Most laptops, tablets and phones come equipped with a webcam, a visual way to communicate with others over the Internet. If you own a desktop or all-in-one computer instead of one of these portable devices, you will probably need an external camera to attach to your monitors.
You may also want to upgrade your portable device's built-in camera to an external one with better imaging, sound or other features. Most of these computer cameras will also be compatible with your Mac.
The most obvious way to use your web camera is to communicate with friends and family, near and far, either over Skype or instant messaging platforms. You can contribute real-time to a loved one's birthday celebration even if you live hundreds of miles away. Or you may want to set up your own home surveillance system by pointing your webcam at the front door and checking it regularly. Some cameras have motion sensing capabilities to help. If you enjoy YouTube, record yourself and start a channel, or create a video blog. If you work from home, using a webcam in a videoconference is a great way to get face time with the boss.
The primary function of your webcam is to provide a clear image. Many cameras capture images in high-definition, up to 720p, a must these days if you are sharing videos to social media sites. You can also buy some models in 4K UHD for ultrasharp images. You should also look for a camera with a high frame rate (at least 15–30fps) for smoothly streaming video.
To save you time and aggravation, look for cameras with autofocus and the ability to swivel 360 degrees. And while you may already own PC headsets with microphones to add audio, if you choose a webcam with a high-quality microphone, your viewers will easily hear you. Many webcams are small and highly portable: wireless camera models connect over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth while a USB camera connects via a USB port on your laptop, using USB cables.