It is easier to connect to family, coworkers, customers/suppliers, and friends in this digital day and age than ever before. If you are part of the growing “work from home” workforce, you likely join video meetings daily. In all your video meetings, you may have noticed that some people do not have as good quality as others. Right away, you conclude they are using a laptop camera and not a webcam, even if you do not know all the differences.
The main difference between a laptop camera and a webcam is that the webcam is an external piece of equipment that is hooked up to the laptop, whereas the laptop camera is integrated into the system. As a result of this integration, the built-in camera tends to be of lower quality.
If you are contemplating a choice between a laptop camera and a webcam, you should know the key differences and typical specifications. The reason why you should understand the differences and the parameters is that once you know this, you can weigh the pros and cons of each in your decision to buy one or the other. This article will take you on a learning journey about laptop cameras and webcams; continue reading to discover all the differences.
Key Differences Between Laptop Cameras and Webcams
Besides their physical sizes and location (i.e., internal or external), laptop cameras and webcams have a plethora of other differences (more on webcam configurations in our guide). There’s simply no question that webcams have room for far higher quality, although, over the last few years, integrated laptop cameras have certainly improved in quality and in design. Here are some of the key differences between the two in the table below.
|Better quality, light sensitivity, and focusing abilities
|Lower quality, less light sensitivity, less focusing abilities
|Additional cost (since its a separate component)
|Included in the cost of your laptop
|Larger, also an extra component you have to lug around
|Included in the size of your laptop
|Better zooming capabilities since they have fewer space constraints for internal components
|Less zooming capabilities since they have space limitations
|Can be positioned anywhere as long as you have an ample lengthed cable
|Constrained by the position of the laptop screen since it is built-in (embedded)
Typical Laptop Camera Specs vs. Webcams
Not all laptops have the same camera; however, almost all of them will be easily bested by an external webcam that costs less than $100. Although there are higher-end laptops with decent built-in cameras, typical laptops have an image quality of 720p or less! The below table compares the laptop camera of the M1 chipset version of the Macbook with a run-of-the-mill HD webcam. You can see the Macbook Pro (on Amazon) and Macbook Air (on Amazon).
Both have the same built-in camera that sits flush and centered above the screen. Considering Macbooks usually have leading-edge hardware, it may be surprising to see its camera’s specs. The Macbook camera is paired up against the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 (on Amazon); you can see its full specs on Amazon.
Granted, it is physically larger. However, it is mostly unobtrusive and makes up for its larger size by providing outstanding performance and image quality. The below table shows a side-by-side comparison of the Macbook camera vs. the HD Logitech webcam.
|MacBook Pro M1 and MacBook Air M1
|Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam
|1280 x 720
|1920 x 1080
|Automatic HD light correction
|Field of view
|1.7 x 3.7 x 2.8 inches
|Overall Image Quality
|Poor for a high-end device, especially in low light environments
|Fantastic, crisp, clear HD quality in all lighting conditions
|Included in Macbook Pro Cost
|(See on Amazon)
As you can see, external webcams offer much better quality for not that significant of an extra price. You can spend $80 or less and get much better quality with an external webcam than a laptop camera. Additionally, you can even find a 4k capable external webcam, like this Logitech BRIO Ultra HD webcam (on Amazon). A webcam capable of 4k would give you the ultimate recording/video conferencing experience.
Whether you opt for a 1080p webcam or spend a little extra on the 4k version, you will be positively improving your image quality beyond what is capable of your laptop camera. If you do many video calls and conferencing, you need to seriously consider an external webcam if you do not have one already. Having high-quality video and audio communicates professionalism in a way that will have you soaring past the competition.
Can You Get Away with a Built-in Laptop Camera?
In most cases, you can get away with a built-in laptop camera, however, some users like to connect external devices like mouses to tablets (our guide). Typical laptops that are less than five or so years old have sufficient quality where your face can be seen while by people on the other end of your video call.
Just be sure to take your video calls in areas with good lighting; as discussed before, laptop cameras do not perform the best in low-light conditions. If you are okay with the lower image quality and position restrictions, laptop cameras work just fine, and believe it or not, security cameras can be used for the same purpose as we explored in our other tutorial.
If you’ve learned anything from this article, it’s that laptop cameras and webcams have plenty of differences. If you travel often and like to pack lightly, you could probably just stick with your laptop camera – it’ll work fine. However, understand that it does not perform well in low-light; it has less than optimal quality, and it probably also has some position restrictions that make it less than ideal for what you need it for.
On the other hand, webcams are larger and external but provide much better image quality; they work in low-light; they have more position options, but all of this of course comes with a higher price (although not by much). Lastly, because webcams do not have physical size limitations, they can be made with higher-end components providing an almost unlimited upward potential in image quality if you want to pay the extra price, such as 4k webcams.