tibbon 45 days ago [-]
Here's what really bugs me. It's clear Apple has good cameras, excellent even. And small.

Yet, the camera in my $2000 Macbook Pro? Remarkably worse than even the worse external webcam.

If they can throw an amazing camera in a phone, why can't they put a decent one in a laptop?

diamondo25 45 days ago [-]
I think because it has no room for the module. Cameras these days tend to bulge out of the case of the phone...
redisman 45 days ago [-]
Good optics need physical space that a super flat screen doesn't have (in depth). My Macbook screen is like 1/4th of the depth of my iPhone
mfkp 45 days ago [-]
If people don't mind a bulge in their phone, I doubt they'd mind a camera bulge sticking out the back of their laptop.
acdha 45 days ago [-]
Johnny Ives was obsessed with thinness - it’s the same problem which lead to the bad keyboards. Now they’ve been putting people who haven’t forgotten about usability in charge I would not be surprised if the next case design included a non-terrible webcam since it’s unlikely that anyone is going to stop video conferencing even if we do go back to the office.
rstuart4133 44 days ago [-]
I have no doubt that Johnny Ives was obsessed with thinness.

But ... my shiny new Lenovo Carbon X1, which is an engineering laptop if there ever was one, is developing key impressions all over it's very expensive 4K OLED screen because they didn't put enough space between the keyboard and the display when it is closed, presumably to keep the thing thin.

It ain't just Mr Ives.

stonecharioteer 44 days ago [-]
I'm curious why you'd think the x1 is better than a lot of other laptops that are much more affordable. My Dell G5 SE with a Ryzen 7, 32 GB Ram and 1.5TB SSD is a beast. I haven't begun to scrape the surface of what it can do. And with AMD doing so much better than Intel, I'm just surprised how people who want an engineering device still use Intel.

Im not an AMD fan boy, all my last devices were Intel. I'm just curious.

rstuart4133 42 days ago [-]
That's easy. I bought a 4K OLED screen. Laptops are a dime a dozen in just about any spec and things like SSD's can be upgraded, but a laptop with a 4K OLED screen are rare. There is not a lot of choice.

My previous laptop was 4K. Sadly I discovered after I had it for a year or so 4K is addictive. It's hard to give up the screen real estate once your used to it. When it comes to 4K on Lenovo it's the X1 or nothing, and Dell's keyboards have pissed me off for the last time. I didn't look beyond Dell and Lenovo.

The OLED was a first and only available on the X1. It's lovely and all, the contrast ratio and max brightness are extraordinary. So extraordinary if I take the brightness beyond 10% or so in an office I can't look at it for long periods. It's also twice the price, and heaver on the battery. No huge regrets, as it is a truly beautiful screen, but I won't be doing it again.

All that said, those key marks on the beautiful OLED screen are really starting to piss me off.

stonecharioteer 42 days ago [-]
Interesting. Thank you for your response. I've been told 4k on a laptop screen is bad for your eyes. I've never experienced it myself, so I have no experience there.
woofie11 41 days ago [-]
A 4k laptop is wonderful and joyous for your eyes.

Modern software handles high-res displays well. Things are sharper and crisper, not smaller.

woofie11 44 days ago [-]
Quality. ThinkPad, Apple, or some of Dell's premium lines won't break with life. This translates into:

- Mechanical build quality

- Choice of auxiliary components (wifi camera+chipset, etc.). If you're at a conference, you want to get connected and hook up to a projector reliably.

- Battery life

- Cooling

- Keyboard/pointer quality

- Size/weight

And so on. If you fly with a laptop once a week, whether the screws fall out from plane vibrations makes a difference.

One bad business trip, and you've covered the price delta of a half-dozen laptops. I'd never buy an over-speced, under-built laptop like the G5 SE. If my laptop is 15% slower, I care a lot less than if it's 15% more reliable.

stonecharioteer 42 days ago [-]
Ah. Yeah, I admit the G5 SE is a very under-built machine. I wish it had better build quality. Thank you for your thoughts.
acdha 44 days ago [-]
No, but I was responding to someone who said MacBook. I think there’s also a dynamic where once the thinness race started with the PowerBooks everyone else spent the last couple of decades chasing Apple — the difference in height is really easy to see whereas a crappy camera or keyboard indentations doesn’t show up until after the purchase.
StringyBob 44 days ago [-]
Interestingly that happened with my 2016 MacBook Pro. When the screen needed to be replaced due to a panel cracked ribbon cable I noticed that the newer screens had a slightly deeper rubber gasket around the edge (reducing thinness by just under a mm or so) to stop the keyboard rubbing on the screen of the laptop.
totalZero 44 days ago [-]
Jony Ive*

Fair point, but Apple isn't the only company selling laptops with ho-hum webcams.

acdha 44 days ago [-]
Thanks for the correction - there’s an iOS autocomplete joke in there somewhere.

I think what we see is basically showing the difference between the phone and laptop markets: people buy new phones to get better cameras because that’s one of the most common activities for a phone but the same is not true for laptops (or at least wasn’t previously), and there’s a much lower threshold where a mediocre camera prevents a sale. That lack of pressure means there isn’t much of a check on either cost cutting or pursuit of thinner/lighter designs.

RJIb8RBYxzAMX9u 44 days ago [-]
Like it or not, Apple's often the benchmark the rest of the industry measure themselves against. So if / when Apple improves the MBP cam, the rest will follow. Until then, there's no point in cutting into the razor-thin margin.
spijdar 44 days ago [-]
Just an anecdote, but I've always felt the webcams on macs I've used the past few years are worse than much cheaper Wintel PC webcams.

Could just be cognitive bias though, since everyone complains about mac webcams all the time.

acdha 44 days ago [-]
I think it’d be interesting to compare with equivalent price points. Does a $2500 PC have a better camera than a MacBook Pro or is it really more like everyone is skimping and Mac owners are just more vocal about expecting something closer to a mid-2010s iPhone?
totalZero 44 days ago [-]
> Does a $2500 PC have a better camera than a MacBook Pro

Even the cheapest Galaxy S phones have a better front-facing camera than a 2020 MacBook Pro. 720p is less than one megapixel. Other PC makers have the same problem. https://www.wsj.com/video/series/joanna-stern-personal-techn...

The only justification I can think of for having such a cheap webcam is that it takes less battery power to process low-res streaming video at lower frame rates.

acdha 44 days ago [-]
How thick is the MacBook Pro lid compared to that phone — especially when you factor in curvature & the screen hardware? I think the discrepancy is mostly explained by cameras being a feature which phone buyers pay a LOT of attention to, whereas it was an afterthought for most laptop users prior to 2020 while thinness was a marketing goal, and don't forget that laptop buyers pay the full price up front while a LOT of people pay for their “free” phones monthly.

I'm not in any way excusing the crappy hardware — my iPhone 6S should not be a better webcam than anything built-in or on the normal market now — but I think this is a pretty expected outcome of market forces reflecting buyers' priorities.

yborg 44 days ago [-]
Company outfitted us with Dell Alienware m17 R3 laptops, an expensive gaming model that has built-in head tracking. The camera is a 720p with terrible image quality, worse than any Macbook. So no, I don't think Apple is below standard here.
masklinn 44 days ago [-]
> I doubt they'd mind a camera bulge sticking out the back of their laptop.

A bulge at the back of the laptop would be way more problematic e.g. way more likely to catch on bags, or otherwise be damaged.

What I doubt most people would mind is the screen side being slightly thicker.

CodesInChaos 44 days ago [-]
Or have a bulge on the front side of the screen and a corresponding mound on the keyboard side. While it conflicts with the touchpad, it could still be a worthwhile tradeoff.
masklinn 44 days ago [-]
Yes I agree with that. They'd have to scale back the trackpad a bit but frankly… the latest generations are just way too big.
solstice 44 days ago [-]
Have two cams on the edges instead to avoid this and calculate an average image. (Or even use it for stereoscopy)
44 days ago [-]
barkingcat 44 days ago [-]
Yah this precisely.

Why are phones allowed to have bulges and chins and notches, but laptops somehow are too "thin" to do the same? For that matter, why hasn't anyone made a laptop screen with a centre notch? people accepted that for phones and now every large manufacturer of phones use notches in their phones.

Laptops are much larger and heavier so it's really doable to include a better camera.

The only thing blocking isn't technical.

rozab 44 days ago [-]
Nobody buys a laptop for the webcam. That's why.
Fnoord 44 days ago [-]
Exactly, it just has to be good enough. Same with front facing camera. What isn't good enough is Dell's XPS bottom camera.
N3cr0ph4g1st 44 days ago [-]
The bottom camera has been gone for a year or two now
solstice 44 days ago [-]
Are you sure that that won't have begun to change after one year of pandemic-related Home-Office?
nom 44 days ago [-]
For the bulges you have to consider that most people use phone cases, which gives the designers a bit more room.

On laptops you can either create a bump on the backside of the lid, which looks weird as the use of it is not obvious, or you can extend the camera in the front and create a dent in the bottom shell, which also has no clear use and seems out of place. Either way, it will look and feel weird.

On phones it at least highlights the powerful camera and most users are not bothered by it as it extends into the phone case.

barkingcat 43 days ago [-]
This "look weird" issue also applies to the phone bumps, it's just that you haven't seen it before.

When the phone bumps and notches were first introduced it was plenty weird and ugly and obvious with no clear prediction of whether people will be bothered with it or not.

Obviously people are fine with it now.

If the market is a bit open minded with laptops, we can all have better webcams. Form follows function. If I can get a notched laptop with a great 4K laptop webcam, I couldn't care less that it has a weird notch.

saurik 44 days ago [-]
I mean, it's one thing to have a part of my phone that is 15% thicker than the rest, but it is another thing entirely to have a part of my laptop screen that is 400% thicker than the rest ;P.
justwalt 45 days ago [-]
That sounds like something Apple would never do. Though I might have said the same thing about the camera notch on the iPhone.
ourcat 45 days ago [-]
I've always been amazed that Apple did the camera bulge.

I'm quite sure that an iPhone not being able to lay flat on a table without wobbling would have caused Steve Jobs to throw it at whoever designed it.

anthony_romeo 44 days ago [-]
Well, according to this random article I didn't fully read and just now searched for to justify the rest of my sentence's unfounded speculation (https://www.businessinsider.com/iphone-case-survey-2014-7?op...), the vast majority of phone users put cases around their phones, so perhaps the opinion is that the bulge is negligible at this point, and the pursuit of thinness is in part to accommodate users with cases.
setr 44 days ago [-]
The problem is that if you assume case-usage in the design, then the whole thing about it being physically premium materials, smoothly rounded corners and such stops making sense -- you're going to shove it in rubber anyways. The only thing that matters then is the screen itself, and maybe the hardware buttons (eg volume controls)
httpsterio 44 days ago [-]
When something costs lore in dollars than it weights in grams, you can bet on me doing my best lot to break it. Phones are already pretty prone to breakage and they're easily fumbled as well.

