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13 Webcams Reviewed

13 Webcams Reviewed
By
The Tests

We test Webcams in various situations: during the day with good lighting to see how they fare in optimal conditions, and at night under poor lighting.

We also test additional functions like the zoom, Face Tracking, and the microphone, (whether its external or integrated).

A series of test cards helps us to determine a webcam's capacity to distinguish color nuances (particularly in flesh tones) and its sharpness.

Finally, we check its default configuration for settings such as contrast and brightness to see if better results can be achieved with manual configuration.

Once seen as a powerful application for professionals, videoconferencing is now within reach of the majority of computer users thanks to the widespread popularity of USB webcams. Our Product Survey looks at which will really help bring you closer to your contacts and buddies.

There's still a clear market leader in the world of webcams--Logitech--though its competitors are continuing to gain ground.

With more and more people enjoying fast broadband connections, the popularity of videoconferencing continues to grow and there are now several manufacturers eager to get a bite of a market that includes, for instance, the 14.5 million users on Microsoft's Messenger network alone.

How much should you pay?

There are plenty of webcams out there that cost less than $20, but you really don't get a lot for your money at that price point.

Your contacts will barely be able to figure out who you are, and should be able to hear you, but moving up to around $25 can make all the difference.

Movements will appear more fluid, ghosting will be less apparent and you'll have access to functions.

Creative, for example, includes software to use your webcam as a surveillance camera, for instance while Hercules has cameras that are preconfigured to allow you to upload your content straight to YouTube.

Beyond $60, you move into the world of high-end webcams, and the quality of both audio and video really climbs.

Another big advantage with these more costly models is that they often include an autofocus system-- feature so useful that we've decided to make it a pre-requisite for achieving five stars.

Without this system, other webcams have to make do with a manual focus controlled by turning a ring around the lens.

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  • -7 Hide
    vaskodogama , March 31, 2009 10:27 PM
    does really a webcam need to be reviewd? :D 
  • 1 Hide
    Gutbop , April 1, 2009 12:54 AM
    Yeah, I think it's a great review. I just purchased a 25.5" Asus monitor with a built in 2.0MP Bright Cam. My wife got on a video conference with her friends and loved it, so now I'm looking for one for her. By the way, how do these compare with my built-in Web Cam? I can't find any specs other than the 2.0MP.
  • 1 Hide
    Gutbop , April 1, 2009 1:41 AM
    However... It would have been nice to have a price list (there's not even a mention of price in each respective camera's review), and maybe a summary at the end showing prices and ratings. And maybe a top pick in a couple of price categories.
  • 1 Hide
    vaskodogama , April 1, 2009 9:39 AM
    hey man! I was joking, Great article! ;) 
  • -1 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , April 1, 2009 3:41 PM
    GutbopHowever... It would have been nice to have a price list (there's not even a mention of price in each respective camera's review), and maybe a summary at the end showing prices and ratings. And maybe a top pick in a couple of price categories.

    Hey Gutbop,

    Check the right-hand side of each page for pricing info on the units. We use a search engine to display the price results because the prices for this kind of product are so variable across retailers.

    Thanks,
    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor of Tom's Guide
  • 0 Hide
    hellwig , April 1, 2009 5:37 PM
    Its a shame that only a single webcam seemed to come with security software (scheduled snapshots or motion detection). However, with free software such as Yawcam, I don't suppose its too big a deal.

