Hands-on review: Papalook PA930 HDR 2K live-streaming webcam
Image credit: Papalook
Fix up, look sharp: here's a webcam to help you look your best, whatever the situation.
After more than a year of seemingly continuous video calls over Zoom, Teams, Skype, FaceTime et al, they've become second nature to many of us, part and parcel of our post-Covid daily existence. Meanwhile, live streaming video is a parallel computer cam experience that plenty of people indulge in, both for work and pleasure. Be you introvert or extrovert, regularly appearing on camera is normal now.
Of course, many laptops and desktops already come with a webcam built in. If that's all you ever need and use, there's nothing more here for you, pilgrim. However, for anyone looking for a professional-grade webcam to support their streaming ambitions, you will almost certainly be looking for both a visual and aural upgrade over any built-in cam.
Another key advantage with a separate webcam – along with the uprated visuals and sonics – is the flexibility it can offer in positioning your webcam for best and desired results, whether you want to film straight on or off to one side, or even to mix it up as you see fit, according to the situation.
If you're looking to upgrade your webcam game, Papalook (with its oddly endearing name) has got your back. Offering a variety of cams to suit every niche, its latest offering is the PA930 HDR 2K streaming webcam, designed to simultaneously serve the 9-5 WFH business community just as well as gaming and streaming night owls.
Referred to as a "studio-grade" streaming webcam with dual noise-reduction microphones, the PA930 HDR 2K has a 90-degree, wide-angle, fixed-focus f.20 glass lens (90cm range) that can capture and stream HD video quality at two different quality settings. Your choice between either 2K@30fps or 1080P@60fps are a mere button tap away on top of the camera. Keep it lower-res for business meetings to minimise impact on bandwidth; ramp it up to higher-def for your more personal streams.
The fixed focus lens is designed to allow the camera to take in more light using a larger aperture, resulting in less distorted image quality even in low-light environments. Images are captured in high-dynamic range (HDR) either way and the results do indeed look good – visibly a cut above the stock cams in most laptops. The webcam adjusts the brightness and contrast on the fly to expand the colour gamut, capturing a more accurate version of the subject and the environment to provide a realistic image.
The two mics – one on each side – are omni-directional, with built-in noise cancelling and echo reduction, for clear stereo sound. The stated sound pressure level is 36dB, so it should be able to handle the loudest voices from a reasonable distance. Just don't get right up to it and scream into it, punk rock style, unless ear-splitting distortion is the effect you're going for.
Computer connection is via USB 2.0 and it was a simple plug and play affair on our test computers, with no additional drivers necessary. Systems officially supported are Windows XP/7/8/10 and above, Mac OS 10.6 and above, Chrome OS, Android v5.0 and above. The PA930 is also supplied with a full-size privacy cover that simply clips over the whole front of the camera, for peace of mind and security. A word here on the overall size of the Papalook PA930: it's small. It can look big in some product photos, but actually it's no bigger than a standard playing card. This is a good thing: it's a discreet addition to a monitor or desk, not some monstrous protrusion.
The PA930 can be mounted directly on top of a monitor (as we did with our test Mac Mini, Apple's 'headless' computer, connected to a separate webcam-less screen) or attached to the included desktop tripod and stood wherever you like. The clip on the PA930 is adjustable and the webcam can also be tilted for the perfect framing. The large flat foot of the webcam means it can also sit directly on any stable surface, e.g. on top of a desktop speaker.
Finally, a word on industrial design. A lot of webcams look kind of… fugly. Either too 'office-y' or too 'totally extreme gamer'. It's all a subjective question of taste, of course, but to our eyes, the PA930 has an understated stylish design that manages to straddle both camps, its unblinking glass eye pleasingly reminiscent of looking down the lens of a classic SLR camera.
With support for the most popular streaming services straight out of the box, the Papalook PA930 makes a great choice for any budding or burgeoning YouTube, Twitch, Snap or Facebook Gaming addict. That it also does excellent double duty as your video link to the office day job, boom - icing on the cake. Or vice versa, depending on your priorities in this post-pandemic world.
There are hundreds - possibly thousands - of different webcams on the market and we won't pretend that we've tried them all, but from our experience with the Papalook PA930, we'd be hard pressed to be persuaded to look elsewhere.
Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.