The 5 best webcams to help you stay connected

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Staying home is the new norm. According to a recent coronavirus poll, the majority of Americans are currently sheltering in place. That means they aren't physically leaving their houses unless they absolutely need to — and it also means that finding the best webcams for streaming is essential. Because if you aren't leaving your house, you can't physically show up to work, hang out with loved ones, attend a class, or hit the gym. In other words, you might need new streaming tools for ample communication.

Sure, your phone or laptop camera has served you well — and it's right there, already installed. But once you foray into live-streaming for other necessities, you might find yourself irritated by the limits of those built-in options.

Maybe you want more control over camera placement, better sound, a crisper image, or more features. Or maybe, you just want a no-frills desktop webcam that's easy to use. Either way, you'll find yourself facing an array of choices. You can spend anywhere from $20 to hundreds of dollars on this — it all depends on what you need to stream and how you need to stream it.

To help you choose the perfect option, I broke it down based on various needs: simplicity, quality, portability, lighting, and more.

1. An Easy-To-Use Webcam That Gets The Job Done

If you need to attend a video meeting but want to use your slick, big-monitor desktop rig to do it (instead of your phone or tablet), this versatile webcam is an easy fix. Just clip it to your monitor, plug it into a USB port, and you're ready to go. You can even set it on the desk or a nearby shelf. Plus, there isn't even any software to install, which means you won't have to fumble through any unknown programs.

You'll also look terrific through its lens, because this webcam boasts 1080p HD video that streams at 30 frames per second. (That means no jumpy images or conversation lag.) The fixed focus will also keep your face crisp, as well as everything else within 9 feet of the camera. It even has a built-in microphone to solve any sound issues in your setup. And on top of that, it's priced right.

2. This Advanced Webcam For Serious Streamers

If you're bringing your message to the people — either on YouTube, Twitch, or another service — you not only want to look good, you also want to sound good (without interference). If you're willing to take a chance on this surprisingly inexpensive webcam, you can have all of that. Like the previous selection mentioned, it features 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. However, this one boasts a noise-cancelling mic and manually adjustable focus and zoom settings. It even comes with an anti-magnet ring that won't mess with your computer while it clamps onto your desktop.

This webcam's also easy to work, though. Just plug it into your USB port and let it install what it needs. It's compatible with most conferencing software and operating systems, such as Skype, Windows Live Messenger, and more.

3. The Adjustable Webcam You Can Point Wherever

Sometimes, it's not you that's the most important part of your video call. If you're teaching a class, you want to be able to talk to your students and demonstrate math on a page. And if you're showing off a new hobby, you want to show specific craft techniques without holding it all up to the camera. A webcam that's clipped onto your computer makes that awkward. This option comes on a gooseneck stand, though — and it lets you aim the camera wherever you want. Point it at a document. Point it at your tools. Then, point it at you so you're back in the frame. It's almost like being in the classroom with your students.

This webcam also requires that you adjust the focus manually, and it even has a built-in mic. It's also very easy to install via USB. Plug it in and start video calling. You can even choose from four colors: black, blue, red, and green. The one downfall about this selection is that it uses 720p video (instead of 1080p).

4. Another Flexible Webcam With Built-In LED Lights

Are you working from a windowless room or the basement? If so, doing web conferences or streaming from low-light situations can be a challenge. But that doesn't mean you want to invest in studio lights, either. This USB webcam — which also has a flexible neck — comes with a built-in microphone and four built-in LED lights to solve all your streaming problems at once. Like other options on this list, it stands on a desk, so you can choose the backdrop you want without moving your computer to get that angle. You can also manually change the focus right on the camera. And if you want a still shot, you can easily push the photo button on the front of the device. The camera's default pixelation is lower than the others, but it still films at 30 frames per second.

5. This Touch-Activated Webcam With Adjustable Brightness

Like the previous webcam mentioned, this selection provides brightness when you need it. Instead of separated LED lights, the camera is surrounded by a thick, touch-activated ring light. That light also offers three different brightness levels, so you can choose just how much shine you're getting mid-call. What also sets this option apart from the other light-up option is that it boasts an auto focus feature so you don't have to worry about manually adjusting the lens. And instead of one built-in microphone, this option offers dual mics that do double-duty while picking up sound. And as an added bonus, you can change your background by downloading a specific software mentioned by the brand.

Like others mentioned on this list, this webcam films at 30 frames per second with 1080p video. Just plug it in via USB and start streaming.

A Different Option You Can Use On And Off Video Calls

If you're hoping to stream a workout class, your cat's antics, or other content that requires a camera capable of capturing fast-action footage, consider putting a GoPro to use. Sure, it's not advertised as a webcam — but it can be used for live-streaming. And apparently, you can attempt to use it for video calls.

You can take it into the wilderness and film your adventures in 4K video. Then, you can bring it home and connect it to your computer for conference calls. It's not as easy to set up as a webcam, but it might be worth trying if you've always wanted a GoPro. You'll need an HDMI cable, a USB cable, and a tripod. And it's a bit of a rogue application, but many people are making it work.

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