    While I'm sure overall image quality has improved, these new cams don't seem to be any more functional than my 9 year old logitec QuickCam Express (the white golfball webcam). Sure some have face tracking (how well does that work with limited field of view anyway?), but the overall low resolution and general lack of autofocus on most of these cameras just doesn't justify an upgrade. Although the built-in microphones might be nice, sometimes you just need voice-chat, meaning a microphone built into the webcam might be unnecessary or redundant.
  • 0 Hide
    michaelahess , April 1, 2009 7:24 PM
    I'd like to see more photos, quality is my number one concern. Also, how will any of these work in a meeting room environment. Is it plausable to use them for conference's? I guess audio would be the biggest issue with that.
  • 1 Hide
    crystalized , April 1, 2009 10:20 PM
    no conclusion pages ? would've been nice to see what is the best webcam available on the market, what webcam has the best price/performance ratio, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 2, 2009 2:36 AM
    That Creative bundles home surveillance software hardly matters - the best-of-breed (for non technical users) is HomeCamera, and that's a free download from their site (www.homecamera.com).
  • 0 Hide
    JonnyDough , April 2, 2009 12:22 PM
    Hey, I live in a college dorm and a few of my roommates don't have a PC. My roommates aren't to enter my room without permission/unless I'm there. I'm looking for webcam software that I can use to view my room but that I can leave on the screen because my one friend can and does use my PC sometimes for writing papers. I want to see who comes in my room, especially on the weekends when I often travel home. It would be cool if it would automatically boot as well from Windows Startup in case of a crash without a splash screen. I'd like it to be able to email me motion detected snapshots or something. Anyone know of any software that will do all of this?

    ~Jonny
  • 0 Hide
    JonnyDough , April 2, 2009 12:23 PM
    Dangit, we need an edit button. What I wanted to ask is there a program that is COMPLETELY HIDEABLE that will do all that.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 2, 2009 7:24 PM
    I agree with crystalized - a summary table or conclusion would have been nice for those not wanting to read every page.
  • -1 Hide
    Thunderfox , April 3, 2009 3:12 AM
    Reviews? On my TGH? It's less likely than you think.

    I thought all they did was opinion polls.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , April 3, 2009 8:27 AM
    What would have been nice is two identical sample photos taken with each camera. One in proper lighting conditions and one in dark.

    Without them, the review is rather useless for me. I mean, one sample photo included cheesy video effects. How am I to compare the quality of that one to another which has a normal shot. Not to mention the ones which don't have a shot at all.
  • 0 Hide
    mitcoes16 , April 3, 2009 12:42 PM
    i do like comparative tables, with actual prices, and, of course, Mac OSX, and Linux drivers and features for this systems. I use several OSs, and i do like products compatible with all of them, and if it possible with all the features at every system.
  • 0 Hide
    mitcoes16 , April 3, 2009 12:42 PM
    i do like comparative tables, with actual prices, and, of course, Mac OSX, and Linux drivers and features for this systems. I use several OSs, and i do like products compatible with all of them, and if it possible with all the features at every system.
  • 0 Hide
    joe 90 , April 7, 2009 11:36 AM
    oops
  • 0 Hide
    joe 90 , April 7, 2009 11:55 AM
    michaelahessI'd like to see more photos, quality is my number one concern. Also, how will any of these work in a meeting room environment. Is it plausable to use them for conference's? I guess audio would be the biggest issue with that.


    Hi Michael, we use a mixture of desktop and meeting room set-ups using Nefsis Video Conferencing. We find the L'tech Pro900 is great for small rooms (we did use the L'tech Sphere but had too many issues!). For larger rooms you can a Sony evi-d70 with a frame grabber (e.g. Osprey 100 - works well). Unfortunately it seems that there is a big gulf between top end webcams and meeting room based cameras. Anyone got any other suggestions?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , April 14, 2009 5:12 AM
    What about the HP webcam? I have one, and it is great in dark & light. Autofocus is included, along with security software, et al.
    Why miss this one???
    Its also able to do 12MP stills as well... I don't get why this was forgotten in the rush to do Logitech & Microsoft (predominantly) webcams...
  • 0 Hide
    mrcomment , April 25, 2009 9:54 AM
    I think that quick cam pro 9000 is the best choice today. You can compare it with other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/Webcams/194--Logitech_QuickCam_Pro_9000_Webcam.aspx or find other webcams at http://www.coolcheapest.com/webcams.aspx.
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