Why Webcams Aren’t Good Enough

Standalone webcams… stink. I wrote a big article explaining why, and was interviewed about it by MacVoices.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s funny how things seem quiet from the outside for long stretches, and then I have lots of news to share all at once. 2020 was a very busy year for me (for which I am thankful each day), with several overlapping deadlines, so I suppose it makes sense that the products of that work would arrive around the same time. Earlier this week I shared a great review of my book Take Control of Managing Your Files along with a pair of MacVoices interviews I did to talk about the book.

Now, I want to spotlight another big project I worked on. Earlier in the year I wrote a pair of articles for Reincubate, the developer of Camo, an app that turns your iPhone or iPad into a webcam. One piece was about how to look your best on a video call; the other looked at the differences in video call quality between webcams, iPhones, and DSLRs.

In my testing, I came to the conclusion that standalone webcams… well, they stink! I thought maybe it was just me, but in talking with the folks at Reincubate, they were seeing the same thing. That’s what inspired them to create Reincubate Camo in the first place, so people could take advantage of the camera technology in the phones they carry every day.

But the issue wasn’t just that Camo gives you better picture quality. I wanted to dig into why webcam technology is so far behind. Even today, in 2021, the Logitech C920 is recommended by many, many magazines and outlets as being the best webcam you can buy. The C920 was released 8 years ago and is still essentially the same hardware. It has terrible color and blows out highlights. Logitech’s top-of-the-line BRIO 4K webcam, which retails for $200 but for most of last year couldn’t be had for less than $350 if you could find one at all, does a better job with highlights but is strangely soft and blurry. The Kiyo Razer, a clever webcam with a built-in ring light, has so much trouble focusing that it can give you a headache if you don’t sit completely still.

webcams-stink-4up

So I wrote a giant, 5,000-plus word article breaking it all down: Why webcams aren’t good enough. It’s full of example images and video comparisons, details my methodology, and speculates about why the webcam field has been largely stagnant.

Although the article was written for Reincubate, and they paid me to write it, you’ll see that I approached the entire thing objectively. You’ll also discover the not-so-secret secret of webcams and video calls: more light makes a huge difference.

When I started writing the piece, I’d just done an interview with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices, and I mentioned it was on my plate. So, we agreed to talk about it after the article was published. If you’re not already tired of seeing my mug in all the sample images from the article, Chuck’s two-part interview with me to talk about my findings and demonstrate some of the cameras in real time is now posted:

If you like the work I do, please consider signing up for my low-volume newsletter that I use to announce new projects, items, and giveaways that I think my readers would be interested in.

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