Even the best USB webcams on the market these days struggle to compete with a decent smartphone camera when it comes to image quality, focus, lighting, and all the other stuff that goes into a high-quality video. One solution is to just use your phone or DSLR camera as a webcam, but that can take a bit of work to set up, and then your phone or DSLR is tied up while you’re making calls.

So companies are starting to try to play catchup with better webcams, having realized that they’re more in demand during a global pandemic than ever before. This summer Dell introduced a 4K model said to borrow features from DSLR cameras. It sells for $200. Now a new startup called Opal has introduced a $300 webcam called the Opal C1.

Opal calls the camera “the first professional webcam,” which sounds like a bit of marketing fluff. But it does have some features that would help set it apart from cheaper options including:

  • 6-element glass lens with f/1.8 aperture and 78 degree field of view
  • 7.86mm 4K Sony image sensor with 1.55µ pixels
  • 4056 x 3040 pixel resolution
  • 4K or 1080p video at up to 60 fps
  • Array of 3 beam-forming microphones with noise cancellation
  • Custom “Opal Trilliam” processor and Intel VPU chip

The company says camera has “the fastest neural processing chip ever on a webcam,” with support for 4 trillion operations per second.

The camera itself comes in black or white color options and has an aluminum body measures 3.1″ x 1.5″ x 0.9″ and comes with a mount, USB-C cable, and lens cover.

Opal was founded by a group of former Apple, Beats, and Uber employees, which makes sense when you look at its sleek design… and amped up marketing language.

Unfortunately some features may be Mac-only, at least at launch. The Opal app that allows you to customize image quality, add Bokeh effects, or use facial recognition for filtering effects is available exclusively for Mac.

I think it’s pretty likely that there is a market for webcams that bridge the divide between the cheap/barely-better-than-a-laptop-webcam and plugging a DSLR into your PC. But whether a Mac-only $300 model from a startup is the answer remains to be seen.

The Opal C1 isn’t available for purchase yet, but you can request an invite to the private beta at the Opal website.

via 9to5Mac, Boing Boing, and @alexisohanian

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  1. I don’t understand the need for this unless you’re putting on sales or porn shows.

    As long as voice is ok, and screen-sharing works, nobody at work cares to see me or anyone else in 4k glory.

  2. I wouldn’t consider paying that kind of money for any kind of camera unless it offered an interchangeable lens system.

    I think most “professionals” are better served by using an interchangeable lens camera, like an SLR or a Mirrorless camera with decent manual controls. It’s not difficult to set up those kinds of cameras as a webcam.

    The only webcam I would pay $300 for, is if someone just made a simple camera sensor with USB, and a Micro-four-thirds lens mount, and BYO-lens. THAT would be worth $300, and it would actually give people professional functionality.

  3. Erm, how about just using a 4K action camera on your computer, oops they don’t cost $300 dollars. No marketing money to be made there 🤐

    Just internet search ” use a 4K action camera as a webcam “

  4. There’s no chance I would spend that kind of money (in 2021 dollars that is, since I’m sure at some point in the future a normal webcam will have a price tag similar to that) on a high quality image webcam. I don’t want people to see my pores or random hair that doesn’t want to follow the rest of them. If I want a good quality image, I’ll figure out how to use a DSLR as a webcam or even one of the mirrorless ones, that way I can at least use it for multiple things. As for making things mac-only at the start, well I think they know their market since it seems that people that buy Macs are willing to spend more on things.

  5. Making some features Mac only, especially at first kind of makes sense, given how particularly bad built in Mac webcams are and have been for years and years.