I was in the camp of people who refused to care about the quality of webcam. Even during the pandemic, I mostly avoided spending money on an expensive webcam just to look good on a work call. However, I am warming up to the idea of stepping up my video setup after using the Jabra PanaCast 20.
Jabra is no stranger to the world of audio or video conferencing setup and has been supplying video solutions to businesses. With the PanaCast 20, the Danish company is trying to cater to home users as well. At $299, it is not the most affordable webcam out there but it is remarkably cheaper than business solutions like the PanaCast or the PanaCast 50. Should you consider the PanaCast 20 for your hybrid work setup? Let’s find out.
The best thing about the Jabra PanaCast 20 is its portability. The all black PanaCast 20 measures 44mm x 25mm x 80mm in dimensions when folded down. In simpler terms, it is a singular block of heat sink where there is also a 13.3-megapixel 4K camera attached. Honestly, it is a beautiful piece of engineered camera and that metal build is unique in this segment.
At the front, there is a lens with microphone pinholes on the left and right. There is also a third pinhole mic on the top of the textured chassis. For privacy, there is also a small sliding switch similar to what you would find on Lenovo’s laptops for privacy shield.
There is a USB Type-C port way back on the bottom panel and everything is simple and minimal by design and choice. Of course, the most important thing is the monitor clip, which is a metal arm that flips down from the bottom of the chassis. This metal arm can pivot 90 degrees and Jabra is using a textured rubber material to ensure a steady grip.
This design of the monitor clip is clever and it does work well with laptops. However, if you mount it on a monitor, then it may not be as stable as it should be. There were several instances when I felt the camera would fall down but it didn’t and that’s the best part.
A camera made smart
The PanaCast 20 is a 4K setup with a 13-megapixel 1/3.2-inch sensor and a diagonal field of view equivalent to 117-degrees. It has a horizontal field of view equivalent to 90 degrees and a vertical view of 75 degrees. The sensor has a focal length of 2.26mm and an aperture of f/2.25.
The camera also has three MEMS microphones for audio capture but audio is not its strongest attribute. Jabra says that it is cognizant of the fact that most people use an external audio device. It can record up to 4K video at 30 frames per second with support for Vivid HDR.
Jabra says it has an integrated AI chip for things like intelligent zoom and picture in picture (PIP). The intelligent zoom is arguably the most interesting feature of the PanaCast 20. It is too good and works with Zoom and Microsoft Teams. It is also intelligent enough to track an individual or fit more people in the frame.
This intelligent bit is what you are paying for with the PanaCast 20. I still think that the centre stage seen on several Apple devices is a much nicer implementation and one Jabra should implement since the AI processor has the room to make such additions.
Jabra PanaCast 20 Vs Standard Webcam
With good lighting, this 4K camera is able to produce sharp images and I found it to work well in most scenarios. The camera is able to retain plenty of detail but you can expect to see some noise in a dark environment. I am not someone attending video calls late at night or even when I do, I have enough lights in my room.
The feature that I missed the most on this camera is hardware level background blur. Since this is a wide camera, the hardware level blur could put you at the centre of your conversation better than the software blur. Also this could result in the frame struggling less with the situation. Jabra told me that this feature is being tested but I was unable to use this feature.
There is suddenly this need for all of us to ensure that our background is better, our homes have better lighting and we look good in front of the camera. If you are someone who has gotten tired of seeing your own face on video calls for the past year or two, then a camera solution like the PanaCast 20 could breathe a new life.
However, with a retail price north of Rs 30,000, this is not a camera setup meant for normal people. Instead, it is meant for home entrepreneurs or executives presenting from home. The PIP mode is perfect for those presentations when you want yourself to be on the screen but the larger area is taken by your work.
Similarly, teachers and professors will benefit from the resolution and native features to record their lectures. There are a lot of use cases here but I got this feeling that Jabra has not fully unleashed this device. To summarise, the PanaCast 20 wins for its features and portability but definitely that price makes it restricted to select customers.