What Are Webcam Frame Rates?

FPS is important, but it's not the only thing that matters

The frame rate is the number of pictures or frames a webcam captures and displays on the screen within a given time. Standard webcam frame rates are measured in frames per second (fps). If a webcam is described as 30 fps, it can take 30 pictures every second in optional conditions.

How Frame Rate Works

Digital video files, like film, are a collection of still images. The webcam's frame rate determines how many still images go into making a video file. Higher frame rates deliver smoother video recording and streaming. However, these higher rates take more processing power and increase the file size of streamed and saved video content.

Various quality settings for webcams on Windows 10

Webcams with an fps rating of 15 or lower create a JPEG file of each still image and transmit these images in rapid succession. When the frame rate is higher than 15 fps, the webcam can record or stream video in formats like MP4, AVI, or MKV.

Today, 15 fps is nearly unheard of, with 30 fps being the minimum for most cameras. High-end webcams capture up to 120 fps at 1080p, but such devices are expensive. Use 30 fps or higher if you don't want to transmit choppy video.

To stream high-quality video, you need a high-speed internet connection and a webcam with a decent frame rate.

Factors That Affect Frame Rate

A webcam with a 60 fps specification doesn't always capture 60 frames per second. Frame rates are usually tied to the camera's resolution, which determines the sharpness of the video. For example, a camera may capture 60 fps at 720p, but it might only be capable of capturing 30 fps at full 1080p.

Other factors that affect a webcam's frame rate include the webcam software, the amount of light in the room, and the available bandwidth.

Depending on the hardware, it may offload processing to the computer's video card or main processor. Computers that can't handle high-frame, high-resolution input signals from the webcam can't generate clean streams or video files.

Improve Webcam Frame Rates

Although you can't make your webcam capture video at a faster rate than the advertised fps, you can get the best frame rate possible by recording in bright lighting conditions.

Running several devices over a computer's USB ports can also slow down the frame rate. The port the webcam is plugged into may play a role, so use the fastest USB 3.0 ports for the webcam.

Optimize your recording for your intended purpose. When streaming a virtual party during a Skype call, for example, it's not necessary to send high-definition videos. If the computer struggles with high-definition input, reserve the highest quality settings for situations where it matters, and close non-essential applications during recording to free system resources.