When choosing a webcam, you should pay attention first of all to the purpose of its use. So, for communication via Skype you need lower quality models than, say, for organizing monitoring of the workplace.
- Camera matrix
- Capture speed
- Connecting a Webcam
- Additional functions
How to choose a web camera: the parameters you need to pay attention to
When choosing a webcam for your PC you should consider the following criteria:
- Matrix type;
- Matrix resolution;
- Light sensitivity of the matrix;
- Number of frames per second;
- Connection interface;
- Operating system support;
- Built-in microphone;
- Additional functionality.
But these parameters should be taken into account only if you need a really high-quality webcam – for example, for video recording with subsequent publication. For a simple Skype conversation, any, even the cheapest one, will suffice. Unless it is desirable that it has a built-in microphone.
The vast majority of today’s webcams come with a CMOS sensor – standard for photographic equipment. The devices equipped with it, are notable for their low price. However, due to the peculiarities of webcam operation, they do not provide images of the same quality as, for example, cameras with a CMOS-sensor.
If you want real good quality webcam images, we recommend you choose models with a CCD sensor. But they are a bit more expensive.
Due to the nature of the webcam to talk about the physical resolution of the sensor of such devices makes no sense. Instead, a concept such as the resolution of the video being captured applies. It refers to the size of the frame, which is measured in the number of points horizontally and vertically.
The higher the resolution, the better the picture will be.
- 320×240 pixels is the minimum resolution for webcams. It allows you to Skype, and no more;
- 640×480 pixels (0.3 MP) is the standard resolution of most webcams. It can be used for video conferences and recording simple videos;
- 1280×960 pixels (1 MP) and higher – a high resolution, which allows you to not only Skype, but also take high-quality photos or shoot video.
Keep in mind that many manufacturers are using marketing tricks and specify interpolated (software-modified) resolution instead of native. In this case the picture quality will still be poor, despite the impressive figures on the box.
There are two ways of measuring sensor sensitivity – in ISO equivalent and in lux. It depends on how much “noise” the camera will make if the lighting in the room is insufficient.
If you plan to shoot a lot and often in shaded or darkened areas, you need a matrix with high sensitivity – a high ISO or low one in lux.
Shooting speed (number of frames per second)
This parameter defines the “smoothness” of perception of the image. So if your webcam captures less than 30 frames per second, it can cause some unpleasant “jerking” of objects in the frame. Optimal fps for Skype or video recording is 40.
But remember, the higher the resolution of the sensor and the more frames it acquires per second, the wider the bandwidth (fast Internet) the camera requires. For example, if you connect a 6-megapixel sensor that shoots 60 fps to a 2-megabit channel, the image will be “jerky” and full of artifacts, just like a 200 ruble camera.
Most webcams connect to your computer via USB and even work without any drivers installed by the user. However, you can also find models on the market that involve wireless connection to the PC – Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Such cameras are quite expensive, and their purchase should be justified.
In the ultra-budget segment you can find webcams with a microphone, which are equipped with two plugs – USB and 3.A 5mm audio jack. If the microphone jack on the back is already occupied, you should look for another model. Nevertheless, this configuration has an important advantage – the microphone or camera can be disabled at the hardware level, leaving the functionality of the other.
Operating system support
The vast majority of webcams can work with any operating system – thanks to Windows drivers and an API system for alternatives. However, some models – often the most technically advanced – do not have this kind of compatibility.
So if you use any operating system other than Windows – it is worth checking whether the webcam will work in your environment.
Almost all modern webcams are equipped with a built-in microphone. It is convenient for video conferences and voice communication. But in most cases, this microphone is not too practical – it is not directional, is rarely equipped with a noise cancelling system and usually has a low sensitivity.
So if you need a really good quality sound recording, it’s better to use a separate microphone. But buy a camera without it. Or with a microphone, which can be disabled at the software or hardware level.
Among the additional hardware and software functions that can be implemented in a webcam, the most practical are:
- Auto focus – allows you to keep the subject (e.g. the face of a person during a video conference) in focus, even if it is moving;
- Image stabilization – suitable for shooting on the move or actively moving objects;
- Automatic correction of image parameters (contrast, saturation, colors, etc.).d.) – provides a better “picture”;
- LED backlight – for filming in the dark;
- The backlighting is infrared – for surveillance systems;
- Automatic rotation mechanism – also used in video surveillance.
This is not a complete list of optional features. However, the more features a camera offers, the more it costs. And, before you overpay for auto focus and optical zoom, you should decide – and whether they are needed?
Webcams are used in most cases to communicate over the Internet. For video recording and other purposes, they’re not as good as specialized equipment. Therefore when choosing a webcam one should be guided by the principle of “reasonable sufficiency” – too high resolution, frame rate and light sensitivity may simply not be necessary, while they increase the cost of the device many times.
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