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:

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.

via Hacker News and USA Today

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3 replies on “Webcams are almost as hard to find as hand sanitizer and toilet paper”

  1. One other possible alternative is to use a camcorder with webcam function. I found a few and I deciding if to try it out… Can’t seem to find a webcam at decent price with short delivery time (here in Europe).

  2. I set up iVCam a couple weeks ago so that I could send my precious webcam to a family member who didn’t have one. It’s been working great. Note that there’s a second purchase for virtual sound card software if you want the phone’s microphone to be available to the PC.

  3. I went the Wyze camera route with the custom firmware. Actually works well, just dont use the built in mic or speaker. Also, the Wyze camera has a wider field of view than a normal webcam so more of my background gets in the image.

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