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Best Webcams for Stop motion

What are the Best Webcams for Stop motion?

Whether you choose to use a webcamera or a DV camcorder to create you stop motion animation, it should meet some basic requirements in order to get a half decent movie image. Ideally you should have full control over all aspects of the camera such as focus, white balance, zoom, exposure etc.

IMAGE RESOLUTION

The resolution of any digital webcam or camera is often limited by the camera sensor (typically a CMOS sensor chip). Quality digital still cameras however use CCD chips. These chips turn light into signals that circuitry can convert into image data. A CMOS or CCD sensor is made up of millions of what is often called “buckets”. These count the number of photons that strike the sensor and thus relates to the image resolution and quality. The more buckets the better the image resolution.
The number of resulting pixels in the image determines its “pixel count”. For example, a 640×480 image would have 307,200 pixels, or approximately 307,000 pixels.

Width Height Aspect Ratio Pixels MegaPixels Example WebCams
320 240 4:3 76,800 0.1 Cheap Webcams (Any)
640 480 4:3 307,200 0.3 Mid Priced 40$ plus
832 608 4:3 505,856 0.5 Logitech & Philips
1,024 768 4:3 786,432 0.8 Logitech 80$ plus

The pixel count alone is will not however alone determine the resolution of a camera. A number of other factors impact a sensor’s resolution such as sensor size and lens quality.
Resolution is only really of concern when using webcams as digital video or still cameras will have 640×480 resolution as a minimum which is broadcast or TV resolution (in general). If you webcam is only capable of 320×240 then you will not be able to create stop motion animations that fill a TV screen. However such webcams are usually quite cheap and nasty.

MANUAL FOCUS

You can forget about working on any form of stop motion animation with a camera (video or digital) or webcam that does not have some form of focus control. Many webcams for example come with autofocus as they generally are targeting the video conference or webchat market. This is of no use for 3D animation. You will need to able to alter  focus when working with small objects for animation. Logitech high end webcams have a digital focus function which is very reliable and gives good results. The Philips SPC625NC has a manual focus on the rim of the lens again which is reliable and works well. Digital still cameras depending on quality, price etc. may have both. But watch out for autofocus…avoid it like the plague when using it for stop motion.

MANUAL IMAGE CONTROL

 

Gain, Exposure and White Balance are three factors which you should also have control over with whatever camera you choose for your stop motion.

White Balance – Some Quick notes on getting best result for stop motion Animation.

The real purpose of white balance adjustment is to compensate for the color influence of the ambient light source so that your image will show accurate color. Whether you do so by making adjustments on your camera before you shoot or on your computer after you shoot, the objective should to be the same.

Webcam Manual White Balance

Webcam Manual White Balance

A 640×480 resolution shot with Auto White Balance turned on shows how the white shirted image of the stop motion animation character is colored by the ambient light around the set.

Webcam Auto White Balance

Auto White Balance

The same image with the Auto White Balance turned off and manual white balance set. Now the stop motion animation character’s white shirt is a “truer” white and the background colors are also improved

 

Other aspects of manual image control are accessible on most digital still cameras, camcorders and high end webcams. The snapshot on the right is from the Logitech Quickcam (Delux and Pro series) software drivers set. You can see that not only do you have manual override control of the White Balance but also focus, Brigthness, contrast and color intensity.

Zoom Functionality

The zoom function shown here is digital zoom. Be somewhat weary of using it as zooming in will degrade the quality of image. You are not using a lens to zoom in this instance but simply zooming in on the image at its current distance from the image. So use is sparingly if you are concerned about maintaining optimum image quality for your stop motion frames.

Bottom line when choosing best webcams for stop motion

Make sure your webcam has control over focus. Most have digital control while a few have manual. Either way avoid “autofocus” and the inability to override it.

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