What Are Webcam Frame Rates?

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

A webcam affixed to a monitor.

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Many new computers ship with a built-in webcam, but you may wish to purchase a higher quality external camera. Before buying a webcam, be sure to check the frame rate. The higher the frame rate is, the smoother you can expect the video recording and streaming to be.

Information in this article applies to a broad range of devices. Make sure a webcam is compatible with your computer before making a purchase.

What Is Frame Rate?

The frame rate is the number of pictures, or frames, the webcam can capture and display on the screen within a given time. Frame rate is measured in frames per second, or fps. If a webcam is described as 30 fps, it can take 30 pictures every second in optional conditions.

How Frame Rate Works

Video files, like traditional film, are a collection of still images. The webcam's frame rate determines how many still images go into making those video files. Higher frame rates result in smoother videos with larger file sizes.

Webcams with an fps rating of 15 or lower create JPEG files of each still image and transmit them 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 can capture up to 120 fps at 1080p, but such devices come with a hefty price tag. Stick with 30 fps or higher if you don't want to transmit choppy video.

To stream high-quality video, you will need a high-speed internet connection in addition to a webcam with a decent frame rate.

Factors That Affect Frame Rate

A webcam that boasts 60 fps will not 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.

How to Improve Webcam Frame Rate

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

Running multiple devices over a computer USB port can also slow down the frame rate. The port your webcam is plugged into may play a role too, so be sure to use the fastest USB 3.0 ports for your webcam.

Another way to increase a webcam's fps is to defragment your computer's hard disc.​ If the drive is still slow, consider investing in a solid-state drive (SSD).