๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ If you're virtually working with people, a webcam like the Center Cam may help you build deeper connections and better relationships. It lets you observe their non-verbal communication, or you can use the Center Cam with a teleprompter, all while maintaining eye contact with your audience. The Center Cam is great if you're in the market for a simple and easy-to-use webcam, and typically use a headset or other external microphone during your calls.

Key Features
  • HD 1080p webcam with built-in microphone
  • Clips to the monitor
  • Video chat with eye contact
Specifications
  • Brand: Center Cam
  • Resolution: HD (1080p)
  • Rotation: Yes, any with flex-tube
  • Wide Angle Lens: 65HFOV degree aspect ratio
  • Connection: USB-A (2.0) or USB-C with included adapter
  • Integrated Lighting: n/a
  • Aperture: f2.1
  • Frames per second: 30fps
  • Mounting: Adjustable clip mount
  • Compatibility: macOS, Windows, Android, Linux
Pros
  • Video calls with real-life-like eye contact
  • Easy to install, plug-and-play
  • Flexible positioning
  • Ultra portable
Cons
  • Poor audio quality with integrated microphone
  • You need to manually switch microphone to your preferred choice
  • You need to manually focus the camera

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Online meetings make it hard to look each other in the eyes. If only there was an easy way to look into the camera and someone's face at the same time. Enter Center Cam, the snake cam turned HD webcam that clips to the top of your monitor and lets you adjust its long neck so that you can position it right between your counterpart's eyes.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ It isn't pretty, possibly a little awkward, but it works. Let's look at this contraption in detail, shall we?

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What's in the Box?

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ The Center Cam comes in a basic cardboard box with minimal plastic packaging. The webcam itself is packaged in a box within the box, which also contains the owner's manual, an end-user warranty/license agreement, and a USB-A (female) to USB-C (male) adapter. The monitor clip rests in the paper mold that fills the rest of the main box.

How to Set Up and Use Your Center Cam

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Setup is quick and easy. First, thread the USB cable through the two big holes at the top of the clip, as well as part of the bendable flex tube. Thankfully, both sides of the clip are identical, so you can't make a mistake here.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Next, hold the Center Cam up to your monitor to check how far you'd like the webcam to come down, adjust the tube accordingly, then snap it into the clip hooks on the front and back. โ€‹โ€‹Finally, clip the camera to the top of your screen.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Center Cam is plug-and-play, so your system should automatically detect the webcam once you plug it in. This should work on Windows, macOS, Android, and Linux. You can either plug your Center Cam directly into a USB-A port on your computer or use the included USB-A to USB-C adapter. If your computer or video conferencing tool of choice doesn't automatically detect the camera, be sure to install pending updates and restart your computer.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Before you start a video call, remove the lens cap, adjust the position of the webcam, and make sure the camera is well-focused. This is best done in the audio and video setup screen of your video call tool of choice. You can adjust the Center Cam's focus by loosening the lock nut at the base of the lens, then twisting the lens into focus, when you're done, tighten the lock nut again.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Center Cam offers two different lenses, the 65 degree HFOV "telephoto" lens and the 52 degree HFOV "telephoto" lens, so you could switch out the lens if you wanted to.

Center Cam in Action: What's It Like?

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ We tested the Center Cam during a series of video calls using Google Meet and Zoom. Both tools automatically detected the Center Cam webcam and microphone.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ During our first call, the video quality was fine, but our conversation partner had trouble hearing us. After the call, we noticed that Meet had defaulted to the Center Cam microphone, instead of our Bluetooth headphones' mic. In subsequent meetings, we manually switched the microphone. Zoom didn't have this issue and picked the Bluetooth headphones by default. Due to the underwhelming audio quality of the Center Cam's built-in mic, we strongly recommend using a third-party microphone or a headset.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ The Center Cam's HD resolution provides a decent video quality with 2.1MP (16:9, 1920x1080 pixels) and 30FPS. It definitely isn't best-in-class, and it seems to be fitted with a security camera lens, but it gets the job done. It's a better webcam than what came built into our laptop, which we confirmed using the Windows camera app.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ The flexible tube means you can easily adjust its angle and position on-screen, which we thought worked well enough. It doesn't look as sleek as a webcam blending into the edge of your screen, but if you want that eye-to-eye contact, that's currently the compromise you'll have to make.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ We couldn't test this, but we hear that Center Cam isn't great for use with Microsoft Teams, due to the way Teams handles video chats.

Why Would You Need a Center Cam?

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Eye contact is important for building human connections. Ian Foster, Center Cam's founder, experienced this first-hand when the pandemic hit while he was studying to become a social work counselor. The rapport he had established with his subjects started to fade away the moment he had to switch his counseling sessions to video calls. Ian identified the lack of eye contact as the culprit and went on to build a solution.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ While you can consciously look into your webcam during a video conference, you will never get to fully see your counterpart if you keep looking into the camera throughout your conversation. While looking into the lens of your webcam, you're missing out on facial cues and the few bits of visible body language. Observing these details can be helpful in understanding people, and when you can't meet in person, it's one of the few ways to build trust.

Our Center Cam Verdict: Should You Buy It?

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ If you're a teacher, coach, speaker, therapist, or salesperson, a webcam like the Center Cam may help you build deeper connections and better relationships with your clients. It also lets you observe their non-verbal communication more easily. You can even use the Center Cam with a teleprompter and maintain eye contact with your audience, though it works better in a one-on-one situation.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ The Center Cam is great if you're in the market for a simple and easy-to-use webcam, and typically use a headset or other external microphone during your calls. If you already have a good webcam or need something with a great video quality, however, maybe even a camera with a good quality microphone built-in, you should look into alternative products instead.

Center Cam Alternatives

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ PlexiCam is a webcam holder made from crystal-clear acrylic that lets you position your camera anywhere on your screen. It fits any monitor as it simply hangs from its top edge. The shelf holding the webcam provides enough space to fit larger cameras, such as a DSLR. With the PlexiCam Pro edition, you can even mount an LED light to improve your lighting. While PlexiCam is quite a bit cheaper than Center Cam, you'll need to provide your own webcam and microphone.

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ โ€‹โ€‹โ€‹โ€‹โ€‹โ€‹โ€‹

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ In late 2021, Dell announced Concept Pari, a wireless 1080p barrel-shaped webcam that magnetically attaches anywhere on the (compatible Dell) screen. Unfortunately, this product has not been released, yet. And while under-display cameras have been gaining traction on Android phones, we don't expect to see them on desktop monitors; nor do we think it would help with eye contact. For now, you're pretty much left with Center Cam, Plexi Cam, or DIYing your own solution.

FAQ

Q: Does Center Cam have a microphone?

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Yes, but the audio quality of the Center Cam's microphone is questionable. We don't recommend using it.

Q: How do I get my webcam in the middle of the screen?

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ You could buy a Center Cam, which clips to the top of your screen, or you could build a custom holder for your existing webam, which should work just as well. Just make sure you won't scratch up your screen.

Q: Is there a monitor with a camera in the middle of the screen?

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ No. There are solutions that let you mount the camera at the center of your screen, but we have yet to see a monitor that comes with a webcam that isn't built into the top or bottom edge of the monitor.

Q: Can I replace the lens that comes with the Center Cam?

๐Ÿ˜ง๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ Yes, you can remove the Center Cam lens and replace it with a different one. Center Cam offers two different lenses, the 65 degree HFOV "telephoto" lens and the 52 degree HFOV "telephoto" lens.