A couple of years ago I posted about webcams I have used and what I recommend. There are several Logitech 9000's in my office since they were the best choice back then. Logitech did have a bad driver initially so there may be a few complaints among reviewers still but that was taken care of long ago.
My choice today? It's still the Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 Webcam (USB, 1600x1200, 30 FPS). Odd, isn't it? In this day and age of yearly replacement models, the top choice is not brand new. Current reviews still put it on top along with 5 other Logitech webcams.
Intellireview.com lists these as the top ten webcams:
1. Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 Webcam (USB, 1600x1200, 30 FPS)
2. Microsoft LifeCam Cinema Webcam (USB)
3. Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks Pro Webcam (USB)
4. Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF Webcam (USB)
5. Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 Webcam - Red (Red - USB)
6. Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro Webcam (USB)
7. Hercules Hercules Dualpix Exchange Webcam (CMOS - USB)
8. Logitech C910 Webcam (USB)
9. Logitech C510 Webcam (USB)
10. Microsoft LifeCam HD-5000 Webcam (USB)
Of course, nowadays, it's hard to buy a laptop without a built-in webcam and microphone. They all work, so don't fret about it. Just remember, they are not the same as a television production equipment. Webcams are designed to show your face and pick up your voice for the sake of on online conversation. If you want to show more than that, use a camcorder with a firewire connection to allow panning and zooming.
But in the world of webcams, not much has happened since this time last year. My favorite is still the best reviewed and most often recommended by tech pros and users alike. So here's the scoop:
Best for your budget
Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 *Est. $35
If you don't need fancier features like face-tracking and enhanced audio, reviews say the Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 is the best inexpensive webcam for casual video chats. It has 640-by-480-pixel resolution for video… (better than the typical 352 pixels by 288 pixels on the cheapest webcams), and a 1.3-megapixel sensor. The Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000 performs much better in low light than other cameras in its price class. It has an integrated microphone and a unique, flexible base that can clip on to more surfaces than some other webcam mounts, but users say it works better sitting on a desktop or table; some report that it's not that secure perched on a laptop. It's compatible with Windows operating systems.
Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 *Est. $80-99
I use three different webcams but this is my favorite and the one I use most on both my desktops and laptops. Reviewers agree that the QuickCam Pro 9000 produces the best image quality of any webcam -- but at a higher price. The Carl Zeiss glass Tessar optical system produces clearer images than other webcams. This camera is capable of capturing video at up to 1,600 pixels by 1,200 pixels and 30 frames per second for crisp, smooth transmissions. Reviews say that RightLight 2, RightSound and face-tracking features help optimize video and audio quality, and the bundled software package includes a variety of filters and video effects. The QuickCam Pro 9000 is Windows-compatible only, but Logitech makes a similar Mac-only webcam, the QuickCam Vision Pro (*est. $120).
Logitech QuickCam Pro for Notebooks *Est. $80
Most webcams come with a stand that you can hang on a monitor or position on a desktop. This Logitech USB webcam is designed specifically for PC notebooks, with a spring-loaded clip that easily clamps to most laptop… screens. The top-rated QuickCam Pro for Notebooks has a good integrated microphone, an autofocus Carl Zeiss glass lens for very good image quality and a 2-megapixel image sensor that's capable of capturing video at resolutions of up to 960 pixels by 720 pixels. A face-tracking feature keeps your face in the center of the image, even if you move around, and Logitech's RightLight 2 and RightSound technologies optimize audio and video performance in all conditions.
These all use USB connections and are easy to install as long as you install the software BEFORE connecting the camera to the computer.
Need a webcam for Breeze? Why would you?
Besides having your face appear on the other party's computer there's another thing it provides. A webcam with a built-in microphone eliminates the need for a mic on a stand or attached to a headset. It's one less thing to carry around. There are some really cheap (less than $30) webcams that don't have built-in mics, but they tend to include a headset with a mic.
This link is CNET's review of webcams sorted by Editor's Rating: http://reviews.cnet.com/4566-6502_7-0.html?sort=edRating7 desc
You'll note that the highest ratings are for older webcams. I have purchased for my office these since September 06 (all have built-in mics and their bases are designed to hang onto a monitor or laptop lid):
Logitech QuickCam Pro 5000 (for my desk)
Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 (for two desktops and two laptops)
and also a Logitech Quickcam Communicate Webcam (for a desktop)
At home I use:
Logitech QuickCam Communicate STX Webcam (my wife's laptop) and a Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000 for my desktop.
The bottom line--they all work. The Logitech webcams are higher quality but they had a bad driver in early '07 and there were compatibility problems. That's been cleared up by a new driver release. The Logitech 5000 is a bit big to carry around with a laptop. All of the Logitech webcams have the same body style, but vary in size. I prefer the Microsoft LifeCam or the Logitech QuickCam STX for mobility. They are both smaller and easier to pack.
If I were to buy a webcam today just for a laptop I would get the Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks Deluxe.
The Microsoft webcams above work with all our Windows machines very well, but the ones we have do require manual focus. In some reviews, that's considered a plus. But it is hard to do with a webcam on a desktop display that may be beyond an arm's reach. If you lean in to turn the focus ring, your face (the thing to focus on) is no longer where it will be when you are using the camera.
None of these compare to real digital cameras for stills or camcorders for video, but someday the resolution will improve enough to be useful in that way, but not yet.
Some of the ratings are based on "video effects." I've found no use for any of them except for a few minutes of fun upon installation. I haven't found any use for them professionally.