Baby's first webcam.
November 23, 2008 3:52 PM   Subscribe

Please help me buy a webcam! I don't know anything about webcams.

So I'm finally succumbing to the requests of distant friends, and am ready to purchase a webcam to use with Skype or Gmail video chat. I have a fairly new Dell desktop, am running Vista, and have no idea whether my computer already has a built-in microphone (I certainly can't see anything that looks like one).

Can you suggest a brand, price range, or list of features I should be looking out for? I will probably end up purchasing through Amazon UK (unless persuaded otherwise), so recommendations for products available through that site would be especially welcome.
posted by hot soup girl to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Most webcams will have a mic built in, so you won't need to worry about that. Just make sure you have a USB port free. Logitech is always a safe bet. You can expect to spend anywhere from $15-$100 depending on quality. But if you're only going to be doing videoconferencing, quality isn't really much of an issue since it will be compressed to hell anyway.
posted by nitsuj at 4:01 PM on November 23, 2008

I would agree with nitsuj that Logitech is a fairly safe (reliable) webcam company (others may have different opinions). I'm using a XP Desktop and the Logitech Orbit webcam. Its a little pricey, but the quality and features (I believe) are definitely worth it. Had it a couple years and havent had a single problem with it.
posted by jmnugent at 4:17 PM on November 23, 2008

I picked a couple of Logitech Quickcam 9000 Pro cameras about two months ago. I couldn't be happier with them, installation and day to day use.
posted by tkolar at 4:36 PM on November 23, 2008

If it's just for Skype, the cheapest available generic webcam you can find on NewEgg should work just fine.
posted by flabdablet at 4:43 PM on November 23, 2008

Seconding the Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000. Used it with Windows XP.
posted by ads at 4:45 PM on November 23, 2008

As nitsuj says, regardless of which webcam you're using and how many megapixels it can handle according to the box, pretty much all consumer videoconferencing software is going to limit you to a pretty low resolution and compress the hell out of the video in order to keep things running smoothly. So, for the most part, top-of-the-range webcams are completely overkill and no better in actual use than generic budget models. I used a cheapo $8 webcam for a pretty long time and was pretty happy with it, evn though the stand was a bit wobbly.

That said, however, I'm now using a Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000 and I'm nthing the previous recommendations. The reason? It's one of the (last time I checked) three cameras that will let you enable the high resolution mode in Skype, and that actually DOES make a pretty huge difference in image quality.

Skype could probably enable that option for other webcams as well, mind you, but they seem to be in league with Logitech or something and will only let you use it with a few, pricey Logitech models. That said, it's totally worth it if you are planning to use Skype a lot — the improvement with regards to SD conferencing is like night and day. You'll need a reasonably recent computer in order for it to work, but any recent-ish dual-core computer should have no problems to handle this.

If you're planning on primarily using software other that Skype, or you have an older computer, or your budget cannot stretch that much, any cheap webcam should keep you satisfied. You'll probably want one with a built-in microphone, but other that that you can simply go for something cheap and cheeful. You're unlikely to notice the difference between a branded model and a generic one.
posted by doctorpiorno at 8:54 PM on November 23, 2008

You can order webcams on eBay for 1 or 2 dollars plus shipping from Hong Kong. If you're looking to get a cheap one, you can't beat those prices.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:18 PM on November 23, 2008

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