What happens when you want to buy a webcam, but aren’t limited by trivialities like sticking to a reasonable budget? The answer is that you end up here, with the Jabra Panacast 20, a webcam that costs ten times more than some of today’s cheapest options, and between two and four times more than many consumers would ever willing to spend.
As long as the hefty price tag doesn’t put you off, this is a webcam worthy of your consideration. Fortunately, the Panacast 20 is more than a hefty price tag. For the hefty cost, you get 4K resolution, a premium design with excellent build quality, smart zoom and lighting optimization, and a protective case.
Read on to find out why spending over $300 isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
Jabra Panacast 20 specifications
Resolution: 4K, 3840×2160
Field of view: 90 degrees
Frame rate: 30 fps
Digital Zoom: Lossless up to 6x
Microphone: Yes, three integrated
Privacy cover: Yes, integrated
The standout features of the Jabra Panacast 20 are its 4K video resolution and superior build quality. The former doesn’t make the Jabra unique, as the Logitech Brio also has 4K video, but the metal body and the sense that real thought has gone into the Jabra’s engineering helps it stand out from webcams in less important plastic.
Other key features include artificial intelligence, which is used by the Jabra to optimize video properties based on ambient lighting conditions, and to intelligently zoom and pan to keep you centered in the frame. Rather than physically moving around to do this, the Jabra works like Facebook’s portal, essentially cropping the image and panning or zooming to keep you in frame.
Build and manipulate
There’s a strong sense of quality here, perhaps more so than with any other webcam on sale today. The cool-to-the-touch metal body and sturdy build quality remind us of Apple’s iSight webcam from the mid-2000s. Like that flagship of industrial design, the Jabra is smartly designed, with good build quality and a premium feel that sets it apart from its rivals.
The base is rigidly hinged and swings open then attaches securely to the top of your monitor. It’s a universal design widely used by other webcams, like Logitech’s, but Jabra has the feel just right. The same goes for the lens cover, which is neatly integrated and is moved into position with an exposed slider.
There’s a USB-C port on the back and a hole underneath for screwing the webcam onto a tripod. A hard case is included which holds the Jabra securely and means it can be tossed into a bag or laptop case without worry.
Our only criticism is of the Jabra logo on the front, which wipes off surprisingly easily, and was partly removed during the time spent with the webcam. That said, some owners might prefer the cleaner, badge-free look.
The jury is still out on whether anyone really needs a webcam with 4K, as the resolution isn’t supported by all video conferencing platforms. And even where it’s supported, variable connection speeds, computer processing capabilities, and video compression all conspire to prevent viewers from seeing you in true Ultra HD.
That said, the Jabra Panacast 20 makes a good use case for 4K, as that means it can intelligently zoom in on the subject while still outputting a Full HD image. This is where those extra pixels come into their own and provide a fairly seamless automated zooming and panning experience.
Not everyone will benefit from having a webcam that follows them everywhere – when sitting at your desk on a video call, there’s really no need for such a feature unless you’re in a particularly lively meeting. But for presentations where the speaker is standing, the Jabra’s ability to zoom in and follow them as they move from side to side is useful.
This can be turned off if you prefer, producing a wide 90 degree view of the subject – useful for gathering several people in frame at once.
The way the camera uses AI to automatically compensate for ambient lighting conditions is also handy (and pretty smart). Many webcams adjust their exposure to tackle particularly dark or bright rooms, but where they tend to be heavy in their actions the Jabra creates well-balanced video without feeling artificial.
Jabra Panacast 20: Verdict
It almost goes without saying that in fact only one Needs spend $300 for a webcam. But as video calls and meetings continue to be a part of our lives in a way they weren’t before Covid, we’re excited to see Jabra raising the bar. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve all made do with the grainy quality and lackluster sound of our laptop’s webcam, or the $25 camera we bought when no other was available.
In the same way that it is possible to spend 50 or 1500 dollars on a phone, or tens of thousands on a computer, it stands to reason that an expensive, premium and high quality webcam can exist in the same sector. of the market. The Panacast 20 does this while partly justifying its significant cost.
We really like the hardware, from the metal body to the built-in lens cover, while the video and audio quality is excellent. Smart stand, USB-C connectivity, and an included hard case all justify the price. Ultimately, this is a premium webcam for those who demand the best and will pay top dollar for it. The Jabra isn’t for everyone, but I’m glad it’s there for those who want the best.
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