If you don’t already have a laptop with a built-in webcam – or the one on your laptop isn’t very good – you may need a standalone webcam. Maybe it’s to be able to show your face at work or school. Maybe it’s for chatting with friends or for side projects like live streaming or recording yourself.
Before I show you my favorite options, there are some smart routes you can take without having to buy a webcam. You can use your phone and this app to fool your computer into thinking it’s a webcam. With Apple’s continuity camera feature in iOS 16 and macOS 13, you can literally attach your iPhone to your MacBook lid to use it as your webcam. Or you can go the opposite direction and plug an expensive DSLR or mirrorless camera into your computer to use as a webcam – a really good one at that.
But assuming you just want to buy a webcam, our goal is to make it easier for you to find the webcam that fits your needs and your budget. We’ve tested popular models from brands like Logitech, Microsoft, Dell, Opal, Elgato, as well as some models from brands you may not have heard of.
Each camera’s video quality was assessed by using it with Zoom (where footage is susceptible to compression, as with other web-based video calling apps), as well as with OBS Studio or VLC to see how it compares to a locally stored recording.
Remark: Until further notice, please note that some Logitech webcams may not perform the advertised functions when used with an M1 or M2 based Mac computer. The current two-tier software strategy for macOS, including Logi Tune and G Hub, doesn’t offer the same level of webcam customization as Logitech Capture. That app is still there available for download for Windows and Intel-based Macsbut Logitech no longer supports it.
The best webcam for most people
Logitech C920S Pro HD
Logitech’s C920S Pro HD usually costs around $60 and offers better video and microphone quality than others I’ve tested in this price range. It can record in 1080p resolution at up to 30 frames per second, and while you’ll have no problem finding other similarly priced webcams with those specs, the C920S’s off-the-shelf color balance, exposure and relatively fast autofocus Pro made it stands out from others I’ve tested.
Image quality has plenty of detail, and even in my relatively dark apartment, the C920S Pro had no trouble keeping my features looking sharp. But it wasn’t a flawless presentation overall, as might be expected for the price. In non-ideal lighting scenarios, the C920S Pro made my skin look oversaturated, with red spots where the webcam couldn’t compensate for the lack of lighting. Although in a work or play environment with natural light, this was noticeably less of an issue.
Image quality aside, the C920S Pro has several welcome features, such as a generous 78-degree field of view, status lights that activate when the webcam is in use, and an included privacy shutter. Some other nice features at this price include the strong hinged stand, which can be placed on top of your monitor or just as easily screwed onto a tripod. It’s just a great value for the price.
The best 4K webcam
If you have $300 to spend on a webcam, the Insta360 Link is our new go-to recommendation. That’s about the same price as Opal’s C1 and Elgato’s Facecam Pro mentioned below, but a few key factors give the Link an edge. It’s a 4K ready webcam with a gimbal and loads of features.
That gimbal might just be the star of the show for you. Instead of sitting still like most other webcams, the 0.5-inch Sony sensor is mounted on a three-axis motorized arm that allows it to move. The gimbal allows the Link to track your head, and with an AI function enabled it can zoom in on your head, the top half of your body or your entire body if you’re far enough away. Insta360’s expertise in action cameras is reflected in this consumer webcam.
The gimbal offers a few alternate modes that can reduce the tech you need to show off your work or show off your hobby on Twitch. One is deskview mode, which angles the Link slightly down to show off your desk. There’s an overhead mode that aims the sensor directly at the ground (you’ll have to be smart with a tripod mount to use this or mount it oddly on your monitor). Then there’s a whiteboard mode, which tells the camera to look for four accompanying stickers (included in the box) that prompt it to zoom in as soon as it discovers them. This one seems gimmicky, but it works as intended and could be great for people who give presentations.
Aside from those interesting features that make the $300 price more palatable, the Link delivers great video quality that’s better than any other webcam I’ve tried to date. In my review, I primarily compared it to the Opal C1, which matches Link’s 4K/30fps specification. Out of the box, the Opal C1 delivers a more contrasting image by default, while the Link looks more lifelike and sharp, but slightly duller in comparison (this can be adjusted to your taste in Insta360’s companion app). In terms of mic quality, neither option delivered great audio nor completely removed voices from the room, though the Link did a little better at reducing some computer fan noise.
As I mentioned in my review, I would love to have one of these two webcams on my desk for a virtual meeting. But when it comes to features, the Link is the most impressive option if you’re willing to shell out $300 for a webcam.
Other webcams under $100 we’ve tested that you might like
The Microsoft Modern Webcam is fine, but the image quality is not as good as that of the C920s Pro HD. Oddly, the microphone doesn’t work at all in macOS and requires a separate utility to enable in Windows. For the price, just buy the Logitech C920s.
from Logitech C270HD is the cheapest webcam-like object you can get, at around $20. The 720p/30fps image is blurry at best. Most people should spend more.
We also tested the Logitech Brio 500 for this category, but for $129.99, the 1080p/30fps video quality wasn’t that much better than the C920S Pro HD, although it added AI face tracking, which is a nice feature at this price point. We hope the smart privacy shutter and flexible mounting system make future (and more affordable) iterations, but this one isn’t quite worth its price unless you’re in love with the design.
Finally, Dell’s barrel-shaped QHD webcam is enticing for $99.99, but the video quality looked terrible. The shooting feed doesn’t look natural, with dark tones with odd and exaggerated highlights. Plus, the longer shape is inconvenient if you plan to mount it on your laptop lid.
Other good high-end webcams we tested
The Opal C1 is an unconventional 4K webcam with DSLR-like quality and interesting machine-learning image effects. I was impressed with the image quality and features when I first reviewed it in late 2021, but it costs $300, and the software is still in beta and only works on Mac. The Insta360 link also costs $300, but it doesn’t have the last two drawbacks.
The Elgato Facecam Pro records in 4K/60fps but has no built-in microphone. Most dedicated streamers won’t use the webcam’s built-in mic anyway, but others should take note.
The $140ish Logitech StreamCam is a great 1080p/60fps webcam with dual microphones and smooth video capture, but features-wise it’s stuck between the sub-$100 Logitech C920s and the Insta360 Link.
For this category I also have the OSBOT Small 4K, which, like the Insta360 Link, can rotate and move to follow you around the frame. It also supports optional hand gestures to control AI face tracking and zoom level. It even advertises the same 4K resolution at 30 frames per second recording. However, I was less than impressed with the recording quality and the associated software – while extensive – isn’t quite as polished as Insta360’s. It’s also physically larger, so it won’t fit as easily on a laptop screen lid (and the included monitor mount is cheaply constructed). I think if you find it for $200 or less, I’d consider getting that model, but not if it’s priced within $100 or less than the better option that is Insta360’s Link.
Updated February 1 at 6:00 PM ET: For 2023, we tested new models such as the OSBOT Tiny 4K, Dell’s QHD webcam and more. We’ve also added a new pick for the best premium webcam, the Insta360 Link.
Janice has been with businesskinda for 5 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesskinda team, Janice seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.