A little knowledge goes a long way in making Webcams an essential high-quality component of a streaming set-up. Whether it’s bad audio or pixelated images, we’ve all seen poor streaming setups. It doesn’t have to be that way though! Setting up a webcam is an easy enough process and the features aren’t as technically mystifying as other computer components.
We created this guide to help walk you through the various Webcams available today and the ones that we believe are the best on the market. We’ve also answered some huge tech questions that are often brought up in conjunction with getting a webcam for streaming.
1080p @ 30fps
720p @ 30fps
720p @ 30fps (streaming)
1080p when recording
4k still shots
Best Webcam for Streaming
Great quality and an unbeatable price make the C922 our top pick. There is a reason it is used by thousands of streamers.
The C922 won out as the most affordable high-quality Webcam we could find. Automatic lighting is one of our favorite features from the Logitech C900 series. Basically, AL uses algorithms to help set the lighting up for maximum effectiveness as you stream.
This is a HUGE blessing to those who fancy themselves streamers but don’t know the first thing about lighting kits. As a higher quality Webcam, the C922 overcomes the largest flaw of its cousin, the C920, by offering 1080p streaming at 30fps. Those who want a bit higher framerate can still use the 720p settings for streaming at 60fps. The C922 is designed for streamers and as such comes with a free 6 month subscription to XSplit, premium streaming software known for high quality and compatibility.
It goes without saying that the C922 has fantastic compatibility with a wide range of setups. Just plug in and play! The biggest defining feature of the C922 is background removal. Using fantastic software, you can replace your background with game footage or other things without a green screen. This is a must for the streamer who is just starting and has a poor set-up (No one wants to see a dirty bedroom in the background. This way your audience also gets the maximum amount of footage of your gameplay. All around the C922 is a bright option for streamers with very few drawbacks.
Since the largest change is resolution and background removal, it may not justify the jump in price from the C920 for some users. Regardless, you won’t be disappointed if you pick this up for your streams and as a bonus, Logitech offers solid support and options for modifying your C922 set-up as well (Remote control tripod anyone?)
The Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 is the cheapest Webcam you’ll find on this but still manages to carry itself with a much higher level of quality. First of all it shines as a plug-and-play Webcam. As to be expected with a Microsoft Camera, they don’t support OSX, but that’s quite understandable as Microsoft is positioned as the prime competitor to Apple. The HD-3000 is not designed for Full HD 1080p streaming but instead places itself in the market to run 720p feeds at a comfortable 30fps.
You can’t really find a better camera at the price point of HD-3000, but you can find 1080p Webcam models for just a bit more. If you pick this up, make sure you are ok with focusing primarily on 720p as a medium as you won’t be able to scale up. The base is easy to attach to almost any surface and as a Webcam, it does a fantastic job of picking up ambient audio without being overwhelmed by static background noise.
This is an entry level camera but the quality is phenomenal for the price and running at 720p. There are some minor adjustments available for focus, digital zoom, swivel pan, vertical tilt, and digital tilt. The HD-3000 does struggle to maintain consistent lighting and colors when the scene experiences changes.
That means the HD-3000 does best with artificial lighting because natural lighting can change a bit too frequently. There are some issues with using the proprietary software in Windows 10 so it may require some troubleshooting as well. All-around it is the best quality you’ll get at this price-point.
A less flashy cousin of the C922, the C920 is great for people just starting out. It has enough features to get you started without breaking your budget.
The C920 is the cousin of the more advanced C922 and lacks some of the premium features streamers want such as automatic background filtering. That being said, the C920 is an awesome camera for recording, Skype, and those who are just starting a career in streaming. Easy on the budget, the execution is flawless. It’s just an all around good camera with no overheating and no complicated setup.
If you have a limited budget, the C920 is a great option because of the high quality automatic light correction. Often Webcams at this price point struggle to illuminate rooms effectively but with the C920, that’s not an issue at all. This is a huge boon to those unfamiliar with external lighting kits or who don’t have a good room for streaming.
In our tests the dual audio was as crisp and clear as you would expect from an external Webcam mic. It’s quite hard to get fine sound without an actual mic or headset but it’ll be fine to start with. We also love the simple black design and tiny size. Windows users get specialized software as well from Logitech that syncs with a tripod to offer tilting and some unique on the fly recording options. Very versatile! As a bonus Logitech also offers stellar support in case any minor issues crop up. We do have to admit that it really could benefit from 1080p streaming, even if just at 30fps.
