Before the pandemic, webcams were not really on the mind of most. Many used the inbuilt camera on their laptops or phones for any video-related calls. But, as we were all asked to stay home and virtual meetings became the norm, the pandemic was very kind to the webcam industry.
For streamers and content creators, webcams aren’t an afterthought. While the top-tier professionals use expensive DSLR cameras and links, many use a good old-fashioned webcam.
Perhaps like some of you reading, I’ve owned my fair share of webcams. Ranging from terrible cheap Logitech webcams to a few of the more expensive ones.
In the range that the Elgato Facecam falls into, you have a few other heavy-hitters:
- Logitech Brio (capable of 4K 30fps and 1080p 60fps)
- Razer Kio Pro (1080p 60fps)
- Dell UltraSharp 4k (4k 30fps, Full HD 30 and 60fps, plus a few others)
The Logitech Brio has arguably been the king of high-end webcams for a while now, and surprisingly, not many have challenged the Brio very well. That is until Elgato got into the webcam game.
Still, despite some top-tier webcams making some nice promises, even the best webcams like the Logitech Brio found a way to disappoint me (maybe my standards are just too high for a webcam). Weird skin smoothening, poor low-light performance, focus issues.
I am not going to beat around the bush here.
If you’re looking for one of the best webcams you can buy for streaming (Twitch, YouTube, etc.), the Elgato Facecam is the webcam for you. If you’re looking for a webcam to make you look like you’re on a Hollywood movie set (minus the explosions), this is the webcam for you. If you’re looking for a webcam to record video tutorials and do webinars, this is the webcam for you.
One of the Facecam’s best features is the nice big lens. It is followed by its impressive sensor, which performs much better than you would expect a webcam to perform in dimly lit conditions. It will not be as good in low light as a camera, but it’ll be the best webcam you’ve ever used. Unlike other cameras, it doesn’t compress anything. So you get full HD uncompressed picture quality.
The sensor inside the Elgato Facecam is the Sony STARVIS sensor, which is primarily used in security cameras because of its great low-light performance.
That is the important thing to remember here. The Elgato Facecam is not a camera; it’s a webcam. It does one thing, and it does it well.
While the Facecam is arguably one of the best webcams around, it still won’t do some of the things you might associate with a camera:
- No autofocus
- No built-in microphone
- Fixed lens (although it does support digital zoom)
- It can’t do bokeh (the creamy background blur effect)
- Image quality is not the same as a camera. If you want a camera-quality streaming camera, you’re better off going with the Sony ZV-E10 (considerably more expensive).
The Camera Hub software is possibly some of the best-bundled hardware-software I’ve used, especially for a webcam. One of the first things you might notice is that the camera will overexpose you by default. This is, fortunately, a software issue that you can fix.
It’s also worth mentioning this small feature: your settings don’t save to your machine. They are saved onto the Facecam itself. Maybe other webcams do this too, but if you use your Facecam with another machine, your settings come with you. I think that is pretty cool.
Here is a photo taken with the exposure settings on auto (the default setting).
And here is a photo taken with the auto settings turned off (set to ISO 100).
You can notice the difference in the skin tone on the face. While it’s a bit duller of a photo (due to lack of good room lighting), it highlights that the exposure settings are a little too over-the-top in a dimly lit room.
Fortunately, I’ve also done a recording with the Facecam. I did a coding video on YouTube using Streamlabs OBS. My webcam is in the right corner.
I had taken the Facecam out of the box maybe three hours before I recorded this. So, I was still working out what settings worked best, but I think the result turned out quite well.
The best feature of the Elgato Facecam
Arguably, I believe the best feature of the Elgato Facecam is the ability to change the ISO setting (under the exposure section). I can’t recall ever seeing a webcam that offers ISO adjustment. It allows you to prevent the sensor from introducing noise into your picture and video.
My best bit of advice for the Facecam is to turn off automatic exposure, turn the ISO down to 100 and then use a ring light (or other forms of lighting). Because the Facecam doesn’t compress anything, you’ll get the best quality possible this way.
If you don’t have access to lighting, turning the ISO up a little bit won’t hurt. I’ve noticed that you don’t start to see noticeable noise until you get into the 300 range. Even then, you have to look for it. Avoid the auto exposure settings, or it’ll wash you out (especially if you have light behind you).
Is the Elgato Facecam expensive? Yes. Is it the best performing webcam you can buy right now? Undoubtedly yes.
While the Facecam might not be justifiable for everyone, given the cost is well above what you would pay for a cheap Logitech webcam or even the one that comes with your laptop, I think the difference between the Facecam and others is night and day.
Suppose you’re a streamer who cannot justify the cost of an entry-level DSLR or vlogger camera (like the Sony offerings). If your streaming career takes off, you’ll be able to afford a proper camera. Or, perhaps, you work remotely and want to stand out from the rest of your peers. In that case, the Elgato Facecam is the best getting-started streamer webcam.