If you don’t already have a laptop with a built-in webcam — or the one on your laptop isn’t very good — you might need a standalone webcam. Maybe it’s to be able to show your face during work or school. Maybe it’s for chatting with friends or for side projects, like livestreaming or recording yourself.
Before I show you my favorite options, there are some clever routes to take that don’t require you to buy a webcam. You can use your phone and this app that’ll fool your computer into thinking it’s a webcam. Apple’s Continuity Camera feature in iOS 16 and macOS 13 lets you literally attach your iPhone to your MacBook lid to use it as your webcam. Or you can go in the total opposite direction and connect a pricey DSLR or mirrorless camera to your computer to use as a webcam — a very good one, at that.
But assuming you simply want to purchase a webcam, our goal is to make it easier for you to find the one that matches your needs and your budget. We tested popular models from brands like Logitech, Microsoft, Dell, Opal, Elgato, as well as some models from brands that you might not have heard of.
Each camera’s video quality was judged by using it with Zoom (where footage is prone to compression, as it is with other web-based video calling apps), as well as with OBS Studio or VLC to see how it compares with a locally stored recording.
Note: Until further notice, keep in mind that some of Logitech’s webcams may not perform their features as advertised if you’re using them with an M1 or M2-based Mac computer. Its current two-pronged software strategy for macOS, which includes Logi Tune and G Hub, don’t offer the same depth of webcam customization as Logitech Capture. That app is still available for download for Windows and Intel-based Macs, but Logitech no longer supports it.
The best webcam for most people
Logitech C920S Pro HD
Usually priced around $60, Logitech’s C920S Pro HD provides better video and mic quality than others that I tested in this price range. It can record in 1080p resolution at up to 30 frames per second, and while you won’t have an issue finding other similarly priced webcams with those specs, the C920S Pro’s out-of-box color balance, exposure, and relatively fast autofocus made it stand out from others I tested.
The picture quality has sufficient detail, and even in my relatively dark apartment, the C920S Pro had no trouble making my facial features look sharp. But it wasn’t a flawless presentation overall, as is to be expected for the price. In less-than-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. Though in a work or play environment flush with natural light, this was noticeably less of an issue.
Picture quality aside, the C920S Pro has several welcome features, like a generous 78-degree field of view, status lights that activate when the webcam is being used, and an included privacy shutter. Some other nice features at this price include its strong articulating stand, which can sit atop your monitor or just as easily screw into 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 around the same price as Opal’s C1 and Elgato’s Facecam Pro mentioned below, but some key factors give the Link an edge. It’s a 4K-ready webcam with a gimbal and loads of features.
That gimbal might be the star of the show for you. Instead of sitting stationary like most other webcams, the 0.5-inch Sony sensor is mounted to a motorized, three-axis arm that lets it move around. The gimbal allows the Link to track your head, and with an AI feature switched on, it can zoom in on your head, the top half of your body, or your whole body, if you’re standing far enough away. Insta360’s expertise in the action cam sector is showing in this consumer webcam.
The gimbal allows for a few alternate modes that might cut down on the tech you need to show off your work or to put your hobby on display on Twitch. One is deskview mode, which aims the Link’s slightly downward to show off your desk. There’s an overhead mode that aims the sensor directly at the ground (you’ll need to get clever with a tripod mount to utilize this or mount it oddly to your monitor). Then there’s a whiteboard mode, which tells the camera to look for four guiding stickers (included in the box) that prompt it to zoom in once it discovers them. This one seems gimmicky, but it works as intended and it could be great for people giving presentations.
Aside from those interesting features that make its $300 price more digestible, the Link delivers great video quality that’s better than any other webcam that I’ve tried so far. In my review, I primarily compared it to the Opal C1, which matches the Link’s 4K/30fps spec. Out of the box, the Opal C1 delivers a more contrast-rich image by default, while the Link looks more true to life and sharp but slightly duller by comparison (this can be tweaked to your taste in Insta360’s companion app). As for mic quality, neither option delivered stellar audio nor canceled out voices completely coming from across the room, although the Link was a little better at reducing some computer fan noise.
As I said in my review, I’d be happy to have either one of these two webcams on my desk for a virtual meeting. But when it comes to features, the Link is the more impressive option if you want to pay $300 for a webcam.
Other sub-$100 webcams we tested that you might like
The Microsoft Modern Webcam is okay, but its picture quality is not as good as the C920s Pro HD. Weirdly, its microphone doesn’t work at all in macOS and requires a separate utility to enable in Windows. For the price, just get the Logitech C920s.
Logitech’s C270 HD is the cheapest webcam-like object you can get, at around $20. Its 720p/30fps picture is fuzzy at best. Most people should spend more.
For this category, we also tested the Logitech Brio 500, but at $129.99, its 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 to have at this price. We hope that its clever privacy shutter and flexible mounting system make it into future (and more affordable) iterations, but this one isn’t totally worth its price unless you’re in love with the design.
Lastly, Dell’s barrel-shaped QHD webcam is tempting at $99.99, but its video quality looked awful. The capture feed doesn’t look natural, with darks having strange and overblown highlights. Plus, its longer shape is awkward if you plan to mount it to 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 its software is still in beta and only works on Mac. The Insta360 Link is also $300 but doesn’t have the latter two drawbacks.
The Elgato Facecam Pro records in 4K/60fps but doesn’t have a 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 mics and smooth video capture, but features-wise, it’s stuck in the middle between the sub-$100 Logitech C920s and the Insta360 Link.
For this category, I also tested the OSBOT Tiny 4K, which like the Insta360 Link can rotate and move around to follow you in the frame. It also supports optional hand gestures to control its AI face tracking and zoom level. It even advertises the same 4K resolution at 30 frames per second recording. However, I was less impressed with its recording quality, and its companion software — while comprehensive — isn’t as polished as Insta360’s. Also, it’s physically larger, so it doesn’t sit as easily on top of a laptop display 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 when it’s priced within $100 or less of the better option that is Insta360’s Link.
Updated February 1st, 6:00PM ET: For 2023, we’ve tested new models, like the OSBOT Tiny 4K, Dell’s QHD webcam, and more. We also added a new pick for the best premium webcam, the Insta360 Link.