I enjoy the materials in my phone and I'd love to use it without a case, but when my phone bumped against a saltshaker and the glass back panel cracked, I felt miffed to pay 160 euros to have that replaced when a 10 euro case would've prevented any damage.

masklinn 44 days ago [-]
> I've always been amazed that Apple did the camera bulge.

At this point I can only assume they simply never managed to find a way to significantly improve the module while keeping things flush.

Kliment 44 days ago [-]
Then just make the whole thing a bit thicker so it's flat (and put in extra battery). The current solution is phenomenally ugly and annoying.
danmur 44 days ago [-]
Pretty annoying place for a bulge though, and it would be more disruptive on a laptop.
TechBro8615 44 days ago [-]
Maybe the camera could protrude from the screen and fit into a hole on the bottom of the case when folded. Would be pretty ugly though.
samatman 44 days ago [-]
More than ugly, it would fill up with lint and gunk and prevent closing the laptop, perhaps even damaging the screen if the user applied force.

It's a non-starter I'm afraid.

ravenstine 44 days ago [-]
Or they could at least make a webcam add-on with a superior camera, but as far as I know they don't sell anything like that. Hell, make it possible to use an iPhone as a webcam!
llampx 44 days ago [-]
I remember the article linked recently where someone took apart an old Apple iSight and put in a Raspberry Pi + Camera into the housing. And it had fantastic image quality.
bootlooped 44 days ago [-]
So rather than put a crappy camera in the phone, they expanded the volume to fit the camera. I wonder why that isn't something we see with laptops? You could have it bulge out of the back, or have some clever cutout below the trackpad and let it bulge out the front.
vsskanth 44 days ago [-]
Thank you. Never thought of this. It all makes sense now.
floatingatoll 44 days ago [-]
The camera in your MBP isn't the Apple Silicon camera that's used in their mobile devices. In the near future, when Apple drops Intel from their entire laptop product line, it is very likely that they'll bring their Apple Silicon cameras from their mobile products to their laptop products. (Yes, there's a 'version zero' MBP with the M1, and a teardown showed that it's literally a drop-and-swap of the motherboard with no other component changes at all. It's literally the "get this out the door so that developers can start finding issues so we can fix them for the masses" model. Hope y'all waited to upgrade if you're not developers for Apple products!)

Everyone assumes that it's only the camera module that needs to be updated, but forgets that it's the image processing hardware circuits that make DSLRs and iOS devices produce such gorgeous images. This, in a nutshell, is why USB webcam makers can't compete: they aren't willing to raise their price by $50 to incorporate a real image processing chip that's able to handle the sensor adequately, and their software is crap because it's bargain-basement and hacked-together to avoid the hardware spend. Imagine if we could purchase Leica and Nikon and Canon webcams, with the ability to use DSLR controls to set them up, and then have them just produce gorgeous photos at any time. So far, Apple is the only webcam maker that's taken it far enough to earn praise. It's really unfortunate.

kelchm 44 days ago [-]
Apple aren’t actually designing its own sensors, are they? I expected they would be using an off the shelf Sony sensor just like (most) everyone else.

I generally disagree with your premise here. Yes, you can do some pretty amazing things with image processing in software, but you have to have a decent starting point. A good example of this is just how minimal the image processing improvements are in the M1 MacBooks compared to their Intel counterparts — marginally better, but nothing to write home about.

I’m not at all an expert in optics, but I would expect the biggest constraint is the available depth for the lens and camera sensor within the upper clamshell of a laptop vs a phone. It doesn’t seem like it would be a huge difference but an extra millimeter or so makes a huge difference in the size of the sensor that can be used.

floatingatoll 44 days ago [-]
You assume that this year's M1 MacBooks have a different camera package from the Intel MacBooks prior to them, and/or that the camera package used in Intel MacBooks could be improved by Apple Silicon.

I think that the iPhone/iPad camera package requires Apple Silicon, and that Apple simply hasn't installed it (or one like it) in their MacBook yet, so that it doesn't matter if it has Intel or Apple Silicon, it still looks terrible because it hasn't been upgrade to one that takes advantage of Apple Silicon yet.

I don't know who makes the sensor inside that package, but I have no assumptions that the sensor is the sum total of the package. Apple is all about bizarre integrations and coprocessors (such as the iOS/bridgeOS/whatever chip inside their Lightning-to-HDMI dongle) and I'm simply not willing to bet that the Apple Silicon package can operate on an Intel computer, or that it's just processing of the sensor, without a teardown showing us that they're the same in the face of a significant quality improvement.

JoeyBananas 44 days ago [-]
In a laptop, the camera is a much less important feature. Nobody takes pictures of their daughter's recital using a laptop.
sneak 44 days ago [-]
Space. Your laptop lid is extremely thin. It's a marvel that it works as well as it does, given this constraint.
u678u 44 days ago [-]
The other part is if you have a quality HD or better camera its a huge load to GPU and network which will chew your battery. Lower resolution is actually probably preferred if you could see the alternative.
jbellis 44 days ago [-]
This doesn't pass the smell test. Laptop batteries are effectively infinite compared to a phone.
u678u 44 days ago [-]
Good point. Maybe ARM chips are different and M1 will change things.
bootlooped 44 days ago [-]
It's not just resolution though. By every other measure of quality, webcams are mediocre. In the article, even before expanding the video test of the 4 different webcams, it's easy to see how poor some of them are in various ways.
corysama 45 days ago [-]
Different article from a month ago “Why can’t you buy a good web cam?” https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25504771

Lots of points. Big one being that the market is bifurcated into:

1. People who just want the minimum as cheap as possible.

2. People willing to pay enough to buy a mirrorless photo camera and plug it in as a web cam when they need it.

TeMPOraL 45 days ago [-]
I see this pattern everywhere - the market bifurcating into a) race-to-the-bottom garbage products that are barely crossing the legal threshold of fit for purpose, and are essentially a huge waste of natural resources, and b) quality goods sold to specialists or companies, usually severely overpriced (to cover low volume of sales, and/or just because the market will bear it).

Does it have a name in economics? Are there good ways of preventing this from happening?

AstralStorm 45 days ago [-]
This is called market segmentation, and is for some reason considered a good thing. Actually it's the means to extract maximum cash out of customers who want anything more than the bare minimum.
novok 45 days ago [-]
No, what he is describing is the lack of a middle market segment, not the fact there are market segments.

My guess is the world's middle class is slowly dieing, so all you have are the poor and the rich.

Animats 44 days ago [-]
Sears.

Sears' niche was in the middle. Everything was good, but not great, quality. Products were durable, came with good warranties, and "We Service What We Sell". Sears sold to the middle class, with middle prices. They went bankrupt with that model.

rrrrrrrrrrrryan 44 days ago [-]
It was even better - they used to have 3 of everything.

Want a hammer? They've got exactly 3:

1) One that's good enough to get the job done (Cheap, solid for a one-off project.)

2) One that's great (The one you probably want: More expensive, but tradeoffs are balanced for most people.)

3) One that's basically best in class, with a lifetime warranty (Expensive, basically professionals, you could hand it down to your grandkids)

I still think there's a craving for this sort of thing, but online. Extensively curated products divided into 3 tiers.

variaga 44 days ago [-]
Sears didn't just "go bankrupt" - it was killed by CEO Eddie Lampert.

https://www.businessinsider.com/how-eddie-lampert-set-sears-...

mixmastamyk 44 days ago [-]

    s/killed/looted/
variaga 44 days ago [-]
First one, then the other
gumby 44 days ago [-]
Sears didn't start that way. Their appliances and tools were top of the line, for instance.

Their own decline was a whoo-corporate example of the described phenomenon, accelerated if not triggered by the execrable Eddie Lampert.

nine_k 44 days ago [-]
Maybe it's because the middle class itself is vanishing.
ksec 45 days ago [-]
Polarization is used to describe something similar for Job Market. But I am not aware of an exact term for Product. Bad money drives out good could also be used to describe it, or basically Good Enough is the enemy of better and best.

The problem is most people have very little understand of quality. And that is why Marketing matters.

In WebCam, most dont cares much about the quality because you rarely use it. It wasn't until pandemic people were forced to use it more often did they realise how crap it was.

Marketing is about educating customers why your product is better, how you should spend more on it. And Apple is an example, they are exceptionally good at it.

> usually severely overpriced

Most of the time I find that to be false. Not because of the market will bear it, but those market also requires constant innovation so profits are being funnel back into R&D. Generally speaking most "market will bear it" type of product disappear within 5 years when a competitor found they could make something better and cheaper.

u678u 44 days ago [-]
I'm coming around to the "b) quality goods sold to specialists or companies, usually severely overpriced", is actually fairly priced. It just seems expensive compared to the junk that is incredibly cheap. I used to be worried about getting ripped off I never bought good quality but now I appreciate it.
chapium 44 days ago [-]
Its expensive because there is a market for the mid-range model, but to achieve midrange, one must top out at the high end.
Der_Einzige 45 days ago [-]
Mirror less cameras aren't really overpriced. You can get a good entry level canon (M50) and a quality kit lens for 600$

Or you can get a Sony A6100 and crappier kit lens for 700$

These cameras have significant strong (e.g. aps-c sensor size) capabilities not found in anything except mirrorless and DSLR cameras. Seems not to be overpriced to me.

Overpriced is like what nvidia does to the quattro cards...

tomc1985 45 days ago [-]
I wouldn't diss kit lenses... I built my reputation as a local photographer on a Nikon D3100-and-kit-lens Costco special. I could print shots at 13x19 and they'd come out crisp as hell

Hell, that DX 18-55 kit lens had, in some ways, better optics than the FX 24-120 that cost more than the entire D3100 kit

Der_Einzige 45 days ago [-]
The Sony kit lens is far worse than those other lenses though. How do they get a zoom with OIS for 99$? Skimping on the optics...
tomc1985 44 days ago [-]
That's a shame. What's wrong with optics on that? I can't imagine the 18-55 kit lens costs much more.
monadic3 45 days ago [-]
Overproduction. Marxists write endlessly about the problem beginning with Marx himself.
Al-Khwarizmi 45 days ago [-]
I'd be willing to pay for a good webcam, but I'm not willing to plug something as bulky and heavy as a mirrorless camera to my monitor, let alone to my laptop. I don't think that's a weird stance to have.
masklinn 44 days ago [-]
> 1. People who just want the minimum as cheap as possible.

