The Best High-end Webcam Setup for the Money

Marcus dePaula

Jenn using the Canon M50 with 22mm f2 lens for Zoom via the Canon EOS Web Utility.

We’re all doing tons of Zoom video calls and online events these days. As we prepare to offer our virtual workshops ourselves, I decided recently to invest in a good webcam.

“My laptop has a built-in webcam, which works great!” I would say that it does work adequately. But once you see the difference an actual camera and lens make, you’ll never want to go back. Since we’ve been using this new camera setup, someone has commented on our video image quality on every single Zoom call we’ve been on. So the value is not just in how you look - it’s in the statement that our video quality makes about you as a professional. And it’s about making a memorable impression, standing out from all the other faces on the Zoom screen.

A $100 1080p USB webcam might up your game a little bit (don’t bother with 4K since you’ll never be able to stream at that resolution), but no webcam will look as good as a mirrorless camera with a nice lens.

The camera we first went with is the best little mirrorless camera for the price that includes a “selfie” flip screen: the Canon M50. The M50 mark II just came out, but it’s not really worth the extra cost for using as a webcam, so save your money and get the mark I. I have recently upgraded my own video setup with a higher end (and much more expensive) camera and video switcher, that I’ll cover in a subsequent post.

We use our M50 with Canon’s handy EOS Webcam Utility, so that all we need is a micro USB cable (not included). Adorama has good deals on M50 bundles with a ton of free accessories: (affiliate link).

For streaming, set the M50 to “Movie” mode, white balance to “Daylight” for a 5000k light, shutter speed to 1/2x your frame rate (1/50 for 24fps or 1/60 for 30fps), and our ISO is at 250 for this lovely wide aperture f2 lens (which will vary based on your light).

Instead of the 15-45mm kit zoom lens that comes with the M50 (which is great), we’ve upgraded to the 22mm f2 prime lens, which performs better in lower light, and has a shallower depth of field, for that amazing “film look”: (affiliate link).

We are also using a wired power adapter with a dummy battery so we don’t ever have to worry about charging the battery:

And this sturdy desk camera mount is pretty handy to position it right above your computer screen:

The final key piece to make your image quality really stand out is a bright white (5000k) light with good diffusion in front of your face near the camera - preferably with a high Color Rating Index (90+ CRI): A standard lamp with a pure white drum lamp shade to diffuse the light, and is a lot cheaper than an actual studio light. I like this lamp both for the diffusion factor and for the aesthetics (and price), because who wants a harsh ring light in their face all day?:

My alteration to the floor lamp shade so we can hang the light in a better position above our desks.

I actually took the lamp shade and used a pendant cord to hang it from the ceiling over our desks in a more desirable position for both of us to be able to use:

Also remember that your background matters. I’m personally not a fan of the fake backgrounds Zoom can add for you. I want to allow people to see my actual workspace to bring them into my world.

How about you? What camera setup have you had success with?