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13 Webcams Reviewed

Product Survey: Webcams

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.

  • vaskodogama
    does really a webcam need to be reviewd? :D
  • Gutbop
    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.
  • Gutbop
    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.
  • vaskodogama
    hey man! I was joking, Great article! ;)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    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.

    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor of Tom's Guide
  • hellwig
    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.
  • michaelahess
    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.
  • crystalized
    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.
  • 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 (
  • JonnyDough
    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?