Most of us use USB webcams or laptop webcams for video conferencing. However, we tend to notice that the video quality of regular webcams is quite poor compared to our camera phones.
Even in high-end laptops, the built-in webcam is usually of lower quality. Why do USB webcams and laptop webcams have only poor video quality?
In this article, we discuss whether phone cameras are better than webcams. We also explain the reasons for this quality difference.
Here’s Whether Phone Cameras Are Better Than Webcams
Generally, phone cameras have better quality than PC or laptop webcams. Most phone cameras can record 4K videos. They also provide much better autofocus and low-light quality compared to webcams. Regular webcams only have lower video resolutions. They also struggle in difficult light conditions.
Are Phone Cameras Better Than Webcams?
Generally, phone cameras have better quality than PC or laptop webcams. Cameras of high-end phones have much better photo quality compared to regular webcams. On the other hand, cameras of budget phones have comparable quality to regular webcams.
Regular webcams tend to over-expose. They also have poor color accuracy and white balance. Most of them can’t adjust the exposure properly under difficult lighting conditions. Phone cameras, on the other hand, can provide good exposure even under difficult lighting.
Decent phone cameras also have much better autofocus than PC or laptop webcams. Webcams have slower autofocus. Their autofocus also struggles under low light conditions.
Most webcams are still 720p or 1080p. Some high-end webcams, however, can record in 4K resolution. Most new smartphones, on the other hand, can record 4K videos.
When compared to camera phones, regular webcams still use old camera technology. Poor quality camera sensors used by PC and laptop webcams are usually no match for the image sensors of the current camera phones. Because of these poor image sensors, most webcams record low-quality grainy videos.
Webcams also struggle in low light conditions. Their autofocus only works under good lighting. Most of them also cause grainy images in low light.
You will also experience video lags and stuttering with regular webcams. They are quite slow compared to modern smartphone cameras.
Why Are Phone Cameras Better Than Regular Webcams?
There are many reasons for the lower image quality of regular webcams.
Regular webcams are designed primarily for video conferencing. Most people don’t need high-quality videos for video conferencing. Therefore, webcam manufacturers don’t include the latest and higher-quality camera hardware in their webcams.
On the other hand, you use your camera phone for everyday photography. You use the front camera for selfies and the rear camera to capture your day-to-day events. You also record your special occasions using your camera phone. Therefore, camera phones should provide decent quality for both photos and videos.
Video streaming also reduces the video quality in order to save network bandwidth. Therefore, recording high-quality videos using webcams is overkill.
Smartphone camera technology advanced rapidly due to the market competition and demand from the users. There’s no such demand or competition for regular PC or laptop webcams.
Your camera phone also has dedicated DSP chips for hardware encoding and image processing. Those DSP chips enhance the image quality of your camera phone. Hardware encoders also make your videos lag-free.
On the other hand, regular webcams don’t have such sophisticated DSP chips. They rely on a PC or laptop CPU for processing. Computer CPUs are not specifically designed for image processing or video encoding. Therefore, they are not as efficient as dedicated DSP chips in your camera phone. This is the reason why most webcams still lag and stutter at higher resolutions.
Can Phone Cameras Provide Better Quality Than PC Webcams?
Phone cameras can provide better image quality than PC webcams. The quality difference depends on the actual phone model and the type of PC webcam.
High-end camera phones can provide much better image quality compared to PC webcams. As we’ve said before, your camera phone has dedicated hardware encoders. It also has additional DSP chips to provide lag-free video recording.
On the other hand, most USB PC webcams don’t have decent quality hardware DSP encoders. They rely on your computer’s CPU for video encoding and other image processing tasks. However, the CPU can’t do image processing and video encoding as efficiently as dedicated DSP chips. Therefore, most PC webcams reduce the video quality and bitrate using compression algorithms to lower the required processing.
Most USB webcams can’t also stream high-quality video to the PC in real-time. They don’t have fast enough serial data connections. Most PC webcams, therefore, compress the captured video to a much lower bitrate before sending it to the PC. This compression significantly reduces the video quality.
Your camera phone, on the other hand, can record high-quality videos. The camera is directly connected to the phone’s motherboard in close proximity. Therefore, fast data connections are available between the camera and the phone’s processor.
Phone cameras also have excellent autofocus. High-end camera phones support dual-pixel phase detection autofocus. It even works in low-light conditions. On the other hand, USB webcams typically have slower autofocus, and they also struggle in low light.
Most PC webcams also have poor client software. They don’t offer enough camera controls. Some of them also lag and stutter due to poor optimization.
Can Your iPhone Camera Provide Better Quality Than A Regular Webcam?
