Working from home has become the new normal for many of us, and it doesn't look like video meetings will be going anywhere anytime soon. If your laptop's own webcam isn't cutting the mustard when it comes to video calls and meetings, it might be time to look into a separate camera altogether.
After all, even flagship laptops come with comparatively low-tech webcams - usually 720p HD resolution rather than the superior 1080p HD you'll find on most webcams.
Webcams come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of features, so which is the best for your needs? Maybe you don't need a webcam for video meetings, but you're instead flirting with the idea of starting a YouTube channel or live-streaming on Twitch. Perhaps you just want to Skype your family and friends with greater clarity.
Whatever it is you're after, here we explain what to look out for when in the market for a new camera, along with reviews of what we think are the best webcams around. Just a heads up: webcam stock is unsurprisingly in short supply right now, so you may need to shop around to find the webcam you want.
If you're serious about game streaming, check out our tutorial on how to stream on Twitch and our selection of the best game streaming software to help get you started. There's also a roundup of the best USB mics if you're yet to take the plunge.
Best webcam 2021
Anker C300 - Best Overall Webcam
The Anker C300 is a small yet capable webcam that’ll suit most users, be it for video conferences or livestreaming gameplay on Twitch.
Unlike most webcams that tend to cap out at around the 90-degree mark, Anker’s C300 offers an impressive 115-degree lens, and it’s capable of shooting at [email protected] too – no need to compromise on resolution or framerate like others in our chart.
The 115-degree view is expansive, capturing a lot of the environment that you’re in, meaning it’s suited more to group calls or presentations than a single person, although Anker does provide the ability to digitally crop in to narrower viewing angles. Without an optical zoom it does so at a detriment to overall quality, but it’s not as noticeable as you might expect – especially when most video chat software caps out at 720p anyway.
In fact, even when cropped, the Anker C300 offers impressive image quality in well-lit rooms, capturing even minor details, and that’s further improved by the inclusion of HDR. When light levels begin to drop, the C300 is still able to capture surprisingly well-exposed video, although there isn’t a built-in light like with the Razer Kiyo or Papalook PA552.
The AnkerWork software for Windows and Mac provides advanced features including AI-powered face tracking, allowing you to move around the room and stay in the picture – making good use of the wide-angle lens on offer. You can also adjust the image, enable HDR and adjust the resolution and frame rate.
The Anker C300 sports a hinged black clip that folds back to support the webcam against the back of your monitor, and there’s a separate folding foot to help further secure its position. That’s attached to a small hinge that lets the webcam move around freely, and there’s a tripod screw mount on the bottom if you want to get a little more creative with your angles.
Though there’s no built-in privacy shield, Anker does provide two privacy shields that stick to the front of the webcam and block the sensor when not in use.
If you’re looking for a versatile [email protected] webcam with software smarts and great video performance, the Anker C300 is a strong option.
Logitech C922 - Best for Streamers
Logitech, in many regards, is the leader in the PC peripheral market with high-quality products that don’t break the bank (most of the time, anyway!) and the Logitech C922 Pro doesn’t buck that trend. It’s small, produces great quality video and offers multiple mounting options.
The camera has two resolution settings: 1080p at 30fps and 720p at 60fps, giving you the choice to focus on either frame rate or overall quality. High frame rates provide a much smoother camera stream and won’t look out of place if you’re streaming 60fps gameplay. The webcam also boasts a Carl Zeiss glass lens with smart and adaptable autofocus that produces crisp, clear videos. It works well in low light and backlit environments too, thanks to built-in light correction that boosts light levels when required, making it ideal for late-night Skyping, and the 78-degree FOV is impressive too.
The C922 also offers automatic background removal and while it’s not perfect, it’s more than enough for most gamers that want to stream gameplay without showing off their home environment. It performs better with simple, uncluttered backgrounds, and those that demand perfection always have the option of picking up a dedicated greenscreen.
