Best Cheap Webcams
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Cheap Webcams for Staying in Touch While at Home

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Best Cheap Webcams
Robert Daly/istockphoto

Be Webcam Ready

Webcams are basically small digital cameras that record videos like normal camcorders do, but rely on software to transfer the images to a computer through an internet connection. Given that all Mac and many PC laptops feature built-in webcams and sales of desktop computers are falling, the market for stand-alone webcams has been shrinking for some time. Still, companies including Logitech, Microsoft, Creative Labs, and Hewlett-Packard continue producing webcams that sell for a range of prices. Unless you plan to broadcast a web show or use the webcam as a security device, there's no need to purchase a camcorder-quality web camera; a cheap webcam will more than suffice — especially if you're just using it to stay in touch with loved ones while safely social distancing. Here are a few for $100 or less, plus some outside-the-box ideas that will work in a pinch (and might offer better value than a webcam).

Prices and availability are subject to change. Due to high demand, some items may temporarily have inflated prices or be available only from third-party sellers.

Related: 100 Tech Products That Will Make Your Life Easier

Taotuo 1080P Webcam
Amazon

Taotuo 1080P Webcam

Price: $55 from Amazon
Buy It 
This fixed-focus webcam has a built-in digital stereo microphone with automatic noise reduction and also features low-light correction. 

Hermard 1080P Wide-Angle Webcam
Amazon

Hermard 1080P Wide-Angle Webcam

Price: $77 from Amazon
Buy It 
This plug-and-play webcam's optical glass lens claims to provide crystal clarity to its wide, 100-degree angle view. Built-in dual stereo mics provide automatic noise reduction, and it features manual focus at up to around 30 feet.

Weicht 1080P Webcam
Amazon

Weicha 1080P Webcam

Price: $50 from Amazon
Buy It 
The Weicha model features speedy auto-focus capability, a layered glass lens for high-resolution video streaming, and a built-in noise-canceling microphone. It comes in five colors, too.

Papalook 1080P Webcam
Amazon

Papalook 1080P Webcam

Price: $80 from Amazon
Buy It 
Another plug-and-play option, the Papalook webcam provides hi-def video, a built-in noise-reducing mic, recording functions, and a large aperture that helps correct low-light situations. It has an off/on switch on the back for added security, and the front lights up in different colors. Note that it is not compatible with Macs.

Ausdom 1080P HD Webcam
Amazon

Ausdom 1080P HD Webcam

Price: $80 from Amazon
Buy It 
This model features manual focus, an omnidirectional noise-canceling built-in mic, automatic exposure balance, adjustable zoom for taking photos, and flexible, bendable clip for accurate placement. Plug it into a USB 2.0 port, and it's ready to roll. 

Razer Kiyo Streaming Webcam
GameStop

Razer Kiyo Streaming Webcam

Price: $100 from Razer 
Buy It
This camera might be more than most work-at-homers need, but if you're also an avid gamer or need extra light for your video-calls, the Razer Kiyo isn't a bad option for the money. Its ring light can be brightened or dimmed on command, and it supports video and audio recording in 720p and 1080p. Other features include a built-in mic and autofocus.

Howell HD 1080p Plug-and-Play Webcam
Amazon

Howell HD 1080p Plug-and-Play Webcam

Price: $50 from Amazon
Buy It
Plug-and-play means you don't have to install any software to use this camera. The Howell HD 1080p web camera works with both Mac and PC and with multiple resolutions. It can be adjusted up to 30 degrees up or down, has 360-degree rotation, and an 80-degree wide-angle lens. Image quality is enhanced through automatic white balance and automatic color correction.

Howell 500W 1080p HD Video Webcam
Amazon

Howell 500W 1080p HD Video Webcam

Price: $56 from Amazon
Buy It
Compatible with Macs and PCs, the Howell 500W has a multi-layer, glass-coated lens for high-precision, no-distortion image quality. It supports a number of video-calling apps and software and additional features include a built-in, noise-canceling microphone and auto-focusing capability.

Anivia HD 1080p Webcam W8
Amazon

Anivia HD 1080p Webcam W8

Price: $50 and up from Amazon 
Buy It
Another plug-and-play web camera, the HD 1080p Anivia W8 works with video calling apps such as Skype, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, Gmail, WhatsApp, and more. It includes a built-in, noise-reducing microphone and a multi-functional bracket for adjustability.

