors to consider regarding a webcam’s lens: its build and its field of view. Webcam lenses come in glass and plastic varieties. Despite the higher price point, it is wise to choose the former as glass is less easy to scratch, thus providing better clarity and durability.
The field of view (FOV) indicates the width of the area captured by the webcam lens and ranges from 60 degrees, capturing a single person, to 90 degrees, capturing a group of people. Your choice will depend on what the webcam is needed for.
Another essential but often-overlooked webcam feature is a built-in microphone, which allows for a clutter-free video-conferencing experience. Some webcams even have two in-built microphones (or omnidirectional ones) that help to capture a more natural sound. While external microphones definitely have superior audio quality, improving in-built microphone technology in webcams is helping them to find greater popularity among users.
Additional beneficial webcam features
Non-essential webcam features don’t necessarily mean that they should be overlooked. Here are a few that deserve a special mention.
Autofocus and low-light correction
Blurry image quality can be both distracting and frustrating during webcam use. The autofocus feature therefore comes in handy as it automatically focuses the camera on the subject instead of the background. More advanced webcams have the additional advantage of quick auto-focus, even against very busy environments.
However, even auto-focus can fail in poorly-lit conditions, such as during early morning and evening hours. Choosing a webcam with a low-light correction feature solves this problem, boosting autofocus functionality in all light scenarios. Some higher-end webcam models are also available with built-in ring lights, allowing the user to adjust the brightness level.
There may be several reasons why a user may want to blur their background during a video call – from hiding a cluttered background to protecting one’s privacy. Green screening is a special-effect feature available with some webcams that, apart from blurring, can also change the subject’s background per their preference.
Anyone using a feature-rich webcam can benefit from software support. By using software controls, a user can set their preferences for each feature, thus giving them greater control over their desired webcam performance.
In a nutshell, buying an external webcam is a wise investment for businesses or those in more official lines of work. Focusing on features related to image, video, and audio quality can help a buyer get the basics right, while understanding additional webcam features can help users get the most out of their tech.
As the world continues to shrink digitally, the need to maintain a realistic representation via screens is becoming increasingly important. Buying a good webcam that best fits one’s business needs and style is a worthwhile and relatively cheap investment that can pay off in the long run. The marketplace today is flooded with endless webcams, so being familiar with the features can help you make the right choice quicker.Stay on top of the latest trends and get more industry knowledge, expert insights, and timely B2B news at Alibaba Reads.