An increasing number of online internet services are supporting video calls, and this means that more people now need or want to have a webcam. The majority of laptops today come with a webcam built in. These sit just above the screen, and are often able to shoot video at around 1 to 1.3mp. Many will take still images too, though these are generally of poor quality compared to the average compact digital camera, and they tend to perform poorly in low light.
If your computer did not come with a webcam installed, or if you are looking for a model that will perform better than your current camera, then you have a wide range of choice available.
At the lowest end of the performance scale are the small webcams that are plug and play. Generally these are very easy to use, needing only to be plugged into your USB port. They often require little or no configuration, but can be fine tuned through the service that you are connecting to with them.
These cameras will generally shoot low quality images and video, but these are still normally good enough for use on a video chat. On the plus side, the lower quality videos generally require less bandwidth to send, and hence send quickly and easy.
For low light video chats there are webcams that come with their own light source. These will either have a single bright light, or will have a series of lights that surround the camera and light up the subject. They are not not bright enough to light people a long way away, but are sufficient to maintain a video chat up close when the lighting isn’t the best.
Midrange models will include other features, including high definition video and one click upload of photos to social networking sites. They may have a wider angle lens, and noise reduction in order to improve the viewing quality of the videos and photos that you take with them.
The most expensive webcams will cost you around 100 or more. These may be able to shoot photographs at up to 10mp, and video at up to 5mp. Shooting in high definition as well, these give the best results possible. Other features on these high end models include better, more clear and accurate lenses, autofocus, and low light correction. Many webcams, across the price range also have a microphone built in, allowing you to not only have a video chat, but use voice as well.
Ultimately, it should be remembered that a higher quality, high definition video stream is likely to need a higher bandwidth in order to send it to the other party, and they will need a high bandwidth connection in order to receive it. This can mean, especially at peak usage times, your higher quality video may not send well.
For basic video chat, a high quality camera is not necessary, especially if your internet connection speeds are poor. However if you plan on using your camera for recording other video, or using for instance as a nanny cam, then a more expensive, more fully featured camera may be the one for you.