How Many Megapixels Is Good for a Webcam? – Overview
The more our everyday activities shift to video conferencing on the likes of Microsoft Teams and Zoom, the more we rely on PC webcams. What is the issue?
We’re switching them on for the first time to find out something: PC webcams are horrible.
Compared to most other devices, Laptop webcams are often restricted to 720p quality and have less than 5 megapixels of sensors.
A front-facing camera on a $300 smartphone is better than one on a $2,000 PC.
So why do PC webcams have to be so bad? And how many megapixels are enough for a webcam? In this review, we will explain all that.
What Are the Current Laptop Webcams Offering?
The best laptops on the market today, from the Dell XPS 13 to the MacBook Pro, are all limited to 720p cameras, and this has been the norm for over a decade now.
Even business computers, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad T480, are limited to 720p. Webcams on laptops have gotten worse in recent years, and Dell is to blame for a lot of it.
A camera module’s standard size is 7mm, but Dell worked hard with camera manufacturers to create a 2.25mm module (webcam) that could fit into the laptop’s thin top bezel.
It was revolutionary and groundbreaking at the time.
Unlike a smartphone’s front-facing camera, frequently used for selfies, laptop webcams aren’t designed to take photos.
You can’t hold a laptop in one hand, so it’s hard to see someone trying to take a beautiful portrait with one.
Manufacturers resorted to hiding cameras beneath keycaps or relocating them towards the bottom of displays since they were so low on the priority list.
Some people have even removed them totally to make the bezels even smaller.
On the other hand, smartphones have taken a different approach; notches and punch holes have become popular, limiting the available screen space.
Even with bigger bezels, it’s challenging to fit a smartphone camera onto a laptop. A smartphone module’s connection angle does not exactly work for a laptop.
What’s The Solution?
We might all aspire for better laptop design in the future, but is there any relief right now from the onslaught of blurry video conferencing calls?
The most logical approach is to buy an external webcam and mount it on top of your PC. Even a modest $50 1080p webcam will outperform the built-in webcam in your laptop.
Keep in mind that these external webcams are quickly selling out, so you need to be alert if you want one.
Another option is using your smartphone’s front-facing camera. It is already far superior and features a couple of applications to help the connection function smoothly.
The only issue is that the free applications have a resolution limitation; you’ll have to buy the premium versions to obtain the full 1080p experience.
Finally, some computers have a good webcam. A 2-in-1, such as the Surface Pro 7, with a 5.0-megapixel 1080p camera, is your best chance.
On the other hand, the iPad Pro boasts a 7-megapixel 1080p selfie camera that is much better, and while it isn’t technically a laptop, its new keyboard shell makes it feel like one.
These are the only available options until laptop brands start to take webcams more seriously. For the time being, it’s back to your usual fuzzy video conference calls.
So How Many Megapixels Do You Need in a Webcam?
You need at least 5 megapixels in your internal or external webcam. In general, a higher resolution yields better sharpness and more precise details. The need for the resolution quality also varies depending on your use case. I use my webcam for my regular work meetings, so in my use case, a basic 1080p Logitech webcam like the one below is more than enough for me.
We may earn an affiliate commission when you purchase through links on our site.
After all these considerations, we still haven’t answered how many megapixels you actually need in a webcam. To begin with, megapixels are not a metric for image or video quality.
Even with 12 megapixels, a webcam can still capture terrible images and video.
The higher the megapixel count, the more detail the webcam’s sensor can capture. However, this does not guarantee excellent quality.
You may note that while a webcam’s video quality isn’t outstanding, but it can still capture high-quality stills.
Most of the time, this has nothing to do with the webcam itself; the software that comes with the webcam is responsible for enhancing picture quality digitally.
Images taken with a high-res webcam are perfect for casting on big screens or reviewing small items.
As you can see, resolution (megapixel count) is very crucial to a webcam’s output.
However, it’s not the only thing you should consider because image and video quality comprise many other things, such as frame rate, aspect ratio, post-processing, etc.