It offers support for XSplit Gamecaster and with a three-month trial in the box, and also features a stereo microphone. It’s not really a factor for streaming, but it’ll make video calls and using Cortana much easier. There’s also Logitech Camera for Windows app that allows you to preview your webcam and change settings that’ll be applied to all apps that use the camera.
It features a flexible grip that can be placed both on the top of your PC display and folded over and placed on your desk. That’s not all though, as the C922 also features a tripod mount and even comes with a handy mini tripod in the box to get you started. It’s the little things, after all!
Ausdom AF640 - Best Webcam for Ease of Use
Ausdom might not have the pedigree of Logitech when it comes to its webcams, but if you leave your brand loyalty at the door, the AF640 doesn't disappoint.
The hardware itself goes toe-to-toe with the likes of the famed C920, with a glass lens, an adjustable bracket - complete with a threaded universal tripod mount inlaid into its base, a wide-angle field-of-view, up to [email protected] video capture, noise-cancelling capabilities from its integrated microphone and face-based autofocus.
Whether you're video conferencing from the boardroom or Skyping with the family, one of the AF640's greatest assets is its ultra-wide 90° field of view. You can fit more into frame than most of the cameras in this lineup and the Ausdom also brings impressive image clarity to the table too.
It's integrated mounting is also incredibly versatile, with a rubberised base, so it won't slip if placed on a flat surface, as well as the option of using the hinge to grip to the edge of your monitor or laptop display and, as mentioned up top, it can even be affixed to a standard 3/8-16 tripod screw.
The plug-and-play compatibility with both Windows and Mac OS, means it's not one for tinkerers but is ideal for those who want fuss-free setup and instant use.
Picture quality is great, albeit a little less saturated than some entries in the lineup and while autofocus is slower to adjust than some cameras, it reacts with a consistency and confidence that means it never needs to hunt to keep the image sharp and always makes its mark.
Hypercam HD - Best Budget Webcam
The Hypercam HD is an inexpensive webcam that offers great value with a high-spec range of features.
It looks eerily similar to a few other Chinese-made webcams, and it's not even rebadged as a Hyper product on the webcam itself.
That said, we found few faults in testing. Its 1080p HD resolution picture quality is noticeably better than on our test laptop's default 720p HD camera, and the audio is clear.
Unlike some cheaper webcams, its glass lens has a 78-degree field of view - the same as the top-end Logitech C922.
It also matches that webcam with fast 720p HD at 60Hz, and 1080p at 30fps.
The Hypercam features built-in HD autofocus and light correction, and two integrated mics.
It is adjustable at up to 170 degrees.
There's no tripod mount option, but you can hang it off the top of a laptop or display, or just place it on your desktop.
Installation is simple - just plug the USB cable into your computer or docking station, and the driver automatically installs for almost immediate use.
Papalook PA930 - Most Versatile
Papalook’s PA930 webcam is a relatively inexpensive way to seriously upgrade your streaming and video calling game.
Its f/2.0 sensor outputs QHD (2560x1440) video at 30fps by default, but also supports Full HD (1920x1080) at 60fps - both with HDR. The high resolution will benefit calls with friends, family and colleagues, while the improved frame rate comes in handy for live streaming. It’s great to have the options for both.
In general, footage from the PA930 has a solid amount of detail and decent exposure, although it can look washed out and lacks vibrancy at times. For anything more than casual use, we’d recommend pairing it with some warm lighting.
The PA930 also features dual stereo microphones, so many people won’t need to buy dedicated audio equipment. It does a good job of accurately reproducing voices, albeit with plenty of background noise (despite Papalook advertising built-in noise cancellation).
However, the key strength of this webcam lies in its versatility. The PA930 can switch between a regular and 90° wide-angle view at the click of a button, allowing you to adjust the output depending on the number of people in the shot.