It won’t be a problem when you initially start out but those who are really into streaming and seeking a career in it will find that a limiting factor. While recording, we found that the compression was on par with standard H.264 Video Recording. Don’t expect anything below the average storage needs but there is no need to worry about poorly optimized recordings blowing up your hard drive as well. We recommend the Logitech HD Pro C920 for those just entering into streaming and know you’ll be happy with this as a starter Webcam.
If you are looking for 1080p streaming with a hybrid 4k single shot option, look no further.
The Microsoft LifeCam Studio is one of the contenders on this list for best design. It looks a bit different from a traditional Webcam but still looks stunning. The aluminum frame is sturdy enough to take a few knocks while also looking serious enough for an office setting. At 1080p, the quality is on-par with the Logitech C922 and looks fantastic. Microsoft uses TrueColor technology to help keep images clear and colorized.
This is especially useful as it keeps pictures from looking too warm or too cool, a common problem with Webcams. It also uses ClearFrame Technology, a unique Microsoft technology that helps you achieve smooth detailed video. Since Microsoft is responsible for the number one OS in the world, you can trust the onboard software for LifeCam is cutting edge and compatible with a wide range of setups.
The LifeCam is also compatible with a range of Tripods, meaning that you can easily setup an alternative take with the LifeCam (Such as taking a secondary angle). Despite being a Microsoft product too, the LifeCam extends the olive branch and works with newer OSX operating systems.
The 8.0 MP photo quality actually achieves 2K interpolated photos, which is great when you need to take a quick snapshot from your desktop or laptop. LifeCam also offers 3x digital zoom, which isn’t especially needed all the time but excellent if you need to show something off to your audience. All around this is a great camera for both streaming and office settings.
Since it is from Microsoft as well, it integrates with Skype effectively without much tinkering unlike some poorly optimized cameras on the market. So why is it the runner-up? Simply price and versatility. Without a 720p option, it’s not ideal for those who need more versatility.
Secondly the LifeCam is also a bit more expensive than the C922 but the price difference doesn’t justify selecting this over the C922 unless you really want the still photo mode and to stay within the Microsoft ecosystem. Overall, it’s a fantastic camera and if you find it on sale, it’s not unreasonable to pick this over the C922.
Sometimes you need a professional streaming camera that would work in unique settings. These next two cameras offer unique features for streaming like multiple angles and great Office related features.
Most people think of streaming as purely sitting behind a computer screen and playing games, but a wide range of setups exist, including those who do interviews, office setups, and cosplay. The ConferenceCam mixes the freedom of mobile streaming with the quality of the world’s best enterprise Webcams.
Unlike most audio setups on this list, the recording quality is fantastic enough to stream with a group and still have quality audio fidelity with limited interruption. This Webcam actually comes with two cameras meaning you can use multiple angles, a rarity in the streaming world. This is especially useful for streaming multiple players or LAN style events.
It also allows the creation of a “Staging Room” and gameplay angle. Meaning you have more play in your ability to design your streaming experience. If you love creative freedom, incredible 1080p visuals, and have multiple people on set, this is the camera of your dreams.
The downside to the ConferenceCam comes in price and user accessibility. Since ConferenceCam is more enterprise business software, it can cost significantly more than other Webcams and even the only 4K webcam BRIO.
The other downside is that this Webcam is designed for business professionals who usually have access to a fulltime IT employee. It’s not as easy to set-up as some of the other Webcams on this list and you may need a bit of time fiddling with settings to get it streaming on Twitch.
Logitech continues to pioneer the Webcam industry with a bevy of unique Webcam offerings such as the BCC950. What makes the BCC950 unique is the large amount of versatility you have while streaming to change things on the fly. While most camera’s offer minor tweaking ability such as a 90-degree angle.
The BCC950 has 180 degrees of control meaning you can actually pan across a room, focus on multiple set-ups, and do unique things as a streamer. This is all done through the simple use of a remote that has blazing fast reactions speed. Add to this that it is an easy to setup Webcam and you have a new contender for top-streaming camera.
The BCC950 easily streams to Twitch and has business quality support for Skype and several other conferencing applications. We love the BCC950 as an overall streaming and stage-quality conference camera. It’s sort of a waste if you only use it to sit in front of your monitor, but it’s an incredible product if you need to pan around or show off your environment, especially if this is done live. We recommend picking up the BCC950 If you love to do interviews or have guests on your livestreams. It’s excellent for small groups, right out of the box!
So what’s negative about the camera? The design is bulky. This isn’t a deal break but you can’t just place this on top of a monitor and let it rip. Beyond that, the price isn’t justified if you aren’t going to use it for unique applications. We’d recommend siding with the C922 if you just want a casual 1080p streaming camera, this is for people who are serious about streaming as a performance. Overall though, it’s an excellent camera!
