You can buy these cheap webcams on Amazon right now, but are they any good?
Video conferencing is clearly part of our new normal, and if you’re working from home, you probably need a webcam. Most of the major webcams are out of print and slow to restock, but there are plenty of webcams with lesser-known names that you can buy on Amazon for a fraction of the price. The question is, are they good?
We bought six inexpensive webcams from Amazon, got them in two days, and compared them with each other and with two models from famous brands to see how they stack up.
Brand reference: Logitech C922 and Razer Kiyo
We’ll start with two branded webcams to establish a baseline. the Logitech C922 is a $ 100 model that can record 1080p video at 30 fps and 720p at 60 fps. It features autofocus and light correction, a 78-degree field of view, and stereo microphones. The C922 also comes with a desktop tripod, so you can use it on a flat surface, as well as on top of your monitor. Not all of the unbranded webcams we tested did not have a tripod, but did feature monitor clips similar in design to the C922.
The C922 is a small but well built, measuring just under four inches wide and just over an inch high. The lens is tiny, but that’s the norm for webcams. Stereo microphones are a welcome touch, allowing you to capture mono or stereo sound and generally get nice and full sound.
The monitor clip is a flat plate of black plastic on a hinge, with soft-touch rubber on the underside and on a small foot that turns around to help stabilize the webcam against the back of your monitor. You can also bend the clip closed and use a built-in tripod hole with the included tripod, or any other standard tripod.
The C922 captures a well-exposed image, even if the facial details look a bit soft. The stereo microphones pick up my voice well enough to hear it, but it is full of echoes and distant sounds.
the Razer kiyo is another $ 100 webcam. It can capture videos in 1080p30 or 720p60 and has an 81.6 degree field of view. It doesn’t have stereo or tripod microphones like the C922, but it does have a built-in LED light ring to light up your face even in dark environments.
The Kiyo is completely circular, with the lens mounted directly in the center and the white ring light around it. The sides of the camera are a movable wheel to adjust the brightness of the ring light when in use. The monitor clip is a thick, washer-shaped base that folds to function as a table stand or unfolds to attach to the top of your monitor. It also has a tripod mounting hole.
The camera captures a very sharp image, showing a lot of detail in my beard and on my shirt. Unfortunately, the microphone is so soft that it is almost unusable; clearly speaking at the same volume I addressed the C922 to, all I can hear is a quiet mumble in my test recording.
So, among the more expensive branded webcams, the C922 offers better sound, while the Kiyo offers a much better picture. Neither is particularly excellent overall, with each exhibiting some form of weakness in terms of visual clarity or sound quality.
The much more expensive Logitech StreamCam at $ 170 shows neither of these issues, with good sound and crisp 1080p60 video, but it’s almost twice the price of one of these branded webcams, and several times the price. than the affordable models we tested.
Now that we’ve established a branded baseline for webcams, let’s take a look at the lesser-known webcams we have on Amazon. Above is a comparison video we shot of the eight webcams, so you can see the difference between them for yourself.
The Nexigo webcam clearly reproduces the design of the Kiyo, with a circular body and an LED light ring built around the lens. Ring light is adjusted by a silver touch sensor just below the lens, rather than a rotating dial on the camera body. It sports stereo microphones, seen through two small holes on the back. The monitor clip is about as well designed as that of the C922; it unfolds with an extra stand to help stabilize the camera when mounted on top of a monitor, and it also has a screw tripod mount.
Video quality is roughly equal to or slightly lower than that of the C922, with an image generally slightly blurry. The lens is also a bit tighter than the C922 or Kiyo lenses, although the product page says it is “wide angle”. The sound quality is significantly worse than that of the C922, although it is in fact audible, which puts it a step above the Kiyo.
