Buying a webcam is a pretty straight-forward process for most people. That’s because most people only ever need a webcam in order to Skype with their mom when they're on vacation. However if you want to make YouTube videos, finding the best webcam requires a little more effort than just selecting the camera with the highest star rating on Amazon.
That’s why in this article I wanna talk about how to find the right webcam for your YouTube channel. I will also review 5 webcams that are popular among YouTubers.
Should you get a webcam for your YouTube channel?
Not everybody who wants to make YouTube videos needs a webcam. If you already have another camera and are not missing anything, you might just wanna stick with it. There are some cases in which having a webcam could be helpful, though.
You want to do gaming videos and need a facecam
Webcams are the number one camera choice for YouTubers who record Let’s Plays, walkthroughs, twitch livestreams and game commentary (in this context, webcams are used as “facecams”). Clip them onto your computer and you’re ready to go.
What's a facecam?
“Facecams” are cameras that are set up to record only your face and shoulder area. This is pretty standard in gaming videos, since it allows the camera to catch the reactions of the player while not having giving up much of the screen. Facecams can be camcorders or other camera types, but are most often webcams.
You want to go live
Although many livestream apps are available for mobile (which means you can stream from your phone or tablet), there are many reasons why streaming from your computer might be a better choice (more stable performance, no overheating issues, no storage space problems, etc.).
You don’t have a camera and your budget is small
Phone camera broken? A webcam is pretty much the cheapest camera option available. And even though it might not be ideal, you can make many types of videos with your webcam besides gaming videos: vlogs, commentary, tutorials, music performances...you tell me!
What if your laptop already has a webcam?
If your laptop or computer already has a built-in webcam, it might seem sufficient for making YouTube videos. However, built-in webcams have one big problem:
Although their quality might be completely acceptable for calling your mom, they’re often a bad choice for shooting YouTube videos: Image quality is subpar, angles can be weird and the sound quality is usually on a spectrum between annoying and unintelligible. Not cool if you want to build a subscriber base!
What to look for in a webcam for YouTube?
What webcam you should get depends on your individual needs. However, there are a few universal “features” you should look for:
1) Compatible and easy to set up
The best webcam is useless if it’s not compatible with your system or if you can’t get it to work for other reasons. Most webcams on the market are made for Windows computers; however, there are plenty of webcams that are compatible with Macs as well.
2) Image quality
The required image quality will depend on how you’re gonna use the footage. If you only need your camera as a facecam, you can get away with a lower resolution and a less detailed image:
If you want to use your webcam for vlogging, though, the image quality of a cheap webcam may seem unprofessional and uninviting.
Cheap webcams usually have the problem of not depicting colors very well. They will seem washed-out and lifeless and might make you look less “attractive”. That’s especially bothersome if you make very visually-oriented content like DIY projects or makeup tutorials (in that case, I’d recommend a DSLR anyway).
3) Sound quality
Good sound is very important but completely underrated. If you don’t have a good external microphone, you will need a webcam with clear sound (or buy an external mic!). Even if you can’t afford to buy a high-end webcam, it’s important to not make compromises with the sound. Trust me; your viewers will be grateful.
The best webcams for YouTube - Review
Since there are a ton of webcams available, I decided to focus this article on the most popular webcams that are used by YouTubers. Here are my reviews.
The Logitech C270 is one of the most popular cheap webcams on the market. It records in high definition (720p) or lower resolution and works with every current Windows version.
Ease of use: The webcam is easy to install and can be clipped or put on your monitor. You can tilt the head up and down in order to adjust it to the size of your monitor.
Image quality: When it comes to image quality, the Logitech C270 is okay, but certainly not amazing. The colors seem a little washed out and it cannot shoot in 1080p (which is considered the standard nowadays). Still, you’re able to see everything relatively clearly.
Check out this test by Derek Peterson (go to 5:47 to see the HD test):
Sound: The sound is clear, and voices are easily understandable. It doesn’t have the sound of a warm, pleasant, quality mic, but it’s certainly good enough for most purposes.
