Very good webcam, and good enough for streaming content, but not sure it's quite worth the expense
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 March 2021
When we first went into Lockdown and everyone was working from home, what seems like a thousand years ago, you couldn't get hold of a webcam for love nor money. Not a decent name-brand one at least. My company laptop has a built in webcam, but it's awful. Truly awful. It took a few months before I managed to bag a Logitech C920. They've been around for years, but it was a huge step up in quality, and I use it on my works laptop extensively. Sometimes up to 8-10 hours a day. And on my own laptop I have a high-end Logitech Brio which I use for my streaming videos.
In fact, I've become something of a webcam/streaming camera nerd in the last 10 months, and have put together a multi-camera system. Since the first Lockdown I've been working from home and slowly evolved the third bedroom/box room into my office/pocket Broadcasting House. From the early weeks of doing my daily video calls to my colleagues and clients via the very ropey integral built-in camera in my company HP ProBook I am now streaming games across YouTube and Facebook with multiple cameras operating at once.
Despite being exactly a year since the original Lockdown began, webcams can still be quite difficult to get hold of and are commanding a premium. So, you begin to look around at what else is on offer. And you'll find a lot of little-known brands, or cameras that don't even have a brand. But are they any good? Do they even justify the small cost compared to a premium camera? I decided to pit five cameras against each other to show the difference. The two cameras from Logitech, and three budget cameras each promising different image quality. 1080, 2k and 4k. What did I find?
I will state right away that these are taken using the standard Windows Camera app. Although I've put them all together in Adobe Premier there has been absolutely no pre or post editing going on here to manipulate the image. The video review I did was done using my Blue Yeti condensing microphone for sound, however for each camera I state where I change to the internal microphone so that you can hear for yourself the difference. The videos were taken with each cameras best resolution setting but nothing else was touched. I've not played with or manipulated anything, simply plugged them in by USB and let Windows install them as standard.
The Logitech C920 has proven itself to be a fantastic camera, one that I would seriously recommend to anyone. It can sometimes be difficult to get hold of, and varies wildly in price, but if you can get hold of one at a reasonable price it’s the one I’d recommend to anyone. Seeing the footage side by side with the more expensive Logitech Brio I’d argue the standard settings make for a more natural feel. It’s only 1080 Full HD at 30fps, but it does this very well. There is no fish-eye distortion of the image. It comes with access to Logitech’s Capture software which gives you greater freedom of setting it up, including zoom and moving the centre of focus around. It is a standard USB A port connection, and comes with a mount to attach to the top of your screen which is good, however doesn’t have any method of rotating where the camera points. It’s a straight-on view only, so if you want more versatility you’ll need a tripod with a moveable head, which you can connect via the standard tripod mount under the mount.
The camera had a very visible pair of blue lights that come on when the camera is on, which is great. It doesn’t come as standard though without a lens cover, which is a disappointment, but I fashioned my own out of a bit of black card. Overall though, of all of the cameras I’ve used, I’ve found it to be the best all-rounder and best balance of quality against cost.
Logitech Brio 4K:
Not long ago I upgraded the C920 to a Brio 4K. It was more than twice as expensive as the C920, and I was expecting good things. If I’m honest, I feel it doesn’t quite hit that expectation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good camera and better than anything I’ve tested. But against the C920 I don’t think it gives good value. The C920 is almost as good a camera, with arguably more natural tones without additional lighting. The Brio only really comes alive when paired with an additional light source. When set up correctly it’s fabulous, but how many people are really going to do that? I’ve got that because I stream to YouTube and you need that, but as a webcam you’re unlikely to go to those lengths. There is no fish-eye distortion of the image.
Like the C920 it has access to Logitech’s Capture software. In here you can control things like HDR, and whether to use 4K recording at 30fps, or 1080 Full HD at 60fps. The camera comes with a decent monitor mount, as well as a lens cover. However, if you wish to put it on a tripod you’ll need to remove the monitor mount to access the standard tripod fixing. That’s not a big issue though and is done in a couple of seconds.
I do have a few criticisms of the camera in operation though. The “on” indicator is quite a bright white light just to the left of the lens and it can be a bit of an irritation. You also find yourself looking at the light because you can’t see the camera lens very easily. Especially in a dark room, you really struggle to centre you vision on the camera. Additionally, the auto-focus does do a bit more hunting around then other cameras I’ve tested. If you wave your hand in an expressive way then you’ll notice on the recording that the focus has shifted noticeably. It is a very good camera, but I really think that the C920 is a better all-rounder.
But what about the budget cameras?
MHYDT 1080 Webcam:
The difference is stark. The budget cameras feel much cheaper. The MHDYT felt little better than the standard of something you'd get out of a Christmas cracker. I'd also say that the little tripod that comes with it is a bit cheap, but it's a passable Gorillacam alternative. But in operation it's passable as a webcam. You're not going to be wanting to stream content to YouTube on it, but as a webcam it's acceptable. With ambient light it's a little on the dark side, but that's better than being oversaturated as you can do something to improve it. Using additional lighting, it's not bad at all. It also has its own integral light ring which is a nice touch and does make a bit of a difference. Not quite as good as a full seperate light ring, but it's not bad. This is a three-step light and a useful inclusion.
For just under half of the price of the Logitech C920, the image is perfectly fine and likely to be a step up from your laptop's built in webcam. It also has a much better lens than the other budget cameras I've tested as there was little to no fish-eye distortion around the outer edges of the screen. The Logitechs don't have any hint of that, but budget cameras are notorious for this. The MHDYT scored well here.
Feimuosi 2K webcam:
The Feimuosi 2K webcam is a camera I tested a few months back. I gave it three stars, and although not currently on sale it is a generic camera chassis and available under other brands across Amazon. I was a little disappointed with the camera's performance, however it doesn't claim to be anything special and is available at a fraction of the price of the others. Usually in the £25 area, which is very good value. The picture is not at the level of the Logitech, suffering pretty nasty fish-eye around the edge of the screen, and the standard image is a touch dark so some detail is lost. However it is quite a nicely balanced image, and a distinct improvement on the in-built camera.
Unbranded 4K Webcam:
The unbranded 4K Webcam in this review had me quite excited before it arrived. I was really looking forward to reviewing this camera, with the claim of 4K at 60 frames per second a stand-out feature despite being a budget camera. Well, I've been left bitterly disappointed if I'm totally blunt. The image is washed out by terrible over exposure, and even sliding the brightness bar in Windows Camera was unable to salvage it. Added to that an awful fish-eye around the edges and it really is a disappointing experience. Despite claiming to be a much higher resolution than the Logitech C920 the Logitech's image detail is significantly better to me. I'm highly dubious about claims of 4K quality.
As a budget option, and if you can't get your hands on a reasonably priced name-brand, then these cheaper cameras can do a job as a webcam. But if you have aspirations of doing any video content for YouTube, Twitch or Facebook gaming I'd recommend spending a little extra and hunting down a C920.
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