It’s not just toilet paper that is hard to find.
For tech-savvy consumers, there are now also webcams, the small plug-in cameras to let you send to the Internet.
Logitech, the company that dominates webcam sales, is sold out of all they do. Amazon and Best Buy are over. And eBay bargains sell used models for as much as $ 420, or more than twice the most expensive Logitech model, $ 199 Brio.
“There is a global demand for webcams from all remote workers, students and in the healthcare space,” notes analyst Jeremiah Owyang, who himself was able to snag a device in early March before selling out.
Sure, there are built-in webcams on most laptops that do the trick, but they have significantly lower resolution. For example, on the new Apple MacBook model just released, the internal webcam has a 1.2-megapixel sensor and 720p 1280×720 resolution.
Most webcams sold by Logitech shoot in 1920×1080 resolution, while the 13-megapixel top-of-the-line Brio goes all the way up to 4K, 4096×2160.
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Because many of us attend or conduct online seminars on Zoom, Hangouts, Skype or other programs, attend classes this way or just connect with friends, Owyang wanted the dedicated vanity webcam.
Call it improved image quality.
“It smooths out the skin, rather than the very pixelated cameras on laptops,” he says. “And the higher resolution and larger lens get better picture in low light.”
He does three public live streams or business webinars a week, more than before. “It’s the key to presenting yourself the best you can during these odd times.”
Logitech says it does what it can to get webcams back in stock.
“With a change in teleworking, distance education and telemedicine in recent weeks, many Logitech products are in demand around the world. We are working to meet this need as quickly as possible with increased production and distribution of our products.”
Although the company would not offer details on when to expect webcams back in stock, retailer B&H Photo notes on its website that they will be available again in June.
Craig Nosse, a marine engineer for the University of Hawaii, picked up a new webcam in early March. He was surprised that Best Buy still had stock, he says, and “rushed” to buy one.
His daughter’s internal MacBook webcam would not always sync with Zoom conferences. “Sometimes I would zoom in without video and despite several efforts to troubleshoot couldn’t be consistent.” So he switched to a computer that did not have a built-in camera, and installed the Logitech C615 external webcam. Now “no problems with Zoom and video / audio quality have been fantastic.”
Kim Doty, a book editor based near Tampa, Florida, was not so lucky. She ordered two webcams in early March, but they have not yet arrived.
Her son is in fifth grade and will need it for zoom classes. Since the webcam has not been delivered yet, “I have to set him up on his phone.”
Use the phone instead
Since the resolution of your phone is so much better than the portable webcam, a better solution is to look better at conferences and not have audio / video problems to reach your phone as a better option.
Think for a moment than the MacBook 720p webcam has resolution specifications of 1280×720 versus selfie comb on the latest iPhone, which can shoot in 4K resolution of 4096×2160.
What do these numbers mean? You look better in low light. The screen doesn’t get too dark. You get better color on the face.
You can easily participate in Zoom classes, Hangout sessions, Skype calls and life with your phone.
But if you want to appear on the camera, we recommend two important accessories:
Raise that phone high
Keep in mind that you probably can’t hold the phone in your hand for more than a few seconds during a video conference, and that the resulting shake will be troublesome for the other participants. You must keep the unit stable. If you are like most people, you will look down at the webcam instead of up, because that is where the webcam is, and it will accentuate your double chin. The eye level is best, or to reach just slightly higher even better. So if you are going to use your phone as your video device, pick up a phone stand and place the device there. B&H has a stand for $ 29.99 from Kanto with a 15-inch movable arm. Another option, a stand on the table, with an attachment that fits the iPhone. The Magnus FT-P10 stand sells for about $ 15 and if it doesn’t meet your eye, a simple solution – put it on top of a bunch of books until it does. (You can also do this with a laptop, if needed.)
If you plan to spend a lot of time on video calls, your phone will drain the battery. Make sure you have a power cord nearby to connect the phone. You can always turn it on by connecting it directly to your computer or finding a wall space nearby.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter