If you've been on the hunt for some of the best webcams on the market over the last year, then chances are you have noticed how elusive they became during the sudden rise in remote working. A lot of this is down to the Covid-19 pandemic closing offices, but people also found that conferencing software such as Zoom and Skype was useful for staying in contact with friends and family, all resulting in high demand for the little stock of good webcams available.
Now that things are slowly starting to improve you might be tempted to snatch up one of those Logitech webcams you've had saved on your wish list for months, but we'd recommend you hold fire - at least for a little while longer.
Of course, you may have already bought a cheaper, less established product but we would advise against it if you haven't already done so. Our 'best of' list is dominated by brands such as Microsoft, Logitech and Razer for good reason, and while we don't want to tar other brands as being inferior, there's always the risk that you'll receive a poor quality camera that will leave you disappointed.
There are plenty of great affordable webcams that will give you far better results than anything off-brand, mostly thanks to good quality components and software, so you don't have to spend a fortune on a top-of-the-line camera if you just need to make the occasional call each week. By waiting a few weeks, you may also find that you can afford something fancier than you originally budgeted for too.
Sales, sales, sales
Yep, it's that time of year. If Bloomberg is to be believed then the Amazon Prime Day sale might be just around the corner, and while this isn't guaranteed to reduce the price of some of our favorite web cameras, you'd kick yourself if you paid full price for something, only to see it reduced by the time it arrives on your doorstep.
If you're simply wanting a device to call loved ones then this also opens up the choice to not buy a webcam at all – the Amazon Echo Show has support for Zoom if you're in the US (currently not supported outside of that region), eradicating the need to buy a separate PC accessory if that's your software of choice for keeping in contact. Plus, you'd get a fancy new smart display and speaker to boot, with much greater utility than any webcam could offer.
With this being an Amazon product, it's very likely you'd see some discount applied during the annual sale. If you're set on buying a dedicated webcam, however, there are still plenty of other big sales to come this year if the product you've had your eye on doesn't get any notable offers.
Even without a sale though, there is a chance that many of the popular webcams on the market could drop in price when the current high demand starts to calm down. With more offices reopening and folk returning to work, we could see the inflated prices that became commonplace during the pandemic start to slip, so you won't be expected to pay the eyewatering listed prices we've seen for products like the popular Logitech C920 or Microsoft LifeCam Studio.
Do you really need one?
Depending on the tech you have around your home, chances are you might not actually need a dedicated webcam, or at least not immediately. As we mentioned, products like the Amazon Echo Show can be used for video calls, but a host of other devices can also install video conferencing apps. If you have a tablet device such as an iPad or Kindle Fire HD 10 then you can download Zoom, Google Meets and Microsoft Teams, allowing you to make those video calls for work or keeping in touch socially.
This allows you to make those calls from the comfort of your couch rather than crammed around a desktop PC, as many laptops have integrated webcams built into the display. The webcams on even the best laptops aren't exactly known for being the best, but they're fine for most day-to-day calls.
If you do need something with a bit more 'oomph' but don't want to shell out some cash for an expensive webcam then you're still in luck. You're likely holding a fantastic camera in your hand right now if you're reading this on a smartphone.
Using your mobile phone as a webcam is much easier than you think, and we're not just talking about accessing your choice of video calling app directly from the device - though that's a viable option. EpocCam and DroidCam are two programs that will help you to connect your mobile to your PC or laptop device and allow it to be recognized as a webcam in most conferencing software.
This method is actually so much better than most webcams on the market that many streamers, on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, will use a mobile phone as their dedicated recording device over a webcam as a product with quality that compares to a smartphone camera can be very pricey.
The Razer Kiyo Pro and Logitech StreamCam are examples of incredible webcams targeted towards content creators that can cost a pretty penny, but that investment also provides a bunch of great features that you wouldn't get using a mobile device. In fact, you're not just limited to your phone.
You can also use an action camera like a GoPro as a webcam if you have one laying around which may be a better option than using your mobile device given this tech is usually stored away when not in use, rather than carried around in a pocket or a bag.
Similarly, you can set up some actual cameras as webcams too, with many content creators pairing a mirrorless camera with a capture card to get much higher quality footage than even the most professional webcams on the market. This option requires more funding and leg work, but if you're looking to start streaming or create YouTube content then you may want to skip having a webcam altogether in favor of having the more professional setup right off the bat.
Ultimately though, if you're set on buying a dedicated webcam then our best advice is to wait a few weeks and see what the sales can offer. Nothing is guaranteed, but with workers starting to trickle back into offices we may see some improvements on stock availability.