elgato facecam review lead
CNN  — 

Elgato makes ring lights, capture cards, the excellent Stream Deck and one of the best microphones around, so it was only a matter of time before it released its own webcam. The company has done just that with the Facecam, a $199 camera designed for content creators who want smooth video and lots of customization options.

Facecam gets a lot right, but can it earn a place amongst the best webcams out there? Here’s what we think after a few weeks of hopping on video calls and Twitch broadcasts with this fancy new camera.

The who, what and how

Who it’s for: The $199 Elgato Facecam is a premium webcam designed for enthusiast content creators who want smooth, crisp video and lots of customization options.

What you need to know: Elgato’s high-end camera captures video at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, which is an ideal level of smoothness and detail for the average Twitch stream or YouTube video. It’s one of the few webcams to lack a microphone (which are usually terrible on webcams anyway), and has one of the most robust companion apps you can find for this kind of camera.

How it compares: The Facecam is pretty comparable to the Logitech StreamCam (starting at $149) and Razer Kiyo Pro ($199) — two of our best webcam picks for power users — when it comes to overall smoothness and clarity. The Logitech and Razer cameras perform better out of the box in terms of lighting, though Elgato’s webcam has the best companion app of the bunch.

Big, bold and highly adjustable

The Elgato Facecam sits as a 3-inch-wide hunk of plastic that makes the Logitech StreamCam look small and stretches a bit wider than the Razer Kiyo Pro. It looks pretty slick, and its large build doesn’t come at the expense of usability.

At about a fifth of a pound, the Facecam feels surprisingly feathery for its size. Mounting the webcam on top of various monitors was a cinch, and it was easy to find the right angle for our Twitch streams and Webex meetings, thanks to plenty of vertical adjustment space and the ability to swivel the camera a full 360 degrees. We also had no issue unscrewing the camera from its included mount and attaching it to our tripod due to the standard-issue tripod connection at the bottom.

The Facecam’s notably lightweight design may be due in part to the fact that it has no onboard microphone. Elgato made this omission for a few reasons — the company says that it’s very difficult to get good sound out of a webcam, and that it expects the kind of content creators this thing is aimed at to have their own dedicated microphone handy. Considering that every webcam microphone we’ve tested has ranged from poor to terrible, we can’t say we’re upset about the lack of one here.

Elgato’s webcam attaches to your PC or Mac via a detachable USB-C to USB-A cable, which is a nice touch that makes the camera easy to transport. It also packs a handy plastic privacy cap that you can pop on to prevent any unwanted recordings (we would have preferred a shutter, but it’s a nice bonus regardless). The Facecam is pretty plug-and-play, as we were able to use it to hop into video calls and record footage in Open Broadcasting Software (an open-source app for recording) right away. However, you’ll want to download Elgato’s Camera Hub app to tinker with the picture quality to your liking — but more on that later.

Pretty good picture quality — with some caveats

elgato facecam camera quality

The Elgato Facecam delivers mostly vivid and smooth video capture across Twitch streams and video calls, though we found that it trails behind premium rivals in some key areas. The Facecam captures video at 1080p at up to 60 frames per second, and is powered by a Sony Starvis CMOS sensor — the same tech used by professional directors and photographers.

Videos we captured on Facecam were largely smooth, stable and detailed. The camera’s 60 frame-per-secound output made our movements and facial gestures look fluid across functions. Additionally, we could make out fine details such as the stubble in our beard and the text in our tattoo. But when comparing photos and clips to those we captured on the Logitech StreamCam and Razer Kiyo Pro, the Facecam’s cracks started to show.

elgato facecam review natural light comparison

In our testing, the Facecam’s biggest issue is that it made us look pretty overexposed by default. When facing direct natural lighting and on default settings, we started to become engulfed by light, with the sun making us look far too pale, bright and blurry. We looked much more true to life on the StreamCam by comparison, while the Kiyo Pro made us look the warmest and most saturated with color. We were able to fix the Facecam’s overexposure by turning the compensation slider down a few notches via the Camera Hub app, but there was a pretty stark difference between Elgato’s camera and the competition when it came to out-of-the-box performance.

elgato facecam review low light comparison

The Facecam fell even further behind when we shot in low light, producing visibly grainy images with muted colors. Again, this is something we were able to fix by adjusting the compensation slider, but it may prove frustrating for those who just want to plug and play. By comparison, the StreamCam was blurry under low light but didn’t have as much distracting grain, while the Kiyo Pro was the best of the bunch in this scenario, with decently bright and detailed shots.

