Updated by Ben Stegner on March 2nd 2017
While Microsoft originally chose to include the Kinect with the Xbox One, Sony’s PlayStation Camera has always been sold separately. This was great for keeping the price down at launch, but years later, is the PS Camera an essential accessory or a silly toy? Let’s take a look at what you can do with one.
The PlayStation Camera for PS4 comprises a small black unit that should fit nicely into most people’s set-ups. It can be placed either on a TV stand or on the TV itself using the PlayStation Clip (available separately). It’s a decent camera, with a resolution of 1280 pixels by 800 pixels and a max frame rate of 240 FPS.
Note that Sony released a slightly updated model of the PS Camera in September 2016. The new version has the same internals, but is cylindrical instead of rectangular, and includes a small stand for adjusting the angle.
The PS Camera has several functions. The simplest is a traditional camera for filming you in your living room or recording audio. It also functions as a Kinect-style device for motion-controlled games, used in conjunction with the light bar on the back of the controller.
Further, the Camera lets you command your PS4 with voice and motion controls, with functions such as launching a game or returning to the home screen. Finally, it also offers a secure way of locally logging into the system using facial recognition.
But what other perks do you get by owning a PlayStation Camera for PS4?
While obviously not available at the system’s launch, PlayStation VR is the biggest reason you’d want a PS Camera now if you don’t already have one. It provides the least expensive way to dip your toe into true VR, as it doesn’t require a beefy PC like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Aside from the headset itself, PS VR requires two of the older PlayStation Move controllers and the PS Camera.
The VR headset launched in October 2017 for $400, or a $500 bundle that includes the Camera, two Move controllers, and a demo disc. Currently, the PS Camera is available on Amazon for $47 and Move controllers cost $32 each, so this bundle saves you a bit of cash with the demo games as a bonus.
The Playroom is a free application that comes pre-installed on to all PS4 consoles, but requires the Camera to actually play. If you don’t have the PS Camera, opening this game just plays a trailer. Playroom contains a collection of mini-games designed to show off the both capabilities of the PlayStation Camera and DualShock 4 controller, offering some simple fun.
There’s a flying robot called Asobi, a collection of little critters called the AR Bots, and a motion-controlled Pong clone. These offer occasional entertainment and are worth a look, but you probably won’t spend much time here after the initial fun wears off. Since launch, developers have released four free DLC packs for The Playroom.
Compatible Non-VR Games
Even if you don’t want to jump on board with PS VR yet, there are a handful of games that have special features for the PS Camera by itself. You can view a full list on Wikipedia; highlights include Alien: Isolation, all Just Dance games since 2014, LittleBigPlanet 3, Surgeon Simulator, and Tearaway Unfolded.
Of course, none of these games require the camera, and unless you love motion controls you probably won’t get much additional enjoyment from it. If you like party games, it might be worth the price of admission for an evening with friends messing around on Just Dance, though.
The PS4 makes it easy to stream video of yourself sitting in front of your TV using Twitch or YouTube. Players can also watch others broadcast their play using the Live from PlayStation application.
You don’t need a PlayStation Camera to broadcast gameplay, but if you want to record yourself as you play, you’ll need the Camera. If you’re serious about upping your Twitch streams, this is a must. For more, check out the best tools and advice on which games to play to grow your Twitch fanbase.
So, Is the Camera Worth It?
In the original version of this article, we were optimistic about the Camera’s future potential. Three years later, it’s safe to say the PS Camera is far from an essential accessory, unless you’re using PlayStation VR. If you’re picking up the VR headset, make sure you either get the bundle or a Camera separately, because you must have it.
For everyone else, it’s tough to recommend you pick one up. The Playroom is a minor distraction that you probably won’t spend much time with, and the games with Camera integration are both slim and underwhelming. Having the system log you in automatically by facial recognition is neat, but if you’re the only user on your PS4 it’s a moot point.
Motion control on the menus isn’t worth the price of admission, and you can add voice control by using a headset, which is a far better investment at half the price.
So, unless you’re buying it for VR, we only recommend the PlayStation Camera if you regularly stream your gameplay. The PS4 already makes streaming a simple affair, and adding a Camera so your viewers can watch your face is also easy. Otherwise, the~$45 investment doesn’t buy you enough to justify the cost.
Do you own a PS4 camera? Did you buy one for PS VR, or do you have another favorite feature of the accessory? Let us know if you’re planning on buying one down in the comments!