In the age of videoconferencing, good webcams are few and far between. Some have turned to their trusty DSLR cameras, but that’s both expensive and relatively inconvenient. A small company called Opal says it has created the happy medium with a webcam that brings the best of both worlds into a product that costs $300.
Back in June, Dell launched the first serious competitor for Logitech’s Brio 4K HDR webcam. The latter had been one of the best — if not the best — webcam for people looking for a premium option for their videoconferencing needs. The Dell UltraSharp Webcam came in as an alternative focused on image quality — with an adjustable field of view, aluminum design, but no microphone.
Recently, a team of former Apple, Beats, and Uber employees unveiled another premium webcam targeted specifically at the Mac crowd. The new device is called the Opal C1 — a $300 DSLR webcam that you can attach to your iMac or Pro Display XDR.
Its makers claim this is “the first professional webcam,” alluding to the fact that webcams have traditionally had disappointing image quality. As more people started working and studying from home, everyone became familiar with the grainy image with no depth of field and washed-out colors.
The Opal C1 is equipped with a 7.8 mm Sony sensor that has a capture resolution of 4056 by 3040 pixels, an f/1.8 aperture and a six-element lens. It’s capable of up to 60 fps video and should be able to produce a much brighter image than your typical webcam. Alongside the camera itself is a beamforming microphone array the company calls MicMesh. This will filter out most background noise from your environment.
Powering the webcam is “Intel’s new 14 nm VPU chip” — most likely the successor to the Movidius Myriad 2 VPU that debuted in one of Intel’s Neural Compute Sticks. This works in conjunction with Opal’s own Trillium T16 embedded processor to enable computational photography effects such as bokeh.
The Opal app is “made exclusively for Mac,” and will give you access to fine image controls for contrast, white balance, brightness, and more. The $300 price tag alone means this webcam isn’t for everyone, and if you do want one, you’ll have to sign up for a reservation. Those who get selected will be able to purchase a single unit during the limited beta period. As of writing, there is no official release date for the general availability of the Opal C1, so stay tuned.