The plastic mount can rotate a full 360° and is impressively flexible, meaning it can attach to the top of almost any laptop or monitor. You might not want the camera to always be directly facing you though, so Papalook has included a mini tripod in the box. It’s very easy to set up and works well on most flat surfaces.
This simple setup extends to the webcam itself. There’s no special software to download, so it’s just a case of plugging the 2m USB-A cable into a compatible device and selecting it from the relevant app. Officially, the PA930 supports all recent versions of Windows, macOS, ChromeOS and Android.
Design is an area where cheap webcams often make sacrifices, but that’s not the case here. The main lens on the PA930 is surrounded by an attractive fabric finish, and even with the tripod connected it remains very lightweight and portable. There’s also a physical privacy cover for when the webcam’s not in use.
If you can look beyond footage with a relatively muted colour scheme, the Papalook PA930 is a great choice.
Logitech StreamCam - Best Webcam for Portrait Video Recording
Logitech's StreamCam, the latest camera from the brand, is the first to record both horizontally and vertically depending on its orientation – that's because the device is created with aspiring content creators and video game streamers in mind. (It'd certainly be easier to record content for Instagram Stories, right?)
The camera also boasts features like AI-enabled face tracking, smart image stabilisation and Full HD video capture at up to 60fps.
It works via Logitech's recording and streaming software Capture which users can use to fine-tune how the feed looks. The easy-to-use software lets you composite two separate StreamCam feeds, overlay titles and graphics and use a green screen too.
The camera is compatible with third-party software like Open Broadcaster Software and XSplit too, so you can stream directly to YouTube, Facebook Live and Twitch if you prefer, and of course, it's also compatible with video conferencing software.
The StreamCam is available in white and graphite and ships with one tripod mount and one monitor mount.
Creative Live! Cam Sync 1080p V2 - Best Balance of Price and Features
Its full name is too wordy, but when so many webcams from well-known brands cost twice the price, it’s easy to look past Creative’s naming strategy.
The Live! Cam Sync dispenses with high resolutions and sticks to what most people actually need from a webcam for remote working: a sensible price and the right features.
It has a handy flip-down cover which physically blocks the lens when you don’t want to be seen. The unit is mounted on a ball-joint so it’s easy to get the precise angle you want, while the folding clip adjusts to fit most PC monitors and laptop screens. There’s also a standard tripod mount set into the clip and the 1.8m USB-A cable should be plenty long enough even if you have your PC mounted underneath your desk.
Put simply, this is a great-value choice if your PC doesn’t have a webcam or you’re fed up with the poor quality of your laptop’s webcam.
As the name suggests, this webcam has a 1080p resolution and it offers good, if unspectacular, video quality. Audio quality is decent too, so you don’t have to rely on your laptop’s built-in mics, which vary in quality a lot.
You don’t have to install it, but the simply named Creative App offers a few settings and features that you can tweak. For video, that’s just choosing between 50Hz and 60Hz to avoid flicker from artificial lighting.
Audio options are more plentiful, but you have to jump through a few hoops to see them. One is Voice Detect that mutes and unmutes the webcam’s mic automatically, and the other reduces background noise.
AverMedia Cam 315 - A Solid All-rounder
AverMedia’s Cam 315 is an excellent webcam suitable for a wide range of situations, whether you’re a live streamer or just want a decent camera for video calls.
For starters, it comes with a versatile design with the ability to swivel 360-degrees and the small ball joint means you can make sure it’s straight even if your laptop or PC isn’t. The mount offers a similar design to others with a small hinge that adjusts to wherever you clip it, plus a 1/4in thread for a tripod.
The overall look is quite plain with a cylindrical shape similar to some Bluetooth speakers. A privacy shutter covers the lens and there are dual microphones along with a blue LED to indicate when the PW315 is on.
In terms of quality, this is a Full HD (1080p) webcam with a smooth frame rate of 60fps. If you want higher then look to the 4K Live Streamer Cam 513. It’s almost certainly higher quality than your built-in webcam and offers a wide-angle lens with a 95-degree view.
