We're all stuck on endless video calls now, right? So it behoves you to share your face in the highest resolution possible. Because your colleagues deserve to see your wrinkles.
Most laptops have pathetic 720p webcams built in. Which is weird, because even the most basic smartphone has a front-facing camera capable of 4K photos. Some can even do 4K video.
The good folks at INDMEM have sent me a 1440p (2K) webcam to review. For under £30, they claim that it's even better than the 1080p USB cameras available at that price point. Let's take it for a spin!
- 2560 x 1440 output (5 Megapixel)
- Focus - auto and manual
- USB 2 connector with 2 metre lead
- 110° wide angle lens
- Microphone with noise cancelling
- Lens cover - stick on
- h264 encoding
I placed the USB camera just above my laptop's webcam. I took these shots one after the other. My wall has a bunch of albums on it - so is reasonably good for seeing how much detail the camera picks up and how much noise it introduces.
Click for full size.
There's definitely more detail in the 2K webcam. But my laptop has a much wider field of view. That's not hugely important for video conferencing.
By default, I found the webcam to be slightly overexposed - but I was able to adjust that in software.
It's worth noting that the 1080p and 720p formats are just centre cut-outs of the main full frame. That is, the resolution isn't scaled and then trimmed, it literally just takes a 1920x1080 cut from the centre of the frame! The 640x480 is a scaled down version of the full frame.
But, here's the kicker. The full frame image is 2592x1944. That's larger than the advertised resolution!
There are two microphones grilles on either side of the device - but there's only one microphone. More on that later. Only a mono audio feed is outputted. Sound was a touch on the quiet side, but that can be boosted in software.
As with most webcams, it's just plug 'n' play. The latest version of Ubuntu detected it without hassle. It shows up as:
0c45:6366 Microdia USB 2.0 Camera.
That's a Sonix Technology Co. Ltd device, and it does correctly advertise a 2592x1944 resolution as both JPEG and video/x-raw YUY2.
Both Cheese and VLC detected the highest possible resolution - albeit only at 15fps for motion JPG. Using guvcview I was able to control the focus - either manually or auto - as well as being able to adjust the exposure.
Earlier this year, I reviewed a WiFi Endoscope. That claimed to be 2560×1920, but the native resolution was 640×480. That's pretty common in cheap cameras - use a low-end sensor, upscale in software, and sell to people who only buy on specification inflation.
In this case, as far as I can tell, the camera is better than 2K! It picks out much more detail than my 720p camera, and has variable focus.
Some video chat services, like Google Meet, only go up to 720p. I couldn't find any which went above 1080p. Even getUserMedia wouldn't go higher than that in the browser.
At the highest resolution, it's limited to 15fps using MJPEG. And only 2fps on RAW video. The camera claims to have an h264 stream, but I couldn't access it on Linux or Mac. At 1080p, you get 30fps.
The cover is held on with a few dabs of glue. A quick spludger and it is open.
Here's a close up of the PCB.
No markings on a camera module.
The microphone module appears to be
Let's flip it over!
USB soldered in. Sometimes these have connectors.
Unpopulated space in the lower left.
A closer look at the brains shows they are a SONIX SN9C5256AJG and a Boyamicro BY25D80AS TIG 2022
So, to sum up…
- This camera claims to be 2K / 1440p. But it is actually 2592x1944! Much better than advertised.
- The mono mic is a bit quiet.
- Has auto / controllable focus and aperture.
All for less than £30!
The webcam cover is handy - you can easily see if the lens is open. The clip is well designed for hanging off the top of a laptop or monitor.
The lens makes a satisfying and audible click as it snaps into focus. And the optics are - for a cheap camera - great.
You're not going to be able to make use of all the pixels on a virtual pub quiz, but this is a cracking bit of kit for £26.