What to Look for When Buying a Webcam

Webcams make communicating over the web feel more personal and offer an inexpensive way to chat face-to-face when you can’t be there in person.  Besides video calling and video-conferencing, web cams can be used to remotely monitor the security of your home or office, or to add videos and still pictures to your social networking sites, blog or other website. If you are thinking about getting a webcam but are unsure about making a selection, here are a few pointers on what to look for when buying a webcam. Resolution Picture resolution is measured in pixels.  The higher the pixel rate, the better the resolution and image quality, with standard webcams having a rate of 640×480 pixels. High-end webcams can record at rates between 1600×1200 pixels up to high definition quality, and are best suited to professional video conferencing. Most webcams a capable of capturing still images however since the resolution is actually achieved through software manipulation, the actual images aren’t as sharp or clear as they appear to be. Frame rate Video is comprised of a consecutive series of still pictures changing at a frequency that gives the viewer the impression they are watching a motion picture. The higher the number of frames per second (FPS) shown, the smoother the video will appear. For home users who will be using their webcam for video calls and instant messaging, a frame rate of 30 FPS will suffice.  For businesses frequently conducting video conferencing, higher refresh rates of 50-60 FPS offered by more expensive hardware would be more suitable. Audio Capability If you intend on using your webcam for video calling, video-conferencing or instant messaging, ensure you select one with a built-in microphone with noise-cancelling technology. For those just looking for a webcam to hook up to a security monitoring system, a webcam without audio capability that includes a motion sensor will best suit your needs. Lens type Webcams have either a plastic or glass lenses.  Glass lenses provide far superior image quality to plastic lenses, but are more expensive.  Since the lens type is not usually specified on the packaging, ensure you have a closer look at the camera before purchasing it. Look for a webcam with auto-focus capabilities that can adjust to lighting conditions.  You will need to keep your lighting in mind when using your webcam as some do not perform well in low light. Other Important Considerations To make the most of your webcam, high-speed broadband Internet access is a must because the speed of your connection will ultimately effect your frame rate. If you have an older computer, you may find it beneficial to buy a more expensive webcam.  This way the camera rather than the computer does the image processing, giving you better picture quality. Also consider you computer’s display type. Will your webcam be sitting on a flat surface or will you be using propping it on top of your LCD or laptop screen? Ensure you choose a webcam that can properly sit where you intend to put it. In conclusion, how you will be using your webcam will determine the features you require.  Choose the best webcam for your budget with the features most suitable for your needs.

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