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What Should I Consider When Buying a Webcam?

Phil Shepley
Phil Shepley

Usually the first thing you will consider when buying a webcam is how much money that you are willing to spend. Fortunately, because of constant advances in technology, you do not necessarily need to spend a lot of money to get a versatile webcam with many useful features. A webcam can have many uses, and you should first think about all of the things that you might use it for once you bring it home. These useful devices can be used as video phones, to record videos, to take pictures, to stream live video on the Internet, and even as security devices to monitor your home or office while you are not there.

As priorities go with buying a webcam, the quality of the camera’s picture ranks right up there with the cost that many people are willing to pay, and the price will usually increase as the picture quality increases. The picture quality of a webcam is determined by its resolution, which is expressed by the total number of pixels. Webcams with a moderate maximum resolution, for example 960 by 720 pixels, are usually all that is necessary for the camera to be able to capture relatively clear motion video. You might want to consider a camera with a high resolution, for instance 1600 by 1200 pixels, if you are planning on taking still pictures with the camera or if you would like to send high quality video over the web. Also keep in mind that your computer will need to have a fast processor and a good graphics card to see the webcam’s maximum potential, including a high amount of frames per second for better quality video.

A webcam.
A webcam.

You will also need to have a high-speed internet connection if you plan on sending and receiving video via a webcam. There are many websites where you can communicate with others via video chat, and some even offer free services to connect with other people online. Other services and programs allow you to set up a home security network that utilizes the potential of a web camera, and can even have the camera turn on when it detects motion in the area being monitored.

A laptop with a webcam built in.
A laptop with a webcam built in.

Most webcams are small enough to be portable, but size may be a factor for you if you have a laptop computer and plan on using a camera outside of your home. Another feature to consider is a built-in microphone, and some webcams have more advanced microphones than others, with noise filters, sound detection and more. Other features to keep in mind include digital zoom, automatic face tracking, effective pixel resolution, and the type of mounting device that comes with the webcam.

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Discussion Comments


When buying a home webcam for security purposes, does anyone know if you can turn off the red recording light, while still having your cam film? Is there any inexpensive software that can program your computer to register movement and begin filming?

I would like to have my webcam set up in my dorm because I suspect my roommates are taking my things without asking and it is driving me up the wall.

I think having some evidence will prevent them from invading my privacy in the future.


Webcams have become a great item to have at home. I use one to stay in touch with my family around the country.

I recommend if you are buying a webcam to go with the highest resolution possible. If you go with a low resolution your image will be grainy and the contrast is often terrible.

Pretty much, you get what you pay for when it comes to purchasing a webcam. Some are as cheap as $9.99, while others go up into the hundreds of dollars.

If you are unsure about your computer's capabilities, a lot of computer stores can help you over the phone to figure out what webcam will work best with your system.

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    • A webcam.
      A webcam.
    • A laptop with a webcam built in.
      By: romantiche
      A laptop with a webcam built in.
    • Webcams come with different features and should be chosen depending on their intended use.
      By: carlosseller
      Webcams come with different features and should be chosen depending on their intended use.