Webcams, once a mandatory accessory for Macs and PCs, have become over the years with the rise of laptops, tablets and smartphones. However, recently, 2020 being good … you know, 2020, the webcams have returned with a bang. This has created supply problems with some of the best webcams from larger brands, creating an opportunity for smaller brands to fill the gap.
One of these smaller, lesser-known brands is Papalook, which recently shipped one of the latest webcams, the PA452, for testing. The Papalook webcam is reasonably priced and offers high definition video capabilities with a simple plug-and-play setup, but is it enough to make it the best webcam for Mac, PC, streaming or more? Let’s dive!
Ready and capable
Webcam Papalook PA452
Bottom line: Papalook’s PA452 covers the basics with good visuals for video calls and a noise-canceling microphone, which does the job for occasional use. However, the lack of autofocus and privacy features prevent it from being remarkable.
- Rotating, tilting design
- Solid images, not spectacular
- Simple plug and play configuration
- Works with Mac, Windows, ChromeOS
- Questionable design options
- Manual focus adjustments
- Unnecessary blue light switch
- No privacy cap or active LED light
Webcam Papalook PA452: features
Papalook PA452 is quite equal for the course when it comes to design, having a wide frame with the camera lens placed directly in the center. The webcam blends in several shades of gray, with the body having a slightly lighter shade that contrasts with its base, which is a darker gray. The front of the camera has rounded corners that have a clear plastic accent, making the whole front of the webcam look like a mirror.
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At the back of the webcam is a small switch to turn on a set of blue lights located on the front. I’m not entirely sure what these lights are for, but I think they’re best used to help in low light scenarios. More on that later. Positioned underneath, the camera base is designed to attach to the top of the monitor or laptop cover, with a stabilizer piece on the back that holds it in place. The mounting portion offers the possibility to make minor tilt adjustments, and for horizontal adjustments, the webcam can be rotated 360 degrees, if desired.
The Papalook camera offers specifications similar to most typical webcams, with its ability to capture and record videos at 1080p high definition resolution at 30 frames per second. The camera has a 65-degree wide-angle lens with an F2.0 aperture and is made of four-layer glass. The PA452 does not have autofocus, but relies on manually rotating the lens on the camera itself. Switching to sound, the PA452 includes built-in, noise-canceling microphones that are positioned on each side of the lens. The webcam has no speakers on board, so there is no up-to-date audio experience to be found here.
Papalook’s webcam works with all major PC platforms right from the start, Windows, macOS and ChromeOS. The camera connects via a non-detachable USB 2.0 cable with a standard USB-A connector. In most cases, you will not need to download and install an additional driver or software to get it up and running. In fact, there is no in-box camera software at all, but Papalook makes an application called AMCAP available directly from the company’s website if you want advanced or additional controls.
Webcam Papalook PA452: What I like
Setting up the PA452 was extremely easy, with the whole process of connecting to the back of my Mac Mini. There are no download drivers or additional software; it only works with apps like FaceTime and Google Meet, right from the start, which was great. Facilitating the whole process was the generous length of the non-removable USB cable, which I estimate is about 6 feet.
Although I’m not a fan of the overall color scheme and bright appearance, I like how stable the camera feels when positioned above my monitor. The existing Logitech webcam tends to move a little too lightly for my tastes, while the Papalook PA452 feels more solid and requires a little more pressure to make adjustments. This applies to both vertical and horizontal adjustments, although the tilt movement is limited.
Overall, if I had to make a comparison, I would put the PA452 image quality just a little above most modern Apple laptops, which may or may not be an upgrade depending on your situation.
PA452 image quality was reasonable under typical camera lighting conditions. In my testing, I found that the webcam provided enough detail for video calls and was able to keep up with the movement in its view, without significant problems with the break. The colors were more on the off side – which I tend to prefer, using the webcam as it is, with no corrections or changes in an app, and manual focus adjustments were fluid and it was easy to form a desired look.
The pictures in a completely dark room (except for my monitor) were decent, but not spectacular. As expected, the PA452 struggled with color and overall quality in low light conditions, like most webcams, but surprisingly, the image was bright enough to actually use it at a peak. Overall, if I were to make a comparison, I would put the image quality of the PA452 just a little above most modern Apple laptops, which may or may not be an upgrade depending on your situation. You can definitely get a better picture of the PA452 with a few changes. here and there, but for most, it will work just as well.
Button, do nothing!
Webcam Papalook PA452: What I do not like
As mentioned before, I don’t particularly care about the color options and the mirrored look of the hardware. The scheme makes the camera stand out, at least when it is placed on top of my monitor which has a black frame and not in a good way. I also don’t care how its mounting clip extends lower on the monitor than I’m used to with other cameras. In my case, the top frame of my monitor is quite thin, and the PA452 certainly covered some of my precious real estate on the screen. Of course, it didn’t cover him much, but it was enough to be a little annoying. Unfortunately, I was not able to adjust the mount so that it sits slightly higher on the frame, because there was not enough tension to hold it in place.
As for the hardware, I don’t like the way the webcam doesn’t have a built-in privacy cover or has a supplement available in the box. The webcam also does not have a built-in indicator light to inform you when it is active, both of which are huge negligence in my book. That being said, I strongly recommend that you purchase a cover or disconnect it after each use just for general privacy, especially if you plan to use the camera in a home frame.
Another hardware complaint I have is related to the blue LED lights I referred to earlier. It seems strange to me that Papalook does not clarify exactly what this function actually does, because I did not notice any difference if they were turned on and off. This is true even in dark environments, which was my best guess – a night vision aid, so I’m sure this will confuse many customers. I could only see one mention of this light on an Amazon webcam list, but it was also vague. The list stated that “The switch is designed for LED light control”, so yes, it’s not very helpful.
However, the biggest beef with the webcam is the lack of autofocus. This means that you need to turn the lens to form in the desired look, which may age over time if you want to change position or if you plan to take it with you to different locations. Manually adjusting the focus also negates some of the plug-and-play setup experience, and I’m sure most buyers will only want a webcam that can make video calls without having to worry about adjustments.
Some win, some lose
Webcam Papalook PA452: Bottom line
For all the positive aspects that Papalook PA452 has, such as the image quality above the Macbook level, the partial plug and play configuration and the solid mounting, there are quite a few things that prevent it from being a top-notch webcam. Lack of autofocus, lack of privacy features, seemingly unnecessary LED light feature, and questionable finish hinder the entire experience and prevent it from being the best webcam for Mac, PC, streaming and more.
Now, the PA452 is undoubtedly good enough if you only need a webcam for occasional calls or if you only need a webcam as soon as possible, as the category is in high demand right now. Remember that the focus settings are manual, and be sure to disconnect it or purchase a webcam privacy cover if you have questions about the prospect of having a camera that will always look in your home.
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