Laptop video conference

A Guide to the Best Webcams of 2021

By Dave Dean CamerasNo Comments

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With so many of us now working from home, webcams have gone from being an afterthought to a necessity in just a few months. Sadly, while the quality of most inbuilt laptop webcams is tolerable for social chats with the family, it doesn’t cut it for regular work video meetings.

That’s assuming you’re using a laptop in the first place, of course. If you’ve got a desktop computer at home, it most likely didn’t come with a webcam at all. Whatever your computing situation, a dedicated webcam should mean better video and audio for the people on the other end, at least if you buy the right model.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get something good. If you’ll be mostly using it for work video conferences, the best webcams for Zoom meetings or Skype calls normally retail for under $100.

The sudden move to working from home has meant some models are out of stock or priced higher than usual, but it still shouldn’t cost a fortune to get something you’re happy with.

Where possible, we’ve included alternatives to our usual recommendations that are more likely to be in stock at a reasonable price. You can also check out our tips for how to use your phone, tablet, or digital camera as a webcam if you want a temporary replacement while you wait for stock levels to return to normal.

Best Overall: Logitech C920S Pro
  • Max resolution: HD (1920x1080)
  • Framerate: 30fps
  • Compatibility:Windows, macOS, ChromeOS
  • Microphone: Stereo
  • Mounting: Screen, desk, or tripod
  • Other features: Privacy shutter

Best Alternative Option: AUSDOM AF640
  • Max resolution: HD (1920x1080)
  • Framerate: 30fps
  • Compatibility:Windows, macOS, Android, ChromeOS
  • Microphone: Mono
  • Mounting: Screen, desk, or tripod
  • Other features: Stick-on privacy shutter

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Best for High-Quality Video: Logitech Brio
  • Max resolution: 4K (3840×2160)
  • Framerate: 30fps (4K), 60fps (HD), 90fps (720p)
  • Compatibility:Windows, macOS, ChromeOS
  • Microphone: Stereo
  • Mounting: Screen, desk, or tripod
  • Other features: digital zoom, Windows Hello

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Best Budget Webcam: Logitech C615
  • Max resolution: HD (1920x1080)
  • Framerate: 30fps
  • Compatibility:Windows, macOS, Android, ChromeOS
  • Microphone: Mono
  • Mounting: Screen, desk, or tripod
  • Other features: None

Best for Low Light: Razer Kiyo
  • Max resolution: HD (1920x1080)
  • Framerate: 30fps (HD), 60fps (720p)
  • Compatibility:Windows, macOS, Android, ChromeOS
  • Microphone: Mono
  • Mounting: Screen, desk, or tripod
  • Other features: Integrated ringlight

Best Overall: Logitech C920S Pro

Logitech Webcam C920S HD Pro with Privacy Shutter - 1080p Streaming Widescreen Video Camera - Built in Microphone for Recording

Our overall top webcam pick was an easy choice. With great image quality, useful software, and a reasonable price, the Logitech C920S Pro ticks all the right boxes. The only problem is availability: it’s a particularly popular model, and is often out of stock as a result.

Assuming you can actually buy it, this HD webcam ([email protected]) delivers impressive results. The autofocus works quickly, with automatic exposure and white balance that ensure natural colors and contrast under both sunlight and artificial lighting.

Compatible with macOS, Windows, and ChromeOS, the webcam connects directly to a USB-A port and, all going well, shows up as an available device in your video conferencing software a few seconds later. You don’t have to install the Windows or macOS app, but if you do, it offers several useful configuration options.

The software lets you pan and zoom without moving the camera, and manually adjust everything from exposure and contrast to white balance and brightness levels if the automatic settings don’t work for you.

Dual microphones do a pretty good job of picking up your voice without echo or distortion, and there’s a handy physical privacy shutter built in to let you quickly cover the lens as needed.

The camera is designed to sit on top of your laptop or desktop screen, but there’s also a foldout base if you’d prefer to sit it on your desk or other flat surface. There’s also a standard tripod screw mount on the bottom.

Like most webcams, the C920S struggles a little with dim lighting, and it’s not the smallest or sleekest device on the market. In reality, though, these are very minor issues with what has long been the most popular webcam on the market.

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Best Alternative Option: AUSDOM AF640

Autofocus 1080P Webcam with Privacy Cover, AUSDOM AF640 Full HD Business Web Camera with Dual Noise Reduction Microphones, 90° Wide-Angle View for Desktop/Laptop/Mac, Work with Skype/Twitch/Lync/WebEx

Given how often the C920S above is out of stock or only available from resellers, we’re including an alternative option as well. The AUSDOM AF640 has many of the same features, and since it’s from a lesser-known brand, you’re more likely to be able to actually buy it.

This HD webcam records video at 30fps, with an omnidirectional microphone that does a good job of picking up your voice. There’s little of the distortion and background noise that you often get with cheaper models, even without dual mics or noise cancellation.

At 90 degrees, the viewing angle of the AF640 is noticeably wider than many other webcams. That’s not ideal if you’re looking for a close crop on your face, but better when you have multiple people on your end of the call or want to get more of the background into the shot.

Like most webcams, it performs much better in good lighting. The automatic exposure and white balance works well, and although colors can sometimes appear a little washed out, it’s not enough to detract from the video.

