Victor Wynne

Studio Display webcam complaints are fair, but the importance is being overblown

Ben Lovejoy:

I want to make it very clear that I totally understand the complaints. If Apple charged me $1,600+ for a display, and had promised me a “sensational” webcam, I’d be upset too. There are 4K professional webcams out there that make Apple’s webcam look like a child’s toy.

At the same time, there is, you know, physics. If you take a 12MP image and digitally crop it to say 6MP, then view it on a 27-inch monitor, it’s not going to look as crisp as a 12MP image viewed on a smaller screen.

Now, you absolutely can turn around and say, ‘Well, in that case, Apple should have used a 24MP camera in there, and cropped it to 12MP.” Or, indeed, that it should have used the 48MP camera it is rumored to have lined up for the iPhone 14.

But there are two counterarguments to this. First, again, physics. The reality of image quality is that, once you have a halfway decent sensor and lens, the biggest thing that makes the difference is light. This is the reason why anyone who wants to look good on a Zoom presentation uses a decent-size ring light.

So even with a 48MP sensor, unless you have a decent light source, the image still isn’t going to look great in a typical office environment.

Which brings me to my second point. People are not going to use the built-in webcam – any built-in webcam – for pro work, like interviews. The type of people who do pro video work and spend $1,600+ on a monitor certainly have a decent mirrorless or DSLR camera at each end, with big ring lights. Even if you use an iPhone as your webcam, you still want a ring light for decent-quality images in a typical indoor environment.

So there’s really little point in Apple putting a more expensive webcam in there. The people who need better image quality wouldn’t use it, and for everyday video conversations, Center Stage is a more useful feature than a 48MP sensor.

Exactly. I have failed to understand the constant complaining about this webcam since the release of the Studio Display. I tested the camera and I thought it looked fine. To compare it to the iPhone sensor especially makes no sense because no Center Stage feature that introduces sensor cropping is present on that product. At the end of the day the majority of people who do use the built-in camera for FaceTime or similar needs are going to be pleased with the image quality, and professionals wouldn’t use it in the first place. This theory is further proven by the fact that the Pro Display XDR is clearly aimed at professionals, and doesn’t even have a webcam at all.