Why let dull, grainy video spoil your next Skype chat or live stream? Put yourself in a brighter picture with the best webcams you can buy
While you’ll struggle to find a phone, laptop or tablet without a front-facing camera, there’s still one device that goes without one: the desktop PC. That’s a shame because as more of us use Skype and similar services to keep in touch, a webcam is starting to feel essential. What’s more, some of us are now expected to join in video-conferences and chats for work. And if you plan to take up streaming, a decent webcam is every bit as essential as a microphone. How else will you do those bizarre close-up facial inserts and reaction videos?
Even if you use a laptop you might still want a better webcam, for the simple reason that many built-in webcams aren’t that good. Many still have a maximum video resolution of 720p, or struggle to maintain a decent picture in normal indoor lighting. Colours tend to be either dull or hopelessly over-saturated, and the angle your webcam shoots at is dictated by the angle of the screen, with some recent laptops placing it below the display so that it shoots right up your nose. We all want to show the world our best side, not a face straight from The Walking Dead, just as no sensible person outside US politics or daytime TV thinks it’s great to look bright orange. Buy a new webcam, and all that trouble goes away.
With excellent image quality, a CMOS sensor and responsive autofocus, the Logitech C920 HD Pro is the current king of the full HD webcam hill. For our money, it’s the best HD webcam you can buy for under £100 and right now it’s on sale for just £77. Amazon Was £90 Now £77 Buy Now
How to buy the best webcam for you
How much do I need to spend?
Webcams can cost anywhere from £15 to £150 and upwards, though the most expensive models are usually designed for video conferencing in the corporate boardroom rather than the home. These often have wide-angle lenses to cover more participants in a meeting, which doesn’t look so great when it’s just you, on your tod.
The key factor that separates the cheapest webcams from the priciest is resolution, stretching from the hoary old 640 x 480 (VGA) resolution through to the now-standard 1,280 x 720 (720p) or 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p) resolutions. We’re also seeing a few reach the heights of 2,560 x 1,440 (QHD) and 3,840 x 2,160 (4K).
Even 720p is perfectly adequate for general video chat purposes – until the iPhone 7, it was the resolution for all iOS FaceTime calls. However, 1080p makes more sense for making videos or streaming purposes and allows you to take advantage of zoom and pan features without completely ruining the image quality. As webcams don’t have zoom lenses, these functions effectively just crop part of the 1080p image and expand it to fill the screen, thus lowering the effective resolution. 4K is better still, but it remains overkill for most of us. In fact, while there are some 4K webcams targeting boardrooms and YouTube streamers, you might want to think about whether you want others to see a close up of your face in that much detail.
Does a high resolution guarantee good image quality?
If you’re looking for the next step-up in image quality, remember that resolution isn’t the be-all and end-all. Webcams differ massively when it comes to capturing colours, handling gloomy conditions or coping with bright lights from a window. Where a good camera gets you a bright, clear picture with lifelike hues, a bad one will give you something noisy, blocky, too dark to see anything or spoilt by over-saturated colours and washed-out highlights. Effective autofocus with face tracking is also a plus, as it ensures the camera stays focused on your face even if you move around a little in the frame.
If you’re working on a desktop PC or a laptop with a low-quality built-in microphone, look for a webcam with a built-in stereo or array microphone. This will improve the quality of the audio being captured no end, giving you better chats and calls and clearer broadcasts, if that’s your thing.
Are all webcams suitable for both laptop and desktop use?
Some webcams are designed primarily for desktop use, while others have been built to attach to a monitor or laptop lid. This will impact everything from their size and weight to the length of the cable and the way the webcam is supported or mounted. On the desktop, you want something really steady that allows the camera to sit at a comfortable position tilting upwards to see your face, plus a cable that allows you to position the camera wherever you need it. A tripod mount is a useful asset here, as it enables you to place the webcam on a desktop tripod at approximately the same height as your face. With a laptop webcam you want something light, with a shorter cable and some kind of tilt adjustment, so that you can angle the lid upwards or downwards and still keep your face in view.
What other features should you look out for?
Webcam manufacturers have always loved their bonus features, even if many of the effects and filters end up unused. Most of these are implemented through the webcam’s software and some can be fun or useful, including tools for motion detection recording – though security and wildlife photography applications are limited here – and stop-motion recording, where you can use your webcam to ape your Aardman Animations favourites. Avatar effects, which convert your facial movements into animations for a cartoon character, are another common hit, while a growing number of webcams aimed at streamers offer software to combine the Webcam image with a video or game stream and even remove the background from behind you.
