What the Tech? Webcam options | What The Tech?

As kids are going to be doing at least some of their school work online and moms and dads are going to continue working from home this fall, many people are searching high and low for web cameras.

Since March, most retailers have sold out of the popular brands which have the best quality. I checked Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart and B&H Photo for web cameras and did not find the most popular high quality brand Logitech anywhere. Well, I did see a few sold by third-party sellers on Amazon but the prices have risen dramatically in the past few months.

There are dozens of webcams available with odd names that come from China. I found one from the company Aukey which makes battery chargers and power cables. I’ve been happy with their devices in the past and thought I’d give their web camera a chance. It was only $49.99 at Amazon.

Before I plugged it into my computer though I did a test with my other web cameras. My HP laptop has a camera built into the screen like most laptops. People seem to be doing most of their Zoom meetings this way. The video quality was not very good, not to mention the camera had to be pointed upward since the laptop was on a desk. This is not an ideal situation for important business meetings. The microphone on the computer was not very good either.

Next up, I tried an old Microsoft LifeCam that’s been sitting on top of my desktop computer monitor for the past 8 years or more. The color was better than the camera on my laptop, but the focus kept going in and out during a Zoom call and the audio seemed to be switching from picking up barely a whisper to blaring loudly. There is no way I’d use that option for an important meeting unless I used an external microphone.

I unboxed the Aukey 1080p web camera and plugged it into my computer using the included USB plug. While my Windows PC immediately noticed and installed the camera I was surprised at how grainy the picture was. It is a wide-angle lens that captured my entire office which is not good for a business meeting over Zoom. The quality of the picture was low quality. Very grainy and barely any color. It looked as though I was sitting in a foggy room. Audio was a problem too. I might be able to adjust the settings but the included instruction book didn’t offer any clues and neither did the Aukey website. As far as I was able to find out, what you get when you plug in the camera is what you’re going to get.

The best option I’ve found recently is the EpoCam app that turns any smartphone or tablet into a high quality web camera. You download the app onto the smartphone or tablet and then download a software file onto a computer. The computer then finds the smartphone app and works with Zoom, Skype and other virtual meeting services. It will also use the smartphone microphone for audio or you can connect an external mic or earbuds to the phone for better audio and for you to hear other people in the meeting. It’s especially good if you have an old smartphone that isn’t being used. Just install the app, connect the phone over WiFi or a USB cable.

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