Logitech C270 Webcam
Newegg

Logitech C270 Webcam

Price: $72 from Newegg
Buy It
The Logitech C270 supports HD 720p video calling and HD video recording. It has a built-in noise-canceling microphone, automatic light correction, and is compatible with Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8.

EC2WORLD 50-Megapixel HD Camera
Newegg

EC2WORLD 50-Megapixel HD Camera

Price: $33 from Newegg
Buy It
The EC2WORLD web camera has a built-in, sound-absorption mic (with claims that your voice can be clearly heard even if you're 30 feet away), a high-precision glass optical lens, and automatic white balance and automatic color correction. What it lacks in resolution at 640x480 it makes up for in photo storage at 50 megapixels.

Other Options
Pekic/istockphoto

Other Options

With more people working from home, webcams are often out of stock. It's worth thinking outside the box. Here are some options that will also work for video conferencing.

Related: 22 Essential Remote-Work Tools for Your Business

Your Smartphone
martin-dm/istockphoto

Your Smartphone

Whether for work or just staying in video contact with family and friends, keep in mind that most smartphones work with popular video calling apps like Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and more.

Fire 7
Amazon

Amazon Fire 7

Price: $50 from Amazon
Buy It
Like smartphones, many tablet devices can also do video calling. With the Amazon Fire 7, you spend about as much or a little more than you would on a web camera, and you get a whole lot more. Same goes for iPads and other Android tablets.

Acer C720-2844 Chromebook
Amazon

Acer C720-2844 Chromebook

Price: $135 and up from Amazon
Buy It
Amazon Renewed offers like-new, refurbished products that are inspected and tested before being offered for sale. For example, this sub-$100 Chromebook with a built-in camera for video calling.

Buying Guide
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Buying Guide

The webcams and other products listed above are current as of 2020. Below you'll find a buying guide written in 2012 — much of which is still applicable when determining which features to consider when purchasing a webcam, including audio and picture quality, connectivity, storage requirements, and more.

Visuals

The visual capability of a cheap webcam is quite possibly its most important feature. But even the most expensive webcam won't deliver top quality pictures if the speed of your Internet connection is too slow; in other words, the faster the connection, the sharper and clearer the image.

Other factors also play a role. Resolution is the word used to describe one aspect of the webcam's video capabilities. Resolution is measured by pixels, which are all the tiny dots that make up a digital image. Most cheap webcams provide resolutions of 320x240 or 640x480 pixels; Logitech C500 (starting at $41) and HP Deluxe Webcam (starting at $100) are two of the best cheap webcams, in part because they have resolutions up to 1280x1024 pixels. The Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000 (starting at $45) claims to have pixel resolution of 800x600, but expert reviews of cheap webcams on PC World report that this model works best at 640x480 pixels.

Another determinant is the frame rate, which means how fast the webcam captures and transfers video to your computer. You should insist on a cheap webcam that processes at least 30 frames per second, which ensures movements don't look jerky. The HP Deluxe, Logitech C500, Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 (starting at $35), and Creative Live Cam Video IM Pro (starting at $42) and Notebook Pro (starting at $31) all meet this standard

Several cheap webcams incorporate features designed to produce better visuals. One technological advance, referred to as face-tracking software, actually detects your face when you move around while you're on camera. An expert on GearDiary recommends the Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 in part because of this feature. The Logitech C500 is unique among cheap webcams because of its glass lens, which provides more detailed and clearer images than the standard plastic lens found in cheap webcams. The Creative Live Cam Video IM Pro sports an auto-tuning feature that sharpens and defines your image during video chats. Then there's the HP Deluxe webcam, with its "tilt and pan" ability that lets you maneuver the webcam to show off your surroundings or spotlight a special item without disrupting the connection; this "tilt and pan" capability is rare for cheap webcams.

Zoom

Look for a good zoom feature if you want the person you're talking with to be able to see only your face without any background distractions. Among the cheap webcams we researched, the HP Deluxe Webcam boasts the highest zoom capability at 5X, followed by the 4X zoom on the Creative Live Video IM Pro and the Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000. The Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 features a 3X zoom, the Microsoft LifeCam VX-3000 (starting at $25) has a 2X zoom, and the Logitech Webcam C500has no zoom at all.

