We’ve reached the point where 1080p webcams are being criticized for being “low resolution”. Everyone wants a 4K webcam, even though Zoom, Twitch, and other platforms don’t support 4K video. It’s a strange and confusing situation, especially for those who need a new webcam!
What’s so special about 4K webcams?
With the advent of 4K monitors and televisions, 4K webcams are more popular than ever. They record video at a resolution higher than 1080p, offering more detail and clarity even when downscaled for a lower resolution screen.
Resolution describes the number of pixels in an image. And 4K video contains four times more pixels than 1080p – it’s quite a significant upgrade. But the improvement in detail afforded by a 4K resolution is hard to see on small screens with high pixel densities (when a screen is small, the pixels are tightly packed together, limiting the amount of detail that can fit).
And since 4K webcams are usually aimed at the “premium” market, they often contain high-quality components and software. That means a larger sensor for improved low-light performance, a higher-quality lens for extra-clear video, and intelligent software that can automatically correct white balance, contrast, or color.
However, these “premium” features are not exclusive to 4K webcams. Most high-quality 1080p webcams, like the Logitech Brio 500, offer excellent low-light performance and include advanced image correction software.
You don’t need a 4K webcam for high-quality videos
Upgrading to a 4K webcam should noticeably improve video quality. The high resolution produces a lot of detail, while high-quality components ensure a clearer image and improved performance in low light conditions.
But when you’re recording video in a dimly lit room, the benefits of a 4K webcam don’t feel huge. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig.
Most 1080p webcams are perfectly capable of recording high-quality video. If you already have a 1080p webcam, I highly recommend trying a ring light before upgrading to 4K. A cheap ring light can improve your video quality by leaps and bounds, making a 4K resolution might seem unnecessary.
You should also consider how you use your webcam. If you record YouTube videos, upgrading to a 4K webcam makes sense. The increased resolution is very noticeable when people view your videos on large format monitors or TVs, even with downscaling.
However, if you use a webcam for video conferencing, upgrading to 4K might be a bit excessive. Most people see your video feed in a tiny box on their screen, and what’s more, the most popular video conferencing platforms don’t even support 4K video. (These issues also apply to live streaming, albeit to a lesser extent.)
The 7 best webcam lights to make your next call look great
You probably can’t stream 4K video anyway
When you watch a YouTube video over a crappy internet connection, the resolution automatically drops to 720p or 480p. Or the video may buffer a bit before it starts playing, effectively bypassing your sluggish internet.
But video calls are live — you can’t have a two-minute buffer when chatting with your boss. So the resolution of your video feed is limited by your internet connection. If your home internet is extremely slow, your video may only stream in 480p. But if you have a really fast connection, you can stream live video in 4K.
Let’s talk numbers. To broadcast live video at 4K 30 FPS, you need an internet connection with an upload speed of at least 25 Mbit/s. I’m talking about actual bandwidth available for your computer, not the internet speed your ISP advertises. Real-world internet speeds are affected by several factors, most notably your connection method (Wi-Fi or Ethernet) and the other devices in your home.
According to a 2021 report published by Ookla Speedtest, the average broadband upload speed in the United States is only 22 Mbps. This metric is based on real world data. While 22Mbps is enough bandwidth for 1080p videos, it’s not enough for 4K.
So even if you buy a 4K webcam, there’s a pretty good chance your video conferencing or live stream will get stuck at 1080p. Keep in mind that most internet plans, even those with fast download speeds, tend to have relatively slow upload speeds.
To make matters worse, platforms like Twitch, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams don’t even support 4K video. They end up at 1080p. And if you’re using Google Meet, you’re stuck at a meager 720p. (Nevertheless, some lesser-known video conferencing platforms like Lifesize support 4K.)
Should you buy a 4K webcam?
If you’re a content creator, a 4K webcam could be a wise investment. It boosts the quality of your YouTube videos or live streams, even if they’re downscaled to 1080p, as long as you have decent lighting.
Remote workers probably shouldn’t bother with a 4K webcam. At least not until Zoom and other video conferencing platforms catch up with this technology. You could buy a 4K webcam today and save yourself future upgrades, but if you’re worried about wasting money you might want to just wait until 4K webcams become more affordable.
The best webcams for video conferencing, streaming and more
This article was previously published on Source link