Always look your best from the waist up when working or socializing online. That means not merely dressing appropriately, but using the best possible webcam. The last column highlighted online software to facilitate personal and business connections over the internet. Here’s the hardware to enhance your online presence.
In August, after a long wait, I finally scored a Logitech 922 webcam. During the first five months of the pandemic, obtaining a quality webcam proved as elusive as staying safe from the virus.
The high-definition (1080p) 922 delivered on every promise. It seemed a great deal at $98. Now it’s only $83 on Amazon. Associates at the other end of my video conferences even commented on the great quality. There’s also the slight-step-down model 920 for $75.
The technology itch demands scratching, so last month, I upgraded to the
Logitech Brio, which ranges in price from $160-$184 on Amazon.
The main difference between the newer Brio and the 922 is that the Brio captures 4K resolution and uses a real glass lens. It also comes with a flimsy lens cover for privacy.
While most people neither have the need nor bandwidth to videoconference in 4K, the Brio captures terrific 1080p resolution with excellent sound quality. The improved lens makes a subtle difference. It also offers high dynamic range for even clearer images with improved contrast.
No matter which model you choose, Logitech includes a powerful, amazing app providing complete control over your video.
With the Brio, it permits panning, tilting, zooming and controlling the field of view from 65 to 90 degrees. Thus, if you work in a messy office or conference from a closet, you can adjust the settings to hide the clutter or claustrophobia. You also can select frame rate and exposure as well as white balance (for which there is an “auto” setting).
There are several more esoteric settings, including chroma key, which permits superimposing your image over other backgrounds. Recording software allows making videos in addition to live streaming. The software alone justifies the price of the webcams.
Logitech mice and keyboards worked well and reliably for me for the past 20 years, always outlasting similar Microsoft products. Thus, there’s good reason to believe in an ample lifespan for Logitech webcams.
If for some reason you prefer a different style and design than Logitech, the Razor Kiyo receives highly favorable online reviews. It costs about $84 on Amazon. A ring of light circling the camera sets it apart by properly lighting your face.
Lighting makes a great deal of difference in video quality. Light should not be too “cool,” which means over 5,500K, or too “warm,” below about 3,500K. Too cool and you look pale; too warm, and you appear too ruddy.
With modern LED light sources, you can select your color temperature. The light should not project directly at your eyes, which might make you squint or look away from the camera. It should not beam from straight overhead or below, giving you unflattering shadows. Diffuse, ambient lighting is good with perhaps enhancement from the left and right of the screen.
Of course, the screen itself provides its own diffuse lighting. You can buy inexpensive LED clip-on lights with adjustable color temperature for $25.
Your laptop includes a built-in camera, so why not rely on it? The cameras in laptops are mainly an afterthought. They adequately capture your image but lack the versatility, flexibility and image quality of a good standalone webcam. You can use an external webcam with your laptop by selecting it in the Windows settings.
The selfie cameras in smartphones are also an option. While some capture reasonable quality, it’s always obvious when you conference from a phone. If you rely on a phone, use a tripod. The drawback is that the screen image is tiny compared with laptops and desktop monitors.