The webcams tested in TFA go up to $200 though, that's well into low-end smartphone.

llampx 45 days ago [-]
I daresay that Group #2 comes out of necessity, since none of the webcams, even expensive ones, offer excellent image quality.
bluGill 45 days ago [-]
0. People who don't want a web cam on their computer at all.

I know a lot of people who have put tape over their webcam. In fact that is the policy of several departments where I work. Some people use their web cams, but a large number of people I work with never use theirs.

By using a cheap web cam manufactures can cover 1 without having to make a model without a webcam for those who don't want it - this would be more expensive than shipping a piece of tape to cover it just because they would need to design a second case and have a new part number.

cbozeman 45 days ago [-]
> People willing to pay enough to buy a mirrorless photo camera and plug it in as a web cam when they need it.

Yeap. I feel like this is the way to go.

aidenn0 45 days ago [-]
Except The cameras from today's article go up to $200 MSRP.
krrrh 45 days ago [-]
I spend a lot of time on video calls every day, and wanted to take advantage of my iPhone camera. I had tried Epoccam and it was buggy, and broke between releases of Zoom or didn’t work in Slack calls. Screwing around with OBS was time consuming and pinned my fans.

Reincubate Camo has been a pleasure to use over the last 3 months, and has never let me down. Having good image quality on video calls is on par with wearing a clean shirt or showering before in person meetings. You can get by without it, but you make a much better impression if you step your game up a little bit.

One big plus of Camo is that it will also patch software like Slack so that it works with virtual cameras at all.

gingerlime 44 days ago [-]
Yeah, Camo is probably the best out there at the moment.

But... (there's always a but)

1. they had a bug with Mojave which made it disconnect, especially with Zoom calls with many people (I imagine CPU issue?)

2. There's no way to control / switch off the camera from the app. The phone is still on with the app open and camera is working

3. I've got a nice holder, and used a dedicated older phone, but still it was a hassle, because you want to use the back facing camera -- to avoid seeing yourself. And then starting the app is effectively "behind" the camera. It's awkward.

4. They charge a yearly subscription fee. I can understand why, but in the long run I'm not sure it works out in their customer's favour financially.

I eventually gave up and got a Logitech Brio. So far I'm pretty happy.

vosper 44 days ago [-]
I had the same experience with Epoccam, it was far too unreliable to actually use for meetings. Thanks for the pointer to Camo.

In the end I ponied up for Logitech C920, I think it's worth the money rather than fussing with a phone, apps, etc..

chrisweekly 44 days ago [-]
Huh. OBS has worked well for me, incl on a 2012 mbp.
ravenstine 44 days ago [-]
OBS is awesome software, but it drains the battery on my 2015 Macbook like nothing else.
chrisweekly 44 days ago [-]
ah; I'm always plugged in so wouldn't have noticed
my_username_is_ 45 days ago [-]
Are there any similar options for Android phones?
netsharc 45 days ago [-]
DroidCam works for my requirements: http://www.dev47apps.com .. it installs a virtual webcam and microphone on Windows, and transmits the video and audio from the phone camera/microphone.
phreack 45 days ago [-]
Closest I can think of is Droidcam, which works great on Windows at least - on a wired connection.
inickt 44 days ago [-]
ivan_ah 44 days ago [-]
I use https://iriun.com on an old Android phone to get an "overhead projector" setup (to show hand written notes).

(using USB connection not wifi; there is a bit of lag but works OK)

andredz 45 days ago [-]
I can also recommend Camo; it has worked mostly all right.
llampx 45 days ago [-]
I also noticed fairly early on, that phone cameras were improving by leaps and bounds, while laptop webcams and USB webcams seemed to be at a standstill, image-quality wise.

I don't know why that is, but even Apple would seemingly rather shave 50 cents off the BOM by speccing a 720p Facetime camera in their $3000 Macbook Pros, and trying to make up the difference with software, like with the new M1 Macs that have better image quality using the same 720p webcam.

For my desktop I've taken to using an action camera, since software that supports using Android phones as webcams seemed to not be so good when I looked. It plugs in via USB, is cheap, has auto-focus and supports a wider angle of view than most webcams. Good for group calls. One can always zoom in with software.

josephg 45 days ago [-]
> even Apple would seemingly rather shave 50 cents off the BOM by speccing a 720p Facetime camera in their $3000 Macbook Pros

The reason I've heard is that the macbook display assembly simply doesn't have the depth to house a decent camera. The camera bump in phones exists for a reason - and phones are already way fatter than macbook displays.

I have no idea if thats true though.

mikestew 45 days ago [-]
I've got a late 2019 iMac, and it's got the same piece-of-shit camera that the MBPs do. I think (without looking it up) recent iMacs bumped the specs. It is one of my few disappointments with this machine. OTOH, my workplace doesn't use cameras on online meetings. My musical jam group does, though. And I paid about $3K for this machine, so it shouldn't even be a discussion.
llampx 45 days ago [-]
I also thought about this but then look at the iPad and iPhone Facetime cameras. They offer much better image quality than Macbook webcams. There are a few ways to offer "rear camera" quality on Macbooks, like having a little bump sticking out from the back. I don't think that's what people are asking for though. They just want a webcam that's as good as the webcam in their phone.

Also this doesn't answer the question of why USB webcams are so terrible. They have tons of room.

solarkraft 45 days ago [-]
Those devices are significantly thicker that a MacBook display.

I could imagine a bump towards the front that would sink into the body when closed, but doing it in a way that looks and feels good also seems rather hard - but also harder to avoid should they want to implement things such as face id.

llampx 45 days ago [-]
I guess we'll never know until we have the front camera assemblies from both sitting side by side.
djrogers 45 days ago [-]
Fortunately this is the Internet. You can see those parts plenty of places - like ifixit for example. Yes, the front facing cameras on iPhones are thicker than what would fit in a current MacBook display.

Honestly though, I think the real reason webcams on laptops suck is that until recently 95% of people didn't use them 99% of the time.

ksec 45 days ago [-]
The iPhone Front Facing Camera Module is already thicker than the whole MacBook Pro Screen + Glass + Casing.
floatingatoll 45 days ago [-]
That improvement in image quality requires Apple Cortex CPUs due to Apple’s implementation strategies for cameras. I expect Apple will update the cameras in future laptop models as Apple Silicon arrives fully across their product lines, likely using the same package from their phones.
JustSomeNobody 45 days ago [-]
Apple: Thinnest laptop evar!

Also Apple: We can't give you a better camera because we gave you the thinnest laptop evar!

"We think you're gonna love it!"

__turbobrew__ 44 days ago [-]
Also Apple: We can’t give you better battery life because we gave you the thinnest laptop evar!
josephg 44 days ago [-]
Huh? Their "thinnest laptop ever" (the air) isn't the only laptop they sell. The macbook pro is almost all battery and its quoted at 17 hrs web browsing / 20hrs of video playback. thats massive.

I think apple deserves criticism for a lot of things they do, but their battery life is fantastic. (Well, unless you've got half a dozen electron apps running. But thats not apple's problem to solve.)

junipertea 45 days ago [-]
Much thicker laptops have equally bad camera.
a2tech 44 days ago [-]
Thats the same story someone I know that works at Apple told me. They would like to put a better camera in there as much as we would like one, but its not economical at the moment.
smnrchrds 45 days ago [-]
Is the image quality any better on iMac? At the very least on expensive iMac Pro? If not, the issue is not physical limitations of Macbook, it's most likely cost.
surfearth 44 days ago [-]
Yes. The new iMac 27" and iMacPro both use a 1080p webcam and also use the T2 chip for image processing. I recently upgraded from a 2015 iMac 27" to the 2020 iMac 27" and the webcam is better although still not great.
WrtCdEvrydy 45 days ago [-]
On the flip side, you can get some decent cameras in the "nose up position" these days.
EForEndeavour 45 days ago [-]
Higher resolution at exactly the wrong angle? Wonderful!
dingaling 45 days ago [-]
The display frame has plenty of space for a phone-type camera sensor of any resolution, it's just a flat CMOS. Even a really big phone sensor is only 8x6x3mm

A good lens is more difficult to fit in the Z-dimension but that doesn't constrain the resolution of the sensor. A small bump in the bezel and a corresponding recess in the base would allow a better design of lens.

djrogers 45 days ago [-]
3mm? Based on my measurement just now, the lid of my 16" MBP is just about 4mm thick - so no, after the case and front glass there's enough room for even the sensor, let alone a lens.
llampx 45 days ago [-]
Yes exactly, there's plenty of space for a decent sensor and lens. On top of that we're talking about a wide-angle lens, which are generally flatter. Two things add thickness and complexity to camera lenses - telephoto and autofocus. Phones only recently started getting thick bumps for the rear camera when telephoto lenses became more popular. My phone has a sizeable bump for the telephoto camera but the ultra-wide angle one is outside of that bump.
GuB-42 45 days ago [-]
As smartphones essentially replaced point and shoot cameras, image quality became a major selling point. In fact, for many people, that's the only reason for getting a modern, high-end phone.

Laptop cameras are typically used only for the occasional video chat, with so much compression on the line that the image looks like crap anyways. And before 2020, I'm quite sure most laptops didn't see their webcam used even once.

Maybe for the following years, now that people realized that their laptop webcam is not just a place to put a sticker on, manufacturers will put on something better.

analog31 45 days ago [-]
In my view, phone cameras are used for photography, in addition to conferencing. So they need to be better quality for that use. Nobody takes pictures of their outdoor adventure, or an image of a document, with a laptop camera.

Well, some people do. My kids were in the youth orchestra, and they had to issue a rule that parents are not allowed to hold an iPad up in the air for the entire duration of the concert.

dive 45 days ago [-]
That's what I thought recently about the MacBook Camera. I have switched to Mac Mini M1 and bought Logitech StreamCam for ~£150. It sucks in every possible way: focus does not work properly in any conditions except natural daylight, CPU expensive, additional meaningless software for basic features, etc. Now, I miss the MacBook camera. Yes, it is 720p, but do I need more for my meetings? Nope. It just works. The quality is acceptable, no problems with any applications/web-tools, plays well with system resources, etc. If we are talking about "Zoom me" cameras, I would prefer the MacBook's one. If we are talking about YouTube streamers, etc., then it is a bit different area, and yes, MacBook's camera will not help with this.
guenthert 45 days ago [-]
Hmmh, I couldn't care less about webcams. I'm not that pretty and not all that eager to share the interior of my dwelling. I do however care about sound quality. With my accent and mumbling I need all the help I can get. Others reported that the camera in their phone beats most webcams, but what about the microphone(-array)? The sound quality of phablets hasn't quite won me over. Is there anything better available, short of equipment for professional musicians?
mikestew 45 days ago [-]
I'm an amateur musician with a USB audio interface, several hundred dollars worth of microphones (though for office work, it's just the Shure SM27 condenser), and wired set of good headphones. And it is glorious. Until everyone got used to it, I got consistent compliments on the sound quality. You'll sound like a radio DJ. Because everything is wired, latency is minimal and a lot less of "okay, go head. No, go ahead..."

