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Buying a Webcam

Friday, July 28th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals
 
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Q:
I want to buy a Webcam, but I’m not sure what to look for. What are some things I should ask when shopping around?

A:
Webcams are becoming more and more popular every day. It seems like almost everyone you talk to has one these days. We’ve even been selling them every once in awhile here at WorldStart and they seem to be pretty popular with all of you. Webcams are very neat when you think about what they can do. I mean, all you have to do is hook it up to your computer and you can put yourself on TV. That’s basically what they do. You can turn on your cam and your friends and family members can see you at the present moment. Also, if one of your friends has one too, you can see them!

Webcams are a great way to keep in touch with people who may live far away from you. Maybe your grandchild just started to walk and you want to see it. (Who wouldn’t?!) Well, just get on the Webcam and you can see all of those wobbly steps. Or maybe you just bought a new shirt and you want to show it off to your friend. Use the Webcam and they will be able to see it firsthand. Cool, huh?

So, back to the question. Buying a Webcam is an important process, especially if you’re going to be using it for important things like seeing your grandbaby walk! Listed below are some questions you should ask when buying a new Webcam.

1.) What resolution does it have? You want people to be able to see you clearly, so you’ll want a good resolution rate. The standard is 320×240, but there are also some out there that go up to 640×480.

2.) What is its frame rate? In the end, your Internet connection really decides the frame rate of a Webcam, but when you’re buying one, shoot for a frame rate of 30 frames per second. (Webcams don’t usually run in a continuous stream of film, they go by frames, so you want your rate to be pretty high). Thirty frames per second is pretty good and most decently priced cams can handle this rate with no problem.

3.) How will my Internet connection factor in? As I said above, the type of Internet connection you have is a big deciding factor on how well your Webcam will run. If you have a faster Internet connection, you’re going to be able to get more frames per second. If you have a slower one (such as dial-up), it may not be able to go that fast. You should check your upload speed of your Internet connection before you buy a cam. For example, to get an image of approximately 15 frames per second, you need an upload speed of at least 256 kbps. So, just keep that in mind.

4.) How will my computer’s age affect the Webcam? If you have an older computer, you may want to think about purchasing a more pricey cam. The reason for this is that the image processing will be done in the Webcam and not on the computer. That makes a difference.

5.) What type of lens is best? Webcams come with both glass and plastic lenses. A glass lens will give you a clear image, but they are also a bit more expensive. This feature isn’t always spelled out on the box the cam comes in, so you’ll want to make sure you ask about that before you purchase it.

6.) What about light sensitivity? Higher end Webcams will perform better in lower light, but the others will work just as well in more lighting. You will just need to keep in mind what type of lighting you have on when you’re using your cam.

7.) What type of images will show? Well, the more expensive cams will give out a better image. It will be a little more crisp and clear. It’s all up to you on what you want in a cam though.

8.) What about prices? As you’ve already read, I’ve mentioned some higher prices for higher end Web cams, better images, glass lens, etc. Also, if you have an older computer, you may need a higher priced camera. Webcams can run anywhere from $10 to $1,000. It all just depends on what you’re willing to pay and what you want to do with your cam. Before you go out and buy one, write down some features you would like and then look for them when you get to the store.

You’ll also want to keep tilting options in mind and find out where you can place the cam on your computer. Those are important factors as well. Hopefully with these guidelines, you will be able to find the perfect Webcam for yourself!

~ Erin

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