Best 4k Streaming Webcam
Future-proof yourself with 4k capabilities and a ton of features that will make your stream the best it can be.
The Logitech BRIO is a preview into the Webcam of the future. As 4K is being adopted more and more into a mainstream technology, 4K Webcams are starting to emerge. Despite the recent rise to prominence, streaming in 4K isn’t very common today. Eventually though, 4K will become the de facto standard.
With flawless execution of the world’s latest camera technology, the BRIO is the best camera you’ll find today for 4K streaming. The quality leap between 1080p and 4K is immense and adds significant realism to your streams. Details that were blurry or pixelated become clear and readable. Pixel density increases by millions so that you broadcast richer colors, clearer shots, and even wider visuals.
Beyond the increase in resolution, Logitech is making strides to implement user friendly colorization and lighting technology. With BRIO there’s less need to worry about your environment. By using the next generation lighting correction technology they’ve developed, a normal bedroom will be bright and full without buying a fancy lighting kit (Although it never hurts to have one!).
The BRIO also offers some unique features that most other webcams do not such as Windows Hello, a Windows 10 feature that offers advanced security and by using facial recognition. We love the BRIO because it just works all around as the best Webcam we could find. That being said, it is a bit pricey, so some may want to stick with 1080p if they can’t handle the price.
You also need a lot more space for storage and enough bandwidth for streaming as well. 4K streams demand a significant increase in internet speed so that is something to consider before going all in with the BRIO. If you don’t have a very stable internet provider, it may be better to go the 1080p route while technology improves.
Some other hot features we love are the plug-and-play adaptability, the 5X HD zoom, and the background replacement feature. A standard need for streamers is to replace the background of their environment with gameplay footage or more and the BRIO does it quick and easy without a green screen! While most recording of 4K footage is done with a DSLR, this camera does a decent job as well in case you need to record a business presentation or even Skype in a professional environment.
Note: There is only one 4K Webcam on the market right now. But it is KILLER. This is one of the best Webcams ever introduced into the market, and once 4K adoption becomes standard, the BRIO will easily be the king of streaming.
There are a few simple features that make certain Webcams stand out from others. Primarily those related to video feed quality (Resolution and Audio settings) can quickly help you make an informed decision. So, what really matters when picking a Webcam? We have a list of things to consider when making your first Webcam purchase. If you don’t understand the ins and outs of streaming, our stream guide is also an excellent resource for starting your journey! We also have an F.A.Q. as well at the bottom to answer some common tech questions you may have about Webcams!
It may feel unnatural to use a Webcam when you initially start streaming, after all, people tune in to see games right? Most professional streamers are famous because of extreme skill or a great performance. Most of the time people fall in love with streamers and watch them for more than the ability to play games. This has created streamers who dress up as pirates, share life, or even vlog while using Twitch. At the end of the day, people want to connect and see who is streaming.
It’s a performance but also requires some technical know how. Webcams are the easiest way to connect with your audience while gaming. They still get to see the footage from your gameplay but they can also see the facial expressions of the streamer and feel more connected. It’s extremely hard to build an audience without that human connection which is why you’ll want to start showing your face as you stream!
Most laptop cameras are poor in quality and also can cause a reduction in stream quality as they are resource hogs. Dedicated cameras such as the C900 have hardware onboard that eliminates some of the strain from recording and allows you to have higher quality streams.
The features and quality that a Webcam can bring to the game is greatly lacking when compared to that of a DSLR, but DSLR cameras are not designed for streaming. Some overheat after 30-40 minutes of intense video, they have HUGE storage needs, and often the set-up is a pain (Who wants to try and set-up a tripod in front of their monitor after all?). Webcams are stripped down in features when it comes to recording but do a fantastic job at interacting with a desktop computer, encoding video, and being affordable for the average streamer.
When it comes down to features, the technical aspects of Webcams often overlap. In fact, every resolution has multiple models at different price points and at lower price points there is sometimes very little to distinguish from different models. Some models are extremely cheap but look so terrible that they are a waste of money. Others are expensive, look incredible, but are useless for streaming without a good gaming rig and internet connection. Knowing these features can save you a lot of time and from a headache or two when selecting a camera!
Resolution is simply a technical term for how many pixels or dots make up an image. All digital images are composed of little dots (Or squares) called pixels.
When these pixels are viewed up close, they make up a collection of multicolored dots, when viewed from a distance though they trick the eye into creating an image. The better the density of pixels, the clearer an image is and the larger it can be without sacrificing quality. When selecting a Webcam, it's important to have high pixel density which results in higher quality video feeds.
