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In my mind, the webcam world is pretty static. Most models, at least the best ones, cost between $100 and $300. The cheaper ones offer 1080p resolution at 30-60 frames per second, which is as good as most video calling platforms can handle. The more expensive ones can go up to 1440p or even 4K. Despite the growing need for everyone to have a webcam, there hasn’t been a wave of affordable options elevating the quality of the camera you can on your desktop for less than $100. Creative Labs’ newest webcam, the Live! Cam V3, shows that it is entirely possible to increase the budget of the webcam, but also highlights the challenges.

On paper, the 1440p webcam looks like a better quality camera than many of our favorite webcams at just $50, literally half the price. Despite the drop in resolution, the image quality you’re likely to get with the Live! Out-of-the-box Cam Sync V3 falls far short of more expensive cameras. It produces a darker, warmer image and lacks a powerful configuration app to let you fine-tune your settings in real time. However, if you’re willing to work on it (and maybe buy a light stick), the Creative Live! Cam Sync V3 gives you more to do than many budget webcams.

What is Creative Live! Webcam CamSync V3?

We must start by talking about money. The most important thing to keep in mind when watching Creative Live! Cam Sync V3 is its price. At $49.99, it’s about half the price of most Logitech webcams at launch. It is, at least by our standards, a “cheap webcam”, and this categorization is important because there is a very deep divide between webcams that cost more or less than $100 (or did so when they first launch).

The Cam Sync V3 is a 5MP webcam that can take photos and videos up to 2560 x 1440 pixels, more commonly referred to as 1440p. (Creative calls it “2K,” but 1440p is the more common term; it’s also sometimes called “Quad HD” or “QHD.”) Frame rate is limited to 30 frames per second at any resolution, although it’s not a huge loss. Most webcams limit their frame rate to 30 fps at their highest settings.

It also has an extremely wide field of view, up to 95 degrees, which means it naturally captures much of your surroundings. Sitting at my desk, the Cam Sync V3 captures most of my desk, rather than just my head and shoulders. This can be very useful if you need a webcam for a classroom or conference room, or just want to get a few people in your photo. When you want to tighten the image for a standard video call, you can press a button on the webcam for 2X, 3X, and 4X digital zoom. You can also adjust the position a bit: the standard, tripod-mountable monitor clip stand has a joint that swivels 360 degrees horizontally and offers plenty of vertical tilt.

The Cam Sync V3 is fully equipped for video calling, which means it also comes with a built-in microphone. Specifically, it has a dual omnidirectional mic array, which also works great for recording groups or people who plan to stand off-center. I found the mic quality to be good, not exceptional or particularly problematic. It’s the same with class with most webcams: great for occasional calls, but you’d never want to use one to record a podcast or make a video.

Creative Live!  Cam Sync V3 Webcam Review
The privacy shutter in full effect. Mike Epstein

Last but not least, it has a built-in privacy shutter, so you can cover the lens when you’re not using the camera. This paints a very promising picture at any price, but especially when we’re talking about $50.

Sometimes specs don’t tell the whole story

Despite the specs, the image quality you get from the Cam Sync V3 is very inconsistent. Depending on the application you use, this can vary greatly. For example, when I tried with the Windows Camera app, my whole room looked extremely orange, even when I switched to using cooler light sources with more blue light. (I happen to have a ceiling light and main light with “cool” and “warm” settings.) In Google Meet, the image was more malleable but also defaulted to an oddly warm image. Finally, by switching to Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), I was able to fine-tune my settings to the point where the image appeared bright and neutral.

In all the software I tried, I found the camera captured far less light than my Logitech C922 Pro, so my room looked much darker and cast deeper shadows on my face. The difference was big enough that I ended up using a small key light to illuminate my face during video calls, something I don’t have to do with a more expensive webcam.

Once I found software that allowed me to fine-tune my image and then spent a few minutes composing what my image looked like, I was very happy with the image I got with the Cam Sync V3. It’s crisp and clear without any digital grain or fuzz, even at the highest zoom levels. Of course, using OBS — a program most commonly used for recording Twitch streams and YouTube videos — for work calls is a relatively extreme measure that I don’t expect too many people to want to take. And, whatever you do, you’ll probably have to spend more time thinking about how your room is lit than with more expensive webcams.

The real problem is the software

Technically, Creative offers a settings app, called the Creative app, that allows you to adjust many basic picture and sound settings. It also offers basic AI-assisted ambient noise cleaning for the microphone. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t allow you to test your settings with a live image, so it can be very difficult to use. Meanwhile, companies like Logitech not only make it easy to quickly set up your image, but their software includes tools to enhance your image or customize it with custom backgrounds. For most people, who aren’t looking to create a camera setting for everyday video calls, you’re effectively limited to the most basic features.

So who should buy the Creative Live! Webcam CamSync V3?

Creative Live!  Cam Sync V3 Webcam Review
Mike Epstein

Live creation! Cam Sync V3 is a great option for people with more time than money. You can get a great photo or high-quality video image out of it if you’re willing to spend the time finding the right setting and making sure your room is properly lit. For many people, especially those who use their webcam for work, this will likely be too much of an obstacle. The difference between a camera that requires real setup and a true set-and-forget option is less than $100, so we recommend most people spend a little more and save a little time. If you want to save a few bucks and/or spend time tinkering, this can be a hidden gem.