How Much Resolution is Enough? Picking a Webcam

How Much Resolution is Enough? Picking a Webcam

With services such as Google Plus Hangout, Skype, and ooVoo, people easily connect and communicate even over extremely long distances. These services make use of a webcam, allowing users to see as well as hear each other. When friends, family members, business associates, or teachers and students can see each other’s facial expressions, communication becomes easier and feels more personal. Other users employ a webcam for their business, creating video tutorials, instructional videos, or marketing video segments.

Choosing a webcam can be difficult for first-time buyers. To make the right choice, shoppers first need to gain an understanding of the property of resolution and other key features of webcams. They can easily find a variety of webcams at local brick and mortar electronics stores, but buyers should also check eBay for excellent prices on webcams.

About Webcams

Webcams capture the image in front of them and send it to a device such as a computer. The computer can transmit the image over a network to long-distance viewers. Consumers usually employ these webcams to chat with distant coworkers, friends, or family. However, these devices are also useful in the security and video broadcasting industry.

Webcam Connections

Webcams are typically connected to a computer or laptop in a few different ways. Some use a standard USB cable, while others employ a FireWire cable, which is often faster a than USB cable. The higher speeds of data transference enable better video quality. However, FireWire connectivity is also a bit more expensive than USB.

Webcam Cost

Webcams are fairly simple and inexpensive to manufacture. Those cost savings are usually passed along to the consumer, resulting in affordable prices on a wide range of webcams. However, some top-of-the-line webcams are made with special materials and high-grade parts, placing them out of the average buyer’s price range.

Internal Components

Within the average webcam, buyers can expect to see a image sensor and a lens, supplemented by additional electronic components. Some webcams also feature a microphone.

Webcam lenses come in a few different varieties, reflecting the needs their owners might have. The standard plastic lens found in most webcams has some adjustability, whereas the less popular fixed-focus lenses lack this versatility. Image sensors within a webcam are usually CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) for cheaper models and CCD (charge-coupled device) for pricier webcams.

Understanding Resolution

One of the vital considerations in the purchase of a webcam is the resolution. To understand why resolution is important, buyers first need to know what it is and how it affects picture quality for a webcam.

Defining Resolution

The resolution of an image, whether a video still or a photo, is the amount of detail it possesses. Digital images are composed of many tiny pixels, or colored dots. Together, all these pixels create the image. The more pixels are present in the image, the higher the resolution is, and the more detailed the result can be. For a crisp, clear image, buyers must have a webcam with high resolution.

Resolution Options for Webcams

As buyers shop, they can find a broad range of resolution options. Lower-end webcams start at 320×240 pixels, while others may supply 640×480 pixels . Top webcams usually offer some level of high-definition resolution, perhaps supplying 720p on a regular basis. Some webcams achieve 1080p, which results in full high-definition quality visual output. However, these high-quality HD webcams only manage this superb resolution quality if users have a computer with powerful enough hardware and components. They also need to use a service that supports 1080p in order to enjoy this quality. If the service or the computer does not offer sufficient support for true high definition imagery, users can still enjoy excellent image and video quality, but it is not 1080p.

Demystifying Resolution Terminology

Sometimes, the wording on the webcam packaging can be confusing. Some webcams have labels that refer to megapixels (MP), while others list the resolution differently. The chart below correlates a few different ways of phrasing the resolution terminology, all of which mean essentially the same thing.

In actuality, a 720p webcam may not be better than a 1.3 MP webcam, provided that all other factors are equal. The 1.3 MP camera, though it does not bear the distinction of being a high definition device, boasts more pixels than the 720p webcam. Buyers must consider every aspect of resolution and frame rate if they want to get the top value for their money.

Deciding on the Right Resolution

For home video chats with family, a high-definition webcam may be enjoyable, but it is not necessary. A little image fuzziness from time to time is acceptable, even expected. However, for professional use, a webcam with higher resolution may be the ideal choice. If buyers plan to take part in web conferences, client meetings, and brainstorming sessions with colleagues via video chat, they need a webcam with accurate video capture and pristine resolution that presents them in the best possible light. For users who film themselves for professional or business purposes, such as teaching online classes, high resolution is important as well.

If users cannot decide which level of resolution is right for them, they should perform a few test runs. If possible, shoppers should borrow a few different webcams and test each one with the help of a friend or family member. With a little experimentation and research, buyers can find the right balance between value and resolution quality.

Balancing FPS with Resolution

Closely related to the resolution is the frames per second or FPS. Even if the webcam has excellent resolution, if the FPS is not up to par, viewers may experience jumpy, lagging video. The FPS, or refresh rate, needs be fairly high so that viewers can discern all the movements and expression of the person they are watching and enjoy a seamless video experience.

Unfortunately, many webcams with a high refresh rate of 50 to 60 FPS only reach this benchmark by lowering the resolution. Buyers need to make sure that they balance their need for a clear, crisp picture with their need for smooth video. Typically, casual users opt for a refresh rate of about 24 frames per second, which is ample FPS for chatting with family and friends. Professional users may want about 30 FPS, which strikes a good balance with resolution quality.

Buying a Webcam on eBay

With its broad variety and budget-friendly prices, eBay is the ideal place to start your search for a webcam. Begin on any of the eBay pages and enter the term “webcam” into the search bar. If you know the specific brand you want, you can include that in your search term as well.

Many of eBay’s sellers offer free shipping, bundles, or package deals as additional buyers’ incentives. If you want to save even more money, consider used or pre-owned webcams as well as new devices. Look for sellers that have the Top-rated Plus seal, indicating that their previous customers have left positive feedback about their experience. Keep in mind that you can ask sellers question at any time using the “Ask a Question” link on the product page.


When selecting a webcam, buyers need to think about many different factors. First, they need to think about the resolution they need for their purposes. They also should decide how they want to position the camera in their workspace since this determines whether they need a clip-on webcam or a standalone model. If buyers are amateur or professional filmmakers, they may need extra features, including a rotating webcam and the potential for special video effects. For the extra versatility, buyers should look for webcams that include filmmaking or video editing software as part of a value bundle. Once users have explored all their options, established their plan, and identified their preferences, they are ready to purchase their new webcam.

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