Budget webcams keep popping up even with the best webcams back in stock. And while it’s common to find them from companies you’ve never heard of, Monoprice has now expanded its Workstream brand to include a few contenders of its own. These are comparable in price to other budget cameras, but have the same name that has been making reliable generic PTZ cameras for years.
In particular, the Monoprice Workstream 1080p webcam aims to take that mindset and apply it to the home office rather than the boardroom. The result? This webcam isn’t as easy to handle as more expensive competitors, but it can really shine if you know what you’re doing.
Well lit room
Monoprice Workstream 1080p Webcam
I tested the Monoprice Workstream 1080p webcam against the Logitech C920, the classic flashlight carrier for 1080p webcams. Of course, with the Monoprice webcam costing $20, the two devices don’t make an exact one-to-one comparison. The main difference between the two cameras is how they focus. Where the Logitech C920 uses autofocus, the Workstream forces you to focus manually.
Most of the experience I have with manual focus is a photography class I took in high school. So while your experience may vary, I found it difficult to find the perfect middle ground with this camera. With my curtain up and ambient light sources turned on in my office, the image on the Workstream webcam was always a little blurry in some places and too sharp in others, no matter how far I adjusted the lens. On the plus side, colors were generally warmer in a more accurate way than on the Logitech C920, and the areas of the photos that weren’t blurry showed a lot of detail. Unfortunately, that detail was often unflattering and seemed more the result of overfocus than anything else.
The Workstream webcam also captures a slightly wider field of view than the C920, although this has a fishbowl effect. Oddly enough, the Workstream 1080p’s website says it has a 70-degree field of view, but the photos I took with it seemed to exceed that.
Low light room
Monoprice Workstream 1080p Webcam
When I lowered my curtain and turned off all ambient light sources in my home office except my monitor, the Monoprice webcam suddenly started producing much more impressive images. I barely adjusted my focus after changing my exposure, but the fuzzy and overly sharp parts of the images started to balance out to achieve what was usually a happy medium for whole shots. Meanwhile, the warm colors and details continued. All of this resulted in shots that, while still suffering from mild artifacts, generally appeared to have higher fidelity than comparable shots taken with the Logitech C920. The more expensive camera looked blurry and cool in comparison. I suspect that dimming the room caused an overall blurry effect on both cameras, making photos that looked too sharp under heavier light look normal.
Monoprice Workstream 1080p Webcam
Performance in heavily lit conditions was a bit of a toss-up between the two devices. While I was able to get a clearer view with the Monoprice Workstream 1080p webcam, the image I got from the Logitech C920 was less blurry on my face and also less overly sharp around the edges. Anyway, it’s impressive to see a $20 webcam under these conditions that doesn’t just bathe my face in shadow. It takes a little effort to find the right focus, but if you know what you’re doing, you can really push the camera above its budget in these conditions. Just look out my window – I wouldn’t expect $20 there to reflect anything but a blinding white sheet.
Videos on the Monoprice Workstream 1080p webcam
While I’ve structured most of this review around photos, as they’re easier to share alongside text, you’ll probably buy this webcam for video calls. The 1080p @ 30 fps quality held up for me while streaming, although I encountered repeated lag in recorded videos.
Video is what I can share, so we’ll have to settle for that. I shot a sample video of myself using this webcam in what I’d consider my office’s standard lighting conditions, using the same focus settings I used to take my sample photos earlier in this review. While my photo generally mirrored the photos I took under those conditions, when I moved my head, the artifacts of my video were really amplified. I’m not exactly sure why these issues weren’t showing up in live calls.
Build quality of the Monoprice Workstream 1080p webcam
The Monoprice Workstream 1080p webcam is a basic device that keeps most of its functionality physically connected to the camera, rather than dispersing it through accessories, although it does come with an optional adhesive shutter, which isn’t nice with its manual focus lens. . †
To adjust the focus of the Workstream 1080p, you have to turn the ring around the lens. Placing the shutter around the lens won’t let you do that, and while it’s arguable that many people only need to adjust their focus once (or at least only occasionally), that oversight points to a common flaw. . attention in the design of this device.
That lack of thought is evident in this unit’s monitor mount, which has no feet and was wobbly for me on both a curved-back monitor and a flat-back monitor. I constantly had to be careful not to accidentally knock it over when adjusting the focus or position of the camera, but there’s a tripod screw on the mount if you’d rather not connect it to your monitor at all.
Speaking of camera position, the Workstream 1080p has a generous tilt up and down, but that’s about it. You can point the camera about 45 degrees up and 180 degrees down, but don’t expect to rotate it.
Finally, the Workstream 1080p’s USB Type-A cable is short but usable. I measured it at about 56 inches when I pulled it all the way up, which is much shorter than the Logitech C920’s 72-inch cord, but should still be able to reach most ports on most setups.
I also have to mention the aesthetics of this camera, although there isn’t much to say about it. Parts of this webcam are encased in hard plastic, giving it a sturdy look despite what otherwise appears to be cheap construction. There’s also one LED that turns on when it starts to draw power and another that turns on when it’s recording.
The Monoprice Workstream 1080p webcam is your typical budget contender, with build compromises, no software to speak of, and finicky special considerations like manual focus. If you know what you’re doing and have the right lighting, you can achieve quality that rivals the more expensive competition, but you’ll also have to jump through more hoops to get there.
That extra labor will get you a significant discount, though, as this camera costs just $20 at Monoprice and $25 at Amazon. That’s probably why it sold out in the time between when we ordered a device for review and when it actually arrived. But if you like to play with your accessories and have a few extra Hamiltons to spare, it’s worth keeping an eye out for new supplies in the future.