Audio

Any discount webcam you buy should include a built-in microphone, as do the HP Deluxe, Logitech C500, Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 and VX-3000, and Creative Live Cam Video IM Pro. Note, however, that these built-in mics often pick up distracting background noise, so you might consider purchasing headphones and stand-alone speakers, which help eliminate the din, according to a webcams review on Amazon. You'll also need to buy these peripherals for any cheap webcam that doesn't have a built-in microphone, like the Ezonics EZCam II (starting at $15) and Creative Live Cam Notebook Pro. A variety of producers, such as Micro Innovations, Coby Multimedia, and Cyber Acoustics, sell microphones for as little as $7, headphones for just $5, and speakers for about $2.

PC Connectivity and Storage Requirements

Webcams might seem confusing, but they are actually quite simple to connect to your computer. All you have to do is plug your webcam into a USB, parallel, or FireWort port (depending on the type of webcam you purchase) on the side or back of your computer. Wireless webcams are available, but are usually reserved for security purposes and generally cost more than the good cheap wired models; Panasonic MultiTalk V Wireless Camera (starting at $17) is one rare cheap wireless webcam. The wireless set up is better suited for security than conversation, so it's worth investing a little more to get a wireless device that's not easily visible and will provide a panoramic view of the area you want to watch over.

As for storage requirements, make sure your computer has enough hard drive space and active memory for a webcam. This is particularly important if you have an older computer. See our capsule review of each product for a full rundown of the requirements.

Chat Compatibility

Because there are times when you want to chat but not talk, make sure your cheap webcam is compatible with your preferred instant messaging service, be it AIM, Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, or whatever. A big complaint lodged by an expert webcams review on CNET (among others) is that Microsoft webcams are all designed to interact with Windows Live Messenger and don't work well (or at all) with programs like Skype or Yahoo. Fortunately, cheap webcams produced by all other are compatible with any type of instant messaging application, including Windows Live Messenger.

Mounting Hardware

Webcams generally sit on top of a computer, which means they must be secured in some way. Enter the mounting hardware, which makes it more or less easy to attach an inexpensive webcam to your desktop or laptop. The cheap Logitech C500 webcam features a universal clip that adjusts to the width of your computer. The flexible base of the Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 is readily adjustable, so long as you're affixing it to a desk or a thick monitor, according to a review on Pocket-lint; mounting the Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 to a thin laptop, however, is dicey.

Special Effects

Several webcam manufacturers offer special effects to enhance the fun of video conversing. Creative Technology webcams, for example, have special effects like eye glasses, hairdos, and snowflakes that can embellish your online appearance, or place you in front of the Sydney Opera House or Eiffel Tower. Logitech webcams special effects include avatars, masks, distortions, filters, and a variety of face accessories. Users posting reviews on Newegg comment on the cool factor associated with Creative Live Cam Video IM Pro's special effects; ditto from a consumer posting on Best Buy about the HP Deluxe, who gets a kick out of morphing into a Viking for those special moments. An expert review of Microsoft's LifeCam VX-6000 (starting at $44) on CNET concludes that the video effects pale in comparison to those offered by Logitech and Creative Technology webcams.

Parental Controls

Modern technology has created the need to protect kids from online baddies, so you might want a webcam with parental controls. Currently, Creative Technology webcams sport this feature, which has you choose a login and password that's needed each time someone wants to use the device. Although we didn't find any user comments that specifically address the parental control feature, we found one parent who is comfortable enough with his Creative Technology webcam that he lets his children play with it all the time, according to his post on Newegg.

Photos

Consumers often upload photos from digital cameras to their computers, so why not do something similar with a webcam? Indeed, many cheap webcams let you to freeze an image and send it off to your friends, live. Here, too, the quality of a webcam's photo-taking depends on the number of megapixels it supports. HP Deluxe maxes out at eight megapixels, the Logitech C500 gives you software-enhanced stills up to five megapixels, and Creative Live Cam Video IM Pro captures still images at a resolution of 1280x960 with 1.3 megapixels. According to a webcams review on Best Buy, the HP Deluxe produces images at least as good as what you get with a higher resolution digital camera. The HP Deluxe and Creative Live Cam Video IM come with software for editing and organizing your pictures; the Microsoft LifeCam VX-3000 features software for shooting live-action videos.

Logitech Webcam C500
Amazon

Previous Recommendations

HP Deluxe Webcam
Logitech Webcam C500
Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000
Creative Live Cam Video IM Pro
Ezonics EZCam II
Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000