Smile at the camera. Before the smartphone, embodied by the first Apple iPhone, cameras were, well, cameras.
Apple quickly followed with the less convenient camera-equipped iPad. Soon, all phones, tablets and laptop computers included cameras.
Initially, most trailed dedicated cameras in image quality. In the past few years, the best rival some dedicated cameras in quality.
While smartphones and laptops lack the superior lenses of dedicated cameras, they compensate with sophisticated image processing software that in many cases fools all but trained photography experts.
Camera-equipped phones, tablets and laptops captured few “mission-critical” images during their first decade of existence.
They served admirably for family and vacation photos and videos and casual Skype and FaceTime video chats. Those desiring higher quality images could either buy a separate webcam or download software that turned Canon’s more serious, expensive dedicated cameras into webcams.
Desktop computers with their separate monitors lacked cameras. Monitors often included built-in speakers, but rarely cameras. Thus, several companies marketed webcams for these devices. Most were mediocre, but one company stood out: Logitech. It benefited from a modest but steady business selling webcams among its popular computer input devices.
Logitech developed a strong following for its keyboards, mice and other computer peripherals. Usually, its products were superior to the Microsoft peripherals at comparable prices. In my experience, highly reliable Logitech products work as expected.
When the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly arrived, suddenly a lot of businesses and people began taking online video quality seriously.
Most of the nation began working from home and conferencing using Zoom and Google Teams. Within a month, Logitech, a Chinese company, sold out of its most popular webcam models, especially the C-920. That model, with a list price of about $100, generally sold for about $75.
Unable to find the C-920, other than used or at extortionist prices, I resigned to buying a $50 knockoff through Amazon. That was a big mistake. The quality was terrible.
After a six-month wait, I finally obtained Logitech’s most recent model webcam, the C-922 Pro (the C-922X Pro offers marginally better performance that may be unnoticeable to most people).
Amazon only sold the C-922 through sketchy third-party vendors. As you read this, Amazon itself won’t have the C-922 in stock for two more days.
I went to bestbuy.com, which advertised it in-stock for several dollars over list price. Within a few minutes, as I searched other vendors, it suddenly vanished from Best Buy.
However, staples.com assured I’d have it in a week at list price of $100. I was pleasantly surprised when it arrived earlier than promised. Staples continues selling it for this price, while Amazon wants $105 for the 922X.
The C-922 surpasses my expectations. It supports high-definition 1080p or 720p at the standard video frame rate of 30 frames per second.
If you prefer 60 fps, then it falls back to 720p. Its 78-degree field of view is the ideal compromise between narrow and wide angle. It auto-focuses competently and uses two omni-directional microphones for good stereo audio. It even comes with a mini-tripod, as well as a versatile mount that clips onto a monitor.
The C-922 works with nearly any operating system and plugs into your computer with a standard USB-A connector. Only the Razor Kiyo at a similar price is in the same league.
Even better, free downloadable software enables impressive versatility, allowing electronically altering field of view, zooming, tilting and panning and a variety of special effects and adjustments.
One component, that only works on Windows PCs, inserts alternative backgrounds to hide your humble environment. Not everyone can have an impressive, cultivated library background like Judy Woodruff on the “PBS NewsHour.”
A webcam is not a complex product. It puzzles me why only Logitech and Razor get it right. There are much more expensive professional webcams that are unnecessary for most people. Accept no Logitech imitations.
Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.