There’s a video conferencing solution out there for every situation in your working life. From the tiny screen of your smartphone to the wide-angle conference camera in your huddle room to the state-of-the-art, fully automated video conferencing room system in your conference room, purpose-built hardware is now available for any business need.
While video conferencing cameras come in many forms and sizes and with features for every situation, they can still, for the most part, be divided into two main categories: conference cams and webcams.
In this post, we’ll compare the conference cam vs. webcam to help you understand when each is best used, but that doesn’t mean there’s a competition between the two. Chances are good that you’ll need both for a complete office setup because the difference between these two groups is more about fit than function.
Conference Cams and Where You’ll Use Them
The main conference cam vs. webcam distinction is based on the size of the space–and the number of people–each camera services. Conference cams tend to be permanent fixtures in large meeting rooms that cater for groups of eight or more people. Conference cams are typified by pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) mobility and higher-quality lenses that provide enhanced digital or optical zoom and more accurate focus. They are generally designed with a range of movement that allows them to scale back and capture a room in its entirety or to zoom up close on an individual speaker. And because they’re designed to service larger audiences and spaces, conference cams regularly have separate, external microphones and speakers, sometimes designed to be daisy-chained in order to pick up sound from all corners of a large boardroom.
Increasingly, conference cams are being equipped with wide-angle lenses to capture smaller groups of two to six people in proximity in smaller rooms. These spaces have become known as huddle rooms and if they aren’t already a feature of your office, they are on the way.
Huddle rooms are shared spaces that cater to small and impromptu video meetings, and they’re a direct result of the increasing popularity of video calling as an informal means of professional communication, as well as the increasing popularity of open offices, which make it difficult to make a quick call at one’s desk without distraction. Consequently, cameras designed for huddle rooms have become more and more sophisticated, with many now matching their larger boardroom cousins’ smart technology, such as light adjustment and autofocus and framing.
In brief, conference cams–and their subset, huddle cams–are designed with the power and flexibility to faithfully capture every aspect of a dynamic, remote digital conversation as it takes place in a meeting room–whether large or small.
Webcams, on the other hand, are adapted to more specialized conditions.
Webcams and Where You’ll Use Them
Webcams are perhaps most recognizable as the rectangular cameras that clip on to the top of your desktop and combine visuals and audio. If you work from home or use a desktop computer, you’ve probably used a webcam to have a one-on-one video call with a friend, family member, or colleague.
While many office workers nowadays are given work laptops with integrated cameras, microphones, and speakers, external webcams generally offer better audio, higher-resolution visuals, and better speaker quality, as well as additional features such as lightingcorrection, pan and zoom capability, autofocus, built-in noise cancellation, and even 4K. Today’s webcams also offer plug-and-play setup, which means it isn’t a hassle to get them up and running, even for the technologically challenged. Moreover, external webcams come with a built-in privacy shutter, which makes it possible to physically block your camera without putting tape over that little circle at the top of your screen.
Many of the features mentioned above have previously been found only on conference cams, but they’re increasingly being built into webcams as well. The line between webcams and conference cams is blurring in other ways as well. Webcams have typically been designed with a relatively narrow field of view (often around 60 degrees) since they’re most often used for one-on-one conversations at a desktop or laptop computer. However, some webcams now offer an adjustable field of view which makes it possible to use them as huddle room cameras to facilitate meetings of three or more people.
The Conference Cam Vs. Webcam: Why You Need Both
Some of the differences between conference cams and webcams may be falling away, but the two categories still exist to suit specific environments. Just as most offices will have a mix of conference rooms and huddle rooms, the majority of offices will have a corresponding mix of video hardware.
Your main boardroom needs a conference cam and related setup. A webcam won’t be able to faithfully capture all the depth and breadth of a space large enough to cater for double-digit crowd sizes, nor will its built-in audio faithfully render all that is said.
At the same time, a conference cam is too big, both in budget, scale, and design, to act as a webcam for a one-on-one video call. Instead, you need to match your hardware to the purpose it will serve. Keep the conference cam in the boardroom or huddle room and find a webcam for employees who regularly video conference alone from their computers. There’s a video conferencing camera for every office and every potential use: all that’s left for you to do is mix and match them like digital furnishings.