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What is a webcam?


A webcam is a small digital video camera that connects to a computer. It is also known as a web camera that can capture pictures or motion video. These cameras come with software that needs to be installed on the computer that helps transmit its video on the Internet in real-time. It has the ability to take pictures, including HD videos, but its video quality can be lower as compared to other camera models.

A webcam captures digital pictures as it is an input device. These images are forwarded to the computer that moves them to a server. Then, these pictures can be transmitted to the hosting page from the server. Nowadays, most of the webcam is connected to the USB or FireWire port on the computer or embedded into the display with laptop computers. It includes characteristics such as:

  • Especially from a video telephony perspective, the cost of webcams is considered lower as compared to other models of camera.
  • The maximum resolution of a webcam is low as compared to most handheld cameras.

The webcam features are mainly dependent on the computer processor as well as an operating system of the computer. They can provide advanced features such as image archiving, motion sensing, custom coding, or even automation. Furthermore, webcams are used for social video recording, video broadcasting, and computer vision and mainly used for security surveillance and in videoconferencing.

Features of webcam

The webcams can differ in terms of size, shape, specification, and price. There are several features of webcam that help you choose the best webcam for your individual needs:

1. Megapixels

The megapixels are very small dots of color that makes a visual image when they are combined. Accordingly, a webcam produces a clearer bright image with more megapixels. In the past, the number of megapixels was an issue, but it is not a big problem today. Now, most of the webcam will offer a reasonable image quality. Although a webcam with 320X240 or 640X480 pixels provides a better image. Also, the 1280X720 pixels are considered a better specification for your webcam to produce high definition (HD) quality.

2. Frame Rate

As the megapixels control the image and color brightness, the frame rate deals with the video quality, which decides how many images per second are displayed. At least the frame rate in a reasonable webcam will have 30 frames per second. If the frame rate is less than 30fps, this is out of date, and images may shake and vibrate. A webcam that supports 60 fps recording can provide a higher quality moving image or smoothest video.

3. Lens Quality

In the video process, the lens is the first stage. Therefore, it is most important that your camera has the correct lens for full filling your requirements. A moderately-priced model has a plastic lens, while a high-end webcam has a glass lens. A glass lens is much better as compared to a plastic lens. Additionally, it is suggested that to invest in a glass lens as it is more appropriate for professional video production.

4. Autofocus

There can be a lot of activity happening during a webcam session in many scenarios; autofocus is a feature that works by automatically focusing the subject, while it moves around. This feature can be inappropriate that can be caused to slow functions, while the camera also takes the time to capture.

5. Low Light Quality

Sometimes, if you need to use your webcam in the evening or in low light conditions, the image quality can be very poor. In some webcams, Logitech has developed Right Light, which can improve the image quality in these evenings or in low light conditions.

6. Resolution

A resolution is an important aspect in pictures or videos, although many webcam support 720p and 1080p high-definition quality. Also, some webcams come to have 4k capability, but they come with a premium price tag. A webcam with a resolution between 1.3MP and 2.0MP can provide you clear pictures without overdoing the resolution.

Applications of webcam

Webcams are widely used in many applications to capture images and record the video. There are different applications of a webcam; such are as follows:

  • Buildings: Webcams are widely used in buildings such as buildings, offices, shopping malls, and more. It is used in buildings for security purposes. It has the ability to motion detection of the authorized activities and monitor the unauthorized entries, through which it improves the security. Furthermore, it also helps to improve communication through online chatting over the various clients in the offices.
  • Banking Sector: Webcams are used in the banking sectors to monitor all sections of the bank. The recorded video files are stored and transferred to the main sever for future investigation purposes. It helps to increase security by identifying the mischief activities by people.
  • Video calling: One of the most widespread uses of the webcam is video calling. It allows visibility between the communicators while sharing information with each other. It also offers benefits at the time of the meeting of any organization as people can communicate from their house while seeing each other through any video calling application.
  • Robotic Technology: In certain dangerous places, robotic technology widely uses webcams to transfer the data to the main server on the web.
  • Home Security Systems: One of the common uses of webcam is a home security system. It can secure the house by the constant capturing moment of any visitor to the house. The alarm turns on at night motion detection and starts recording the video.
  • Input Control Devices: Input devices also use of the webcams for user control applications and games. On the specific applications, it enables the movement of the objects to control the operations. As input control, it tracks colors, shapes, models, and other detections.
  • Roads and Parking areas: One of the essential uses of a webcam as it has the ability to record the vehicle movements. It can be used to detect traffic situations, the number of vehicles present, accidental information, and more. Furthermore, it can also detect the details of the vehicle number plate remotely with the help of the web.

