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.