A webcam or web camera is a computer-connected digital peripheral that can capture images and transmit them privately to a web page or another computer over the Internet.
What is a Web Camera, and What is it Used For?
The reason webcams are connected or integrated with computers or other user devices is that they need the means to transmit images. There are also other cameras that support ethernet and wireless technologies that can be connected to a computer network. That’s why these devices are called network cameras so that there is no ambiguity.
The webcam or web camera arose out of the need to use a coffee maker in the basement of the Computer Science Department of Cambridge University. When one of the employees asked for coffee, he had to go downstairs from his office to check the coffee machine. So it was not known whether the machine was ready or not.
In 1991, Quentin Stafford-Fraser and Paul Jardetzky, working in an office, were tired of going down to the basement and checking whether the coffee maker was empty. So they started to find a solution to this situation and eventually designed a client/server protocol that transmits the image of the coffee machine at 128 x 128 pixels.
Thanks to the client/server protocol they designed, they started to check whether the coffee machine was ready on the computer screen from the office where they were working, without going to the basement. This protocol was called XCoffee, and after several months of debugging, they decided to commercialize it. Later, in 1992, the first webcam called XCam went on sale.
Older or early webcam devices usually had a low resolution of around 640 X 480. The reason for this low resolution was the low file size of the images that can be transmitted instantly over the Internet.
The hardware features of some models include a lens that rotates up to 360° horizontally and a surface-adaptive base, as well as an integrated microphone. The main purpose of these devices is the ability to instantly take low-resolution pictures.
The basic setup of an old or new webcam device to a computer is usually done through the USB port. With the webcam software installed on the computer, an image can be taken from the device or a video can be prepared.
Webcams typically consist of a lens, an image sensor, and an electronic circuit. The most common type of lens used in these devices is the plastic one. Devices with image sensors can be CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) or CMOS. Other sensor constructions are generally available in lower-cost cameras.
For average users, these devices typically have a resolution of 1 to 1.3 MP, offering a VGA resolution (640×480) at about 30 frames per second. Today, higher-end devices have resolutions of up to 3, 5, 8, 10, or 15 megapixels and even higher.
The electronic circuit in these devices, which is the basic unit of video speech, is responsible for reading the sensor image and transmitting it to the computer. However, some models use a CMOS sensor integrated on a single silicon chip to save location and cost.
The internal parts that make up the webcam are the image sensor and the electronic circuit board used for the transfer to the computer. External parts, as you can imagine, are the digital viewer, audio recorder, turntable, data cable, and cover.
The digital viewer is the main external part responsible for capturing images that can be transmitted or recorded from the local or remote network. The sound recorder device is a part used in different models based on cost and captures the sound that can be transmitted.
The turntable is the part that can be adjusted to allow the user to transfer images from any position. The data cable is the part that enables data to be transmitted from the camera to the computer. The cover is the part that protects the internal electronic circuit.
Webcams usually use a USB connection. This port can be USB 1.1, USB 2.0, or USB 3.0. Today, there are devices that have a higher bandwidth USB Type-C port and can record in 1080p.
Webcams commonly used on personal computers also pose a security risk, because someone with sufficient knowledge can access them and record what they see. Therefore, users should only connect these devices to their desktop computers when they are going to use them.
In the past, there have been cases where children have been forced to make a sexual recording with the threat of spreading their dangerous images by malicious users. One of the other security threats is that sexually explicit messaging or video calling services used by adults constitute a serious violation of privacy.
The purpose of using video cameras is based on recording motion pictures. Examples of this category are professional devices used in television broadcasts or film productions.
These cameras have multiple color sensors to improve resolution and color gamut, but these devices do not have a built-in VCR or microphone hardware.
Amateur Video Cameras
Amateur cameras are devices that record video directly to a memory storage device and have a microphone and an LCD screen for watching movies.
Webcams or web camera devices are digital cameras designed to work directly connected to a computer. These devices are generally used for online conversation and video recording.
Digital Cameras with Preview
Preview cameras frame the image before shooting and are still cameras that use digital images created on a liquid crystal display and are widely used in photography.
Compact Digital Cameras
Compact cameras have auto focus and lighting features. Due to the small size of these devices, they have very short focal lengths that produce a very large depth of field, so they can focus simultaneously on objects of different distances.
Bridge or Prosumer digital still cameras are physically similar to DSLRs, but with some advanced features, they can also be called high-quality LPD cameras.