With most teachers and students homebound, the need for connecting over video links has never been more important. Sad to say, most students (and not a few teachers) either don’t have a webcam or it’s so bad that you can’t even tell it’s a person talking to you.
There’s hope because there are a slew of add-on webcams. The key to a good one goes deeper than resolution to include amenities like mounting brackets for a display, what platforms it works with and the ability to pan, tilt and zoom the camera.
Here are three of my favorite instant-connect webcams that can put your face on students’ screens.
Logitech StreamCam $170
With the ability to capture full HD video and software to distribute it live, the StreamCam is an all-in-one video powerhouse. It works with Windows and Mac computers and allows a horizontal or vertical orientation to capture different lessons.
Available in white or black, its front has attractive fabric and a large cutout for the camera’s lens and includes a tripod. The StreamCam’s use of a USB C cable means that older systems will need an adapter that’s not included.
In addition to built-in microphones and a white LED to show the camera is active, the StreamCam can attach to the top of a notebook, desktop display or be screwed onto a standard tripod. The big bonus is that you also get a three-month subscription to the XSplit Premium live streaming service that’s perfect for sending a lesson to a class of kids stuck at home.
Razer Kiyo $100
If the lighting is bad where your computer is set up, the Razer Kio can make anybody look good for a closeup with its own illumination. Like a lighted make-up mirror, the Kiyo’s illuminating LEDS can not only brighten up your face but can fill in shadows.
The rest of the webcam is no slouch, either, with Razer’s 4-megapixel sensor that yields bright and vibrant HD video streams. It can clip to a desktop display, stand on its own or sit atop a standard tripod. The webcam has an integrated microphone and is perfect for older computers because Kiyo uses a standard USB 2.0 plug and works with Windows 7 and newer systems, but not Macs.
AVer CAM540 4K Video Conference Camera $1,250
It may be expensive but the $1,250 Aver Cam540 is among the best video conferencing cameras on the market and worth every penny if image quality counts for everything. Well-suited for teachers with labs, maps or whiteboards to transmit to students, the CAM540 can not only capture and send 4K video that shows off every detail, but its 16X glass lens that can zoom in on anything from a table of playing cards (for a math lesson), a map (for a social studies class) or a frog dissection (for a biology presentation).
Because it can pan 160-degrees, tilt upwards by 90-degrees and downwards by 30-degrees and zoom at the touch of the remote control, it can stream the right part of the lesson. Happily, it covers the range of school computing platforms with compatibility for Windows systems (with versions 7 or 10), Macs (OSX 10.7 or newer) and even Chromebooks (version 29 or newer).