History of webcam

The webcam is a type of camera that people usually use for person-to-person communication. It was not designed only for this purpose by its inventors. The whole development of the webcam is described below:

Underlying Motivation

In 1991, when Cambridge University researchers started to find a way to remotely monitor the coffee pot, the idea for developing the webcam came into the mind of researchers. The researchers wanted to see the coffee pot from far; even they wanted to be able to tell from their desk whether the pot was empty. In 1991, the researchers used the first strategy to train a digital camera on the coffee pot and wire it to their computers. The researchers were got success in viewing the camera's images with the help of specialized software.


In the computer science department, the Cambridge University researchers began the experiment of remote coffee pot-view in 1993, and they took the step further of their experiment by updating the images of the digital camera on the Internet in the Trojan Room. The researchers created the world's first webcam in this process and completed this achievement by developing a remote procedure call mechanism that is known as MSRPC2. The mechanism operated over a network protocol (multi-service network layer protocol), and it was designed for use with ATM machines by researchers. The Cambridge University researchers allow us to upload one frame per second from their coffee pot camera on to the web. This was done using the MSRPC2 mechanism in conjunction with a computer's video capture board.


Although Cambridge University researchers invented the webcam, they did not design it for common use and sell among consumers. The now-defunct Connectix Corporation was the first organization to produce webcams commercially the very first commercial webcam was released by Connectix in 1994, and it was sold for $99.

The first webcam

The XCoffee was the first widely-publicized webcam that was also known as the Trojan Room coffee pot. In 1991, the camera began to operate by Paul Jardetzky and Quentin Stafford-Fraser. Then in 1993, it was connected to the internet by Martyn Johnson and Daniel Gordon. At the University of Cambridge, the XCoffee webcam observed a coffee pot outside the Trojan Room. Thus, people didn't waste their time getting coffee. When it was mentioned in the news, the website had traffic over 150,000 online people to watch the coffee pot. Additionally, on 22 August 2001, the webcam went offline.

How does work a webcam?

A webcam is a compact digital camera that you can attach to your computer for capturing images and videos. It works like a conventional digital camera, but it is designed to communicate with the internet pages and other web pages. It broadcasts video images in real-time through a tiny grid of light-detectors that is known as charge-coupled device from the location where it is placed. First, the charge-coupled device (CCD) converts the image into a digital format; then the computer would be capable of accessing this data.

To store the images, Webcams do not have the internal memory. Therefore, it transfers the data instantly to the host device with the help of USB or another analog cable. It includes two functionalities; first capturing the images or videos and then transmit it to the predestined device. To interact with the host device, Webcams also come with the appropriate software along with the digital camera.

The software provides users the option to edit the images and to record the videos for a certain duration, and it obtains the digital data from the camera at particular intervals of time. The number of pictures or video streaming is displayed on the computer on the basis of the frame rate. The software converts the image frame into a JPEG file, which is received from a digital camera. Then, sends it to the webserver by using the file transfer protocol. There is a need to do some configuration steps to upload the images and videos before using this webcam.

Types of webcam

There are various types of the webcam; such are as follows:

  • Integrated: Many laptops, netbooks, and other computers are specially designed for portability with built-in webcam, which is located at the top of the screen. These cameras are designed with lower pixels; therefore, they offer lower quality images. But still, they are capable of managing video calls. Some of the models come with dual cameras, one for snapping photos and the other for video calls. Integrated cameras reduce the uses of webcam camera. But it offers higher convenience and reduces clutter from too many peripherals.
  • Standalone: Standalone webcams commonly connect to the computer through a USB cable. These cameras are designed with a lens unit and stand or clip. To connect the computers, older models of the standalone camera may use serial port connectors or other methods of data transfer. These webcams allow users to pick a high-quality camera and microphone or suitable headset according to your requirement, as it offers the most control over your peripherals.
  • Network Cameras: Network cameras are much similar to the conventional webcams, except that they transfer their data through Ethernet or wireless connections. These cameras are widely used for closed-circuit security television. Also, as compared to ordinary webcams, network cameras work more appropriately in high-end videoconferencing setups. The cost of network cameras is less than most webcams, but they need a high network connection to work properly.
  • Webcams with Microphones: The need for a separate microphone or a headset is reduced by the standalone webcams as they come with a built-in microphone. Microphone webcams only can be used with a set of headphones. However, you should avoid using these cameras at the same time as your computer speakers. Sometimes, the output from the speakers can be caused by the feedback by the microphone. Furthermore, these webcams end the need to find space for extra power devices.

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