Webcam Know-How to Take Your Zoom Calls Up a Notch
By Jon Cohen:
Regardless of your usage, in this day and age, a good webcam is essential. Since 2020 and the pandemic, we have seen the market flooded with all sorts of different webcams. While you can find all different features and specs, some of the most common things to look at are resolution, audio, and light sensitivity.
When it comes to resolution, you find webcams with 720p, 1080p, 2K, and 4K. Of course, with higher resolution and better picture quality comes a higher cost. Some of the current popular webcam brands include Logitech, JLab, AnkerWorks, and NexiGo.
Almost as important as resolution is audio quality. The reason I say “almost” is because you don’t have to use the webcam's built-in mic(s); you can add your external USB microphone, and that can take your audio quality to the next level. But if you are not going to use an external mic, then you should consider how many mics the webcam has built-in. Some common specs are single, dual, and quad-mic systems. Of course, the more mics the better, but if you are using it in a noisy environment such as a coffee shop, then a must-have feature is noise cancelling. Noise cancelling will allow you to be heard while reducing background noise, thus giving you a higher sound quality.
When it comes to light sensitivity, very few webcams go the extra mile to give you control of camera settings (i.e., brightness, contrast, and black point). In the models that do, you will find adjusting these basic settings gives an enhanced image and makes you look better. Some webcams also have A.I. built-in to take your image to the next level.
When it comes to Zooming, in addition to the webcam and mic, a few other things to consider are lighting and internet speeds. Of course, having a well-lit space with either lamps or a nice window is great. But if that's not possible or you need to conference in the evening, then adding some simple lights can make all the difference. I would suggest looking at two small lamps (either floor lamps or desk lamps) and pick a bright bulb with daylight color. If you are working in a café, bringing in lamps might be ridiculous, so use a small light cube or a camera-phone ring light to brighten up the scene.
Internet speeds will have the biggest impact on what the other person sees. Because most Zoom calls are done at 720p resolution, you will want to make sure you have an average upload speed of 5–10 Mb/second. Of course, if you have a higher upload speed, that is great; a lower number could leave you looking choppy or fuzzy in the image.
Remember, you want to stand out, so stand out for having great audio and video, not for looking bad on your next Zoom call.
Jon Cohen’s contributions can be found on radio, TV, and print media. Jon makes “geek speak” understandable for the masses and has been a voice in the tech community for over 20 years. A former “Geek Squad” member as well as an “Apple Genius,” he offers a fresh perspective on technology, photography, and social media. Twitter: @cohenHD