You’ll still find some webcams that support 3D facial scanning, but these usually have a lower resolution sensor and support hasn’t been great. Instead, the major webcam manufacturers are starting to differentiate more on privacy, adding features like an LED indicator that tells you when the webcam is active or a built-in cover with which you can physically ensure it’s not recording (although you can always unplug the webcam when it’s not in use).
The best webcams you can buy
1. Logitech HD Webcam C270: The best budget webcam
If you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive upgrade, Logitech’s entry-level Webcam is hard to beat. It’s light enough to sit on a laptop lid or a monitor and supports 720p recordings and video calls, either using Skype and Google Hangouts or Logitech’s own more obscure VID HD app. There’s a simple mount to attach the webcam to your monitor or laptop screen, while Logitech’s RightLight technology means you can get decent quality video even in low light conditions. Sound quality isn’t quite so brilliant, but it’s good enough for calls and conferencing and the built-in microphone reduces some background noise. This might be one of Logitech’s most affordable webcams, but it has the same software as its more expensive stablemates, giving you pan, tilt and zoom controls, motion detection and face tracking.
Key specs – Resolution: 720p; Focus: Fixed; Audio: Built-in microphone with noise reduction; Mount type: Clip stand, Cable length: 1.5m
Logitech C270 HD Webcam, HD 720p/30fps, Widescreen HD Video Calling, HD Light Correction, Noise-Reducing Mic, For Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts, WebEx, PC/Mac/Laptop/Macbook/Tablet – Black
£24.99 Buy now
2. Logitech C310: Another decent budget choice
Like the Logitech C270, the C310 is a very basic webcam but it’s a camera that does the basics well enough. Resolution is limited to 720p although the frame rate is a decent 30fps and Logitech’s colour balancing tech works well to keep skin tones looking realistic.
Images are a little soft and noisy and the field of view is on the narrow side at 60-degrees, but it comes with a decent clip that makes mounting it on top of a monitor, TV or laptop screen fairly easy and the mono microphone produces clean audio.
There aren’t many differences between this and the C270 aside from slightly different looks – in fact, the specifications are identical – so we recommend you stick with that camera if you can find it in stock because it’s considerably cheaper. However, you can’t go wrong with the Logitech C310: it’s a solid option at a sensible price.
Key specs – Resolution: 720p; Focus: Fixed; Audio: Built-in microphone with noise reduction; Mount type: Clip stand, Cable length: 1.5m
Logitech C310 HD Webcam, HD 720p/30fps, Widescreen HD Video Calling, HD Light Correction, Noise-Reducing Mic, For Skype, FaceTime, Hangouts, WebEx, PC/Mac/Laptop/Macbook/Tablet – Black
£38.39 Buy now
3. Logitech C920 HD Pro: The best 1080p webcam for under £100
Price: £77 | Buy now from Amazon
While you can splash out big money for a 4K webcam like Logitech’s own BRIO, 1080p is a better choice for mainstream users with more mature hardware and software support right now. The Logitech C920 HD Pro is the current king of the full HD webcam hill, thanks to the kind of excellent image quality you get with a CMOS sensor, a responsive autofocus and a five-element, all-glass lens. The C920 captures sharp, well-exposed video with lifelike colours even in quite gloomy lighting. The dual microphones, mounted each side of the lens, do an equally impressive job with audio, while the versatile stand works brilliantly both as a monitor clip and a desktop stand – there’s even a proper metal tripod mount. Whether you’re steaming on Twitch or YouTube or just want to look your best on Skype, the C920 HD Pro is the webcam for the job.
Key specs –Resolution: 1080p; Focus: Automatic; Audio: Dual microphones; Mount type: Clip/stand; Cable length: 1.5m
4. Logitech StreamCam: The best webcam for streamers
Price: £139 | Buy now from Logitech
Logitech’s latest webcam is no ordinary webcam. Not only does it connect via USB-C where most of its brethren stick to old-fashioned USB-A, but it can also capture in 1080p resolution at a smooth 60 frames per second.
The StreamCam is aimed principally at YouTube creators and, as such, comes bundled with Logitech’s handy Capture software, which makes YouTuber tricks such as live streaming while sharing your screen incredibly easy. Other useful features include auto framing, image stabilisation and the ability to tweak the colour balance and brightness of the image.
It’s a brilliant camera for bog-standard video calls, too, with sharp image quality, good audio via integrated stereo microphones, decent natural colours by default and excellent overall build quality. The only slight gripe we have is that the cable is a little on the short side.