Who is it for?
- Anybody who needs a really cheap webcam
- Gamers and Let’s Players
OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10
Note: Some of the reviewers on Amazon have reported the C270 works with their Macs as well.
Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000
The Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 is a popular alternative to the Logitech C270. Just like the C270, it shoots in 720p, which isn’t the best you can get but it still does the job.
Ease of use: The LifeCam HD-3000 installs easily and can be clipped on to any monitor. It also has a head that allows it to stand on its own.
Image quality: Compared to other budget webcams, the Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 produces relatively pleasing color. Its maximum resolution of 720p is not ideal for vlogs or other full screen videos, but it’s completely fine for gaming commentary or Let’s Plays.
EposVox did a great review of the Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 here:
(He also compares it to the Logitech C930e, which I have reviewed below.)
One problem with the LifeCam HD-3000 is that the white balance can fluctuate quite a bit when “auto image adjustment” is on. This means what you’re filming might suddenly change color or color tone. That’s definitely not ideal.
Sound quality: The sound is clear but not amazing. It certainly does the job, though, since voices are clearly intelligible (which is the most important factor).
Who is it for?
- Anybody who is looking for a budget webcam
- Gamers and Let’s Players
OS: Windows XP (SP2), Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10.
Note: Some reviewers on Amazon have claimed that this camera works with Macs as well, while others have said they had problems with it.
The Logitech C310 is a great compromise for people who don’t want to have the cheapest webcam but also don’t need the best of the best (like the C920).
Ease of use: The Logitech C310 can be mounted on your monitor and the angle can be changed easily. Most users report that it installs in under 2 minutes.
Image quality: Like the C270 and the LifeCam HD-3000, the C310 has a maximum resolution of 720p. That’s HD, but not “Full HD” (1080p), which you might want if you’re a vlogger. That said, 720p is completely fine for a facecam. In fact, this might be the best camera to choose if you need a quality facecam but don’t want to spend too much money.
In his review, EposVox tells us another reason why this camera is an excellent choice:
"This looks really good. And there are some characteristics about this, compared to the higher-end webcams that actually make this a better candidate in terms of video quality:
It has a much tighter field of view and a much further away focus distance, which means you can sit farther back from this webcam and still only have your face and upper shoulders in view, and not have to get on top of it.
That’s a big issue I had with the Logitech C920 and the C930e: You have to get right on top of the webcam to be in focus and fill up most of the frame. And especially with the C930e webcam because it has such a huge, wide field of view, that using it as a facecam becomes problematic - because 90% of the video it records isn’t your face. It’s your room behind you. And nobody wants to see your messy room in a facecam.
Summary: This camera has the perfect field of view if you want to use it as facecam. More high-end cameras like the C920 (which I test below) have a wider field of view, which is actually less practical for facecam use (so you pay more but don’t get more).
Sound quality: The sound quality of the Logitech C310 is clear and pleasant, especially compared to other webcams. If you don’t want to spend more money on an external mic, this is a good option (check out the sound test in the video above - it starts at 7:57).
Who is it for?
- Anybody who can spend some money but doesn’t need or want a high-end camera
- Anybody who doesn’t want to buy an external mic
OS: Windows Vista, Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit) or Windows 8
Note: Many users have reported that the C310 works on a Mac (and even Linux) as well. Some have had trouble with it, though.
The Logitech C920 has been the go-to professional webcam for many years (now it’s rivaled by the C930e, which I review below). Despite not being considered “the best” on the market anymore, it is still immensely popular thanks to its great image quality. Let’s take a closer look.
Ease of use: The Logitech C920 has a big foldable stand, which holds it securely wherever you place it. It is noticeably bigger than the cheaper cameras of the Logitech C series, like the C270 for example. Thanks to plug & play, the installation is initiated automatically when you plug it in for the first time. What’s also cool about the C920 is that it has a screw mount for using it with a tripod.
Image quality: If image quality is important to you at all, this is a great webcam. The image is absolutely sharp with a maximum resolution of 1080p (Full HD), nice colors and a fast autofocus. I mean, just look at this review by TimmyTechTV (test starts at 2:53):
Pretty convincing, isn’t it?
