Web Camera Buying Guide

Most laptop computers now come equipped with a web camera that lets you use Skype and other programs to chat with friends and family around the world. If you have a desktop computer though, or the camera on your laptop stops working, you can purchase a new camera that works with that computer. These cameras let you feel like you're in the same room as your loved ones.

Types of Web Cameras

Looking at some of the more common types of web cameras can help you decide which one will work best with your computer and for your needs. Integrated cameras refer to those that come already installed on your computer. A common problem users encounter is that these cameras are fairly basic in nature and do not capture the clarity they want. You'll also find that you cannot move that camera around or adjust the angle without moving your entire computer.

Standalone cameras are similar to integrated cameras. These web cams often look like a large or small ball with a glass or plastic lens in the center and a clip on the bottom. You attach that clips to the top of your monitor or another flat surface. You'll also need to plug the attached cord into a free USB port on your computer. Most standalone cameras only capture video and not sound.

If you want to talk over the Internet without constantly typing, you'll want to look for a web camera with an integrated microphone. Though these models are more expensive, your friends and loved ones will have the chance to hear your voice. Some models come with a built-in microphone, but other models require that you connect your own microphone to the camera.

Another type of web camera that you might want to invest in is a network camera. Designed for use in security or surveillance applications, these cameras are much more expensive but some with more features too. Many have motion activated alerts that automatically turn on the camera when it detects motion. These cameras will record video to your computer and use the wireless Internet connection in your home to connect itself to that computer.

Pay Attention to


Megapixels refer to the number of pixels found in a single image. Cheaper cameras typically feature fewer of these pixels, which gives the image a grainy look. Some of the more expensive models use a 640 X 480 resolution. While this gives you a much clearer image, you may want a camera with an even better resolution. Some of the more expensive and higher end cameras come with HD resolution that provides up to 1280 X 720 resolution. This is similar to the number of megapixels your digital camera gets.


If you want a surveillance camera that you can hook up to your security system to record intruders and keep an eye on your house while at work or on vacation, you may not care about size. If you want a camera you can use with your laptop computer while sitting on the couch or lounging in bed, size matters. A smaller camera can clip right onto the top of your laptop or the edge of your desktop monitor and let you chat with others without worrying about tripping over the cord or the camera getting in your way.

Light sensitivity

Light sensitivity refers to the amount of light that the camera needs. Most of the cheaper web cameras that you come across will not have a light sensitivity feature. When using it in lower light conditions, you'll notice that the image has a dark look. Those that offer more light sensitivity will filter the video to give others a better look at you.

Operating system

Most of the web cameras that you see today work with PC and laptop computers. You can plug the included cord into your computer and start using the camera right away or after downloading some new software. If you have a Mac, you must find a camera designed for Apple computers.

Frame rate

Web cameras use different frame rates when capturing moving videos. A smaller frame rate of around 15 to 20 frames per second will capture video filled with glitches that makes you look shaky. You generally want a web camera that has a frame rate of 30 frames per second or more, which will create a more fluid and naturally looking video. Some of the higher end web cams you'll find in stores today can capture as many as 40 to 50 frames per second or even more, which is similar to the frame rate found in professional video cameras.

Top Brands and Product Lines


Pro Webcams: Higher resolutions and more megapixels make these webcams suitable for professionals rather than amateurs.

HD Webcams: The HD line of webcams come with more megapixels than the base models but are easy enough for amateurs to use.

Live!: The most affordable of Logitech cameras are the Live! products that take still pictures and capture moving images with less megapixels than the more expensive models.


D-Like makes home security and surveillance cameras that you can hook up to a computer to record video during the day or at night.


LifeCam Studio: With a clip that connects right onto your monitor and an HD sensor that tracks all movements, you can use this line of products as webcams or security cameras.


Live!: Similar to the Live! cams sold by Logitech, Creative cams capture crystal clear videos and images right on your computer.