Your iPhone’s camera has much better image and video quality compared to regular webcams. Most webcams only record low-resolution videos. They are often laggy, and their autofocus function is also much slower than the iPhone autofocus. As we’ve said before, they also struggle in low-light conditions.
On the other hand, your iPhone can record 4K videos. It also has sufficient processing power and does not cause any lag or stuttering while recording videos.
Your iPhone also has good autofocus. The low-light video quality is also excellent. Therefore, if you have a new iPhone, it will provide much better image quality than any PC or laptop webcam.
Are Phone Cameras Better Than MacBook Webcams?
MacBooks only have poor quality low resolution webcams. Most of them only support 720p. Some newer MacBook Pro models however can record in 1080p resolution.
MacBook webcams also struggle in low light. They tend to overexpose, and the videos are often grainy.
On the other hand, decent camera phones provide much better video quality. They can even record 4K videos. Their low light image quality is also much better than that of MacBook webcams.
Why Do Even High-End Laptops Have Poor Quality Webcams?
If you bought a high-end laptop and used its webcam, you might wonder why it has poor video quality. There are a few reasons why laptop manufacturers don’t include high-quality webcams in their laptops.
One reason is the less demand for better laptop webcams. Usually, the laptop market demand is for CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage. Most users will not pay a higher price to get a laptop with a better webcam. Therefore, laptop manufacturers tend to use lower-quality webcams and use that money for upgrading other components.
We also don’t take day-to-day photos or videos using our laptops. Therefore, most people don’t benefit from a high-quality laptop webcam. Most of the users also don’t require high-quality webcams for video conferencing.
There are also some technical issues that limit the video quality of a laptop webcam. Laptop webcams are usually located at the top of the laptop lid. Laptop lids are quite thin. Therefore, it is hard to install a high-quality camera on a thin laptop lid.
One other issue is the physical distance between the laptop webcam and the laptop motherboard. Unlike a smartphone, where the camera is directly connected to the phone’s motherboard, laptops have their webcams at the top of the lid. This higher distance makes it harder to use fast serial data connections between the webcam and the laptop motherboard.
Most laptop webcams also don’t have dedicated DSP chips. Video processing is done by the laptop processor. As we’ve said before, general-purpose processors are not optimized for image processing and video encoding. Therefore, laptop processors struggle and cause video lagging and stuttering when using the webcam.
Selfie Camera Vs Rear Camera: Which One Is Better To Use As A Webcam?
The rear camera of your phone usually has better quality than the selfie camera. It usually has a higher resolution sensor, and it also provides better low-light image quality.
The autofocus function is also better in the rear camera. Selfie cameras also tend to add unwanted beauty filters. On the other hand, rear cameras won’t add such unnecessary image filtering.
Because of these reasons, if you want to use your phone camera as a webcam, you should use the rear camera instead of the selfie camera.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using A Phone Camera As A PC Or Laptop Webcam
As we explained before, phone cameras have better video quality than regular webcams. If you have a camera phone, using it as a webcam will cost you nothing.
Phone cameras also provide better autofocus, and they can even work in low-light conditions. Unlike some PC and laptop webcams, your phone camera will also not stutter when recording videos.
There are also some disadvantages of using your phone as a webcam. Unlike a regular webcam, your camera phone is not a plug-and-play solution for video conferencing. Before you can use your phone as a webcam, you must first install a webcam app on your phone and then client software on your computer.
Using your camera phone as a webcam for long hours can quickly drain its battery. Therefore, you have to charge your phone often or always connect it to the power adapter.
Continuous use can also overheat your phone. Unlike regular webcams, phone cameras are not designed to use continuously for long hours. Therefore, overheating can reduce the lifespan of your phone.
In order to use your phone as a webcam, you have to mount it to the PC or laptop. For this, you might have to purchase separate phone mounts.
How To Use Your Phone Camera As A PC Or Laptop Webcam
You can use both Android phones and iPhones as Windows or Mac computer webcams.
You first have to install a webcam app on your phone. Then you have to install its client software on your Windows or Mac computer. Your computer will detect the phone camera as a regular webcam.
Few different mobile apps are available for this purpose. If you have an Android phone, you can use the DroidCam app to connect it to a Windows PC. You can also use the Iriun app to connect your Android phone to a Windows or Mac computer.
If you have an iPhone, you can use the EpocCam app to connect it to a Windows or Mac computer.
Phone cameras are usually better than webcams. Most high-end camera phones have better image sensors and dedicated DSP chips to provide smooth lag-free video recording. They also have excellent autofocus and low-light image quality.
PC and laptop webcams, on the other hand, have lower video resolution. They also have poor autofocus and most of them struggle in low-light conditions.
However, regular webcams are easier to use. You can simply buy a USB webcam and plug it into your computer for video conferencing.