Of all the consumer technologies to take center stage over the past few years (both literally and metaphorically), the once-lowly webcam may be the most significant. For millions and millions of people, the webcam has gone from a rarely considered afterthought to a central means of communication, both for work collaboration, as well as for staying in touch with friends and family who have become increasingly difficult to visit in the real world. There are now webcams to fit a wide range of use-cases, from remote work and hybrid workplaces, to live streaming and family gatherings. We’ve rounded up some of the best out there—surely coming soon to a screen near you.
Owl Labs Meeting Owl 3
For those looking to merge multiple people in the same room onto a video call, the Meeting Owl 3 is built for the job. It uses a 360-degree camera powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor, along with eight built-in microphones and three built-in speakers. It essentially functions as a video director, of sorts: the Owl Intelligence System is proprietary software driven by AI, designed to keep everyone “in the picture” at the right times. This means changing who is featured on screen based on the order in which people speak, changing focus from one speaker to the next, and adjusting the camera angle in real time. It can switch from one speaker to the next in a much more natural way than, say, Zoom, as multiple cameras frame different speakers individually. It also keeps audio at a consistent volume regardless of who’s speaking and how far they are from the camera. Oh, and it works with all of the major video meeting platforms, including Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google Meet.
Longtime industry mainstay Logitech has a wide range of webcams on offer, and the Brio is one of its best (and most popular) options. This 4K cam sports sharp image quality with solid white balancing that makes skin look warm and human, whatever the lighting conditions. There’s a fast, smooth autofocus system that can almost rival that of a entry-level DSLR, as well as plenty of framing options: with the choice of 65, 78, or a super-wide 90 degrees field of view, it’s easy to fit multiple people in the shot, or keep the focus on just one. For those looking for a premium, 4K-capable webcam, it’s a great, reliable choice.
A new entrant to the market from startup MetaAxon, the MECA webcam has several innovative features. For one, the unit itself incorporates an adjustable camera, a microphone and a ring light that automatically adjusts its brightness and color temperature to its surroundings—all connected to your PC via a single USB cable. Additionally, that adjustable camera does more than just tilt around: it actually extends down from the unit’s perch atop a monitor to sit in the middle of the screen, letting you maintain a direct line of sight with the camera, while still looking directly at what’s on your display. This is great for maintaining remote “eye contact” with coworkers, especially while looking through documents or delivering a presentation.
Like the other webcams in its lineup, Kensington’s new W1050 1080p model is designed to work with the company’s range of mounts and lights, to provide the ideal setup for each individual desktop. The real key to this and the rest of the company’s lineup, however, is the Kensington Konnect software, which works seamlessly with the webcam to let users customize the way that they appear on video, regardless of what application they’re using. This includes panning, tilting and zooming to find the perfect frame, as well as a number of filters and image settings. Profiles can be saved for use across different collaboration apps, and easily recalled from the Konnect hub.
MOVO WebMic HD Pro
Delivering a high-quality 4K, 30 frames per second webcam in the form factor of a desktop condenser microphone, the WebMic HD Pro looks decidedly unique among the range of webcams on the market. In addition to its desktop-centric design (it can also attach to your monitor if you prefer), a built-in ring light encircles the front of the device, handily packing your entire audio-video setup into a single device. In fact, the stand is even designed to function as a gimbal—great for handheld shots when walking around on a call, or doing stuff like home walkthroughs. And with its built-in cardioid condenser microphone, the WebMic HD Pro’s audio quality is a notch better than most webcams out there.
Popular with businesses, Huddly One is built around a couple of key features. One is what the company calls “Desktop Framing,” whereby the camera’s zoom level has been customized to best frame users in a one-person video chat scenario, keeping their face and torso in the frame without the need for the user to manually adjust it. The other is Portrait Lighting, which uses AI to best compensate for the lighting conditions in the user’s environment, automatically adjusting brightness to ensure proper lighting, and to better communicate those subtle facial expressions. Designed for the remote worker on the go, Huddly One comes with its own cute carrying case, and is compatible with Macs, PCs and all the major collaboration apps, as well as being certified for Microsoft Teams.
Boom Mezzo 4K
Featuring a 4K Ultra HD video feed at 30 frames per second, electronic pan, tilt and zoom, and responsive auto-framing (thanks to some nifty AI), the Mezzo 4K is a flexible option for both solo and hybrid remote work. With its combination of wide angle 100-degree field of view and 10x zoom, it’s great in smaller huddle rooms or wider conference areas. Thanks to the included remote control, it’s also a convenient option for those who like to have manual control of the camera, without needing to commandeer the PC and fiddle with the settings panel in the middle of a meeting.