Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

An external lens does not completely solve your webcam problems, but it does have its advantages

Recently, some of the most popular webcams were hard to buy from major online retailers, as people bought them to keep in touch while socializing or working from home during the pandemic. For example, at the time of writing, Logitech’s popular C920 HD Pro webcam is sold out at Logitech’s US online store and the price listed at Amazon US is currently well above Logitech’s own asking price of $ 79.99. Other models are available, but the situation means you may not be getting the exact webcam you’re looking for.

That means people had to be creative by using standalone cameras or even old iOS or Android devices as replacement webcams. But today I tried a different approach: using a Moment aftermarket lens to enhance my laptop’s existing webcam rather than completely replace it. The lens mount was originally designed for smartphones (where most of the focus was on Moment), but Moment tells me he focused on laptops in response to customer demand.

The Moment Webcam Set, which I tested, is a $ 77.98 bundle (currently discounted to $ 61.98) with an O-Series mount and an 18mm wide-angle lens. Alternatively, if you already have a Moment lens, you can purchase a mount separately for $ 29.99. (There are versions for both the O-series and newer M-series lenses.) It also works with phones and tablets. Importantly, all of these kits are currently listed as available in the Moment online store; there are no stock shortages here.

When confirmed, the holder covered part of my screen.

You attach the holder to a laptop with a screw on the back.

Installation is easy. The holder has a screw with a rubber cap on it, which you rotate to hold it firmly against the back of your laptop screen, and you can move the front part of the mechanism up and down so that the lens hole is aligned with your webcam. (I found it helped to have my camera app open while doing this so I could get the alignment right.) Moment says lens mount supports laptops as thick as 10.75mm, and there’s a thicker rubber screw cap included for slimmer laptop covers. You can then fix the lens in place on the mount.

The effect of the 18mm wide-angle lens was evident, as you can see in the photos below; it gave my webcam a much wider field of view. Where previously my Surface Laptop’s webcam usually included only my face and the top of my shoulders, with the lens installed, the field of view extended to my chest and included much more of my surroundings (but unfortunately also the holder itself). In fact, it’s a much wider field of view than the Logitech C920 HD Pro I included for comparison. This effect, of course, depends on the lens you use, which laptop you mount it on and whether you choose the O-series or the M-series (the latter is designed for larger lenses).

This approach has some limitations. The biggest one, of course, is that it relies on your computer to have an existing webcam to work. So if you’re working on a laptop like the webcamless Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 or a desktop computer with an external monitor, an external lens won’t help much.

Even if it is, it won’t do much to fundamentally change the quality of your webcam. Placing a lens doesn’t change the fact that my first-generation Surface laptop still takes photos with a 720p webcam. Compared to a decent standalone 1080p webcam like the C920, the difference is huge. And yes, I tried to see if I could mount Moment’s lens on the front of the C920, but Logitech’s webcam was unfortunately too thick.

It is also a bit bulky. Once installed, the arms on the Moment mount covered part of the top center of my screen, and it goes without saying that you can’t close your laptop with the lens mount installed. Oh, and on my computer, the holder also seemed to break Windows Hello unlock. The limitations mean that you will likely want to remove the lens when you are not using it, but thankfully that is a fairly straightforward process.

The holder does not completely cover the screen, but the arms may get in the way.

You can forget about closing your laptop with the lens attached.

That does not mean that the lens mount is without use. It can be very helpful to change the focal length of your webcam. The 18mm lens included in the bundle, for example, makes the field of view much wider, perfect for getting your entire family in the picture for a Zoom call. In fact, if you already have one of Moment’s lenses lying around, getting a holder for your laptop is a fairly inexpensive investment and something you can use on multiple devices.

I don’t think Moment’s webcam kit is for everyone. The cost of the bundle is comparable to a decent standalone webcam (if you can find one in stock). And if you choose well, an external webcam should give you a good boost in image quality. But if you’re someone who’s already invested in Moment lenses, webcam mounting is a great way to get more out of your existing hardware.

Photography by Jon Porter / The Verge