The 'new normal' means millions of people around the world are now using video apps such as Zoom or Apple's own FaceTime to chat with family and friends online. And, of course, many of us are now working from home as well, and using more business-oriented apps such as Skype or Microsoft Teams to set up video calls with colleagues and clients.
Apart from the Mac mini and Mac Pro, all Macs have one of Apple's FaceTime cameras already built in, so you don't necessarily need to buy a new webcam for video calls. With their low resolution, however, these cams are starting to look a little dated. (You can also use your iPhone as a Mac webcam, although this may not be convenient as a long-term solution.)
Business users in particular will want to pick something better in order to project a more professional image to colleagues and clients, while many artists and musicians vlog and promote their work on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Almost all Mac owners could benefit from upgrading to something that can provide a sharper image than their machine's default camera.
With that in mind, here's our guide to some of the best webcams for use with your Mac, complete with links to buy. For broader advice, jump down to our thoughts on what to look for in a Mac webcam.
1. Razer Kiyo - Best features on a 1080p webcam
Razer is best known for its range of gaming gear, and the Kiyo webcam is primarily aimed at gamers who need a high-quality camera for Twitch streaming and e-sports. It's a shame that Razer's Synapse app isn't Mac-compatible, but the Kiyo itself still works as a standard USB-webcam without needing any additional software, and has a number of other useful features that will come in handy for video chats with friends and even for business calls.
The Kiyo provides a nice sharp 1080p lens (1920x1080), with 81.6 degrees viewing angle, and can record video at 30fps, or capture still images at 2688x1520.
The adjustable stand can clip to the top of a computer screen or fold flat to sit on your desk. You can tilt the camera lens to get just the right viewing angle, and the Kiyo's USB cable is 1.5m long so that you can adjust the position freely. There's also a tripod mount on the base of the stand as well - although you have to use your own tripod.
Like many webcams, the Kiyo has an autofocus function so it can keep your picture nice and clear when you're moving around, but the main feature that sets it apart is its built-in 'lighting ring'. The circular outer rim that surrounds the camera lens lights up as soon as you select the Kiyo as a video source in your video apps, and you can turn the ring like a dial to adjust the brightness level up or down. That can help solve the gloomy image quality that many of us struggle with when making video calls from a bedroom or makeshift office at home.
Razer also makes a good range of high-quality microphones that work well with the Kiyo too.
2. Logitech Brio - Top-quality 4K webcam
Logitech probably has the widest range of webcams currently available, ranging from low-cost models for video chats with your friends to gaming cameras and even full-blown videoconferencing systems for business users.
The Brio is one of the company's top-of-the-range models - in fact, Logitech claims it's "our best webcam ever". It's not cheap, costing £199/$199, but earns its keep with a high-quality lens that offers full 4K resolution (4096x2160) at 30fps, or standard 1080p video (1920x1080) at 60fps (although, of course, you'll need pretty fast broadband to handle 4K streaming).
The Brio also supports HDR - high dynamic range - for bright, bold colours, and Logitech's RightLight technology, which automatically adjusts the image to cope with changing light levels during the day.
The Brio is versatile, too, offering three field-of-view settings: a narrow 65 degrees for close-up head-and-shoulders shots, or you can widen the view to 78 degrees or 90 degrees to capture a wider view of the room and other people. The camera also includes two microphones, with noise-cancellation features to improve audio quality.
The adjustable stand can clip on to the top of your computer screen, or be mounted on a tripod for more professional productions (although you do have to supply your own tripod). There's a privacy shade to cover the camera for extra security.
The Brio works as a standard USB camera, so you can quickly plug it in and use it on your Mac with apps such as FaceTime or Zoom, but Logitech also provides a Mac version of its Settings app, to provide extra controls.
3. Logitech C920 - Great value for money
If you don't need the 4K resolution of the Logitech Brio, then the company's C920 is a more affordable alternative that still provides high-quality video for £90 (and just $80 in the US).
The C920 is an HD camera that records at 1920x1080 resolution and 30fps, with autofocus and automatic light correction so it can maintain good image quality as you move around, or as the light changes. It also includes two microphones - one on each side of the lens - for stereo voice recordings.
The adjustable stand can clip on to a computer screen, or fold flat if you want to sit the camera on your desktop or on a shelf, so it's a simple plug-and-play option if you just want a quick video chat with friends. It's also a good choice for vlogging and social media videos, as the stand includes a tripod-mount (tripod not included), while the 1.5m cable included with the camera gives you freedom to move it around and get the right viewing angle.
The C920 has been such a popular product for Logitech that it's developed a couple of other versions as well. The C922 has the additional option of streaming 720p video (1280x720) at 60fps for the gaming crowd who need super-smooth streaming. There's also the C930e, which is aimed at business users, and includes a wide-angle lens and 4X zoom that will allow you to step back and move around a bit while giving presentations.
4. Hypercam HD - Best Budget Webcam
The Hypercam HD is inexpensive while offering a high-spec range of features, making it one of the best value webcams here.
Its 1080p HD resolution picture quality is noticeably better than the Mac's default 720p HD camera, and the audio is clear.
The Hypercam's glass lens has a 78-degree field of view - the same as the top-end Logitech C922. It also matches that webcam with fast 720p HD at 60Hz, and 1080p at 30fps.
The Hypercam features built-in HD autofocus and light correction, and two integrated mics. It is adjustable at up to 170 degrees.
Installation is simple - just plug the USB cable into your computer or docking station, and the driver automatically installs for almost immediate use. Unfortunately there's no tripod mount option, but you can hang it off your display, or place it on a desktop.