Elgato’s camera is in the middle of the pack when it comes to field of view, capturing a decent chunk of our bedroom with its 82-degree field of view. It’s a noticeable bump over the StreamCam’s 78-degree view, though the Kiyo Pro’s superior 103-degree lens picked up our guitar and iMac that were hidden on the other cameras.

It’s also worth noting that the StreamCam is the only camera of the three that can shoot in vertical orientation, for folks who want to shoot TikTok-friendly video right from their desktop. And while the StreamCam and Kiyo Pro have auto-focus capabilities, the Facecam is a fixed-focus camera, which has its pros and cons. While Logitech’s and Razer’s cameras are able to get a well-focused shot without any manual tinkering, they can also produce a “focus-jumping” effect as the camera constantly refocuses when you move around. Meanwhile, the Facecam’s video quality is a little more consistent, even if you have to play with the settings to get it to look how you want.

All in all, you’ll get dependably crisp and smooth video from the Facecam — just be ready to do some tinkering.

A really handy app with tons of controls

elgato facecam app

While the Facecam’s default performance can be a mixed bag, you can make it look much better with Elgato’s Camera Hub app, which is one of the most robust pieces of webcam software we’ve used yet. This app features tons of virtual knobs and switches, letting you fiddle with things like zoom, contrast, saturation and white balance on the fly to make yourself look how you want to on camera.

Once you find a balance you like, you can save your settings directly to the Facecam itself, meaning you’ll get the same picture quality even if you switch computers. The app doesn’t currently appear to let you save multiple presets, which is something we’d love to see added down the line.

While many of these features are comparable to what you’ll find on the Logitech Capture and Razer Synapse apps, Elgato’s Camera Hub has one really unique party trick: the ability to fine-tune the camera’s exposure settings in order to get just the right amount of brightness. In fact, the Facecam is the only camera with a customizable ISO setting — this effectively shows your camera’s sensitivity to light, and is the kind of thing you can normally only view and adjust on a fancy DSLR camera.

This feature came in handy during multiple real-world video calls, during which some of that aforementioned overexposure started to rear its head. Fortunately, Elgato’s app made it easy for us to manually adjust the webcam’s shutter speed and ISO until just enough light came through to make us look natural.

elgato facecam review stream deck

Like pretty much all of Elgato’s accessories, the Facecam really comes to life if you own a Stream Deck, Elgato’s highly versatile keypad built for managing a broadcast in real time. After installing the Camera Hub plug-in and spending a few minutes assigning commands to our Stream Deck Mini, we were able to do things like zoom in on our face or increase the saturation or brightness with a quick tap of a button. This seems especially ideal for livestreaming, as you can quickly zoom into your face for dramatic effect or brighten an overly dark shot without having to click around any software.

Bottom line

elgato facecam review competition

The Elgato Facecam ($199; elgato.com) is an impressive webcam debut from Elgato, delivering smooth, crisp video and some of the best customization options we’ve seen on this type of camera. Its advanced, DSLR-like brightness settings are really handy, and its useful Stream Deck integration makes it a great fit for those who already own Elgato’s handy keypad.

However, in terms of plug-and-play performance, the Facecam trails behind its rivals in the Logitech StreamCam and Razer Kiyo Pro in both bright and dark environments. This is offset a bit by the many tweaks you can make in Elgato’s excellent Camera Hub app, but those who’d rather not do any manual tinkering may be put off by the Facecam.

We still find the Logitech StreamCam ($149, originally $169; logitech.com) to be the best streaming webcam for the money, and the Kiyo Pro ($199; razer.com) is still our favorite at the higher end, thanks to its superb color, brightness and field of view. But if you’re looking for a smooth, crisp webcam that lets you customize every little detail — and especially if you’re already a big Elgato user — the Facecam is well worth a look.