Webcams come in all shapes and sizes, so which is the best for streaming? If you're looking to add a webcam feed to your Twitch, YouTube or Facebook livestreams, we've got you covered. Here, we explain what to look out for when on the market for a new webcam, along with reviews of what we think are the best webcams for streaming available in 2018.
Webcam buying advice
While we can all relate to wanting the best quality webcam possible, when it comes to streaming, resolution isn’t the most important factor. While you may be able to tell the differences between 720p and 1080p when viewing a webcam feed in full-screen, this isn’t an issue for most streamers.
Webcams, in general, are used as ‘face cams’ when streaming games and will be relatively small, taking up a minor section of your stream. The difference in quality between 720p and 1080p at this size will be almost unnoticeable, especially when you take into consideration the (slight) loss in quality when you livestream.
So, while you might want to splash out for a 1080p camera, 720p should suffice for the majority of streamers.
Plastic vs Glasses lenses
Some high-end webcams will boast glass lenses over plastic lenses used by cheaper webcams, but in general, the difference isn’t that noticeable – especially when used as a face cam, as discussed above.
While a built-in microphone is handy for video calling, it’s not a feature used very often by streamers. Streamers tend to use dedicated microphones, or headsets with built-in mics, as they generally provide much clearer audio and some offer advanced features like noise cancellation to reduce the sound of clicking keys and other ambient noises.
Not all webcams are created equal, and some may offer advanced features that help separate them from a sea of competitors. These can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from image correction capabilities to background removal and, in the case of the Razer Kiyo, a built-in ring light for even lighting.
It’s worth doing research about how well these features perform as, especially in the case of background removal, results can be very hit-and-miss depending on the amount of light and other environmental factors. But, if you can find one that does work well, it’ll give you a more professional-looking stream without having to invest in a physical green screen for chroma keying.
Another feature to consider is compatibility. Generally speaking, all webcams should work with the likes of XSplit Gamecaster, OBS and more, but some offer specific support for certain livestreaming apps. Though it’s dependant on the webcam and app that you use, buying a supported webcam could provide access to more advanced settings and features via the livestreaming app.
And, in the case of XSplit Gamecaster, supported webcams may provide a free trial to the premium livestreaming software. It's certainly the case with the Logitech C922 Pro, featured below.
Best webcams for streaming
1. Logitech C922 Pro
Logitech, in many regards, is the leader in the PC peripheral market with high-quality products that don’t break the bank (most of the time, anyway!) and the Logitech C922 Pro doesn’t buck that trend. It’s small, produces great quality video and offers multiple mounting options.
The camera has two resolution settings: 1080p at 30fps and 720p at 60fps, giving you the choice to focus on either frame rate or overall quality. High frame rates provide a much smoother camera stream and won’t look out of place if you’re streaming 60fps gameplay. The webcam also boasts a Carl Zeiss glass lens with smart and adaptable autofocus that produces crisp, clear videos. It works well in low light and backlit environments too, thanks to built-in light correction that boosts light levels when required.
The C922 Pro also offers automatic background removal and while it’s not perfect, it’s more than enough for most gamers that want to stream gameplay with a face cam that doesn’t show off their home environment. It performs better with simple, uncluttered backgrounds, and those that demand perfection always have the option of picking up a dedicated green screen.
It offers support for XSplit Gamecaster and with a three-month trial in the box (worth around £25), and also features a stereo microphone. As mentioned above, it’s not really a factor for streaming, but it’ll make video calls and using Cortana a little easier. There’s also Logitech Camera for Windows that allows you to preview your webcam and change settings that’ll be applied to all apps that use the camera.
It features a flexible grip that can be placed both on the top of your PC display and folded over and placed on your desk. That’s not all though, as the C922 Pro also features a tripod mount and even comes with a handy mini tripod in the box to get you started. It’s the little things, after all!
2. Razer Kiyo
While many webcams look alike, the Razer Kiyo offers something different; namely, a multi-step ring light surrounding the camera to provide even lighting, even in dark conditions. The ring light comes on automatically when the webcam is in use, and can be adjusted (or turned off completely) via a dial just behind the light.
It’s the ideal for those that don’t get a lot of natural light near their PCs and want a professional-looking camera feed. Though the ring is quite large, the good news is that the camera folds back on itself when not in use and doesn’t take up much space.
That’s not the only unique design feature either; the Kiyo features a L-shape joint and a wide, flat base that can be used to either prop the camera on top of your computer display or placed on a desk and angled upwards. It’s easy to find the right angle with the Kiyo, and for those that want something a little more stable, it also features a tripod mount.
The Kiyo boasts a 4Mp camera sensor and like the Logitech C922, it also offers a variable resolution; [email protected] or [email protected] The camera quality is great, and even with the ring light turned off, it handles low-light environments surprisingly well.
The camera offers support for OBS and XSplit, though doesn’t come with a free trial like the Logitech C922. It doesn’t have an accompanying app for PC either, meaning the camera settings will have to be edited on a per-app basis. It’s not the end of the world, but a simple camera preview app with access to camera settings would’ve been nice – especially for the price.
Overall, though, the Razer Kiyo is an impressive webcam, especially when it comes to livestreaming. If you play games in a dark environment, or just need more even lighting in your streams, this is the webcam for you.
3. Microsoft LifeCam Studio
The Microsoft LifeCam Studio isn’t a new entry to the market – in fact, the camera launched back in 2010. But, eight years on, the camera still provides amazing quality video that can best many of the webcams available today. Why? It’s mainly down to the inclusion of Microsoft’s TrueColour and ClearFrame technologies.
TrueColour provides incredible colour and brightness control and can tackle almost any lighting situation. Whether your room is flooded with natural daylight or you barely get a glimmer of light, the Studio will intelligently tweak the camera’s settings to provide even lighting and colour.
ClearFrame is the final step in the process, reducing graininess without losing detail and making the video ‘soft’. The end result is a webcam that provides incredible quality video in a range of environments.
Due to the age of the camera, it can’t compete in every department. The LifeCam Studio offers both 720p and 1080p video, but unlike the others in our chart, the camera is capped at 30fps. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker though – we think the quality of the camera and the price (around £50 on Amazon) are enough to overlook the omission of 60fps capture.
It’s also incredibly small in design, and thanks to a pivot joint, the camera can be rotated almost 360-degrees. The attachment base has an adjustable rubber clip that can be bent and attached to PC monitors and a tripod mount, but can’t be placed directly on the desk like the Razer Kiyo.
Another downside to the age of the camera is that the accompanying software was designed for Windows 7 and isn’t compatible with Windows 10, so you’ll have to adjust all settings via the livestreaming app of your choice.