What was once the most abandoned technology in our laptops is now the most useful. Yes, I’m talking about PC cameras or webcams, whatever you call it.
There was a time when we had the freedom to walk around, have face-to-face meetings, or chat at the coffee machine. Unfortunately, none of this is happening right now. Or I should say the bright side is that I can do video conference meetings in my shorts. Simply put, it doesn’t matter what the camera doesn’t see.
But let’s talk about PC webcams first:
Over the years, few people have ever turned on the webcam on their laptop, mainly because there wasn’t much to do.
This is probably the reason why PC makers have gotten into the habit of putting lower quality camera hardware in their devices. Surprisingly, the list does not exclude the Apple company in search of perfection. This is a high-end MacBook Pro 16, which costs € 2399, equipped with a webcam capable of recording videos at only 720p.
In contrast, the front camera of the iPhone 11 Pro with half the price is capable of recording 4K videos. Of course, a simple explanation is already at hand.
You will find that many internet users complain that the indoor performance of Apple’s FaceTime 720p cameras is not that good. You may need to install additional lights, maybe sit in your garden to get better picture quality.
Speaking of performance, the webcam experience on my HP Pavillion laptop and Adarsh’s MBP 13 isn’t great either.
For peace of mind, the iMac Pro comes with a camera FaceTime 1080p, but the all-in-one computer will cost you almost 5000 €.
Likewise, the Dell XPS 17 costs around 1500 € and comes with a webcam that reaches a maximum of 720p. This is the case with similarly priced HP Elite and MSI laptops that proudly sport an HD-capable webcam.
So PC webcams are bad, what now?
Now, when making video calls, the flow should be perfect if the person on the other end of the line is using a laptop or smartphone (even better). But what if they are using a big screen with 4K resolution?
Don’t worry, your manager won’t blame you for having a bad laptop camera because their laptop camera is also so bad.
In addition to office meetings, people are also using video calls to stay in touch with friends and family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
PC makers might get the benefit of the doubt that they didn’t know what was going to happen and all of a sudden people would start working from home across the world. But the fact that the 2020 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13 ″ models are equipped with a 720p FaceTime HD camera makes us believe that the change has not happened yet.
In Apple’s case, the company also offers models of the iPad Pro (with much better cameras) as alternatives to mainstream computers. However, this is an entirely different story.
One thing to note is that the Microsoft Surface Book line has been using a 1080p webcam since its initial launch in 2015, while the Surface Laptop 3 is limited to a 720p shooter. Thus, it could also be that differential treatment is given to PCs with a conventional form factor.
Speaking of solutions, it’s time for PC makers to wake up and start upgrading camera hardware in upcoming devices. And more importantly, change is expected to happen in the affordable PC segment, just as it has happened in the case of smartphones.
Not just video calls, the lack of proper camera hardware leaves no incentive for users, who end up putting a tape on it in the name of privacy.
Maybe you can try some laptop camera alternatives:
For now, the practical approach would be to go for external webcams which can deliver higher quality than their built-in counterparts. PC makers installing better quality integrated web cameras would increase the costs anyway, more than they should in some cases.
There is no doubt that the tech giants have recognized the growing need for webcams and their importance for video call meetings. As conventional webcams continue to exist, companies like Microsoft have started to certify all-in-one displays with a high-quality camera and microphone for Microsoft Teams users.
You can use your camera as a webcam:
So while your travel photography projects are on hold, you can still put your DSLR or GoPro to work.
In addition, there are tools available that can turn your smartphone into a webcam.