Key specs – Resolution: 1080p/60fps; Focus: Automatic; Audio: Dual microphones; Mount type: Clip/tripod attachment; Cable length: 1.5m
5. Logitech Brio Gaming Webcam 4K: The best webcam for pro-grade streaming
Price: £209 | Buy now from Logitech
The Brio isn’t the only 4K webcam out there, but it’s the first to bring 4K down to a reasonable price without any major compromises. It’s a fantastic option, giving you more natural and well-balanced colours than the C920, and in a wider range of lighting too. And while you might not want 4K streaming all the time, the results in 1080p are just as good with the added bonus of 60fps streaming for when you’re looking to integrate your webcam video with fast action games. What’s more, it doubles as a Windows Hello camera, allowing you to sign in to your PC in a flash with just your face.
For most people, this webcam will be overkill, making the significantly cheaper C920 or the Razer Kiyo a smarter choice – and using that 4K footage in apps like XSplit will demand a fast PC. But if you’re looking to take your streaming up another level in quality, then this is the best webcam out there.
Key specs – Resolution: 2160p at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps, 720p at 90fps; Focus: Autofocus; Audio: Dual omnidirectional microphones; Mount type: Clip stand; Cable length: 2.2m
6. Aukey Webcam 1080p: The best low-cost webcam
Price: £29 | Buy now from Amazon
Looking more than a little like Logitech’s class-leading C920, Aukey’s webcam gives you premium features at a bargain-basement price point. The 1/3in CMOS sensor gives you 1080p pictures with better clarity and more natural colours than most low-end webcams, coping particularly well with low light conditions. The only sign of corner-cutting is the 0.3 to 5m fixed focus lens, which is sharpest when you’re around a metre away. There’s no noise reduction on the stereo microphones, but the sound is crisp and great for voice and video chats all the same. The Microsoft LifeCam Studio has the edge on overall picture quality despite its lower resolution, but the Aukey gets close for a tenner less.
Key specs – Resolution: 1080p; Focus: Fixed; Audio: Built-in stereo microphones; Mount type: Clip stand; Cable length: 2m
AUKEY Webcam 1080P Full HD Stereo Microphone, Web Camera Video Chat Recording, Compatible Windows, Mac Android
£28.72 Buy now
7. Anker Powerconf C300: The best webcam for features
Price: £120 | Buy from Amazon
The Anker PowerConf C300 is more expensive than most webcams but it justifies this with a host of clever, “AI” features. Chief among these is its ability to “auto-frame” your face, or the faces of multiple meeting guests. It’s a feature that works uncannily well. Move your face slightly off-centre and the camera’s field of view will follow you left and right and it will zoom in and out digitally as well as you move away from, and approach, the camera.
Autofocus, too, is “AI-powered” and again unerringly accurate. While other autofocus webcams often get confused by your, hunting back and forth for focus for seconds, the PowerConf C300 locked on instantly during testing and never seemed to struggle.
That’s not all, though. The C300 also delivers crisp 1080p visuals at up to 60fps and full-bodied audio via dual, noise-cancelling microphones. The lens has multiple fields of view up to a maximum of 115 degrees. HDR keeps bright backgrounds and dark foregrounds balanced out plus there’s the ability to tweak colours, resolution, frame rate and more via the accompanying Windows/macOS app.
All in all, it’s a tremendously good little webcam; a little more expensive than the usual, perhaps, but you do get a lot for your money.
Key specs – Resolution: 1080p at 60fps; Focus: Autofocus; Audio: Built-in noise-cancelling microphones; Mount type: Clip stand/tripod thread; Cable length: 1.5m
Anker PowerConf C300 Smart Full HD Webcam, AI-Powered Framing & Autofocus, 1080p Webcam with Noise-Cancelling Microphones, Adjustable FoV, HDR, Low-Light Correction, Zoom Certified
£119.99 Buy now
8. Razer Kiyo Pro: The best webcam for harsh lighting
Price: £200 l Buy now from Razer
If poor lighting is a bit of an issue, then the Razer Kiyo Pro could be just the ticket to give your conference calls or Twitch streams a much-needed shot in the arm. Despite lacking the 4K resolution of the Logitech Brio, the Kiyo Pro’s 1080p HDR video is richly detailed, with well-balanced colours and accurately judged exposure in all-manner of lighting conditions.
It also supports a wide 103-degree field of view, which can be cropped to either 90- or 80-degrees in the camera’s settings. The Kiyo Pro’s Z-shaped mount is thoughtfully designed, too, supporting monitors up to 60mm in thickness, and the webcam can also be placed on a desk with a reasonable degree of adjustability. The only minor issue (apart from the sky-high price) is that the webcam’s autofocus is a bit on the slow side.
