The Studio Display webcam was a dumb idea anyway

A illustration of a Mac Studio Display with the iSight camera and confused emojis
(Image credit: Future / Apple)

Apple fans were less than impressed with the release of the Studio Display earlier this week for a variety of reasons, especially regarding the poor quality of the webcam that was built into it.

Yes, the Studio Display arguably has bigger issues to worry about, many of which we outlined in our own review of the screen, such as its lack of HDR (High Dynamic Range) and the low refresh rate of 60Hz, but there is a pattern to most of the Apple computing releases in the last few years – and that's modularity.

It's no secret that the fruit-themed company loves to charge its customers an outrageous amount of cash for add-ons, with $700 / £700 / AU$940 wheels for the Mac Pro desktop computer being just one such example. It's even made buying the stand for the studio display a nightmare as each stand is specific to a certain model of the Studio Display, meaning you can't just switch it out for another stand at a later date – instead, you're forced to buy an entirely new display.

As you're also expected to buy the Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard separately to complete the full Mac Studio setup, why make the choice to integrate a webcam into the Studio Display at all? Sure, it could be convenient, but Apple is missing the chance to slap yet another expensive peripheral that its customers are obligated to buy.

Out of iSight, out of mind

The iSight camera on a blank white backdrop

(Image credit: Apple)

Once upon a time, many years before I really started to appreciate the world of computing outside what games I could 'sneakily' install onto the family Windows desktop PC, Apple did actually have a dedicated webcam. 

The iSight camera was introduced back in 2003 and rocked a ¼-inch color CCD sensor with 640×480-pixel VGA resolution, which are laughable by today's standards (not even hitting a single megapixel at 307.2 kilopixels) but it seems to have inspired the design of recently released offerings like the Dell Ultrasharp 4k

The name iSight has since been adopted in MacBook laptops and iMac systems for their integrated camera, but I feel like Apple could do well by releasing a stand-alone model that's updated for 2022. 

The last few years of working through a global pandemic have shown that connectivity is more important than ever, and while webcams and microphones were seen as nice additional extras before, more attention is being placed on how to make digital communications look and sound better.

Apple-branded microphones for Mac systems is another thing that I believe could do well for the brand, but that's a conversation for another day. Creating a dedicated webcam would give additional space for better sensors and lenses, giving Mac users access to professional quality broadcasting, rather than cramming all that hardware into the slim screen of the Studio Display.

It's not a far stretch given every generation of the iPhone has improved on its camera, to the point where people on TikTok and Instagram claim to know what phone you've used to record a video, with Apple's hardware considered to be the cream of the crop.

I want an iPhone quality webcam

Apple iPhone 13 Green

(Image credit: Future)

There are ways around this, including using an actual iPhone as a webcam if you have an older handset lying around (or a spare model of a recent release for those with bags of cash), but that requires you to download an app and do a little setup to get it working properly.

The webcam included in the Studio Display isn't even that bad if you compare it to those seen in modern laptops, but people clearly expect better from the premium tech brand, and quite rightly so. A workstation-grade setup targeting creatives in 2022 shouldn't have a webcam that looks like it was included as an afterthought. 

Right now there are professional streaming webcams that offer an incredible step-up in quality, bridging the gap between what we used to expect from a webcam and what we know can be achieved with a professional DSLR or Action camera

We've created a list of the best webcams on the market if you wanted to have a browse, but for those who want some quick recommendations, check out the Razer Kiyo Pro and the Elgato Streamcam. Both offer 60fps live broadcasting and full 1080 resolution, with much better sensors than those found in the Studio Display camera.

Those sensors eradicate background noise (that static-like fuzz that appears when your webcam is struggling to capture enough light), and generally offer the best image quality available in a webcam right now without upgrading to a video capture card and camera setup.

If I was using a Mac system though, I'd want an official Apple camera to match, and I really think the brand is missing a trick by not creating one. The entire Apple range caters to creatives and influencers after all, and expecting the folks who can afford to fork out for such expensive equipment to live with subpar camera quality feels a tad on the nose.

Give us a new iSight webcam Apple. I'm not saying I'll buy it as I can't afford your products anyway, but I'm sure it'll be a great asset for those who can. I promise I won't even roll my eyes too hard if you try and charge $400 for it.

Jess Weatherbed

Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.