Elevate your webcam content game

By: Scott Winterroth

The need for webcam has gone to a whole new level in 2020. With the majority of work happening remotely and from home, connecting on platforms like Zoom and MS Teams is the new normal.  No surprise to me the demand for high-quality webcams is on the rise. The number of Google Searches in 2020 for webcam reviews increased exponentially in April and personally had several colleagues ask me what type of webcam did I use and recommend.

Webcams are an incredibly useful tool, not just for communication on Zoom or MS Teams but I also use my webcam for content creation and to live stream on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Twitch.  With the holiday season approaching quickly, I thought it would be a great time to list out some stocking stuffer ideas with webcams to watch during the holiday online shopping sales.

Many laptops have built-in cameras, which is sometimes perfect for everyday cam use. But for me, I mostly use an external webcam that is mounted to my external monitor when my Macbook is docked in my home studio.  On the road, the internal camera is more than suffice but for content creation, I have a few options including a Canon M200, Logitech C920, and even an app on my iPhone that lets me use that phone’s camera as a webcam.

I prefer the external webcams as they allow for better placement of the camera into a slightly more flatting position above my eyebrows. This allows me to look slightly up into the camera which I think is a more flattering look.  With the camera positioned above my monitor allows me to use a simple USB Ring Light to shine a bit more of an even glow on my face.

Best “Standard Webcams”

The best webcam is often the built-in camera that is already in your device.  The better quality of the camera is always always a direct correlation to the quality of the device.   When purchasing a laptop or tablet, be sure to check to see how many cameras the device includes and the standard megapixel.   Invest in a laptop or tablet computer that has a decent megapixel camera on board, the Macbook Pro 13′ comes standard with a 720p FaceTime HD camera. Which is decent for an onboard camera, but not necessarily ideal for live streaming or content creation.  I would prefer it to include at least a 1080p camera but keep in mind it’s a super tiny camera that you never need to plug-in. Most high-resolution web video such as YouTube content is in 1080p which is the resolution of the video where streaming video such as online meetings is most often in 720p or below due to the demand on bandwidth.

External cams that are a must:

Hands down, some of the best budget-friendly external webcams come from Logitech, a name that has been around for decades in this space. I can remember purchasing a Logitech webcam back in 1990-something.  Wondering what I did with it back then?  Not like we had Zoom or Facebook Messenger.

The camera that I use almost every day is the Logitech C920 family, but I’m looking to possibly upgrade to a Logitech Brio or similar this year because I would like to enhance the quality of my everyday camera stream into 4K or at least 1080p.  Paired with a small Ring Light a webcam like this can really elevate your virtual presentation and make you look like a million bucks on camera.

Going beyond a standard webcam

This year, Canon announced that many of their cameras now support clean HDMI and released and Canon EOS Webcam Utility.  This really made me happy you can’t really get any better of a webcam than a real camera with a glass lens for creating really clear streams with the pro-looking blurred depth of field.  I recommend the Canon M200 which has the ability to plug the camera into a USB plug and with an inexpensive power adapter pack you can plug the camera into a wall power outlet to provide constant power.

Where you position the camera is also very important for a good scene setup.  A gooseneck stand or a tripod can really help you put the camera in a position that is best for your filming area.  For example, you don’t want to have a bright light source behind you such as a window or lamp, this will make your face dark or underexposed.  Be sure to move your device or computer to an area where natural light or some type of light source shining on your face to create a “key” light.

If you have a camera that supports clean HDMI output, then you may want to try this inexpensive capture card which lets you connect your device to your computer with a HDMI cable.

When in a pinch for a high-quality webcam:

Working remotely sometimes requires improvisions and often one of the best cameras you already own in probably in your pocket.  Your smartphone is sometimes the only option for quick Zoom/Teams Meetings and a simple phone mounted tripod can help you leverage your mobile device so you don’t have to hold it while you’re in the meeting.  Another option is using your phone’s camera for your computer’s webcam.  Apps like Elgato’s Epoc Cam allow you to use your iPhone’s camera with your computer to create an external webcam.  Use a tripod or grip to position your phone at a proper angle to create a very nice looking presentation.