Read our full Razer Kiyo Pro review for more details
Key specs – Resolution: 1080p at 30fps (HDR), 1080p at 60fps (SDR); Focus: Autofocus; Audio: Omnidirectional microphones; Mount type: Detachable Z-shaped stand; Cable length: 1.5m
9. Ausdom AF640: The best 1080p camera for wide-angle views
Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon
This Ausdom unit is quite pricey for a 1080p webcam but it’s a solid product with some useful features. First among these is its wide-angle view, which makes it possible to include several people in shot, even if they’re quite close to the camera. The second is that, along with a hinged clip, which is designed to make it easy to attach to the top of your screen, the camera is equipped with a 3/4in tripod thread, so you can mount it wherever you fancy.
Audio quality is so-so, and mono only despite the description saying it’s stereo (there’s only one microphone inside). But image quality is pretty decent, the image is sharp and the camera adapts pretty well to tricky lighting conditions – although it can’t match the best Logitech cameras in this regard. All-in-all, it’s a solid webcam with some nifty features. It’s just a little on the expensive side.
Key specs – Resolution 1080p; Focus: Automatic; Audio: Built-in microphone with noise reduction; Mount type: Desktop/clip, tripod thread; Cable length: 2m
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/WebEx/Lync
£55.99 Buy now
10. Microsoft LifeCam Cinema: The best mid-range webcam
Price: £44 | Buy now from Amazon
While you have to move up to the LifeCam Studio for a full HD resolution, the LifeCam Cinema is a great performer at a lower price. With its barrel design, big glass lens and top-mounted mic it looks pretty cool by webcam standards, with a versatile mount that holds it steady on the desktop but can clamp to a laptop lid or monitor with ease. Combine an auto-focus, all-glass lens with Microsoft’s TrueColor exposure controls and the LifeCam Cinema can capture bright HD video with realistic colours in most lighting conditions, and there’s a useful auto-zoom feature to help keep subjects centre-frame. Sound, meanwhile, is a cut above the webcam or laptop norm. Logitech’s C920 is worth the extra money, but this is a classy webcam that doesn’t cost the Earth.
Key specs – Resolution: 720p; Focus: Automatic; Audio: Built-in microphone with noise reduction; Mount type: Desktop/clip; Cable length: 1m
£44.23 Buy now
11. Razer Kiyo: A great webcam for low-light streaming
Price: £90 | Buy now from Amazon
Most webcams leave game streamers with a problem: you’ve invested hundreds in your glowing RGB-lit PC and peripherals, but to get a decent image of your face you have to play with the lights on. Razer has the answer with its Kiyo webcam. Aimed squarely at game streamers, it has a light ring running all the way around the lens, illuminating your face and giving you usable results even in a darkened room.
You can adjust the lighting with a twist of the ring that runs around the webcam, which is useful as it also gives you more balanced, professional-looking images when you’re streaming under more normal light conditions. The autofocus keeps the picture sharp, and you have a choice of streaming in 1080p at 30fps or 720p at 60fps – the latter’s often a better match for fast action games. In fact, there’s only one downside; while the microphone picks up clear and listenable audio, it’s a little too quiet.
Key specs – Resolution: 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 60fps; Focus: Autofocus; Audio: Omnidirectional microphones; Mount type: Clip stand; Cable length: 1.5m
Razer Kiyo 1080p 30 FPS/720 p 60 FPS Streaming Webcam with Adjustable Brightness Ring Light, Built-in Microphone and Advanced Autofocus, Black
£89.99 Buy now
12. Poly Studio P15: The best all in one speaker and webcam
Price: £521 | Buy now from BT Business Direct
The Poly Studio P15 is a step up from your average webcam. Not only does it include speaker output via its monitor-top stereo soundbar but it also offers 4K video and a host of pan, tilt and zoom control features via its desktop software application.
You might wonder why you’d need 4K when most video conferencing platforms and internet connections seem to crush quality so heavily, but it’s mainly used here so you can zoom and pan the camera to focus on one or another individual in a meeting room – the output from to your platform of choice is actually 1080p. Alternatively, turn on tracking and the camera will follow you as you move around the room, although we did find this was a little hit and miss. We also appreciate the ability to physically block off the camera and microphones with a simple twist of the camera housing.
Image quality is excellent, with balanced, natural colours and crisp details all-round thanks to HDR and backlight compensation tech. Audio quality is good, too, with the microphones automatically applying AI-driven background noise suppression so you can block out keyboard tapping or document shuffling although to watch that you don’t make too much noise while talking since this can cause audio to cut out.
The only catch is the price. At more than £500 it’s comfortably the most expensive webcam we’ve ever tested.
Key specs – Resolution: 4k (1080p output at 30fps); Focus: Autofocus; Audio: Omnidirectional microphones; Mount type: Clip stand, tripod thread; Cable: USB-C to USB-C cable supplied (adapter required for USB-A connection – not supplied)