Papalook PA930 webcam review Papalook PA930 webcam on top of a computer monitor

Despite looking the spitting image of Logitech's StreamCam, the Papalook PA930 isn't competing with your high-end Logitech or Elgato webcams. Instead, it's a more affordable cam that tries to deliver some key features to separate it from the flood of cams now available on the market. Some of which it delivers on, and others it can't quite nail down.

It has a natural advantage over your run-of-the-mill bargain bin webcam, at least. Capable of capturing an image up to 1440p, the Papalook does offer something that many sub-$70 webcams don't. It's technically capable of running up to 2592 x 1944, according to OBS, yet the resulting 4:3 image might not be ideal except for a few edge use cases.

Once plugged in, I've been impressed with the initial image quality of the PA930. The colour strikes a decent balance and it's bright enough out of the box that you needn't fit it alongside a ring light. I will say the image is partially blown out in light areas, which isn't ideal if you're using some particularly bright spot lights, but generally the colour and white balance is admirable without further finessing.

Here’s a photo of me taken with the Papalook PA930 webcam (via the Photos app). (Image credit: Future)

PA930 specs

Resolution: Up to 2592 x 1944
Lens: Glass, fixed focus (90cm), f 2.0
Frame rate: 30fps (questionable 60fps at 1080p)
Microphone: Yes, stereo
Connection: USB 2.0
Price: $70 | £66

That said, if you want to tweak the Papalook PA930 in any way, you'll need to do so within your chosen software. If you're planning to use OBS, you're in luck. That software offers heaps of webcam customisation options natively. But if you're plugging it in exclusively for Google Meets, you'll have fewer options to mess around with.

That's because the included software, Amcap, offers a rather paltry offering of features and settings. It's a far cry from the customisation available on the best webcams today. The app is more or less a simplified capture software, offering a way to capture photos or video without another third-party app, but little else.

In fact, Papalook only really recommends you use Amcap on older Windows versions. On Windows 10, it recommends you ditch it altogether for the native Camera app.

What you can do without any sort of customisation software is hit the shortcut button located on the top of the cam. This is supposed to switch between 1080p 30fps mode, and 1080p 60fps mode, (it even says so on the box) yet that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, it zooms in and out of the frame.

I don’t recommend you buy this webcam for its touted frame rate alone.

While in 1440p mode, this allows you to swiftly zoom in and out of the webcam's feed, potentially offering a better way to frame your face. This is a fixed focus webcam, after all, which means there's no auto or manual focus, and so sitting an appropriate distance from the webcam is quite important for clarity. Ideally, that'd be exactly 90cm from the webcam. That said, the f 2.0 lens doesn't deliver much depth of field and it looks just fine if you sit closer or further away than that. 

Yet the toggle shortcut button doesn't quite act as advertised. I had thought this to be down to the camera operating at 1440p perhaps, but even after manually changing the camera to output at 1080p, the button still only served to zoom into my bewildered face.

Perhaps the zoom is a by product of the 60fps mode then? Well, no, that doesn't appear to be the case either. The camera looks awful similar whether set to 30fps or 60fps, and I even ran footage of myself past the wider team to see if they could note a difference between 30fps and 60fps modes. For the most part, we could see no discernible difference between the two, and we've played enough games at low frame rate to know that there should be a big difference.

The camera's firmware clearly does believe it can report at 60fps at 1080p, as once set to 1440p the max frame rate is limited to 30fps. However, I cannot confirm that it looks any better for the faster frame rate. With that in mind, I don't recommend you buy this webcam for its touted frame rate alone.

Papalook PA930 webcam on top of a computer monitor

(Image credit: Future)

Similarly, I don't recommend you buy this webcam for the microphone, either. I've never had a great experience with onboard mics on a webcam, but the Papalook's mics do struggle to relay what I'm saying in a clear tone.

All said and done, I've settled on the Papalook PA930 as a webcam that works best as a simple plug and play device. Pull it out the box, run it at the highest resolution you can in your application of choice, and leave it at that. It's not a device with any real level of user customisation, and if you don't go in expecting that then I think it does its job just fine.

At $70 (£66), it's not the most affordable webcam available right now, but it isn't too much to ask for a 1440p capable device. It's certainly plenty cheaper than the Elgato Facecam at $200. But then again, these two devices are not in any way comparable in specification or functionality, so perhaps you get what you pay for.

What that is, is a 1440p workhorse that will deliver just about all you require of it. It even comes with a small tripod, decent monitor stand, privacy cover, and cleaning cloth in the box. I would suggest the Logitech C920/C922 over the Papalook for most, despite its 1080p max resolution, but the Papalook PA930 could act a suitable substitute in a pinch.


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