Video and audio quality is very good, although a little noisy at times. With the USB-A port, you can simply plug-and-play with the PW315 – no need to install any drivers or software – and it will work with the likes of Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and more. The webcam is compatible with Windows, macOS and Chrome OS.
However, if you want more control, you can install AverMedia’s CamEngine app. This gives you basic control over things like brightness, contrast and zoom along with more advanced settings and features like AI Framing which can automatically crop and pan. There’s also Face Effects like animals but they’re a bit basic.
One feature it doesn’t have is autofocus, so look for the PW310P if that’s something you need.
AverMedia Live Streamer Cam 513 - Best 4K Webcam
The AverMedia Cam 513 stands out from the rest of the options in our chart because it boasts Sony’s 8Mp Exmore R CMOS image sensor for [email protected] video capture – or [email protected] for those that prefer faster frame rates. That, combined with an impressive and 94-degree field of view, provides a large, detailed canvas perfect for cropping and zooming without noticeable loss in detail.
That’s where the AverMedia CamEngine comes in. Unlike some of the cameras mentioned in our chart, CamEngine is a vital utility and essentially required to get the most out of the Cam 513. With the software you can not only tweak the look of the webcam, but access more advanced features including Snapchat-esque filters and, more importantly, AI-powered camera cropping capabilities.
It does what it says on the tin; uses AI to crop in and track your face as you move around, ideal for the more energetic streamer or video caller. It’s not always flawless in performance, sometimes cropping into something that vaguely looks like a face, but you’ve also got the option of manually setting up each crop for different shots and angles. Those shots can be programmed to hotkeys, allowing for extreme zooms and dramatic ultra-wide shots on-the-fly during streams and video calls.
You’ll also find a privacy-focused shutter built into the Cam 513, covering the webcam sensor when not in use. The adjustable stand can attach to most displays, and with a screw mount on the bottom, it can be attached to desktop tripods too. There’s a USB-C port on the rear for connectivity, rather than offering a built-in cable, which comes with the benefit of being able to replace it with a shorter or longer USB-C cable depending on how you want to set it up.
It’s a great 4K webcam for those on the market for something premium - the only real annoyance is that there’s a faint ticking noise coming from the webcam during use, and you can sometimes hear it using the built-in mic.
Razer Kiyo - Best Webcam for Lighting
While many webcams look alike, the Razer Kiyo offers something different; namely, a multi-step ring light surrounding the camera to provide even lighting, even in dark conditions. The ring light comes on automatically when the webcam is in use, and can be adjusted (or turned off completely) via a dial just behind the light.
It’s ideal for those that don’t get a lot of natural light near their PCs and want evenly-lit video. Though the ring is quite large, the good news is that the camera folds back on itself when not in use and doesn’t take up much space.
That’s not the only unique design feature either; the Kiyo features an L-shape joint and a wide, flat base that can be used to either prop the camera on top of your computer display or placed on a desk and angled upwards. It’s easy to find the right angle with the Kiyo, and for those that want something a little more stable, it also features a tripod mount.
The Kiyo boasts a 4Mp camera sensor and like the Logitech C922, it also offers a variable resolution; [email protected] or [email protected] The camera quality is great, and even with the ring light turned off, it handles low-light environments surprisingly well.
It doesn’t have an accompanying app for PC, meaning the camera settings will have to be edited on a per-app basis. It’s not the end of the world, but a simple camera preview app with access to camera settings would’ve been nice – especially for the price.
Overall, though, the Razer Kiyo is an impressive webcam and is the ideal choice if your PC is in a dimly-lit environment.
Papalook PA552 - Best Value Webcam for Lighting
If the room you’re recording in is dim and you don’t want to fork out money for additional lighting, then the Papalook PA552 is worth considering. Like the Razer Kiyo, this is a multi-step ring light webcam with three different brightness options in a cool white shade that lights up your profile, even when recording at night.