Now, that's a lot of money and fiddling. Bang-for-the-buck IMO is the already-mentioned Blue Yeti, along with a wired set of headphones (anything, just wired, and not coming out of the speakers to take the load off the DSP feedback cancelling). So, prolly $150 total? Point being, if you use just a wired mic and headphones of any quality, you're loads ahead in sound quality of those using the built-in mic and speakers on their laptop (or worse, their phone).

defanor 45 days ago [-]
I was under the impression that dynamic microphones are much more suitable for non-studio settings, where echoes and other noises happen, as well as for regular speech, not music (and that they are actually used on radio stations). And XLR dynamic ones can be connected to a computer even with just an XLR-to-TRRS cable, not requiring phantom power. Or a proper audio interface if one wishes to, not something built into a microphone. Do you have any experience with those, and/or reasons to prefer condenser microphones for speech?
PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
You need a mic preamp somewhere in the signal chain.

Sadly, many manufacturers have been pushing "USB mics", which bundle the preamp and an analog->digital converter into the mic body, and they've been very successful at marketing/selling these devices.

I say sadly because these devices violate rule #1 of digital audio: there should only be 1 sample clock. The moment you start using these mics in combination with any other digital audio stream (e.g. playback via the builtin or some other audio interface), there are now at least 2 sample clocks, creating the requirement that some software layer does resampling to keep things in sync.

Much better to just get a cheap "proper" audio interface, skip the USB mic option, and use a "real" (analog) mic.

I leave the condenser/dynamic question for someone else.

bradfa 44 days ago [-]
Got any recommendations on "proper" audio interfaces which are reasonably affordable?
PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
More or less any USB interface that is less than 8 years old will work across all major operating systems. You will find lots for sale on EBay.

https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p2380057.m...

More or less anything from Focusrite, Presonus will serve you well. They'll get the job done until you care about subtle details (which may never be necessary), and might still be fine even after that.

If you're using Linux, the only thing to be sure of is that the device is described as either (1) "class compliant" or (2) "works on iPads" or (3) both. Linux users have much to be grateful towards the iPad for, in particular the ban on drivers meant that USB audio interface makers really had to get their act together to ensure that their devices worked with a generic USB audio driver (just like the one on Linux).

ghostpepper 44 days ago [-]
Not the OP but I've been very happy with Scarlett Focusrite, both for video calling and hobbyist-level guitar recording
mikestew 44 days ago [-]
The only reason that I use the condenser is precisely because it will pick up my voice without having to shove my face into the mic. Yeah, it picks up my dog barking in the other room. I only used that as an example of what I've got in my office, not as a recommendation. There are a ton of different condenser mics with different patterns, etc., too. But remember, I'm overloading music stuff for MS Teams meetings. I make no claim that it's optimal, just easy for what I've got plugged into the desk.

But yeah, for most folks a dynamic is fine, cheaper, and more sturdy. Or a Blue Yeti USB mic. My point wasn't to drill into the details and offer a recommendation, though, other than "wire your stuff, and you'll be loads ahead". What is on the other end of those wires is a separate discussion. And I'm probably not the one to lead that discussion. (I'm a musician, not an orator.)

u678u 44 days ago [-]
I always thought a headset is better than external mike as you can move around and dont get background noise. Is there a reason not to use a headset mic?

Half my team use speakerphones and it drives me nuts.

d1zzy 44 days ago [-]
Last time I researched this (when I settled on a desktop condenser mic), the only headphones that had good mic quality were the very expensive ones, $200 and higher and/or the professional ones (the ones you see used in sports on the field).

The problem is that, just like cameras, size matters for mics. In order to even sense the full frequency range of the human voice it helps to have a larger diaphragm size. For headsets they range from microscopic to tiny which results in the voice recorded with the headset sounding like "telephone" voice (ie it's designed to capture the most important frequency range of the human voice, the medium frequencies) however, to me that sounds bad, artificial, cheap so I wanted more. Capturing more of the frequency range allows you to sound more natural, you know, like you are actually there in the same room talking to that person.

Depending on your usecase this may or may not be a consideration.

EDIT: as for noise issues, it's always best to avoid recording it if possible but even then there are software techniques to remove it post-facto. In order to achieve the former you can get super/hyper-cardioid pattern microphones that are very sensible recording sound that comes directly in front but not from other directions. However, no pattern will save you if you use a condenser microphone in a noisy room. It may be possible to use a second mic positioned away from your mouth and use software to remove the noise by essentially computing the difference between the two (some headsets can do that). Alternatively you can go for a desktop dynamic mic, just make sure you speak loud enough, but at least you won't get noise :)

CharlesW 44 days ago [-]
> I always thought a headset is better than external mike…

It is, because users don't have to worry about mic technique or having a studio-quality room.

mikestew 44 days ago [-]
The only concern I generally have with microphones for the vast majority of my life is music. Only recently have I concerned myself with the sound quality of online meetings. :) Meaning I'm not the best to ask, but maybe better than anyone else you know. But again, I think anything that's wired with microphone that doesn't have to deal with what comes out of speakers (feedback) is going to be a big improvement, even headsets. And moving around is a factor, as I'm leashed to my desk (though with a long enough headphone cable extension that I can work the resistance bands during long meetings). If I were worried about background noise, I could switch to a dynamic microphone.

Anyway, if you've got a headset you're happy with and no one complains, I'd just use that if it were me. Again, I've got the "good stuff" lying around already, so I just use that. I would not recommend anyone else go that road unless they have other uses for the gear.

nine_k 44 days ago [-]
How do you connect all this to the computer? A typical PC has a single TRSS analog socket.

Do you use some USB interface that accept a separate microphone and a separate headphones jacks? If you do, any advice on what to look for and what to avoid?

mikestew 44 days ago [-]
It's the "USB audio interface" part of my list. Take multiple inputs, do some processing onboard, send it down a single USB cable to the computer. It will take anywhere from 1 to 4/8/16 XLR/line/instrument inputs, with headphone out and monitoring of inputs. Here's what I use:

https://motu.com/en-us/products/m-series/m2/

It's overkill for online meetings, in that many of its features will go unused. It's a well-built box, though, with better build quality than the (cheaper) Presonus it replaced. If there's just one mic or input, and some headphone output, then something like this would be less expensive (and less to fiddle with):

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/UM2usb--behringer-u-...

That's the first single input, inexpensive audio interface I found on Sweetwater; just an example, not a recommendation.

Add to that a cheeeeaaap dynamic mic:

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/XM8500--behringer-xm...

Now, for under $100 (surely you have some wired headphone lying around) you'll sound better than 95% of everyone else in online meetings. That's why I have no recommendation or ones to avoid, because for online meetings all it has to do is what it says on the tin to be better than what you've got now, and "good enough" for online meetings. If you're into music, then we can talk about which one is better over another (and frankly, I'm not the one to ask).

Grakel 44 days ago [-]
Motu M2 works like a charm.
my_username_is_ 45 days ago [-]
For a similar price point to these webcams, you can get a very good microphone. The Blue Yeti ($130) is usually one of the go-to recommendations

https://www.bluemic.com/en-us/products/yeti/

nucleardog 44 days ago [-]
I wouldn't get one just for audio calls.

The Yeti is what I have. It's a condenser microphone. Condenser microphones generally are more sensitive to quiet sounds and pick up range a bit better, but that means they also pick up _everything_ else much better. That's great if you're in a sound studio, but most of us are not.

You'll make your life easiest if you get clean audio in _before_ you start trying to do further processing to clean it up.

I already had the Yeti on hand, and it was a couple days of tweaking and tuning to get to the point where it will pick up my voice from 6-8" away clearly (so it's not directly in front of my face on camera) but not also transmitting the pitter-patter of every raindrop on the sidewalk outside.

If you're looking for a mic just for audio/video calls, I'd look towards a dynamic mic. Something like the Audio-Technica AT2005 ($80) is generally pretty well reviewed, is 2/3 the price of the Yeti, and still includes a built-in ADC so you can just plug it in via USB and call the job done (don't need to add a bunch of input boxes/etc).

noelsusman 44 days ago [-]
The Blue Snowball is significantly better than anything in a webcam or phone and it's only $50.
modulo42 44 days ago [-]
I have heard this as well so I have got one. To my big surprise people on video calls can not tell the difference whether I am using the snowball mic or the one built in the webcam.
rahimnathwani 44 days ago [-]
The Blue Snowball Ice looks similar to the Blue Snowball, but isn't as good.

If your webcam sounds as good as the Blue Snowball, either your webcam has an excellent mic, or you could improve your audio quality by either:

- speaking closer to the microphone, or

- sliding the switch on the back to position 1

NationalPark 44 days ago [-]
I think it's pretty important for professional conversations. We communicate an enormous amount of information through our facial expressions and body language and seeing the person who is speaking is important for understanding their tone correctly. Have you ever been in a video call where one person isn't on camera? It's really weird and awkward.
kurizu4444 44 days ago [-]
before going into lockdown I got the Rode NT usb mini: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/rde-microphone-nt-usb-mini/6406...

I HIGHLY recommend getting a 10$ boom-arm from amazon and using that to get the microphone closer to your face. I have this setup and my coworkers say I sound like a radio host because the quality is so good.

All for 115$... single best investment I made in lockdown.

mech422 45 days ago [-]
I'm in exactly the same boat...

I use a SteelSeries Arctis wireless (2.4Ghz!!) headset. Makes a huge difference for group calls. Also, 2.4G headsets have a HUGE range. I can go from my office, outside for a smoke or anywhere in the house. I really like them!

timvdalen 45 days ago [-]
When I wasn't able to purchase a webcam (for a reasonable amount) at the beginning of the lockdown, I started using my Pixel 3 with DroidCam[1]. My video quality is consistently the best in all the meetings I'm in, so I can really recommend using your phone.

I stream the video over adb myself, to make sure I don't drain the battery too much and to keep everything wired.

[1]: https://www.dev47apps.com/

cjnicholls 45 days ago [-]
I can confirm this as my colleagues have mentioned the quality difference between my feed (samsung tablet) and their webcams. I used a couple different webcam apps orginially but DroidCam was the best IMO.
llampx 45 days ago [-]
Couldn't you also just join the meeting from your phone? Or once from your phone and once from your PC?
timvdalen 45 days ago [-]
Yes, this is what I used to to, but it has drawbacks.

