Most computers, especially older ones, have pretty poor webcams or none at all. Add in bad positioning of the camera and the results can make you look, well, rather unremarkable. Some of us might not care how we look on camera; for others, presenting ourselves in the best possible light (pun intended) is important.
So for those looking to add a camera or upgrade the one in their laptop, there’s the Jabra Panacast 20 webcam. (We also have a great guide to buying webcams in our sister publication Small Business Answers.)
Jabra is a world-leading audio and video brand. Part of the GN group was established 150 years ago in Copenhagen. Jabra focus’s on hearing at the ear level and is also a leading manufacturer of hearing aids. They sell to the consumer, professional and medical grade markets globally.
Factors that webcam quality
While a higher quality webcam should produce better results that a cheap one, there are other factors that can impact how you look:
Light – Having light on your face rather than light from behind will make the biggest difference in how your picture looks to others. Some people even go to the trouble of using special lights to brighten their faces.
Placement – No one want to see your nasal hairs, and as such, a higher placed camera looking down on your face will have a much more flattering effect.
Internet speed – Your home’s internet speed as well as the person at the other end will impact your video quality. Video conferencing software will reduce the image quality on slow connections to maintain connectivity. High Definition video requires around 5Mbps, while Ultra High Definition (UHD or 4K) needs about 20Mbps. If your home’s internet connection speed is slower, your camera will downgrade the resolution. Also, remember that your home internet speed will probably be shared with others which will impact your video broadcasts.
Ethernet vs Wi-Fi – A computer connected by wired Ethernet will, in most cases, provide a more stable connection versus a computer connected by Wi-Fi
Video conferencing software – This can affect the video call quality too. Some are better than others, and a paid subscription is more likely to be better.
Setup and first impressions
When opening the Panacast’s box, I was surprised to see a small carry case in addition to the USB cable and camera. Why would you need a carry case? On reflection, in this world of flexible work, it makes perfect sense to take the camera with you, ensuring you have the same quality experience no matter where you are.
Set up was super simple, with plug and play functionality further enhanced by the Jabra Direct Software. Jabra Direct also uploads new firmware to the camera, which our test unit did on setup.
The Panacast 20 has a mechanism that allows it to be positioned on top of a monitor or laptop placed flat or attached to a standard tripod mount. You can also tilt it to find the right angle.
We noticed that the unit was warm to touch, even when not in use, compared to our other web camera. This heat is likely due to the heavy workload of capturing 4K video, however, it doesn’t explain why it’s also hot when idling.
Those concerned about privacy will be pleased with the physical privacy shutter that can be slid across with your finger. This blocks the lens so nothing can be seen. Also, it’s a quick way to mute your image whilst you sneeze.
What sets the Panacast 20 apart
Every TV you buy today is likely to be 4K capable, but very little content is consumed in 4K. This webcam supports 4K, but the reality is that most video conferencing platforms operate in Standard Definition (SD) with the option to enable High Definition (HD). 4K is 4 times the resolution of HD, which is 4 times the resolution of SD. This feature is more for future-proofing or those that want to make videos with the webcam in 4K. Also, consider most people are not using a 4K monitor, which are quite expensive.
Earlier in the article we talked about the importance of light. The Jabra has smarts that enhance the lighting of your face. The following images show the difference between a 2-year-old high-end web camera versus the Jabra. The Panacast doesn’t specifically call out this feature but I found a HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode in their settings. This allows the camera to deal with bright light and shadows simultaneously, just like your eye does but traditional cameras cannot. The images are screenshots from a Zoom call both in HD.
Picture quality is one thing, but the sound is also critical. I do not use a headset when on calls, although you can. I found the sound pick-up excellent, and others have commented how clear I came through.
We feel the Panacast 20 would also work well for a small meeting room or if you like standing up and pacing while on a call. The Panacast’s Intelligent Zoom feature automatically tracks your face and zooms in to keep you in the frame.
If you do a lot of online presentations and want to show off something, the Picture-in-Picture mode allows a second closeup view, while putting you into a window so people can still see your face.
The Panacast 20 will work on all major Unified Communications platforms and is certified on Microsoft Teams and Zoom, delivering superior performance.
This webcam is not for your average worker unless work is happy to pay up for it. The Panacast 20 has the highest resolution option too at 4K. It uses artificial intelligence to improve lighting, has a great microphone, ensures you stay in frame, and offers a high tech way of improving presentations with Picture-in-Picture mode.
So if you do a lot of remote presenting, care about the quality of the image and want a solution that just works out of the box, this camera is an investment that will deliver. Jabra has committed to enhancing the product with software updates, and with 4K video already on board, you should have the confidence that this webcam will last many years
Jabra Panacast 20
The Jabra Panacast 20 is expensive but does give you pro features like 4K video, auto tracking and zooming, lighting enhancement and Picture-in-Picture.
Value for money
Ease of use
Ability to perform in difficult light conditions to electronically improve your face lighting
Intelligent zoom to follow your face and keep it centred as you move around
Commitment to future features
One and a half times more expensive than comparable models
The camera seems to run very hot, indicating it might be power-hungry