This is by far the most important factor in selecting a Webcam. The visual fidelity of an HD camera compared to an older, lower quality camera is stunning. While 1080p (1920 X 1080) is ideal, 720p (1280 X 720) is a good range for video as well. As pixel density increases, so do other factors like the amount of storage used and the bandwidth required for streaming.
Most streams can scale down to lower resolutions (Called downsampling) but that also comes at a pretty large cost in quality. As a rule of thumb, never go below 720p but don’t be disappointed if your resolution is higher. Most cameras have enough flexibility to allow for different filming modes. Also consider that the entire world is moving toward 4K and it will eventually become the primary format of the next decade.
Webcams are small and portable so you may want to take it from a desktop computer to a laptop, from OSX to Windows, or even IOS to Android! Make sure to consider the compatibility with other operating systems and the difficulty in setting the camera up. Most cameras will work between common OS but occasionally a camera will have specific software that is only compatible with Windows or OSX.
That means taking the camera on the go or switching between systems can be a pain. Due diligence when researching your setup can save you a lot of time and money. Make sure to check whether or not your operating system is supported AND whether or not features are cut when using your operating system. For instance, older cameras may work poorly with Windows 10 and cut features that work great with Windows 8.
True color is pretty hard to get with almost any camera. A key strategy in photography is to balance the colors in a scene by finding the true shade of the color white. It’s not different for webcams either. By selecting true white in a given scene, the colors will shift to be bluer, redder, or other shades. Colors need to be balanced with ANY change in lighting or environment (Cloudy to Tungsten lighting for instance). That means using a Webcam in a dark room and then going to a well-lit room requires some good white-balancing.
Luckily many Webcams have excellent automatic white balancing but being able to manually set the balance with a piece of paper is ideal as it will get you the most natural colors. The picture below shows the variety that Color Balancing offers and how it can dramatically affect the settings of your camera. The redder tint is referred to as warmth and the bluer tint is referred to as cold. By setting the Color Temperature, your records can increase in quality or even be used for unique technical effects.
(Example of white balancing settings)
It’s ideal that you use a microphone when using a Webcam but sometimes a mic isn’t conducive or you need a secondary mic as well. Webcams usually come with ambient recording hardware but due to the design of Webcams, they can’t achieve the same quality as a dedicated mic. This can vary from a disposable and near useless mic to a mic with high audio fidelity. Webcam audio hardware is best for face to face conversations, streaming, and non-gaming purposes. When you start to add in ambient noise like speakers or use a headset to compete, onboard mic audio might just not be the best option. Still, it’s handy to have, especially when starting up and getting established as a streamer.
All cameras need to focus in on a subject and how they achieve that has a wide-range of implications. Basically most Webcams have both an auto-focus and a manual focus. Some have high-quality auto-focus systems while other cameras prioritize the ability to manually focus and key in your picture. When selecting a camera, consider that you’ll probably need a variety of setups depending on how mobile you are and whether or not your streaming location changes.
Also consider how the focus will be affected during lighting changes and distance changes. Manual focus is great for setting up high-quality shots and some Webcams even have a zoom option as well. The best Webcams such as the BRIO will inherently nail focus almost every time with clear, focused shots while cheaper models may need a bit more manual labor to get running efficiently.
While a bit technical, encoding software plays a huge role in the way a camera records footage. Some cameras lack good encoding software and rely on whatever they are streaming to for processing. This can slow the footage down and even cause loss of quality if the computer isn’t fast enough to encode on the fly. Raw unencoded footage can also take up a huge amount of storage space. The cameras we chose for this list generally do encoding on the Webcam itself but be aware that this is overlooked feature that is extremely important! Often this will be referred to by a designator such as H.264.
Many Webcams come with proprietary software that allows you to do things like control the camera remotely. Consider what you’ll be using your Webcam for and what has to happen to get the results you want. Often they’ll be a hidden boon to your Webcam setup. Pivot and tilt as well as zoom can be controlled via various software packages but this isn’t a deal breaker for most users. It will really be important though for those who stream console games as they often are not next to the computer. Other features include easy uploads for streamers or Windows Hello facial recognition.
Setting up a Webcam today is far easier than it was years ago! Webcams come in two varieties, Plug-and-Play (Most modern Webcams) and installation based. Installation based Webcams have to use specific software to function, install drivers, and often require a restart before working. Today we rarely see installation based webcams but they do exist. Instead you are more likely to encounter a plug-and-play Webcam. Basically you connect the Webcam via USB or other connection and in seconds, your Webcam works! It’s incredibly simple and usually requires hardly any technical aptitude.
