Why webcams—even the expensive Logitech models—are so low-quality

Originally published at: Why webcams—even the expensive Logitech models—are so low-quality | Boing Boing


Yeah there are people out there who buy 3-4 year old iphones off ebay exclusively to use for a webcam


I have one of those. Can confirm it is dogshit.

  • I mean it is better than the built in one on my old work Dell - that’s catshit…

I need my phone though for a back channel with my coworkers about management on the Zoom call so that’s out.
Pretty sure that wasn’t 200 when I got it in the before times. I wanted another and was shocked at the price back in late 20 or 21.


Looking at Logitech’s website it’s MSRP is $69.99 which is a more reasonable price. I recall trying to find one at the beginning of the pandemic and they were over $200.


I’ve just been using my old iphone 11, works great and I can use it over Wifi which is nice.

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I use a logitech C925e, and can’t complain?


This is why I just buy a cheapo Chinese no-name 1080p Webcam for my desktop set-up. It’s no better and no worse than a Logitech or other name brand and it will probably crap out about the same time they do. You can also make up for the shortcomings of any Webcam with good lighting (a decent condenser mic also enhances the experience). I’ve actually had people e-mail me after teleconferences asking what my set-up is, which only emphasises the dismal state of things.

What I do find weird in 2022 are the people who obviously have money and professional aides appearing on a remote news interview using what looks like a 720p camera positioned to capture whatever’s in their nostrils and a tinny mic (and with what Room Rater calls the “hostage video” background). Case in point:


For every iPhone I’ve purchased, the upgrade decision hinges on the camera. I missed a lot of photos of the older Peas Twins early years because of the absolute garbage Kodak camera we were gifted. For the Littlest Pea, it’s like I’m carrying a photo studio with me.


I know that there’s the alternative of using the mobile client; and some devices have various workarounds(sometimes with a software shim of some sort installed on the PC); but the relatively high quality of phone cameras always adds to my frustration that support for exposing them as UVC devices over USB seems to be nearly nonexistent.

On the android side you normally get either mass storage or MTP(sometimes a combination, with microSD expansion cards exposed as MSC and internal storage as MTP) and RNDIS if network sharing is enabled; iOS devices do things their own way; but are also file transfer and optionally network share.

In principle it would be comparatively simple for these things, already acting as USB composite devices with functions done mostly in software rather than fixed-function ICs, to expose the camera as UVC as well(it’d be niche; but for nerd purposes exposing the soft keyboard and touchscreen as USB HID would occasionally come in handy); but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that outside of a few models sufficiently well understood and non-locked-down that someone has gotten a 3rd party kernel and the USB Gadget framework up and running on them.


Rather than “has a better tip” I think it better to say “is trying to get you to buy his software, Incubate Camo, for using your phone as a webcam”. To be clear, I agree with what he’s doing, especially on an e-waste front, and think that the research and care that went into his post is a public service.


Yes, would sense to mention that in the post, wouldn’t it?

Their product is excellent, though-a far better investment than any webcam.


Not available for Linux though :frowning:


The Logitech C920 is inexplicably terrible out of the box, but it’s not actually a bad camera. By default, images are blown-out, faded, and so colorless it might as well be black and white. And, at least on a Mac, there is no way to adjust it. However, you can get massive improvements in image quality if you can tweak the settings. For reasons I can’t fathom Logitech doesn’t provide any way to do this (at least not on a Mac which is my primary platform) but there are third-party apps (like Webcam Settings) that give you all sorts of control over brightness, saturation, and contrast. You can even zoom and pan the default image.


Yeah, because we all still believe that Wirecutter is a reliable source.


Given the…exemplary quality…of Logitech’s configuration utilities; I can only assume that someone in Logitech is committed to having pity upon the mac users and sparing them the pain.

Perhaps I’m just fussy and histrionic; but I do actually maintain a dedicated PC(albeit an obsolete unit saved from the recycle pile) for the purpose of doing pairing of Logitech ‘unifying receiver’ devices and peripherals; just so that we can keep the software away from production systems.


I’m an Android guy so I don’t have old iPhones kicking around, but I’m highly respectful of Apple camera hardware. I bought a used iPhone 7 last year, hooked it up on a hard mount on my desk, and installed DroidCam on my Windows laptop and desktop. (Tried to use Camo first but couldn’t get it to connect through USB with my setup, and DroidCam will do wireless connections pretty readily). The setup is pretty easy to use and produces far higher quality, more featureful video than any single purpose webcam I’ve ever used, for about the price of a high-end webcam.

I think you only have two choices in this space: what I did, or getting a $15 cheap-o no-name Chinese webcam and living with the lack of image quality and features.


A lot of the gap in cellphone vs webcams is actually software. The majority of gains in the last five years of cellphone camera quality has not been lenses or sensors. It’s all the (very impressive) real-time processing that the cameras do. I’m not even talking about the fancy modes like portrait or whatever. There is a lot of heavy lifting going on in software to increase dynamic range, correct exposure, adjust shutter speed, etc that you’re not aware of.

This difference is easy to see- take a DSLR and put the same lens on it as a basic cellphone camera (most are f1.8). The DSLR has 100x better glass on it and a larger, better sensor, right? Now try and get the same quality video out of the DSLR. You’ll have to turn off all the automatic settings and spend a lot of time messing with f-stop, ISO, white balance, and focus to get anywhere close to what the modern cellphone camera does automagically.

I learned a new respect for them when I wrote a camera app for a client, and again when I replaced my cellphone with a DSLR on my YouTube channel and lost picture quality. :grin:


On android there are aps for a lot of that. When webcams were totally sold out early in the Pandemic I was using a program called DroidCam that did exactly this. Bit awkward positioning a phone on or around my desktop for use as a webcam. But the image looked a lot better than the webcam I eventually bought.

I’ve also used an old Android phone for emulating Wii U motion controls when emulating Breath of the Wild. There’s a simple setup for pulling the accelerometer over Bluetooth.

The hardware can do it, the software just doesn’t have the functionality out of the box.

Logitech has a camera settings program, and it looks like their new Capture software also does the thing. Both appear to be available for MacOS. They’re just not neccisarily in the box for any given product, but you can download them from their website. The camera settings ap frustratingly only lives on the product support page’s “download” section these days.


The real reason webcams are so low quality is because we are not all super models and frankly, look better a little bit out of focus.


I’ve got a C922, and standalone it’s not all that. But coupled with Xsplit (which I bought here at BB at a huge discount from an advertorial) it gives access to many more cam settings and some very nifty effects. I bought it at the beginning of pandemic and use it every day. I’ve been pleased with it.

I particularly enjoy using it to tweak dweebs who want to have a Zoom call late on Friday afternoon by setting my background to a loop inside a very nice pub.

And so far I’ve gotten well over two years of use out of it, which is pretty good for a webcam.

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