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It’s difficult to buy a device that doesn’t include a camera these days, but the humble webcam has yet to be rendered obsolete – especially in the context of video chats Fed Up With Skype? Here Are 6 Of The Best Free Alternatives Fed Up With Skype? Here Are 6 Of The Best Free Alternatives Five years ago, if you would’ve asked me for recommendations on a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) program, there was only one program available: Skype. If for whatever reason you no longer want to use... Read More and live camera streaming. It’s a niche market that presents a dilemma: good quality is important but the application is too narrow to justify spending a lot of money on it.

Fortunately, the market offers a number of choices with crisp, high resolution capture at affordable prices. Are you tired of fuzzy Skype videos 6 Things You Should Check First When Skype Does Not Work 6 Things You Should Check First When Skype Does Not Work Most of the time, Skype just works – but every now and then you’ll run into a snag. These six troubleshooting steps will solve most common Skype problems, whether your microphone isn’t working or the... Read More , poor audio clarity, and low framerates? Don’t settle for bottom-of-the-barrel cameras or built-in laptop cameras. The following webcams will open up a whole new world for you.

Note: All prices are based on Amazon listings at the time of writing this article, and were mainly chosen for their video capture performance. For capturing still images, we recommend a digital camera 8 Tips You Should Know Before Buying Your Next Digital Camera 8 Tips You Should Know Before Buying Your Next Digital Camera Regardless of what you have been told, there is no such thing as a "do-it-all" camera. If there was a "do-it-all" camera, competition in the industry would suffer, seedy patents would be made, one company... Read More instead.

Logitech HD Pro C920 ($60)

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The Logitech HD Pro C920 is about as good as it gets in this price range. It’s capable of full 1080p at a steady 30 frames per second but only when used with Skype. For non-Skype uses, you’ll only have access to a 720p resolution at the same frame rate.

The camera compresses video data in real-time using H.264 compression for awesome quality while keeping the bit rate low. Image quality itself is reasonable with sharp lines, rich colors, and a fast autofocus mechanism. It clips onto laptops and monitors with ease and can even be mounted on a tripod for advanced positioning.

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Are you a fan of streaming on Twitch 5 Tips For Building An Audience For Your Live Streaming Channel 5 Tips For Building An Audience For Your Live Streaming Channel Streaming content to a live audience for the first time can be nerve wracking. Find out how to draw loyal, regular viewers with best practices I learned in my first year on Twitch. Read More ? The Logitech C920 has been a top recommendation among gamers over the past half year or so. You won’t find another webcam with this kind of quality and feature set without first doubling the price tag.

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, Widescreen Video Calling and Recording, 1080p Camera, Desktop or Laptop Webcam Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, Widescreen Video Calling and Recording, 1080p Camera, Desktop or Laptop Webcam Full HD 1080p video calling (up to 1920 x 1080 pixels) with the latest version of Skype for Windows Buy Now At Amazon $56.94

Microsoft LifeCam Cinema HD ($50)

budget-webcams-microsoft-lifecam-cinema-hd

If the Logitech C920 isn’t available to you or you’re just not keen on Logitech, then the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema HD brings many of the same benefits. To be clear, the Logitech C920 is the better choice, but the LifeCam is a formidable adversary for the price.

This webcam maxes out at a 720p resolution but the image quality is a bit disappointing. While it does have a nifty autofocus mechanism, some users have complained that it’s a little too sensitive and can sometimes be annoying.

That being said, it’s easy to use — just plug it in and install the accompanying software — and it’s extremely flexible. Not only can the camera rotate a full 360 degrees, it can tilt up/down, and the mount is flexible enough to attach the camera to any kind of edge.

Microsoft LifeCam Cinema 720p HD Webcam - Black Microsoft LifeCam Cinema 720p HD Webcam - Black 720p HD widescreen: 720p sensor captures true HD quality video at up to 30 fps. Buy Now At Amazon $74.00

Genius WideCam F100 ($39)

budget-webcams-genius-widecam-f100

The Genius WideCam F100 is a strong choice if you absolutely need 1080p video. Even at such a high resolution, this webcam can capture at 30 frames per second without any stutters or skips ,and the video quality is surprisingly good.

Unfortunately, it lacks an autofocus mechanism – so you’ll need to fiddle with manual adjustments instead (which shouldn’t be much of an issue unless you frequently move your camera to different positions). It also lacks the ability to zoom. These two features might seem trivial, but you may find it inconvenient after a while.