Sound quality: Now comes the bad part, which you might have noticed in the video. The sound quality of the Logitech C920 really is subpar, so you’re gonna need to buy another microphone (like the popular Blue Yeti UBS mic to sound professional. However, to be honest, if you wanna make quality videos, you’ll need to invest in a high-quality external mic anyway. Whether you want to do that now or later is up to you, of course.
Who is it for?
- Anybody who wants a quality webcam and has some money to spend
- Gamers and live streamers who want a clear, professional image
- Anybody who doesn’t mind buying an extra external microphone
OS: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 or later, Mac OS 10.6 or later
The Logitech C930e is particularly interesting because it’s supposed to be the most professional webcam on this list, but can it hold up to its promises?
Ease of use: Just like the C920, the C930e can be easily clipped onto any computer screen and will be held there securely. If you don’t want to place it on your monitor, you can also use it with a tripod. The C930e can be used both with Mac and Windows computers and installs easily via plug & play.
Image quality: The image is as crisp and clear as it can get for a webcam. In fact, I’d say the image looks better than many DSLRs with their kit lenses on. One of the reasons for that is that the C930e lets in a lot of light, which creates a bright, colorful image. That’s especially great because often, lighting conditions can be suboptimal at home. The maximum resolution is at 1080p, which is great for vlogs and all kinds of visual content. Check out a review by MacTalksTech (test starts at 2:52):
Now, here’s a problem, though (and I already alluded to this in the C310 review): The Logitech C930e has an extremely wide field of view (90-degree diagonal, to be exact). That means it shows much more of the room than other webcams would. Is that a problem? Not really; however it might not be what you want. No matter if you’re a vlogger or a gamer, it might look a little weird if you only fill 20% of the space, and the rest is your room. It might look like you’re sitting farther away from the screen than you actually are
Of course, you can solve this problem by zooming into the picture or by cutting off the edges (if you use it as facecam). The problem with zooming is, however, that you’re gonna lose image quality (the zoom is all digital). So if the wide field of view really bothers you, this might not be the best choice for you.
Sound quality: Surprisingly, the sound of this camera is extremely bad. It sounds boxy and unclear, which aren’t qualities that you want to annoy your audience with. That’s why, if you choose to buy the Logitech C930e, you will definitely need an external mic.
Who is it for?
- Vloggers who are not bothered by the wide field of view
- Gamers (they can just cut off the edges that aren’t needed)
- Anybody who can benefit from a wide field of view (maybe you wanna dance around your room? I don’t know!)
OS: Windows 7, 8, 10 or later; Mac OS X 10.7 or higher.
Webcam review - The results
Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000
Best webcam for Windows
The winner of the title “Best Webcam for Windows” is definitely the Logitech C920. It triumphs with its sharp image in Full HD quality. It’s extremely popular among YouTubers for a reason.
Best webcam for Mac
For the title “Best Webcam for Mac” I can only come to the same conclusion. The Logitech C920 just offers the best image quality while being very oriented towards YouTubers (something you can’t say about the C930e, for example).
Best cheap webcam for YouTube
I wanna give the “Best Cheap Webcam for YouTube” title to the Logitech C310. While there are cheaper cameras out there than this one, the nice thing about the C310 is that its microphone quality is pretty decent. That means you could buy this and get away with not buying an external mic (which will save you some additional money).
It also creates a quality HD image (even though it’s not Full HD) that will be good enough for most purposes. Especially if you’re just starting out on YouTube or are not willing to/able to invest in a better webcam yet, the C310 is a great choice. Please be aware that the Logitech C310 is officially only supported on Windows.
Here’s a thought, though: If you’re not sure if the C310 works with your system, you could buy it on Amazon and return it if it doesn’t work. There seem to be quite a few people where it did work on non-Windows computers, and Amazon has an accommodating return policy.
In case you’re wondering about any other webcam or have more questions, please let me know in the comments section.
Last update: 01.22.2018