When it comes to electronics shopping, one cannot depend on instincts, price or trends. Today's trend can end up being tomorrow' bust. Plus callbacks and product returns can happen to any gadget. Pricing is often misleading. You can end up paying a lot more than necessary for something which could be replaced tomorrow. With electrical devices, one needs to be well-versed in specs. Specs or specifications can help you understand whether that device is right for you in the first place.
A camera with a low resolution is of no use to a nature photographer, who needs detailed images. Similarly a high-end camera with enhanced zoom, is not the device for your average soccer mom. One such ambiguous device is the webcam. Capturing video and transmitting it online for someone somewhere else to view is the webcameras basic function. But when buying a webcam, there are certain specs and points to keep in mind. Read on to learn how to pick the best webcam for your PC.
5 Tips for Buying a Webcam
1. Buy Based on Hardware
Based on what they are going to be connected to, webcams can be differently designed. Most laptops nowadays have a built-in webcam but older laptops and some budget models do not. So for laptops, the webcam has a clip to clip on a thin frame, which is the laptop screen. But for desktops, a webcam stand is used to showcase the webcam and is designed, such that a wide and better image is captured.
The stand should be designed to sit properly on flat surfaces. This is needed in case of CRT monitors, where the webcam cannot be clipped on and is too heavy to place on the monitor itself. Laptop webcams are designed with portability in mind, so their frame is lighter and more compact. However, many do not allow tilting and panning but this feature is present in most desktop models.
2. Check for connectivity
USB, Firewire and parallel ports are the 3 possible ports that a webcam will connect to. Any recent computer has a USB port, so your computer should ideally connect to a webcam through a USB port. This is a very compatible and popular standard, check for Plug n' Play compatibility, where you just need to plug in the camera to use it. This avoids setting it up when you need to connect it elsewhere and dealing with driver software is also avoided.
Firewire is a rarer type of port, make sure your machine has such a port before buying a webcam with this sort of connecting port. Parallel ports are meant to allow older computers to connect to webcameras, as USB ports are scarce on older machines. But parallel connections are a lot slower than USB connections and can interfere or slow down other computer operations.
3. Ensure Picture Perfect Imaging
Resolution is the amount of detail or quality present in an image. The higher the resolution, the more rich and life-like the image is. So a low resolution in your webcam can mean a grainy, not-at-all clear imaging system. Most webcams have a resolution figure of 320x240 or 640x480 pixels, which allows for decent quality video and images. Some models allow for a higher resolution still imaging capture, with a factor up to 1.3 MP. High-end models allow for High-Definition capture with a resolution of 1600x1200 pixels.
Frame rate is another image factor. Video is made up of different image frames and how fast these frames can be transmitted over the Internet is the frame rate. A low frame rate means a choppy video with freezing images in the middle. Look for a frame rate per second (fps) around 30. There should be a good balance between resolution and frame rate, as it is no use if the image has a high quality but will be transmitted slowly.
The type of lens used in the webcam can make a difference in image quality. Plastic lenses are used in low-end models as they are cheaper but they can produce blurry or slightly warped images. Glass lenses capture crisp and better quality images. Plus they are not as prone to scratches as plastic lenses. The lens focus can be fixed or allow manual and automatic adjustment through software. You will be able for focus on a face or zoom out to include a group. Color or black/white image capture should also be considered.
4. Look for Perks
It's nice to have an extra helpful feature or ability in your webcam. Automatic light adjustment ability is useful for video capture in dark or low light surroundings or for chatting outdoors. Some cameras allow auto focusing and panning and zooming abilities. If you plan to use your webcam as an amateur security camera, then motion sensing is a perk to look for.
Even the webcam stand can be adjustable, so it can be aimed and pointed at from one location. An oft-overlooked perk is of audio capture. If you have a microphone on your computer, then buying a webcam with a built-in microphone is not necessary. Some models have a clip-on microphone, some need a headset to capture audio. Another perk is the bundled software provided with the webcam. Software can be diverse, ranging from sophisticated video editing and capture programs and video conferencing to simple applications like video email or messaging.
5. Consider Pricing & System Requirements
Your computer, be it a laptop or desktop, should be capable of supporting such a device. Installation of a webcam will require a minimal amount of disk space from your computer, as well as support for the bundled software and additional software you may download. The machine's operating system and the drivers needed for the webcam need to be compatible, so check for OS compatibility at the time of purchasing a camera. Then there is your Internet connection. It is no use, having the world's most expensive and high-end web camera, if your Internet speed is slow. A slow net connection will not be able to transmit such heavy data at a decent speed.
Price is always the "ick" factor when it comes to gadgets and the webcam is no exception. You need to make sure you get what you paid for. If you want a high-end camera, with maximum perks and features, be prepared to spend more than 100 dollars. Try to get the maximum features for the optimal price. For basic needs and usage, do not overspend, keep a budget between $50-$100. Low-end models, keep your expectations at a minimum and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Do your research well to ensure you have the ideal webcam for you. Remember to ask for warranties and store return policies prior to purchase. Don't be dazzled by brands or fancy sales talk, keep your needs and budget firmly in mind and shop.