If you don’t own a webcam, you should get one ASAP. It’s one of those things that seems unnecessary until you have one, and then it suddenly becomes useful for all kinds of things.
In the past year, I’ve used my own webcam for home surveillance, one-on-one video chats, and multi-user video conferences. Other uses include vlogging on YouTube and streaming video games. If you’re keen on earning a bit of side income, there are even ways to make money with a webcam.
And the best part? You don’t need to spend much at all. Webcams are quite affordable compared to other kinds of gadgets, and you can find several high-quality options for less than $60. But we’ve done the work for you! Here are the best budget webcams currently available.
What to Look for When Buying a Webcam
Webcams are simple, but there are a few things you should keep in mind before diving in. Knowing what the following specifications mean will help you make the best webcam decision for your budget.
- Resolution. The higher, the better. These days, a webcam with a resolution under 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) just isn’t worth getting. On the other hand, 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) is nice but unnecessary. Note that bigger resolutions require more bandwidth!
- Frame rate. The higher, the better. The standard right now is 30 frames per second, which isn’t exactly smooth but still good. Ignore any webcam under 15 frames per second. Note that while 60 frames per second looks great, it requires much more bandwidth.
- Adjustability. There’s nothing worse than a picture-perfect webcam that can only stare at the wall because it lacks adjustability. At the very least, it should tilt up and down. Trust me, you do not want to deal with the frustrations of a rigid webcam!
- Autofocus. This is a convenience feature, but it’s a big one, especially if you’re going to be moving around a lot on camera (which includes leaning in and out or moving side to side).
What about microphone quality? I’ve found that the built-in mics for most webcams, whether $5 or $50, are simply bad. They’ll do in a pinch, but if you actually care about sound, you should buy a dedicated microphone. These “podcast” microphones are great entry-level, affordable options.
The Logitech HD Pro C920 has been our favorite webcam for years and there are no signs that this will change anytime soon. In terms of bang for your buck, it blows all other contenders out of the water.
Yes, it can shoot in 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second. Yes, it can autofocus. For still images, it can even capture at 15 MP. While the C920 does tilt up and down, it’s a shame that it doesn’t pan side to side.
This webcam is flexible enough to mount almost anywhere, and it even has a tripod mounting point, but the body is a bit bulky and doesn’t “fold down” like other Logitech webcams, making it less ideal for travel. But for day-to-day use at this price point, it can’t be beaten.
Right away, you’ll notice that the Microsoft LifeCam Studio is ugly. It has the stiff, cold aesthetic that most Microsoft products tend to have. But if you can get past that, you’ll find that the LifeCam Studio is pretty darn good.
It can shoot in 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second and comes with some nice features like autofocus, color correction in low-light situations, and Skype certification. And unlike most webcams, its microphone isn’t terrible (this model was designed for business conferencing).
Like the C920, the LifeCam Studio has a tripod mount. Unlike the C920, the LifeCam Studio can tilt up and down and swivel around in 360 degrees, which makes positioning much easier. And no, it’s not only for Windows.
If you like the C920 but can’t abide its lack of adjustability or don’t want to pay that much for a webcam, then consider the Logitech HD C615. The drop in price does come at a cost, though.
It can shoot in 1080p resolution but not at 30 frames per second. The image quality isn’t as sharp and the autofocus is slower and less accurate. But compared to other webcams at this price, the C615 absolutely wins.
The C615 has a tripod mount like the C920, but the C615’s is better because it can tilt and pan. Plus, the C615 folds down and fits inside a tiny portable case, making it the ideal choice for frequent travelers.
The iRush GUCEE HD92 is a newcomer webcam from a not-so-well-known company with a polarizing aesthetic design, but delivers quite the punch for its price. It’s hard to say anything about long-term reliability yet, so I only recommend it if you’re willing to take a risk.
But for just one-third the price of the C920, the HD92 shoots in 720p at 30 frames per second with excellent image quality (thanks to its glass lens). It also automatically adjusts image quality in low-light situations. A big downside is that still images are only 2 MP.
The mounting clip is sturdy and the webcam itself has tilting and 360-degree swiveling for optimal positioning.
The Genius WideCam F100 serves a slightly different purpose than the others on this list. Whereas most webcams have a field of view between 50 to 90 degrees, this one’s field of view is 120 degrees. (A wider field of view can “fit more” in the image.)
Able to shoot in 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second, the F100 is nothing to sneeze at. Combine that with the wide angle and you have a webcam that’s perfect for situations like conference rooms with lots of people. Note that the wide angle does produce a bit of fish-eye distortion.
The F100 lacks autofocus, but that shouldn’t be a problem for its designed use cases. If you want to take still images, the F100 captures at 12 MP. It also has 360-degree swiveling for easy positioning.
Crucial Tips for All Webcam Users
Once you’ve chosen the right webcam for your needs, keep going and learn about how to look good on a webcam. Aside from common sense, there are a few tricks and tips that can help improve your camera presence.
And don’t forget that webcams can be hacked. Few things are more unnerving than the idea of some random person spying on you in your house through your own camera! Which is why we recommend covering your webcam when it’s not being used.
Which webcam did you end up choosing? If you know of any other budget options that we missed, we’d love to hear. Share with us in a comment below!