If you only join from your phone, you can't really see other participants (unless you use your front cam, and in that case your screen is obviously still very small) and you won't be able to screen share.

If you join on both, you will be in the meeting twice (which can look weird to other people). In my case, I want to use a dedicated microphone, not my phone's microphone that might be blocked by the arm that is holding it in place. That results in a weird AV delay since the audio is coming from a different user in the call (and it means your video is not highlighted when you speak).

In short - my current setup hides the implementation details and makes it all work transparently without bothering people I'm in a call with.

llampx 45 days ago [-]
Nice, I have joined a few meetings from my phone and my desktop simultaneously because my desktop didn't have a webcam or microphone. It worked in a pinch but I wouldn't do it on a regular basis.
trinix912 44 days ago [-]
What are some good alternatives for macOS?
timvdalen 44 days ago [-]
I don't have a good recommendation, but the article linked was written by someone promoting their solution[1].

[1]: https://reincubate.com/camo/

QasimK 45 days ago [-]
My first job straight out of university was at Reincubate. I thought I'd share my experience because Reincubate is a small company - you could count us with your fingers when I joined.

It was a fun place to work with nerf guns and rubber balls to throw at each other. You learnt to keep your computer locked the "fun" way. We always went for a team lunch on Fridays - something that I've missed ever since. I enjoyed coming into work every day because of the people.

The favourite highlight of my entire career was there, back in 2015. The whole team of engineers (~6ish) worked together to figure out how to decrypt iOS 9 beta backups as Apple had changed the encryption system. Everyone contributed in some way and I delved into using a disassembler, IDA Pro, from zero prior experience armed with a textbook. It took a whole week from the beta being released, and I believe we were the first (public) company to do it.

The values of the company, as described on the website, have changed, but what they say now still matches up with my time there.

Switching to something more relevant to this article. I was looking for a webcam a couple of months ago for quite a while before it also hit me that my iPhone camera was actually damn good. Since then I've been connecting to Zoom twice (from my phone for the video, and my computer for the audio). It's not a great experience but I never really looked into the "random" apps that could create a virtual camera. Well Reincubate is not random to me and it looks like there's a beta version of Camo for Windows, so I don't really have an excuse :)

liotier 45 days ago [-]
I use OBS Studio's output as virtual camera - and among the inputs I use cheap old Android tablets with DroidCam OBS over IP on Wi-Fi... They cost less than a USB webcam and deliver much better image quality.

Also, lighting. A couple of 5500 Kelvin Led lights on a clip mount, with good color rendition won't dent the budget but they will make even cheap webcams perform much better - color, frame rate, aperture. A softbox is wonderful but I don't have space for that, so I aim the light at the white wall - good enough substitute !

ajsnigrutin 45 days ago [-]
How big is the market for "good webcams"? If 99% of the people just need a "good enough" (to recognise your face) webcam, that they turn off after the initial "hello!" (so noone notices they have no pants on if they have to stand up), does that really make it worth it to develop new tech for the 1%?

...compared to phone cameras, where people actually want (and are willing to pay more) for a good camera, especially for one that works better in shitty lighting conditions.

biggc 45 days ago [-]
With the rising popularity of streaming, a lot of people are getting a mirrorless camera and capture card. This is ridiculous overkill, and I imagine that a "premium" webcam could provide the desired features* at a much lower price point and smaller package

* Good auto-focus, depth of field, "natural" color, high resolution.

llampx 45 days ago [-]
On the flip side, with my phone I'm usually calling friends and family in my pajamas. With my laptop I'm calling serious people for serious business, sometimes as a group. It makes more sense for the laptop to have a better camera.

I think until recently enterprise IT hasn't cared about laptop camera quality because the understanding was that proper video conferencing would be done from a conference room with a $2k camera setup. The pandemic has flipped that on its head.

curryst 44 days ago [-]
I keep mine on. I've noticed that coworkers who don't keep their cameras on seem less human. Without a face to the name, it's harder to conceptualize them as a person.

So I keep mine on. I think video presentation is going to become the new "dress for the job you want" over the next decade or so, so it's worth it to put a little bit of effort in. Now that remote is becoming normalized, do you want to be the person on Zoom with a video that's grainy from trying to compensate for the lack of light, or the person with lights that make them look like they just came from the spa all the time?

It shouldn't make a difference, but it does.

bootlooped 44 days ago [-]
Since there are many webcams available for over $150, I'd say the market for "good webcams" is big enough. If people spend $150 on a webcam I think they expect it to be good.
jpalomaki 45 days ago [-]
IMHO if you have decent lighting the Logitechs are ”good enough” for the usual video call purposes.

What real value would much better image quality bring? Most of the time you are just small box on other participant’s screen. Of courae totally different thing if you are producing video content.

In order of importance for me 1) Get sound right. Use headset if needed. 2) Try to get good light for your face (check on Youtube three point light setup videos to get the rough idea, then improvise). 3) Try to arrange boring and simple background.

vorpalhex 45 days ago [-]
I think the article does a very good job of showing why even professional studio lights can't help a bad webcam - especially Logitechs.
antomeie 44 days ago [-]
Hopefully I’m not stepping on anyones toes here, but as a hobby project I have been building an app that lets you use your iPhone as a webcam for your Mac. It will be completely free for anyone to use!

I am currently running a beta and if you would like to help me test it then you can apply here:

https://webcamplus.app/beta

For reference, I have had a thread up on MacRumors Forum for a few weeks:

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/iphone-as-a-webcam-for-...

mydjtl 43 days ago [-]
Do you plan on making a Windows version?
m463 45 days ago [-]
They're comparing apples and logitechs.

I wouldn't be surprised if the iphone cameras have had a billion dollars of development invested in them. But a large portion of this is on the software/firmware side which logitech doesn't benefit from.

That said, we all reap the benefits of this because phone camera hardware has been driven down in cost considerably since phones first got cameras. There just needs to be more open software to help out, maybe like machine learning exposure, focus, color and more. Then even low-margin webcam companies will have good performance.

coldtea 45 days ago [-]
>I wouldn't be surprised if the iphone cameras have had a billion dollars of development invested in them

Which is neither here, nor there. There are tons of dirt cheap (often cheaper) compact cameras on the market with better quality that most webcams, and have been for years. Including equally small as webcam options.

There are also tons of dirt cheap Android phones with far better camera quality in an even more constrained space (for the camera module) than a webcam.

There are also embedded laptop cameras with better quality than most $100 and plus webcams.

As a sibling comment said: "I use OBS Studio's output as virtual camera - and among the inputs I use cheap old Android tablets with DroidCam OBS over IP on Wi-Fi... They cost less than a USB webcam and deliver much better image quality."

There's absolutely no reason webcam makers couldn't build a better product using components found in 5+ year old phones...

Even if it was expensive, the problem is there's not even an expensive $300 or $500 webcam with quality compared to a years old Android or iPhone smartphone of equal price, or a compact camera.

Heck, webcams sold as $1000 and $2000 "enterprise" webcams, in bulky enclosures to sit on a desk or large TV, have some more conveniences (to fit the enterpise moniker), but same (crap) image quality.

m463 45 days ago [-]
The article is directly comparing apple iphones against logitech webcams.

iphones benefit from: a processor that costs more than the entire webcam. A firmware and software stack with a billion dollars behind it.

coldtea 45 days ago [-]
>iphones benefit from: a processor that costs more than the entire webcam. A firmware and software stack with a billion dollars behind it.

Still the camera is great alone, even without "computational photography".

And similar IQ quality can be had in competing Android phones for years -- some costing the same or less than a premium $200 or $300 webcam.

Anyway you slice it or dice it, this is not a "good cameras are expensive" issue.

chrismorgan 45 days ago [-]
Apple still ships bad webcams on their laptops.

There seems to be a big class divide between phone cameras and webcams.

m463 45 days ago [-]
Isn't the iphone camera a primary phone feature - used primarily for still photos, and secondarily for video?

I've seen apple billboards about ONLY the iphone camera, so apple is investing money in it.

Meanwhile for a laptop, people don't care (as much) if it takes 10 megapixel images and can see in the dark. Personally I would like a laptop without a camera (or with a hardware switch)

(and I've never seen a macbook billboard)

lhnz 45 days ago [-]
Shouldn't the rise of remote work change this?
llampx 45 days ago [-]
It hasn't done so so far.
lhnz 45 days ago [-]
Yes, that's what's strange to me.

Either laptop manufacturers are missing a trick that would help them compete, or people don't really care about picture quality in remote video calls.

bluGill 45 days ago [-]
Most people don't care about web cams at work. Most of my meetings I'm looking at a power point, or some other screen and so the person speaking isn't an issue.

A few people enable their camera all the time, but not everyone. In the few meetings I've been in where everyone is asked to turn on their camera so we can see each other (in some sort of team terms) at least one person says they are in a family situation where they cannot.

Cameras are a must when calling grandma. In an office situation they are at best a nice to have.

llampx 45 days ago [-]
I think its more that laptop manufacturers don't care because no other OEM has made a selling point of it. Its a virtuous circle - some people care about a specific feature, some OEM makes it a selling point, more people start talking about it, OEM B calls an emergency meeting and asks for the feature to be in their new laptop line, they spend advertising $$ promoting it, more people get to know about it and ask for it, more OEMs start including it.
bluescrn 45 days ago [-]
Even Apple was recently mocked for putting a 720p webcam in their latest 2020 MBP/MBA (while their phones sport clusters of cameras each in silly-megapixel territory)
toast0 44 days ago [-]
Ugh. 720p is plenty of pixels for the use case, if the sensor is good quality. If the sensor is not good quality, more pixels won't help. Sensor size is a better first approximation of quality than pixel count.
kleiba 45 days ago [-]
Good enough for what?

Most of the sample pics look absolutely fine to me for every day use, i.e., online meetings.

bronco21016 45 days ago [-]
I agree. I rarely find I’m bothered by the quality of another person’s camera in video chat situations.

However, it’s significantly bothersome when people refuse to use earbuds or a headset so audio isn’t constantly clipping during conversation, or they have a massive light source behind them like a window and their face is just a shadow the whole time, or their camera is staring god knows where the whole time.

There’s a lot of low hanging fruit to up the quality of a video chat before you need to get too worried about the quality of the camera.

Obviously this is for everyday video chat. If you’re live-streaming or doing some kind of professional video presentation, then yes it’s frustrating that the market is $100 or $1,500+.

michaelt 45 days ago [-]
Of course existing webcams meet expectations for online meetings - nobody expects meeting participants to use something that doesn't exist.