The Jelly Comb is one of the prettiest webcams I’ve tested, featuring a horizontal cylindrical design with a prominent lens and a silver stripe to break up black plastic. The lens mount tells two lies about microphones, however, with two sets of “pinholes” molded from solid plastic to give the impression of a set of stereo microphones, and a bit of a metal grille folded over to the right. to refer to another microphone that is larger than what is actually on the webcam. In reality, the webcam mic is the little pinhole to the right of the lens mount. The monitor clip is almost identical to that of the Nexigo, with the flip up stand and tripod mount.
The test recording I made with this webcam offers some of the best sounds, tempered by one of the worst images in the bunch. My voice is clearer than on the C922, but every detail of the frame seems blurry.
The Vitade webcam is almost identical to the Nexigo, except that its light ring is circular rather than pinched at the sides. It has the same body shape, the same touch sensor for the ring light (which is also weaker than the light on the Kiyo), and the same monitor clip as the Nexigo and Jelly Comb.
This is where you can start to see that many of these webcams use some of the same parts. This is also felt on the video quality side. The image and sound of the Vitade are identical to those of the Nexigo: the lens is a bit tight, the sound is muffled, and the image is a bit blurry, but not unusable for video chat.
It’s the biggest webcam in the group, and the only one with a detachable cable. All other models, including the C922 and Kiyo, have wired USB cables, while the Depstech camera has a micro USB port on the back. Other than that, the design is tall and drab, featuring a large pill-shaped black plastic body with a flat face with a lens placed in the center. There are stereo microphones, and they’re actually front mounted unlike the Nexigo and Vitade. It really cuts corners on the monitor clip, as it doesn’t have a stabilizing foot or tripod mount.
The Depstech webcam can record in QHD (2560 by 1440), making it the highest resolution of any webcam in this group. That said, I captured a test video at 1080p to directly compare the general video quality with other webcams, for consistency.
This camera has one of the widest lenses in the bunch, capturing a frame as large as that of the Kiyo. It’s not as sharp, but it’s usable. The sound is the big surprise here, however. The Depstech webcam microphones are the most sensitive I have known on any webcam to date. This is not necessarily a good thing, however; you can hear the audio clipping of me speaking at a fairly normal volume, and my voice sounds like that of an adult from a Peanuts cartoon.
The Whew webcam looks like a thinner version of the Depstech, with a lens in the center and a single pinhole microphone instead of a stereo. The monitor clip is downright tiny, and again, it lacks a stabilizing foot (so securing it to the top of your monitor can be tricky) or a tripod mount.
It has a relatively narrow lens, like the Nexigo and the Vitade. The audio and video quality is also very similar, with a somewhat blurry picture and muffled sound. I wouldn’t be surprised if the internal camera components are nearly identical to those of the Nexigo and Vitade, just without the ring light.
Finally, we come to a shameless imitation of the C922, the Firsting webcam. It’s clearly designed to resemble the Logitech model, with distinctive stereo microphone “ears” on the sides of the lens. But it’s not as well done as the C922, with much less detail, a more fragile build, and no indicator lights. It comes with a small monitor clip without a stand or tripod mount.
The video of the first is blurry, but the sound is some of the best in the bunch. The audio is clear, although it has a slightly muffled echo. While it looks and feels cheap, the Whew’s performance is pretty decent across the board.
Are cheap webcams worth it?
Well, the good news is that all of those cheap webcams that you can buy on Amazon are working fine. Considering they cost a fraction of the price, it’s no surprise that none of them come close to the Razer Kiyo’s video quality, and only one has sound quality close to the Logitech C922. These are still perfectly usable webcams and are probably a slight upgrade from what’s built into your laptop.
Sound quality is an issue across the board, not only for webcams purchased by Amazon, but also for models from well-known brands. Unless your room is an acoustically ideal space, you should seriously consider getting a separate microphone or using headphones with a decent boom mic for much better audio quality than anything these webcams can capture. A Blue snowball ice The mic costs just $ 50 and will produce much clearer sound than a webcam’s microphone can provide.
It’s also worth noting that if you have a decent digital camera, you might not need to purchase a webcam at all. Check out our guide to using your digital camera as a webcam to get started.