Webcam Buyer's Guide

Posted by Amit Rathee on Mon, Jan 21, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

webcam, webcams, webcam tipsWhen searching for a webcam for your business purposes, you can quickly become overwhelmed by the vast number of choices available; as the advances in technology and the variety of features included can make it difficult to make the right choice. However, once you know more about how they work and what types of features you are likely to need, you will be able to make your decision easier.

Types of Webcams

In general, a webcam is a small camera that is similar to a video camera in many aspects but in a smaller version. The images produced are often accessed through the Internet, instant messaging or for video conferencing. With the help of this type of camera, you will be able to provide a live video feed through any of these avenues. The camera captures the images and sends them through your ISP to reach the person at the other end.

There are two basic methods by which your images are broadcast. In some cases, the images may be streamed in a fluid feed (video), providing a truly live experience. In other cases, the images may be broadcast through Java, which captures images at various intervals and refreshes them on the other end, causing a delay in the feed.

As you consider the types of webcams available, you will run into several basic types:

  • Dedicated – A dedicated webcam is one of the most common types used. This type simply plugs into your computer via USB cable. Many of these cameras are easily installed as plug and play and are easy to use. The main negative aspect of these cameras is the low resolution and lower rate of frames per second.
  • Integrated – Integrated webcams are those that are built directly into the computer. This is a common feature on laptops today.
  • Camcorders or Security Cameras – Today, more people are setting up exterior security cameras that are linked to their computers. These cameras send images to the computer for surveillance. This type of camera comes with a variety of features, including night vision, daylight filters and variable lenses.
  • Megapixel – These cameras have a much better resolution than many of the other options and will thus create a larger image file size. This makes these cameras a poor choice for streaming. Instead, these cameras are best for capturing a series of still images to refresh the picture periodically.

Before you buy one of these options, it is important to think about your main uses to ensure you choose the right one.

Webcam Features

When you shop for your webcam, it is best to look for the following features:

  • Frames per Second – How many frames per second your webcam produces is one of the most important features to consider. This plays a significant role in the quality of the images that the camera can provide. A slow speed will produce a poor feed, even if you and the viewer have a high-speed Internet connection. As such, look for webcams that  are capable of achieving at least 30 frames per second. However, you must still remember that poor Internet speeds, a slow modem and other factors can still impact the quality of the feed.
  • Resolution and Color – In general, a webcam will have a resolution of 160x120 or 320x240, though some can be found with a resolution of 640x480 or even higher. While a higher resolution will provide a better quality image, you also need to consider choosing a webcam that includes the ability to adjust based on lighting and other conditions that can affect quality.
  • Digital Zoom – Digital zoom will provide you with the ability to zoom in on an object, making it smaller or larger. If you choose a camera with optical zoom, the lens will actually move, simply bringing the camera closer to the object.
  • Camera Control – This feature isn’t as important if you don’t need to move the camera. However, if you prefer the ability to pan or tilt the camera, it can be easier to purchase one that has automatic movement. Some also offer manual focus.
  • Video Conferencing – Some webcams are specifically designed for video conferencing, providing you with special lighting and real-time enhancements to create a better experience. If you plan to use software, such as Skype or other messengers, you will need a webcam that supports video conferencing.
  • Portability – You may not always use your webcam on the same computer. Being able to clip your webcam onto any computer can be a useful asset.
  • Microphone – If you will be using your webcam for video conferencing, you will need to provide audio as well. Choosing a webcam that has a built-in microphone can provide you with a one-piece solution.

Cost of Webcams

Understanding how much you will pay for webcams is the next step once you know which type and features you desire. For a simple webcam, you can pay as little as $15 for one that will work well for instant messaging. If you want one with a built-in microphone, the cost will go up to about $25. A webcam with the majority of features will cost you approximately $60.

When you are going to use your webcam for business purposes, it is often best to spend more on a better quality camera. With all the high-tech features available, you can find the perfect webcam to meet your needs. Once you have your webcam set up, Onstream Media's industry-leading Visual Webcaster platform can help you can be used to help you deliver professional webcasts, webinars, and more in a mode that is simple and cost-effective.

Tags: Onstream Media, webcams, Webcam, buyer's guide, webcam tips

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