It’s hard to find toilet paper or hand sanitizer on store shelves in the US these days. And it looks like you can add another item to the list — webcams.
While it’s not impossible to find a webcam, many of the most popular models appear to be out of stock at most online retailers. I imagine the same is true at bricks and mortar stores that may still be open.
Update: It’s not just anecdotal evidence — NPD says webcam sales for the first two weeks of March were twice what they had been a year ago.
With millions of people across the country under orders to stay at home as much as possible, people have turned to video conferencing/calling solutions like Zoom, Jitsi, Skype, Hangouts (or whatever it’s called these days), Facetime, Duo, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger to stay in touch with friends, colleagues, and the folks you’re making music videos with.
Zoom says it went from around 10 million daily users to 200 million practically overnight. And the trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future as people work and communicate from home using any technology that’s available to them.
Most smartphones have front-facing cameras that you can use to make video calls. Most desktop computers don’t come with a camera… but most laptops do.
Unfortunately laptop webcams are almost universally lousy.
For some reason this is an area where PC makers have skimped for years — few laptops have a webcam with a resolution higher than 720p and for the most part they aren’t very good in low-light, have lousy auto-focus capabilities, and aren’t easy to position.
Enter third-party webcams, which typically connect to the USB port of your computer and offer improvements such as support for 1080p or higher-resolution video, high-quality microphones, autofocus, better performance in a variety of lighting conditions, and maybe even background replacement.
If you find yourself in sudden need of a webcam, but didn’t pick one up when the supply was plentiful a few weeks/months ago, you may already have the gear you need to MacGyver a solution:
- Use a dSLR as a webcam (may require a third-party accessory)
- Use your phone as a webcam (requires third-party apps)
- Use a Wyze security camera as a webcam
If none of those options are available, your best may just to be to stick with your phone — odds are if you’ve got a mid-range or flagship device, it’s probably got a better front-facing camera than your laptop.