Remember when you needed to hop on a plane and spend hundreds of dollars if you wanted to see a relative who didn’t live nearby?
It wasn’t that long ago that webcams were prohibitively expensive. Back then, you wouldn’t dream of chatting with distant friends and loved ones. Now, you can spend less than $40 and get a solid device that’ll let them see you in gorgeous high-definition!
Today, we’re going to look at six of the best High Definition (HD) webcams you can get on a tight budget. Obviously, nothing will replace actually being with the people you care about, but that’s just not always possible and a webcam will make the distance feel much smaller.
The Super Cheap
First, we’re going to peek at the cheapest webcam models. Now, keep in mind, there are models out there that are even cheaper than these — heck, you can find a webcam for less than $10 if you look hard enough. However, we’re sticking with devices that support HD and come from more well-known brands. In the long run, it’ll be worth the few extra bucks as you’ll get a camera that’ll last longer with technical support should something go wrong. In this range, you’ll find cameras between $15 and $25, which makes them quite easy on the budget.
All three of these cameras include key features such as 720p video recording and noise-canceling microphones — perfect for chatting.
The TechNet-C016 is the very definition of super cheap as it’s listed for $15/£12! Affordable as it may be, it comes with pretty solid features such as a 720p video resolution, a 5 MP camera (though some Amazon reviewers complained that the images weren’t actually 5 MP, they still looked good), face tracking, a tripod port, and options for controlling the exposure of your video automatically or manually.
Reviews on Amazon are solid overall, with it getting a 3.8-star rating. Most of the negative reviews cite lower-than-expected video recordings for their dislike, but if you’re just using this as a way to have video chats with your friends and family, that won’t be a problem.
Generally, Logitech is the brand most people associate with webcams, and that’s not a coincidence, as the company offers solid devices at every price point. At the bottom, you can get a C270 for around $21/£17. It captures and streams video at 720p and captures 3 MP still images. While the still resolution is a little low, you really should be looking for a cheap traditional camera if taking photos is your concern. It also has face tracking and a lens that’s always in focus.
In terms of actual features, this falls below the TeckNet model above, but the exchange is the Logitech quality and durability. You won’t get the tripod base or the ability to rotate the camera. However, you’re getting a camera with a 4.4-star rating from over 2,000 reviews.
Sitting comfortably at the $22/£38 price point, this camera comes with all the features of the ones above. It has 720p video, a mic that filters out noise, and so on. Creative’s software also has support for using the camera as a security device so you can monitor it remotely.
As for reviews, this camera sits at 3.8 stars, which means it’s solid, but not exactly blowing away buyers. Still, for the price, it comes with everything you need for chatting with people in beautiful clarity.
The Slightly Less Cheap
If you want a few more features and are willing to jump into the $30 to $40 price range, you’ll get some really solid choices including Microsoft’s incredibly popular LifeCam HD-3000. These have a few bells and whistles that make them worth the cash, and other than Microsoft’s offering, you’ll get 1080p video for recording, but you’ll still be streaming in 720p.
When it comes to mid-level web cameras, the C615 is one of the most popular (and best) choices. It’s reasonably priced, coming in at just under $35 (£55). It comes with a solid 4.3-star rating from over 1,000 reviewers on Amazon, so you can definitely be confident that it’s a good webcam.
As for features, it comes with all the same ones as the cheaper cameras we looked at above, but it adds 1080p, a swivel base for changing the shot more easily, and a collapsible design that adds a bit more portability. It also comes with an autofocusing lens, so you can add a bit of depth of field to your videos.
Another incredibly popular camera in this range is the Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000. It doesn’t have quite as many features as the Logitech, but many features like the rotating base and collapsible design really aren’t critical if you’re just planning to use the camera for video chats.
The trade-off is a slightly lower price, as this one sells for around $28/£20. And this is another camera that reviewers on Amazon seem positively smitten with, as it comes with a 4.4-star rating from over 900 reviews. If you want to save a few bucks, it’s a completely solid option that’s well-worth picking up.
If you want the highest resolution option in the sub-$35 price range, this is the camera to look at. At $34.99/£36, you’ll get a wide-angle lens, which could be useful if you want to show off what the kids are up to. It also streams at 1080p, which is quite uncommon at this price. And for still images, you’re getting 12 MP, so you can take beautiful images. It also swivels, comes with a manual focus, and even has a stereo microphone (another feature not available on other microphones at this price).
As for the rating, the Genius camera comes with 3.8 stars. If you’re looking to chat with friends and loved ones, and you want the features of the more expensive models, this one is definitely worth getting.
Which Will You Choose?
Between the three, I’d recommend the Logitech HD Webcam C615. I purchased one in 2014, and three years later it works like it was brand new. I’ve used it for meetings, chatting, and even recording an HD podcast, and it’s gotten me through it all.
However, if money is really tight, the $15 TechNet model is an absolutely capable device, especially if you just want a way for your friends and family to see you while you chat. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these options!
What webcam do you use for chatting with friends and loved ones? Let us know in the comments!