The camera itself can be rotated, tilted, and swiveled to your liking, although the swiveling (side-to-side adjustment) is limited to preset angles. It’s still more flexible than most cameras, but not as flexible as it could be.

Genius 120-degree Ultra Wide Angle Full HD Conference Webcam(WideCam F100) Genius 120-degree Ultra Wide Angle Full HD Conference Webcam(WideCam F100) 12MP interpolation photo Buy Now At Amazon $32.50

Logitech HD C310 ($30)

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The Logitech HD C310 is several years old by now, but it’s still a solid purchase when you need a webcam on the cheap. For nearly half the price of the C920, you can still get 720p video with auto-correction for lighting. While the image quality is fine, the video can be a bit choppy at times.

As for the mount, it’s about as basic as they come. There’s a simple clamp that makes it easy to attach the camera to a laptop or a monitor, but the camera itself can only tilt up/down over a small range of motion. The lack of rotation and swivel means that it has to be mounted directly ahead of you.

Logitech HD Webcam C310 Logitech HD Webcam C310 Works with Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Microsoft Live Messenger Buy Now At Amazon $24.95

Final Thoughts

If your budget is limited, you can’t go wrong with a Logitech C920 – it offers the most bang for your buck, and you should only look into an alternative if it doesn’t work on your computer for some reason (e.g. driver issues). However, if $50 is too much, any of the other alternatives should serve you well enough.

One last note: there was no mention of audio quality for any of the recommendations. The built-in microphones for webcams are rarely so bad as to be unusable; but at the same time, they’re never spectacular. They’re fine for casual use but if you want good voice quality, you should look into supplementing with a standalone microphone.

Check out our podcast equipment guide Starting A Podcast: The Best Recording Equipment & Platforms You Should Use Starting A Podcast: The Best Recording Equipment & Platforms You Should Use So you want to start a podcast? Well, hold up there. There's a few things you need to consider first, and though the technical capabilities of modern computers should make this kind of stuff super-easy,... Read More for some microphone recommendations.

Which webcam are you using? Are there any good ones that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

  1. Erlis D.
    December 3, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    I think this is true for amazon and probably other stores based in US. Here in my country (Albania) the prices are really high. For example, you can find Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 for about €85 (around $105). Also in other countries in Europe prices are really high compared to amazon.com
    Anyway, my favorite one is still C920, having one of the best video quality. As for the audio, I prefer Blue Microphones' Snowball.

    • Joel Lee
      December 6, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      The Snowball is a fantastic choice for value, quality, and convenience. Fully recommend it!

  2. Mark
    December 2, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    The logitech C920 is a great camera, i bought one for both me an my girlfriend around 6 months ago. But I'd like to mention that pricing items for an article might not be the greatest idea around black friday sales. Yes, I seen it on sale over the past weekend for around 49.99, but now it is back up to 59.99 on amazon which is still cheaper than when I bought it which was 70 dollars each. It's official "retail value" is still 99.99. Yes 59.99 isn't that much of a big deal, but it is still over the 50 dollar budget and it is definitely not normally priced at 50 dollars.
    Also, to NOT comment on audio quality is a horrible decision. the microphone quality on the C920 is amazing, from my experience. It blocks out all background noise and works better than the mic on my expensive headset.

    • Joel Lee
      December 3, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks Mark, I didn't realize the price was only for Black Friday. The article will be updated ASAP!

  3. Alexis C
    December 1, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    The webcam can be excellent but take into account that if you want to stream in HD you need a fast internet connection.

    • eric jay
      December 2, 2014 at 1:46 am

      that's the big thing to consider, both upload and download speeds.

    • Joel Lee
      December 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      Absolutely. Thanks for mentioning that, Alexis. Choppy video and other issues could arise from a bottleneck in bandwidth.

  4. WinDork
    December 1, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    All great suggestions, Joel! I own a couple of those Logitech C920 -- the price has definitely come down. It is an excellent web cam that works quite nicely with Windows 8.1.

    • Joel Lee
      December 3, 2014 at 4:03 pm

      You have a couple? Did the previous ones break or are you just using a multi-webcam setup? Either way, glad to hear it works well for you. The C920's value is phenomenal. :)

    • WinDork
      December 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      Actually, I purchased two of them by mistake. I purchased the second for my son's Windows 7 computer, but he had needs that transcended the utility of the C920 on a Windows 7 computer. I ended up purchasing an older-model (and cheaper) Microsoft web cam for his computer that fit the bill, and now I have a leftover C920. I guess you live and you learn.

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