Yes it does! Often Webcams look like a plug-and-play device but a device needs the correct software to switch from operating system to operating system. Doubly so, specific software suites may require use of a compatible OS. For instance the C920 offers some incredible software that allows it to be remotely tilted and controlled (Awesome right?) but it’s designed for Windows.
While the C920 is still compatible with the OSX, it’s much better to target the preferred OS as it will eliminate troubleshooting headaches. You can still be a Mac user and use the C920 but you’ll have to sacrifice a little bit of quality. A good reason for sticking with appropriate OS to avoid this problem is that technology changes quite fast but video hardware does not. You may find your Webcam functioning fine five to ten years from now and get suddenly bricked by an OS upgrade.
So If you buy a 4K camera you’ll want to have it around for awhile as chances are 4K will be the standard for the next decade. To summarize, making sure you have the correct software is very important. It’s not the sole reason to pick one camera over another but it should still be considered.
We created a streaming guide that answers most of these questions in detail for those who are interested but in short, 720p is the best resolution for reaching the widest audience. 1080p is also a fantastic option as most people can view footage at that resolution but it's easy to forget that most of the world struggles to maintain the bitrate (The amount of data that is used when viewing video).
The majority of the world uses connections that prefer 720p or simply uses a laptop or mobile screen that isn’t 1080p in quality. This is rapidly changing but it is easier to reach an audience when they have less barriers to entry. That being said, many American viewers watch to see graphical fidelity and love the quality of 1080p or even 4k.
Some viewers watch streams just to see how good a game can look and if you target this demographic, a 1080p or 4K camera will make a huge difference. These options are fantastic for future proofing your setup (Buying something now that you won’t need to upgrade for awhile). In fact, streaming sites like Twitch often have great dedicated software that helps downsample your streams from 1080p or 4k for those viewers. The quality is not always as good as a dedicated 720p stream when downsampled but it will work just fine.
Simply using a Webcam may seem like a great solution to both creating stellard audio and video but the Webcam mic lacks a dedicated filter for stopping sound and is often too far away. The further away your mic is, the more you have to adjust the gain (The ability of the mic to pick up a signal from a distance and project it).
The bad part is that adjusting gain too much starts to pick up background noise and even make feedback loops. When playing loud games and talking as well, it can create HUGE audio problems for streamers. It can be frustrating to watch a stream with heavy crackling and piercing feedback. So while we did review the audio quality of these Webcams, we still recommend buying a dedicated mic if you plan on doing any streaming beyond personal face to face recordings. It’ll go a long way in adding a professional presence when you stream.
This is a controversial subject and a simple low-tech solution will take away your worries. Simply tape a small piece of paper across the lens when you are not using the camera. Basically some minor tech exploits have allowed malicious users to access Webcams in the past. It has happened with numerous OS configurations or just poorly implemented software that accesses your camera.
Not only is this an invasion of privacy but it’s used to gather information on people for nefarious purposes. That being said, the risk is minimal and just possessing a Webcam doesn’t mean that you’ll have to live in fear! But if you do, just secure your camera with some tape. Be forewarned that this doesn’t stop audio feeds but most people lack the patience to stream the daily conversations of random people on the internet. Windows Hello enabled webcams have unique security too that helps counteract this risk as well!
Don’t freak out! It might not be the camera’s fault. When you first setup your camera it is important to check the settings. First, premium features like Automatic focus and controls should be enabled while you get a feel for the camera. Secondly, test the colors and make sure they are accurate. Usually changing the White-Balance will fix this problem. Most cameras can get plugged in and immediately start running but your environment will affect the quality of your setup.
Make sure you start using your camera in a well-lit room with limited change in lighting (Such as a ceiling fan in front of a light) as this may cause the automatic lighting control to malfunction on some cheaper cameras. Finally make sure that your resolution is set appropriately. A nice camera may be able to film at 1080p but be set to a lower resolution automatically in order to save room unless the user wants a higher resolution (Recording can take up a lot of storage space).
Thanks for taking the time to read our guide on the Best Webcams for Streaming. We hope you’ve been able to learn something, whether its why resolution matters or what product lines are dominating the Webcam market today, we love walking you through the latest Technology! We strive to help you make an informed decision and fall in love with the products you buy.
Once again, if you are interested in streaming but don’t know where to start, try out our ultimate guide on streaming. Whether your a streaming pro or interested amateur, you never know what new things you will learn. As always, if you’ve enjoyed this guide, please like, share, and subscribe to our regular product review guides!