The light is paired with a 5-layer glass lens that can record 1080p at 30fps, which makes for a high-quality picture. This is a fixed focus camera, which means that if you want a blurred background look, you’ll need to install third-party software.
The field of view is quite wide at 75 degrees, useful if you’re recording multiple people in one shot. If you’d rather have a closer crop, some recording tools such as OBS do allow you to crop out parts of the room.
The PA552 can be adjusted up to 90-degrees on the hinge, so you can easily turn it away for privacy when it's not in use, and the included mount is sturdy and secure.
You also get a mini tripod. This is useful if you want to test out a different angle on your desk, or if you’re streaming from a console.
Unfortunately, the dual omnidirectional microphones let the webcam down. Audio is extremely tinny, and on occasion it picked up feedback from my PC. I'd recommend either using your device’s built-in mic, or opting for a separate dedicated USB one if you’re streaming/creating videos.
This plug-and-play webcam is easy to use, and works well with third-party recording software - though Papalook does offer a basic programme for recording video. It's slightly cheaper than the Razer Kiyo, but doesn’t offer the option to record in 720p at 60fps like its rival. Nonetheless, it's still more affordable than buying a separate webcam and a dedicated light.
Webcam buying advice
While resolution is usually a good measure of overall video quality, it isn't the only aspect to consider. Your requirements will largely depend on how you'll be using the webcam; if you're using it for Skyping your friends or live-streaming gameplay on Twitch or YouTube, 720p or 1080p HD should suffice.
That's mainly because the vast majority of video apps support a maximum of 1080p, and we can't imagine that changing any time soon. It'd take a pretty solid internet connection (minimum 25Mbps to 45Mbps upload) to perfectly stream 4K, after all.
There's not much need for a 4K camera unless you're looking to record video locally instead of stream or chat - if you're looking for a new webcam for your YouTube channel, for example. There's also the ability to digitally zoom in to a 4K camera exporting at 1080p without noticeable loss in quality, perfect for added drama in streams.
In those cases, a 4K webcam could offer the quality and improved detail that you're after.
Plastic vs Glasses lenses
Some high-end webcams will boast glass lenses over plastic lenses used by cheaper webcams, but in general, the difference isn’t that noticeable – especially when used for video chat or live streaming.
A built-in microphone is very handy for video calling as it negates the need to use a headset, and provides a more natural chat experience. But, while it's a welcome feature for video calling, it’s not a feature used very often by streamers or YouTubers.
Content creators tend to use dedicated microphones, or headsets with built-in mics, as they generally provide much clearer audio and some offer advanced features like noise cancellation to reduce the sound of clicking keys and other ambient noises. It'll all depend on what you need the webcam for.
Not all webcams are created equal, and some may offer advanced features that help separate them from a sea of competitors. These can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from image correction capabilities to background removal and, in the case of the Razer Kiyo, a built-in ring light for even lighting.
It’s worth doing research about how well these features perform as, especially in the case of background removal, results can be very hit-and-miss depending on the amount of light and other environmental factors. But, if you can find one that does work well, it’ll give you a more professional-looking webcam feed without having to invest in a physical green screen for chroma keying.
Another feature to consider is compatibility. Generally speaking, all webcams should work with the likes of Skype, Google Hangouts, XSplit Gamecaster, OBS and more, but some offer specific support for certain apps. Though it’s dependant on the webcam and app that you use, buying a supported webcam could provide access to more advanced settings and features.
And, in the case of XSplit Gamecaster, supported webcams may provide a free trial to the premium livestreaming software. It's certainly the case with the Logitech C922, featured above.
Some webcams come with a privacy shutter or slide, so you can be sure no one can see you through your camera when you're not on video calls.
But most webcams don't feature this, so we recommend you buy a separate privacy shutter and stick it on the webcam. The higher-end webcams will also have a light or two showing you when it is on.