We were initially concerned that it looked eerily similar to a few other Chinese-made webcams - and it's not badged as a Hyper product - but we found few faults in testing.
5. AverMedia Live Streamer Cam 513 - Best 4K webcam
The AverMedia Cam 513 stands out because it offers Sony's 8MP Exmore R CMOS image sensor for [email protected] or [email protected] video capture. There's also an impressive 94-degree field of view, which provides the user with a large canvas for cropping and zooming without noticeable loss in detail.
That's where the AverMedia CamEngine comes in. CamEngine is a vital utility and essentially required to get the most out of the Cam 513 - which doesn't have drivers, you need to use their software. The software allows you to tweak the image using advanced features such as Snapchat-style filters and AI-powered camera cropping.
Regarding those AI-related capabilities, it can crop in and track your face as you move around - good news if you move around a lot while on video calls. It's not always flawless in performance however - we found it sometimes cropped into something that vaguely looked like a face, but you've also got the option of manually setting up each crop for different shots and angles.
Shots can be programmed to hotkeys, allowing for extreme zooms and dramatic ultra-wide shots on-the-fly during streams and video calls.
You'll also find a privacy-focused shutter built in which will cover the webcam sensor when not in use.
The adjustable stand will attach to most displays. The camera plugs into your Mac via USB-C - the cable isn't built-in but we don't think that is a disadvantage (it means you can replace it with a shorter or longer USB-C cable depending on how you want to set it up.)
It's a great 4K webcam - the only real annoyance is that we could hear a faint ticking noise coming from the webcam during use.
6. Ausdom AF640 - Best for business calls
Ausdom hasn't been operating in the UK for very long, but it's had some good reviews for its range of webcams, and the AF640 is a good, versatile option for simple video calls with friends, or in a more professional setting with colleagues or clients at work.
The AF640 provides 1080p resolution (1920x1080) and can record at 30fps for smooth video, with an autofocus feature to keep the image clear and sharp at all times. There's a simple camera app available for Windows users, but Mac users can just use it as a straightforward plug-and-play USB webcam with Mac apps such as FaceTime or Zoom.
You can attach the AF640 to the top of your computer screen, but the stand can also fold flat to sit on your desk or on a nearby shelf, or be attached to a tripod stand (not included). You can tilt and swivel the camera lens to focus on a particular area, and the 1.5m USB cable gives you plenty of room to move it around.
The AF640 will work fine for straightforward video chats with your friends, but its 90-degree viewing angle will be good for business calls too, especially if you want to step back from the camera while giving a presentation or using a whiteboard. The omnidirectional noise-cancelling microphone will also come in handy for business calls and meetings where you want to make a good impression.
However, there's a less expensive model, called the AW615, which has a simpler microphone and just 65-degree viewing angle for around £70/$80.
7. Papalook PA452 Pro - Affordable 1080p
The Papalook PA452 Pro is one of the most affordable 1080p cameras we've come across, costing just £84.99/$99.99 from online retailers like Amazon. (There is a less expensive model as well, just called the PA452 - but Papalook's website says this model is only compatible with Windows, so make sure you buy the Mac-compatible 'Pro' model shown here.)
That low price means you're not going to get some of the more advanced features we've seen in other webcams, but the PA452 Pro gets the basics right, recording high-def video at 1920x1080 resolution and 30fps, with a noise-cancelling microphone for good audio quality.
Like most webcams, the PA452 Pro has an adjustable stand that can sit on your desk, clip on to a computer screen, or be attached to a tripod (not included). There are a few signs of cost-cutting, though.
The camera only provides 65-degree viewing angle, which should be fine for simple head-and-shoulder shots for video-chats with your friends, but will be less suitable for business users who might need wider viewing angles for presentations or for use in larger meeting rooms. There's no auto-focus either, relying on manual adjustment of the lens to alter focus settings (although some people actually prefer manual focus, as it can be more precise than relying on autofocus).
We've picked out five webcams worthy of recommendation above, but here's some more general advice on what to look for.
The FaceTime cameras included on all MacBook laptops and most iMac models are limited to just '720p' - which generally means a resolution of 1280x720 (although the FaceTime camera on my office iMac only seems to record at 1080x720). That's pretty basic in these days of HD and 4K video, so in recent months many people have decided to upgrade to a higher-quality webcam that supports HD resolution of 1920x1080, or even one of the latest 4K webcams.
As well as providing a sharper, high-resolution video image, other useful features to look out for when buying a new webcam include autofocus, which can keep the image clear and sharp even if you need to move around a little, and brightness adjustment for when gloomier days. A wide-angle lens can be useful too, allowing you to fit more than one person into the image, or allowing business users to step back from the camera while giving a presentation or using a whiteboard.
You should also check to make sure that the webcam can record smooth video with a framerate of 25 or 30 frames per second (fps). Some webcams can even record at 60fps, although that's mainly for specialist tasks such as gaming and e-sports on Twitch.
There's certainly plenty of choice these days, and most modern webcams will work with your Mac automatically as they just use a standard USB connection - generally USB 3.0, although USB-C is now starting to appear on some new webcams too.
Once it's plugged in, a USB webcam should then be able to work with any suitable video software on your Mac, such as FaceTime, Zoom or Skype (although it's a shame that Apple never got around to releasing a Windows version of FaceTime, as that puts it at a real disadvantage against its video-chat rivals). The webcam's microphone will also appear as an audio input in the Sounds control panel in System Preferences on your Mac.
Some manufacturers also provide their own apps with their webcams, which can help with features such as brightness and autofocus, so it's worth checking to see if the webcam provides its own Mac app as well.