At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: Webcams

Why It may be Time to Upgrade your Webcam

If you still look like a shadow of your true self in Zoom meetings, you should consider using a more powerful camera.

It’s fair to say we’ll be needing our webcams, well… forever. If video conference meetings from home weren’t already part of our daily lives before the pandemic, well, now they certainly are. And no matter what the future holds, virtual meetings are here to stay.

We’ve had two years to figure out how to set up a decent Zoom shot. If you’re still not happy with it, the problem may be your computer’s mediocre webcam. If so, it’s time to upgrade and buy a dedicated external USB camera for your computer.

Can Another Camera You Own do the Job?
But before you start shopping for a new webcam, make sure you don’t already own another device that you can repurpose such as a camcorder or DSLR-style camera.

You just need to make sure that your higher-end camera can offer a ‘clean’ video output via a HDMI connector. Then you’ll need a HDMI to USB converter like the ‘Cam Link 4K’ to integrate the video feed into your computer.

My New Lumix GH5 II
Recently, I bought myself a Panasonic Lumix GH5 II
with a Panasonic 12-35 mm/f2.8 II lens.
(“Why Barrett, you shouldn’t have!”)

And of course, I immediately wanted to jack this Micro Four Thirds, mirrorless camera into my iMac to see what would happen.

Sure, using a higher-end camera with a serious lens as a basic webcam is way overkill, but it works just fine. And the look is beautiful. In fact, it’s ridiculous.

The webcam on my iMac is perfectly adequate, but when I changed over to my GH5 II, the visual difference was dramatic.

Don’t Buy More than You Need
Now, I’m not saying you should run out and spend ten times the cost of a typical webcam to upgrade your Zoom look.

But if you’ve already got a more powerful camera that can also be used as a webcam, then why not? (Previously, I had been repurposing my old GoPro as a webcam via my Cam Link 4K.)

Your Desk will get Messy
Now here comes the big disclaimer…

Yes, integrating a ‘real’ camera into your desktop computer or laptop will creating an amazing image, but functionally, the process is not elegant. You’ve got to put a tripod on your desk and position it right next to your computer screen, so you’re not looking too far off camera when you take a peek at the other folks in your Zoom window.

Then, you’ve got the HDMI and power cables coiling in front of your screen to contend with. It’s a mess. (You start to feel like a battery person trapped in “The Matrix,” even though the cables aren’t actually coming out of your body.)

Even attaching a tiny new webcam to your laptop involves an extra cable and a webcam mount, and it takes a couple more steps every time you prepare for a video conference. Plus, you’ve got to adjust your webcam and test your shot to make sure you’re framed correctly.

That’s takes work… sometimes a lot of work. One might say it’s an absurd effort. And for what?

Nothing beats the ease of simply clicking on ‘join’ and letting your integrated webcam do its job. Whatever your viewers see, they see. If you’re only partially in the shot, that’s better than nothing, right?

What’s so bad with that approach? (And if you really feel that way, please continue taking your blue pills. Your next Zoom meeting in the Matrix is in ten minutes!)

Can You See Me Now?
Frankensteining any camera into your computer is a bit messy… sometimes very messy. But the good news is it’s not really that complicated.

Do you still make an effort to put on a nice shirt for your Zoom meetings, and have you spent more than a few minutes trying to adjust the lighting on your face? Are you still unsatisfied with your shot?

If so, then you’re a prime candidate to consider upgrading your webcam. (And if you’re already in the market for a nice camera to handle your photography and video projects, you can free two birds with one key, like I did.)

I expect you will not be disappointed with your decision to improve your Zoom look. It’s actually a great New Year’s resolution, and one that you’ll continue reaping benefits from throughout the entire year!

How to Permanently Elevate your Laptop to Create a Better Zoom Shot

Do you suffer from ‘ceiling shot syndrome’ when using your laptop for video conference meetings? This solution will fix the problem.

If you’re Zooming all day from your laptop on your desk, your computer’s little webcam is probably looking up at you during your video conference meetings. That’s not good, because it’s an unflattering shot. The telltale sign of your up-angle live stream is when your viewers can see your ceiling behind your head instead of a wall.

I like to refer to that unfortunate webcam positioning as ‘ceiling shot syndrome.’

One way to fix the problem is to pile some books under your laptop to help elevate your webcam. Then, it will be able to point at you more horizontally. But that unstable solution is hardly a permanent fix.

It may be time to create a consistent and steady platform for your laptop’s webcam to see you at eye level.

Levitate your Laptop with a Desk Stand
Of course, a standing desk can do the trick. But if your laptop is stuck on a standard desktop, you need another way to bring your laptop up a foot or so.

The solution is to add an adjustable-height laptop desk stand to your home office equation.

It’s important to find a stand that will reposition your laptop’s webcam high enough to meet your face. So, get a ruler and measure from your desk’s surface up.

In my own research, I found three choices that provide more height than most stands out there:

The Right Design
All three have a similar Z-frame design with a relatively compact base, a tilt-forward surface and an expandable mid-section. I like this design, because it gives you flexibility on how high you can position your laptop. And it doesn’t make a massive footprint on your desk.

Plus, it’s nice that they all can fold up for portability and storage.

They all have received really good reviews. So how do you choose? Well, I simply went with the lowest price.

It’s the Nulaxy.

Click.

Say Goodbye to Ceiling Shot Syndrome
Over the past fifteen months, I’ve been using an old printer stand that I’ve had for years. Its sturdy but clunky design appears inspired by 1940s technology. The bigger problem was that it was only able to elevate my laptop a mere six inches.

So, my printer stand was never quite able to succeed in its new mission. And though it gave my laptop some height, I still suffered from ceiling shot syndrome. (Yes, I admit it.)

My Nulaxy will be a big improvement, as the stand will more than double my laptop’s elevation.

It’s always important to be able to look at someone eye to eye… and on a level plane. With the right stand for your laptop, it’s much easier to do that during your Zoom meetings.

%d bloggers like this: