For most, choosing a webcam can be notoriously difficult since very little information is given on the packaging and if you are like me you will often opt for a cheaper webcam (thinking that they all essentially do the same thing) and then be extremely disappointed with your purchase when you set it up and find out that it is more or less not fit for its purpose.
That said there really are only a few things that you need to look lout for when choosing a webcam and if you know what you are looking for you can usually get hold of a decent webcam without forking out huge amounts of cash. Here are three things that you should look for when choosing a webcam:
Number of Pixels
Advancements in webcam technology mean that the number of pixels is not the number of pixels is not as much of an issue as it was a few years ago but nevertheless, a webcam with more pixels is likely to give a crisp, cleaner picture. The number of pixels dictates how many little dots make up the picture that you see on your screen and most webcams will offer either 320 x 240 or 640 x 480 pixels. Generally most people find these are adequate for basic usage but for a more professional video conferencing experience you may want to opt for a high definition webcam which tend to have a resolution of around 1280X720. High Definition provides excellent picture quality and many video conferencing providers have already implemented HD video conferencing capabilities with others soon to follow.
FPS (Frames per Second)
A video is made up of a series pictures which are moving at a speed which makes the person viewing them think that they are looking at a video. The Frames per second (or FPS) determines how many pictures are shown within a second and a higher FPS rate will give a smoother picture. When choosing a FPS rate on your webcam think about what you will be using the webcam for? If it is just for casual conversations with friends then most people find that a Frame rate of 24 Per Second is more than adequate although if you are going to be using the camera for more professional use or if you are likely to be moving around quite a bit, you may want to opt for a webcam which is able to achieve 30fps as it will reduce the chances of the pictures becoming choppy when you move around. For those who are likely to be using sign language, there is nothing worse than to not be able to tell what the person on the other side is signing due to the webcam’s slow refresh rate missing out a hand gesture. If you are need a webcam with a much faster refresh rate, consider getting your hands on a webcam with 50-60fps although you should bear in mind that (baring the most expensive webcams) most webcams are only able to achieve this kind of frame rate by reducing the resolution of the picture so there is a trade-off here. One final thing to consider is your internet connection, although this is no longer an issue for most people due to broadband becoming much more widespread but if you have a slow internet connection then many frames will be lost along the way resulting in a lower fps even though your webcam is capable of much more.
Low Light Quality
Quality in low light is where generally where the majority of webcams fall short and most people find alternative solutions to fix this problem such as adding extra light sources such as an additional lamp or by switching to using a camcorder connected to their computer/laptop. You could also play with the brightness on your screen to gain a very small improvement but this generally results in a washed out picture. A number of have their own technology which they claim will help improve the picture in low light settings but Logitech’s high end webcams with RightLight generally perform quite well when light is in short supply.
Rashed Khan has a Msc in Software Engineering and works part time selling computing related products at Comet. Rashed is currently guest blogging on behalf of Video Conferencing Lifesize.