But if you've avoided the $15 Amazon's Choice webcams and purchased the absolute peak of what the webcam industry can produce, wouldn't you expect something better than the mediocrity shown?

What if you're someone who cares about their appearance, and the pallid, unhealthy look of the C920 would have you reaching for your makeup bag if you saw it in the mirror?

What if the pandemic has forced your dating life into zoom calls, for a first date you want to absolutely look your best, and you don't like how the Kiyo makes your forehead look shiny and really adds contrast to your receding hairline?

What if you're slightly into photography and presenting such a shitty image as the best you can do goes against your pride when you can see so much wrong with it?

bluGill 45 days ago [-]
Most of your what-ifs are happening on a phone with a better camera - at least for most people.

For the exceptions you are correct, but I believe they are overall exceptions.

Al-Khwarizmi 45 days ago [-]
And a few decades ago most people would say that SDTV looked absolutely fine for everything but some high-visuals movies that they would rather see in the cinema. Now, even a newscast looks crap in SDTV.

I think if webcams look absolutely fine to you for online meetings it's probably because you have become used to the crappiness. People don't typically show notebooks or pieces of paper in online meetings, because the cameras are crap, and they know they will create an awkward moment trying to focus on the notes and probably failing. For the same reason, people often won't use a whiteboard in an online meeting, etc. These would be totally normal things to do if we had decent webcams.

kleiba 45 days ago [-]
Well, I still have an analog (tube) TV, so I guess I'm not with you on that one...
greenimpala 45 days ago [-]
Agree, It's all wonderful comparing quality until you jump on a call and the stream gets throttled to 480p.
llampx 45 days ago [-]
One step at a time. First let's get the webcam quality looking good locally, then we can solve the network problem.
janandonly 45 days ago [-]
Although this blog is written by someone with a financial incentive, it seems well thought out.

The comparison is reasonable in that it compares “the best” webcam (a Logitec c930, according to https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/the-best-webcams/) with an iPhone using their software.

I don't care if this is an “advertorial” or not, I'm going to test this software because my webcam sucks as well.

sebmellen 45 days ago [-]
If you have a mirrorless or DSLR camera lying around, try this first: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25870161. It might end up saving you money!
mnw21cam 45 days ago [-]
I bought a HDMI->USB video capture card, and tried to use it with my DSLR camera. It works fine in Teams, but not in Zoom. And that's because Teams selects a reasonable capture resolution that matches the 16:9 aspect ratio image produced by my camera's HDMI output at 1080p. Zoom selects the lowest possible resolution, which is 640x480, which makes me look squished. There is no setting in the Zoom interface that lets me change this.
jrickert 45 days ago [-]
If you haven't, try going into your video settings on Zoom and selecting "Enable HD". This solution has fixed the aspect ratio problem you're describing for my company's customers in almost every case.
mnw21cam 45 days ago [-]
No, "Enable HD" does absolutely nothing.
sebmellen 44 days ago [-]
If you're on a Mac you may be able to pipe it through CamTwist. I can add more info if you're interested but would take some work to dig up.
mnw21cam 44 days ago [-]
No, Linux. I think I have found out how to use gphoto2 and a direct usb link instead of the capture card, which may fix it, but that'll have to run on my main computer, not my slow laptop.

I'd love to be able to tell the v4l driver for the usb capture card to just not offer the 640*480 resolution. That would fix it in a better way. Anyone have any ideas how to do that?

sebmellen 43 days ago [-]
Are you sure you need a USB capture card? I'm using an EOS M50 and I followed along with this guide: https://www.crackedthecode.co/how-to-use-your-dslr-as-a-webc.... Works pretty well, all FOSS stuff and avoids needing a capture card.
mnw21cam 43 days ago [-]
That's ... exactly what I just said. However, the transcoding burden would be a little too much for the Atom in my laptop, so I'd have to do it on my main computer instead.

Regarding the capture card. The aspect ratio mess-up is entirely its fault.

rossjudson 45 days ago [-]
I use a Nikon D610 through a camlink 4k, and then a movo um700 for audio. The camlink 4k firmware has a bug (it reports modes it does not support), so I have a small workaround in place on Linux for that.

Overall quality of everything is very high. Does it save money? I guess I already had the camera.

Is it a good idea to broadcast myself at that level of quality? Probably not ;)

glitcher 44 days ago [-]
This is a completely minor and silly gripe, but one of the things I don't like about the video conferencing experience on computer screens is the lack of direct eye contact. I just can't escape the feeling of everyone looking at each other looking at each other, instead of looking each other in the eyes and knowing when someone is looking at you as opposed to someone else. It's really an odd shift from our natural face to face encounters.
tacon 44 days ago [-]
It really isn't a minor point. Lack of eye contact is really important. I pulled out a gooseneck webcam mount I had bought and never used from years ago. I can position it almost right in front of the Zoom window and achieve almost direct eye contact, though it is tricky if I need to see detail behind the webcam itself. Multiple monitors with extra area reduce that problem.

I ran across a video that showed how to create an actual direct eye to eye contact effect, using a half-silvered mirror and parts from a laptop webcam[0]. I started shopping for a used laptop webcam part, and then realized I have never seen laptops rated by their webcams, so it is almost a shot in the dark to get something good.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AecAXinars

beisner 44 days ago [-]
Not minor, making eye contact when communicating is a super deep instinct. Even animals make eye contact. It totally takes you out of the moment when it isn’t there.
sebmellen 45 days ago [-]
If you're interested in using a mirrorless or DSLR camera you have lying around as a webcam on Linux, I recommend this article: https://www.crackedthecode.co/how-to-use-your-dslr-as-a-webc....

If you're using a Mac, this article is the best I've found, though the CamTwist Studio setup is a bit slow if you don't have a Macbook Pro with 16GB RAM or more: https://www.nicksherlock.com/2020/04/using-a-canon-dslr-as-a.... I plan on writing a more comprehensive article for Mac users in the future.

All the steps are free! No paid software or hardware needed.

I've taken to doing this, and while the setup is a bit tedious, people are always super impressed with the bokeh and all-around nice quality of my "webcam." I haven't told anyone it's really a DSLR yet.

With my camera quality, I feel like Bill Gates with his camera setup (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyFT8qXcOrM).

vr46 45 days ago [-]
For the cost of a small desk tripod, £50, and Canon’s latest Webcam Utility, I was able to repurpose a 2012 DSLR (1DX) into an absolutely fantastic webcam.
dingaling 45 days ago [-]
A 1DX is still an outstanding camera in professional use daily, well beyond overkill for a webcam! Still commands around 1000GBP on the used market.

Any of the Canon xxD or M series from the same era would be sufficient at a fraction of the cost.

vr46 44 days ago [-]
Deffo overkill, but it was all I had kicking around (shucks) and works a treat.
nbzso 45 days ago [-]
Is it possible to tag promotional blog posts? This must be titled: Why using our software is better than buying a web cam.
coldtea 45 days ago [-]
If it would be possible, of all promotional posts, this would be the one that least needed such a tag.

It mentions the product just one time, in passing at the end, and is several pages of well written, well researched, general observations, plus a writeup of the results of actual testing of several cameras.

Mauricebranagh 45 days ago [-]
You can also use logi capture with the non high end logitech cameras (which is mentioned in article) by editing the LogiCapture.exe.config file.

https://www.reddit.com/r/LogitechG/comments/fox6wy/logitech_...

nbzso 45 days ago [-]
Thanks for your answer. I read your response as: If well written and well researched, self promotion material is presented on HN, there is no need for the reading audience to be aware of this. Ok.
joking 45 days ago [-]
I would be satisfied if someone explains to me why such software is a subscription instead of a one time buy.
llampx 45 days ago [-]
VC's like recurring revenue..?
icebraining 45 days ago [-]
Tagging promotional posts gives you a false sense of security. It's best to rely on your own judgment.
nbzso 44 days ago [-]
Ok lets remove Google Ad indicators. To rely on peoples judgement:)
dougmwne 45 days ago [-]
I firmly believe that video conferencing is essentially a dead end. It is uncanny and unpleasant. Having experienced some of the early VR social experiences, I think that is the way forward. We will need to fully embody the other person and project them in a 3D AR or VR space with positional audio. I think in many ways we are incredibly close to this goal and should be seeing the first products hit the market within the decade.
vorpalhex 45 days ago [-]
I suspect a lot of us are in video conferences that perhaps don't require our full attention. It is very hard to be in VR and quietly code on the side.
dougmwne 41 days ago [-]
I think once the tech is mature you will be working on VR/AR monitors anyway. I have the Quest 2 and that is already quite useful for web browsing and movie watching.
gherkinnn 45 days ago [-]
I don’t need my colleagues to keep count of the pimples on my face.

Webcams are welcome to stagnate.

tchocky 45 days ago [-]
I started to use my Canon EOS 80D DSLR as a webcam. Canon finally release drivers in November. The image quality amazing. It's also a bit overkill though to use a (back then) 1400€ camera to act as a webcam (also hard to compare with default webcams at that price point), but as long as I'm not using it otherwise, I think it's ok :)
sebmellen 45 days ago [-]
Agreed! DSLRs are great for this kind of stuff. I posted two links to guides on how to do this for Mac and Linux here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25870161, if someone has a guide for Windows I'd love to see it.
klausjensen 45 days ago [-]
+ for a guide for Windows
sebmellen 43 days ago [-]
If you use a Canon camera, you might be able to get the EOS Webcam Utility working: https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/support/se....
supergeek133 45 days ago [-]
Also add to this that most popular Twitch streamers use a very expensive digital SLR as webcams these days to avoid many of the problems discussed here.

I never gave much thought to the fact that all the old phones I have sitting around have a better camera than my logitech webcam. Interesting. I have multiple Galaxy S8s/S7s around.

cbhl 45 days ago [-]
NewTek NDI has both Android and iOS apps, and plugins exist to use it with the OBS Virtual Cam.

They don't have the greatest open source record though (ffmpeg removed integration after they were found to be violating license terms).

supergeek133 45 days ago [-]
Thanks for the tip!
PM_ME_YOUR_CAT 45 days ago [-]
Wasn't there a discussion about image processing because of a lack of dedicated and optimized on-camera software? Usually phones are tuned to deliver an "as close as possible to the result" viewfinder image, while webcams in general do very little or no processing on their side. I might be completely wrong here though, however I do agree with the article. It's 2021. If Thunderbolt can provide enough bandwidth to support a full-on GPU, then we can dedicate resources to do correct image processing either on our CPUs or boycott Webcam makers to actually invest some time to finetune and optimize Webcams. As the article states, it's better to buy a used iPhone 6 and buy EpocCam by Elgato to use the phone as a cam. At least it's actually good as compared to the C920 which has been price gauged to oblivion throughout the world
crakhamster01 44 days ago [-]
I went down this rabbit hole a few months back when I was looking to buy a webcam for a new gaming PC that I had built. Also reached the same conclusion as the author (i.e. all webcams are shit).

