Brand is one of the main factor. Cost counts another. Apart from these, there’s a handful of terms you should familiarize yourself with before you start weighing your options. Depending on your goals for live streaming, some of these aspects may be more important to you than others:
Put simply, resolution refers to the number of pixels on screen. The higher the resolution, the better your video will look. Common resolutions you’ll see include (in order of quality) 480p, 720p, 1080p, and 4K, which is also called Ultra HD.
Measured in frames per second (fps), frame rate refers to the speed at which the individual images that make up a video are displayed on screen. A frame rate of 30 fps will suffice for most users, while anything under 24 fps will make for a choppy viewing experience.
Field of view
Expressed in degrees, a webcam’s field of view (FOV) is the area its lens will capture. In webcams meant for streaming, FOVs tend to range from 50 to 120 degrees. You might favor a broader FOV if you plan to capture multiple people or an entire conference room. If that’s the case, look for webcams with what’s called a “wide-angle lens” (or dig through the specs to get an exact FOV value).
Webcam lenses can be made of plastic or glass. Glass lenses tend to perform better. While glass commands a higher price than plastic, it’s often worth it for crisper, more vibrant video.
You could have a webcam capable of delivering 1080p yet still end up with poor quality video. Why? Because a lot of cameras have trouble in low-light conditions. That’s to be expected since cameras work by capturing light. But some cameras – webcams included – are more low-light capable than others due to sensor size, special features (e.g., low-light modes), and other factors. If where you’ll be streaming from is dimly lit, either brighten things up or look for cameras that excel in darker settings.
Webcam manufacturers often build in additional features to help their products stand out. Digital zoom and autofocus are a couple of examples. Background replacement is another popular one. It’s what a lot of gamers on Twitch and other streaming platforms use to film themselves with their gameplay as a backdrop. (The same effect is possible with a greenscreen setup, but that’s another investment.)
Compatibility with your operating system (Windows, macOS, Linux) is another important consideration. Do your research to ensure the webcam you have your eye on will play nice with the computer you connect it to.