Whether it will be used for face-to-face meetings with high profile clients a world away, broadcasting of your own special talent on YouTube or the like, or simply connecting with family and friends through the power of broadband, a webcam can be an invaluable tool, allowing connectivity unlimited by distances between individuals. While the webcam itself is quite a simple device, there are many different types offering different capabilities that should be considered when purchasing the one that suits your specific needs best.
A webcam is essentially a digital camera that can be connected to your computer through USB or even a firewire freecam port. With USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 activity, images may be compressed and thus altered in order to deal with the speed limitations of USB interfacing, so firewire would be the best choice for those wanting highest quality images. Similarly to a digital camera, webcams are able to capture still images as well as video. The quality of still image capture is measured in megapixels, with higher quality webcams capturing at higher megapixel rates, but because of portability and their diminutive size, most hover around one to two megapixels. For higher megapixel still photo capturing, it is still best to simply grab your digital SLR. The rate at which a webcam captures frames is a more important specification to look for. Provided you are working with a high-speed connection (it would not make much sense to try webcam broadcasting without one), thirty frames per second will be provided by the higher cost cameras, while cheaper models may only provide capturing capability of ten to fifteen frames per second (fps). Of course, the higher number of frames, the more quality the video will look to the audience of your broadcast, however, this can also be affected by the service being used (Yahoo, Skype, etc) and current Internet traffic in your area. Another valuable option to look for in your camera is its ability to support audio transmission; whether it possesses an onboard microphone or not. Video resolution is also a concern, with higher priced cameras usually offering up to 640X480, where cheaper models usually only offer 320X240 (half the size, for those of you mathematically challenged). Low light situations will call for a camera with that capability as well, another preferred option.