I ended up using a mirrorless camera that I bought in 2015 and hooked it up to my PC via mini-HDMI + this USB capture device (https://www.amazon.com/Elgato-Cam-Link-Broadcast-Camcorder/d...).

The video quality is incredible and set up is fairly simple. It also works with the Macbook Pro I use for my job, which is great since the webcam on that is also garbage.

Abishek_Muthian 45 days ago [-]
Just the other day a user in my problem validation platform posted 'Make entry level webcam better'[1], the main gripe being 10 year old Logitech C270 still being sold at a higher price while improvements in smartphone cameras are being made every 6 months.

Posts like these seems to confirm that there's a real need gap for a good quality webcam. Any of you working on solving this? or have ideas?

[1]https://needgap.com/problems/185-make-entry-level-webcam-bet... (Disclaimer: It's a problem validation platform I created).

kube-system 45 days ago [-]
Why does that validate the idea that people need a better quality camera? If anything, I feel like logitech’s success despite their stagnation validates that most people are satisfied with acceptable quality.
Abishek_Muthian 45 days ago [-]
>Why does that validate the idea that people need a better quality camera?

I feel it validates the problem/needgap because this is the 4th time in <30 days I'm seeing someone complain about the lack of good quality webcam (3 on HN, 1 on needgap) plus DSLR makers (e.g.cannon) rushing to enable webcam support for their cameras using firmware/software and releasing it while still in alpha.

>I feel like logitech’s success despite their stagnation validates that most people are satisfied with acceptable quality.

Market share with stagnated technology has never stopped a new product with better technology disrupting the market before, otherwise we still probably would have been using Nokia brick phones.

tantalor 45 days ago [-]
What is a "problem validation platform"?
Abishek_Muthian 45 days ago [-]
A place where people who face problem needing commercial solution, makers who are solving/want to solve such problems can participate in constructive discussions to make products which people want.

Problems are the first class citizen at needgap[1] as problems are something which exists now unlike an startup idea which becomes real only when executed and a startup could be made out of it.

If you're interested in why I had to create it, I've detailed it in 'Startup ideas vs Problems'[2].

[1]https://needgap.com/problems/5-needgap-submit-problems-for-s...

[2]https://hitstartup.com/startup-ideas-vs-problems/

azatris 45 days ago [-]
But given that you have a 4K RED setup in your bedroom with a studio microphone, what technology actually preserves most of the quality over the video call? Let's say both participants have fibre connections and located in the same city.
AstralStorm 45 days ago [-]
Plain old RTMP stream with h.265 inside probably. The problem is that nobody uses this for streaming because h.265 encoding is expensive even for hardware encoders in GPU. So to satisfice, use h.264 at good bitrate. Over 80 Mbit should be fine ;)
azatris 45 days ago [-]
How would that work? Which application supports it? I don't know of a native way to do this.
aidenn0 45 days ago [-]
VLC? OBS?
azatris 44 days ago [-]
Where's the "call a friend" button in VLC?
aidenn0 44 days ago [-]
You just moved the goalposts. The UX for setting this up is terrible, but as approximately zero people have a Red camera hooked up to their computer and a dedicated fiber connection to multiple people, so presumably the setup is a one-time cost.
wazoox 44 days ago [-]
I have a C920. My main problem is that the camera runs at 60 fps, but here in Europe, lights are 50Hz. therefore, flickering is unbearably as soon as you're not using natural light. I can't find any solution to this...
julienfr112 44 days ago [-]
I've got no problem with this camera from europe. I remember tinkering with the same camera model while setting up a camera booth for rescruting interview. There was an option in the python video library to set the camera to a frequency that prevent flickering.
wazoox 44 days ago [-]
Ah, interesting. My office is lit with fluorescent tubes, so the flickering is extreme. I'll check guvcview.
julienfr112 44 days ago [-]
are you using linux ? guvcview expose a lot of option from your camera.
empiricus 44 days ago [-]
Some Led lights might work.
bdz 45 days ago [-]
Elgato EpocCam https://www.elgato.com/en/epoccam

Best $8 I've spent on a phone app. Works with pretty much everything (including OBS too)

dataminer 44 days ago [-]
I found that GoPro Hero 9 has a webcam mode, works quite well and the quality is really good. However it is more expensive than regular webcams, but if you already have one , use it as a webcam.
GiorgioG 45 days ago [-]
I bought a Sony mirrorless camera (A6000) for photography purposes and decided to buy a Camlink 4k to pipe my camera's live output to my computer for video calls - it works great.
abinaya_rl 45 days ago [-]
Curious to know, with all these high quality web cams, do we have the support for high quality bandwidth internet connectivity.
mimo84 44 days ago [-]
After struggling with different webcams, including the MacBook Pro camera, I opted for this setup: - Canon RP - 50mm Canon lens - Tripod located between my two monitors

All it fully tax deductible, amazing quality and even more flexibility when I have a meeting, for example ability to show my desk.

KingOfCoders 45 days ago [-]
I was disapointed by the quality of my Logitech c920. Because I coach people with Zoom I've switched to a Sony ZV1, which is quite expensive but has better quality (although their webcam software only supports 720p - camlink is in the mail)

My old iMacPro has the best camera of a computer I know.

thayne 44 days ago [-]
> webcams are designed as small devices that need to fit onto existing monitors or laptop lids

Ok, but I would be fine with a bigger webcam. Why aren't there affordable large webcams available? Say, the size of a mirrorless camera, but without the big pricetag.

onion2k 45 days ago [-]
Literally all webcam 'problems' come down to expecting your webcam to perform well in conditions that even a $5000 dSLR wouldn't do a particularly good job in. Buy a light and all of the issues from the article will magically disappear.
chrismorgan 45 days ago [-]
I get the sense that you haven’t read the article.

This article controls for lighting, showing the results of different types of cameras in different lighting conditions, and showing that even with good lighting, all of the webcams are still poor, and most are terrible. And they’re all distinctly worse than any Apple phones from the last few years (and even the front-facing camera from an Apple phone from five years ago is better than half of them).

stretchcat 45 days ago [-]
I viewed all of the examples in the article and they all look adaquate. The worst of them is fit for purpose, unless maybe you want to stare up somebody's nose and count their boogers.

Personally, I've been thinking about how to sandblast the lens on my webcam to permanently fog it. Who would even care? I think nobody.

Sunspark 44 days ago [-]
Just buy some sandpaper and rub it over the lens. You can get sandpaper in different grit fineness.
tda 45 days ago [-]
Still doesn't explain why a $300phone has a better camera than a $250 logitech BRIO. I recently bought a BRIO and in non optimal lighting the performance is just as mediocre as a $30 C230 so I returned it immediately.

In the en I convinced my wife to just use the DSLR (she was hesitant at first because of the extra hassle). A modern DSL had good IQ even ad candlelight, you really almost can't mess it up. Only way to destroy the image is to use different color lights (warm lightbulb on left side and natural light from a window on the right side will look weird on every camera I know of)

i_am_proteus 45 days ago [-]
A DSLR with a lens costs thousands of dollars. A cheap continuous light with a cheap softbox costs about $150, and gets the job done.
tda 45 days ago [-]
Of course, the point was more that regardless of price the following holds in poor light: webcam < phone < point and shoot cam < dslr. Why are there no webcams with actual optical zoom lenses and decent sensor sizes? Why doesn't Canon or Nikon have a go, or Sony? The market (at least now) is a lot bigger than that for camera's. Even in the longer run, I bet a lot of people are willing to spend a bit extra to have the best looking image in the meeting. Everybody my wife videoconferences with immediately notices here camera is way better than theirs

And also, not everyone wants to sit in front of a bright light

KineticLensman 45 days ago [-]
> Why doesn't Canon or Nikon have a go, or Sony?

Nikon offer a free webcam utility [0] that allows recent DSLRs (and mirrorless) to be used as a webcam when plugged into a PC. I tried it with my D850. The advantage is, predictably, awesome optics. The downsides were a) finding a place on my desk for the camera and some sort of mount b) the camera battery gets eaten really quickly.

Interestingly, the webcam utility isn't available for the smallest Nikon cameras - the Coolpix range - so I guess there won't be a dedicated Nikon webcam.

[0] https://downloadcenter.nikonimglib.com/en/products/548/Webca...

Der_Einzige 45 days ago [-]
More like 500, around 1000 if you need a high quality lens
jstanley 45 days ago [-]
So why is it that the iPhone example looks much better than every webcam in exactly the same lighting conditions?
onion2k 45 days ago [-]
iPhone cameras aren't particularly great. They're good, but the thing that makes iPhone pictures really good is the iPhone's computational photography software. If webcams started including powerful CPUs, GPUs, AI chips, and OSs that can turn average pictures in to amazing pictures then webcams would be good. They'd also be quite a lot more expensive.
llampx 45 days ago [-]
A webcam upgrading from a 50 cent ISP (Image Signal Processor) to a $2.00 one and a $3 lens instead of a $2 one (numbers based on conjecture from the average selling price of a low-end USB webcam) doesn't mean you need to build in a battery, a cellular antenna, a Wi-Fi radio, a desktop-grade CPU and GPU, give it a sturdy all-glass design and add speakers to it.
stonogo 45 days ago [-]
Except the webcam in my Macbook has a powerful CPU, GPU, AI chip, and an OS from the same company and its webcam still sucks.
_flux 45 days ago [-]
Surely you could put all that software on the expensive PC?
asiando 45 days ago [-]
Because the iPhone is a pretty expensive mass-produced camera with millions of dollars in development costs that a webcam would never have.

Even a highly-optimized “let’s steal a smartphone camera” webcam would never cost under $100, so it would sell extremely little.

makomk 45 days ago [-]
No, it really isn't just about lighting. Not only do even cheap smartphone cameras perform better than the best webcams in typical indoor lighting conditions, but for example the "good" webcam everyone uses - the Logitech C920 - has a dodgy autoexposure algorithm that overexposes shots if people do use enough lighting, and the manual controls are apparently really buggy. Professional streamers mostly just seem to have gotten used to working around this. (Then there's the colour accuracy and autofocus issues, which everyone just puts up with.)
nunez 45 days ago [-]
This is the truth. Even the Logitech C270, which is a basic, fixed-depth $20 camera, performs really well once you get a ring light. (I landed up getting a BRIO, which is a really nice webcam with the ability to swap out cables, which is handy for travelling.)
45 days ago [-]
post_break 45 days ago [-]
The software in windows is terrible for logitech. On mac there are third party software that lets you adjust literally everything. And doing so I can make the C920 look just as good as my iPhone especially in good lightning.
snegu 45 days ago [-]
Can you share the third-party software you are using? I hate my C920 right now. I'm already pale, and it makes me look on the edge of death in every call.
sethhochberg 45 days ago [-]
Would also love to know, I use a C920 and the white balance is terrible even compared to my (worse in most other ways) Macbook Pro camera.

