(Pocket-lint) - Whether you fancy yourself the next Twitch star or just need to hop on some video conferences, a decent webcam is an essential buy. Unfortunately, they can quickly get quite pricey.
While there are plenty of more expensive options for you to pick from, the entry-level and mid-market webcams are much harder to pick between.
Many come with near-identical specifications and no distinguishing design to help you decide, which is why we've created this guide to some of the best budget devices available can buy.
Unless you're already deep into your streaming career or want to impress your co-workers with wild resolutions and frame rates, the below picks are likely more than good enough.
They also represent a step-up on a lot of built-in cameras on laptops, so they're worthy considerations for those looking to upgrade, too.
Best Budget Webcams in 2022
Our Top Pick: Best Budget Webcam
Logitech C270 HD Webcam
- Stylish, lightweight and compact
- Easy attachment
- Wide compatibility
- Only 720P
The Logitech C270 has been a go-to option for those seeking a budget webcam for a number of years, and for good reason too. The C270 is a lightweight, compact and stylish little device that's a breeze to set up.
What's more, it comes from the most respected name in the webcam business and at a price that's hard to beat.
The only downside is that the C270 is only 720P - but make no mistake, the C270 offers a much clearer image with far more accurate colours than similarly priced 720P webcams. We think it's more than sufficient for the majority of users.
Budget webcams we also recommend
While we think the Logitech C270 is a great choice for most people, some will be seeking higher resolutions, or possibly even built-in lights. Here are some other top webcam options that we recommend taking a look at.
- Built-in ring light
- H.264 encoding
- No privacy shutter
Vitade's 960AF is slightly more expensive than some of the other picks here, but it does give you a bit more functionality.
The built-in ring light - which comes with three adjustable brightness levels and touch control - is ideal for those who need to up the illumination while streaming, with the camera itself capturing in 1080p HD resolution at 30fps.
It also throws in a bit more than just simple video capture, too, with automatic low-light correction and autofocus giving your stream a more professional feel without you having to manually tinker with settings.
It's also widely compatible, working with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Android and every major streaming platform.
- Plug and play
- 110-degree field of view
- Dual microphones
- Not great in low-light conditions
Another offering from Vitade here, though this one is more about pure webcam performance than lighting features.
The 826M features a 1080p shooter that operates at 30fps using a 110-degree lens angle.
Like the Vitade webcam above, there's an automatic light correction feature, and users can also manually adjust the focus to keep things crisp when streaming.
It's incredibly simple to set up, too. Like other options on the list, it's a plug-and-play setup, also coming compatible with Windows, Mac and every major streaming platform you can imagine.
Foscam 1080p Webcam
- Privacy cover
- Wide compatibility
- H.264 compression
- Barrel distortion on the image
If you're looking for added privacy when you're not streaming, Foscam's 1080p pick comes with a cover to snap over the lens.
When it is in use, however, there's plenty to like. It shoots at 30fps, while H.264 compression allows for efficient capture and eliminates lag and robot-like speech.
Naturally, there's also a built-in microphone, and the 85-degree wide-angle lens and mountable design make it easy to place and connect.
Microsoft LifeCam Cinema Webcam
- Autofocus and exposure
- Glass lens
- Great microphone
- Only for Windows users
This pick from Microsoft has stood the test of time, being first introduced all the way back in 2009. These days, the LifeCam Cinema offers an array of features rarely found in this price bracket.
You get a full-glass lens, autofocus and a superb microphone, all at a great price. Alongside this, Microsoft's supplied software has a suite of useful tools including an auto-zoom function to keep you in the centre of the frame.
It's only 720P but its build quality and track record suggest that it'll last you for many years. Apple users will need to watch out, though, as it seems the auto-exposure functionality isn't working on Macs.
Other budget webcams we've considered
When initially deciding what we believe to be the best budget webcams currently available, we spent hours testing and researching. No matter the subject area, we always consider a range of factors when it comes to recommending devices - and apply the same process before a new device enters our top five selections. We don't just take into account our own testing, either, but also consumer reviews, brand quality and value.
In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.
How to choose a budget webcam
There are lots of budget webcams out there, and with such a wealth of options to choose from, it can be tricky to figure out the best camera for your specific needs. So, to help you decide, here are a few things that we recommend considering before you buy a budget webcam.
Autofocus or fixed lens?
You might think that this one is obvious, who wouldn't want their camera to focus automatically? Well, the reality is a lot more complicated.
You know when you take out your phone to shoot a photo and it spends a moment hunting for the correct focal length, usually with a pulsing zoom-like effect? Unfortunately, webcam autofocus tends to work the same way, especially on cheaper models. This effect can be quite distracting, and if the camera gets confused, it could end up focusing on the background, leaving you with a blurry face.
Fixed lens cameras, on the other hand, are much more of a pain to set up; but once it's done, you can usually just forget about it, as you tend to sit the same distance from the lens the majority of the time. However, if you need to move about a lot, then autofocus is going to be the way to go.
How's your lighting?
Good lighting can make or break the image quality of most cameras. In fact, you might be quite surprised by the quality that's possible from a cheap webcam when you add some extra lumens to the mix.
Some of our picks have built-in lights and can provide a neat all-in-one solution, but if you're serious about getting the most from your webcam, you might want to check out our guide to the best gear for streaming.
Where will you be mounting it?
Last but not least, it's important to think about where your new webcam is going to live. All of the options to make our list come with some kind of monitor mount, and most of these work in roughly the same way.
For more unconventional setups or those with an oddly shaped monitor, it's definitely worth looking at the different ways the camera can be mounted. Some come with a threaded receptacle for tripod use and others can use their own mount as a desktop stand.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been assessed thoroughly to ensure it will perform exactly as a recommended pick should.
We've thought about everything, factoring in how each model will perform when being used for live streaming, video conferencing and when connected with a variety of different devices. This meant diving into the key specs and features, like autofocus, exposure bracketing, software support and more. From there, we've then crossed our judgements with each individual price tag to ensure they represent good value for money, too.
As with any roundup, it's not possible to deliver a list that works for every type of user, but we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team - as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above - in order to do our best in this regard.
What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each webcam is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity.