Can Amcrest leverage it's security camera expertise for webcam's?
Amcrest seems to have found an opportunity to leverage their knowledge in the security camera space to produce an affordable USB webcam to fill the need of video conferencing for remote workers during the coronavirus lockdown.
Primarily Amcrest is known for their affordable IP network security cameras. They are the first camera manufacturer I used that had the right balance between quality, price, and longevity. So it seems like they'd be able to repurpose some of their core competency in this area to produce a 1080p webcam at their $50-60 dollar price point. So let's take a closer look at the AWC201-B model of the Amcrest 1080P HD webcam.
Amcrest 1080P HD Webcam Tech Specs
- 1/3" Sony CMOS image sensor
- 1080P Full HD (1920x1080) at 30fps
- 4mm lens
- 70 degree field of view
- High sensitivity mic
- USB 2.0 Plug and Play
- Privacy cover
- 6ft USB cord length
On paper the specifications look pretty solid. The webcam video output should look nice and smooth at a 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second. For comparison, cinematic movies are 24fps, soap operas 30fps, action cameras are 60fps.
The CMOS sensor should be large enough to pickup enough detail for Zoom meetings, Skype, Google Hangouts, and so on especially if the space is lit well.
The lens gives you a wide field of view which will fit a lot in frame though it will lose some detail and distort around the edges (fisheye effect).
Lastly, they've thought to add a physical privacy cover to protect users against accidentally leaving the web camera on as you walk to you morning meeting in your boxers or to protect against the potential for hackers spying your video feed in a worst case scenario.
Installation and Setup
The camera is literally plug and play over USB 2.0 so just plug the camera into a free USB port on your computer. It will appear as a HD Webcam USB in Sound Video and Game Controllers. You don't get any kind of additional software with the camera for adjusting the image settings or microphone. You are dependent on whatever conferencing or video capture software you are using for that as a result.
In your video conferencing software the Amcrest webcam will appear as a video source you can select and it will start streaming video automatically once selected. If you download apps like OBS Studio you can adjust the color settings, brightness, and contrast.
Video and Audio Quality and Performance
I do a side-by-side comparison of the video and audio quality in the Amcrest webcam review embedded at the top of the article if you would like to see and hear first hand how this webcam compares to a DSLR with dedicated external microphone.
The 1080p video was acceptable. The smaller CMOS sensor was grainy in lower light, but in a well lit room the video looked clear. The colors were washed out compared to the DSLR and the 70 degree field of view was able to capture a good portion of room.
The audio quality was not as good. The audio sounded highly compressed, muffled, and distant. You'd have to pair this with an external microphone to be able to be heard clearly in video conferencing. Across the webcam space it does tend to seem like microphones tend to be where they fall short.
The video quality is decent especially at the $50 price point, but you'd have to add in the cost of an external microphone to make the Amcrest webcam useable in most situations. The Logitech Brio has better reviewed microphone, but is also several times more expensive.
If you do go the external microphone route I've been happy with the Samson USB Meteor mic.