I've seen people share config software for these on Windows but haven't seen anything that looks decent for Mac use.

post_break 44 days ago [-]
It’s literally called webcam settings in the App Store. Has a rainbow app icon.
post_break 44 days ago [-]
It’s literally called webcam settings in the App Store. Has a rainbow app icon.
45 days ago [-]
ofrzeta 45 days ago [-]
the article only tangentially touches on depth of field which adds very much to a professionally looking webcam video, when using a DSLR or other digicam with a decent lens. You have the blur in the background so can still see the person in their surrounding but not so much that you can see all the cruft lying around. Focus is on the face and it's much better than any software solution that blows up the computer fan.
imbnwa 45 days ago [-]
I suspect manufacturers wager they can skimp on quality cause customers will chalk it up to "the internet" or "my connection"
klausjensen 45 days ago [-]
Great article, a lot of effort went into this.
Havoc 44 days ago [-]
Surprised they didn’t test a cheap mid range previous gen Android phone
mr_gibbins 45 days ago [-]
I got halfway down before realising this was an advertorial for the Camo product. Disappointing.
pkvgames 45 days ago [-]
situs pkv games ada disini http://198.54.112.34/
longtom 45 days ago [-]
It's assholes selling crap to idiots.
whatyearisit 45 days ago [-]
A subscription to remove a forced watermark? No thank you.

I wish this to be "Sherlock"d by Apple, hopefully on the next OS release.

clairity 45 days ago [-]
front-facing cameras (i.e., webcams) are unnecessary on a laptop, tablet, or phone. manufacturers should remove them in favor of better supporting dedicated equipment, since they'll never be 'good enough' when video quality actually matters.

video calls have been part of the futurism canon for at least 100 years, but they still have little utility beyond a simple phone call (or even text messages in many cases). they just waste bandwidth and add anxiety and frustration (nevermind encouraging narcissism).

scotcha1 45 days ago [-]
i personally use my front facing webcam on my computer 10-20x per day (for video calls, or short quick video walkthroughs). my kids also are using their cheap school laptops front facing webcams 3-4x per day with remote school, and my wife and i frequently use facetime on our iphones to chat throughout the day. i'm not interested in add'l dedicated equipment, i'm interested in the easiest solution to perform the job i need done
clairity 44 days ago [-]
for a walkthrough, why would i want to look at you the entire time, rather than whatever it is you're walking me through (for which a rear camera is much better positioned, with voice instructions)?

nothing else you mentioned requires video.

scotcha1 37 days ago [-]
a rear camera would not be useful at all for an on-screen walkthrough as it would be facing a wall or a surface. my face on the other hand, added for a personal effect, to an on-screen recording or so you can easily match my voice and my mouth to better understand me. perhaps you haven't seen a face + full screen desktop walkthrough? https://www.getcloudapp.com/. very useful.

a facetime call with my wife does require video, because it's a facetime call. i want to see her.

my kids school remote calls do require video because their teachers require video on. they do this because kids from ages 6-18 may not actually be paying attention in class, so the hardware camera is used to help the teacher.

if you were to look on youtube for walkthroughs of products, or twitch streams, you'll frequently see front facing cameras added to videos because people do actually like, enjoy, and find value (you can follow along to voice/face/emotion) in them

jascii 45 days ago [-]
"video calls have been part of the futurism canon for at least 100 years, but they still have little utility beyond a simple phone call" While you could argue practical utility, the mere fact that millions are clinging to video conferencing for a sense of connectedness seems to suggest that it has at least an emotional utility. Not everybody is an introvert.
clairity 45 days ago [-]
you can get connectedness by talking on the phone or visiting in person (yes, it’s entirely reasonable to do so these days with a little distance). have been doing this my entire life along with billions of other people and can confirm it works (especially for ‘extraverts’, although i don’t buy into that dichotomy).
ska 45 days ago [-]
> but they still have little utility beyond a simple phone call

We've collectively been running a huge experiment for the last year that has pretty conclusively proven this hypothesis false.

clairity 45 days ago [-]
an unsupported assertion is not conclusive proof. we’ve seen that people have been trying to substitute in-person meetings with video calls, but that doesn’t prove any additional utility beyond a conference call.

even in educational or therapy/coaching situations, a recorded instructional video accompanied by a phone checkin likely has better outcomes than video chats.

warkdarrior 44 days ago [-]
> even in educational or therapy/coaching situations, a recorded instructional video accompanied by a phone checkin likely has better outcomes than video chats.

This just screams "citation needed." Video chat is hugely useful whenever there is any kind of discussion, debate, or negotiation. With video chat you can read facial expressions, cut down on overlapping speech and interruptions, etc.

clairity 44 days ago [-]
> "Video chat is hugely useful whenever there is any kind of discussion, debate, or negotiation. With video chat you can read facial expressions, cut down on overlapping speech and interruptions, etc."

this just screams "citation needed."

a planar, poorly lit, relatively low resolution video image doesn't provide enough detail to read expressions nearly as well as you can in person. it's actually much easier to misread expressions over video than just listening to voices, because we can focus much more on voice and it requires much less bandwidth to provide roughly equivalent clarity as speaking in person. long distance discussions, debates, and negotiations have happened just fine for decades without video.

as for interruptions, millions of years of social conditioning seems to suffice at allowing us to negotiate overlap adequately. besides, simple technology like a wish-to-speak signal can be employed if need be (though they're unnecessary).

BlargMcLarg 44 days ago [-]
>cut down on overlapping speech and interruptions

Never seen video chat be a good substitute for poor etiquette. People still decide to interrupt one another. FWIW, this problem also occurs in-person on a daily basis with most people.

>With video chat you can read facial expressions

This is a double-edged sword. Some facial expressions are better off not read. Facial expressions are routinely misinterpreted. Worse, it creates an incentive to turn facial expressions into facial expression etiquette, which is both annoying to the person, and removes any reason to even use facial expressions.

I can accept video chat in small groups (sub-5) for a short time in professional settings. Anything other than that feels suffocating and limiting. There definitely is an obsession with video chat which has yet to be proven, by a majority who are trying to (poorly) mimic the workfloor.

ska 44 days ago [-]
You miss my point, I think.

Everyone who has access to video calls could trivially turn them into conference calls instead. The fact that they continue to prefer video for at least some situation demonstrates that, regardless of what else is going on, they find the video calls to have some additional utility.

If your hypothesis were true, we would not observer this behavior.

clairity 44 days ago [-]
no, that's trivially refuted by considering the simpler but still consistent explanation that video calls are employed to more closely mimic the contemporaneously rare in-person meetings without considering (negative) utility at all.

in any case, your argument is circular because you're implicitly asserting utility must exist ('if they use video, it must have utility'), and then pointing to that just-asserted utility as (unsupported) refutation.

ska 43 days ago [-]
It doesn’t matter what the video calls are used for - the claim was they have less utility than phone calls. I suspect you are over thinking this. People choose video over phone only sometimes because it has more utility for them - hence the hypothesis is false. Simple.
stretchcat 45 days ago [-]
Narcissistic managers demanding everybody on their team use webcams during meetings hardly refutes clairity post.
Sunspark 44 days ago [-]
Wanting to see one's colleagues is not narcissism. There's a valid accessibility reason as being able to see the other person helps people with hearing challenges and also, it's pretty rude to refuse to let yourself be seen.

I never understood people who "didn't want to be seen" on camera during meetings (especially meetings with hearing accessibility issues) because those same people were willing to work in the physical workplace. The way I see it, if you refuse to be seen in a virtual meeting, you should _also_ refuse to be seen in person as well.

BlargMcLarg 44 days ago [-]
>The way I see it, if you refuse to be seen in a virtual meeting, you should _also_ refuse to be seen in person as well

Unfortunately, I don't have a golden goose. Virtual meetings, by virtue of being new, gave me an opportunity to push back onto the need of seeing one another. Not being in the office would be met with manager talks.

>also, it's pretty rude to refuse to let yourself be seen.

Are we really doing this? There are so many things that are rude. Not everything has to be met with a resounding "yes" because on a whim, people decide to mimic the work floor to the T without thinking further. I enjoy my visual privacy. To me, it is even more rude to force someone out of their visual privacy for a prolonged time multiple times a day, let alone having to stare at one's own face because the app refuses to build in a way to remove your own video feed without closing it entirely.

Sunspark 44 days ago [-]
I responded to Stretchcat with extra detail because I am that guy with a hearing accessibility challenge.

In response to what you said, I will add that I live by myself. If I can't see a coworker such as yourself over video, when am I going to get to see anyone? The only in-person interaction I have had since March outside of a neighbor on the sidewalk/going to the grocery store and seeing the cashier/going to the doctor, has been only my mother and only 3 times. This is pretty isolating!

You are helping me out by feeling a little bit more connected to people if I can have a video chat with you.

I'm very used to isolation, but I can also tell it isn't ideal for my mental health and 2020 hasn't been excellent.

Make an exception for me please.

clairity 44 days ago [-]
yes, accessibility is a legitimate reason to prefer video calls. but the way you worded your original comment, it implied blanket rudeness for not prefering video all the time for everyone. it would indeed be rude to cut you or anyone else out of a conversation due to accessibility concerns in the absence of alternatives like computer-generated captions (as mentioned in your other comment).
stretchcat 44 days ago [-]
Being seen is consequence of working in a physical space, not the objective. Not unless you're a stripper. Phone meetings worked just fine for decades, video chat is pure narcissism.

If there were somebody deaf on my team then I suppose I would reconsider it, but there isn't, so spare me the moralizing.

Sunspark 44 days ago [-]
I'll be honest. I'm that guy with the hearing accessibility issue. That's why I'm mad about people who refuse to be seen.

If we use MS Teams or Google Meet, then it's mitigable because those support computer generated captions (albeit not perfect). But other technologies like Zoom, Webex, etc. don't have that feature, so literally, if there are no captions and I can't see you in order to lipread & read some body language, then we are unable to have a productive meeting. You might as well be speaking a foreign language.

Even if everyone has normal hearing, it's still a good thing to be able to see each other to check-in on everyone's body language and well-being. If someone looks really unhappy or looks like they're not taking care of themselves at all, then this is information that they need help with something.

booi 45 days ago [-]
this is a joke right?