The base of the camera is very similar to the Logitech approach, so the AUSDOM model will also happily sit on your screen, desk, or a tripod. A ball joint on the bottom lets you can swivel the camera through 360 degrees as needed.

The latest version of the AF640 comes with a stick-on privacy cover, which is a nice touch. It’s not as slick as the integrated version on the C920S, but it’s useful to have and works as intended.

Compatible with Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, and Android, this is a reliable webcam that’s ideal for Zoom meetings, Skype calls, and other video-conferencing needs. While we’d still usually go for the Logitech model when it’s available, this is a more than adequate replacement if the C920S is out of stock or selling for inflated prices.

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Best for High-Quality Video: Logitech Brio

Logitech BRIO Ultra HD Webcam for Video Conferencing, Recording, and Streaming - Black

If your priority is great video and you don’t mind paying extra for it, look no further than the Logitech Brio. This high-end webcam is packed with features, including pin-sharp 4K video, frame rates of up to 90fps, 5x digital zoom, Windows Hello authentication, and more.

The video quality you’ll get from the Brio is very impressive, especially when recording in 4K. Even in HD, you’ll get good color and exposure thanks to the inbuilt HDR, with some of the best low-light performance you’ll find outside the Razer Kiyo.

Rather than the usual permanent cable, the Brio has a standard USB C port. This approach provides much more flexibility, letting you use whatever length of cable you like, or plug into different types of socket. There’s a seven-foot USB-A to USB C cable in the box if you need it.

The camera has an adjustable field of view, ranging from a close-cropped 65 degrees for head and shoulders shots to a wider 78 or 90 degree view for group video or to get more of the background in.

The Brio is compatible with Windows, macOS, and ChromeOS, with the same useful Logitech software mentioned above. Support for Windows Hello authentication makes this one of the best webcams for PC owners, letting you log into your Windows 10 machine simply by looking at the camera.

Noise-canceling stereo microphones ensure clear, echo-free sound recording, while Skype, Zoom, and other certifications guarantee a seamless video conferencing experience. As with most other Logitech webcams, you can easily mount the Brio on your screen, desk, or a tripod as needed.

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Best Budget Webcam: Logitech C615

Logitech Inc, HD Webcam C615 (Catalog Category: Cameras & Frames / Webcams)

There are plenty of cheap webcams out there, but there aren’t plenty of cheap good webcams. Many of the low cost models suffer from low resolution and struggle in all but the best lighting conditions. Not so the Logitech C615, the budget version of our top overall pick.

While color reproduction and video quality aren’t quite on a par with the C920, they’re still a step up from the average laptop webcam. You still get HD (1080p) video at 30fps and fast autofocusing, and although you lose the dual microphone system of the more-expensive models, sound quality is perfectly acceptable.

One area where the C615 beats out its pricier sibling, surprisingly, is its stand. While the design is broadly similar, the smaller base of this model means it sits less obtrusively at the top of laptop screens, especially those with thin bezels.

You can also swivel the camera through 360 degrees without having to detach it from wherever it’s mounted, and if you’re heading out of the house, the stand folds up to protect the lens while your webcam bounces around in your bag.

One thing worth noting: at three feet, the USB cable on the C615 is quite short. It’s fine for use with a laptop, but if you’re connecting it to a desktop computer, you’ll likely need a USB extension cable like this.

Compatible with Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, and Android, this is one of the best ways of looking much better on Zoom or Skype calls without spending a whole lot of money.

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Best for Low Light: Razer Kiyo

Razer Kiyo 1080p 30 FPS/720 p 60 FPS Streaming Webcam with Adjustable Brightness Ring Light, Built-in Microphone and Advanced Autofocus

As a rule, webcams don’t perform well in low light unless you’re buying a high-end model like the Logitech Brio above. The Razer Kiyo is the rare exception, taking the unusual approach of building a ring light directly into the webcam to ensure you’re well-lit regardless of the conditions.

Originally aimed at YouTubers and video game streamers, the Kiyo has recently become popular with people working from poorly-lit home offices as well. The ring light works surprisingly well, casting a warm, flattering light onto the user that ensures a far better picture.

The lighting level is adjustable with a twist left or right, and you can turn it off entirely if you don’t need it. The Kiyo still does a good job in normal daylight with the lamp off, so it’s not relying on the boosted lighting to compensate for a low-grade camera.

Sure, you can always add a separate lighting system to your setup with other webcams if you need to, but having it integrated makes for a much cleaner desk and simpler setup. Color saturation can be a little unnatural by default: you may need to dial it back somewhat in the accompanying app.

Shooting video at 30fps HD or 60fps 720p, the camera attaches firmly to a laptop screen or desktop monitor even though it’s a little larger than some other models. You can also sit it on a desk or table, and there’s a tripod mount on the base as well.

The inbuilt mono mic is fine in quiet rooms, but if you’re streaming or otherwise concerned about the quality of your audio, a separate microphone will deliver noticeably better results. There’s no privacy shield or other extra features.

In short, if you regularly stream or video-conference in dim or darkened rooms and don’t want the hassle and expensive of a separate lighting setup, the Razer Kiyo is a great alternative.

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Main image via Chris Montgomery, product images via Amazon

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

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