Opal C1: A $300 DSLR-quality webcam? (Yes, it has bokeh)
I love challenging myself by finding new ways to deliver the highest quality content as efficienty as possible. That's why I was so excited when I first read about the Opal C1, a DSLR quality webcam that is less expensive than the latter. But, what's this? It's for Apple users only? Opal Camera Inc. mentions in their press kit that they do have plans to launch support for Windows users late next year.
Not having an Apple computer, I was disappointed. However, I remember reading some posts on forums and social media made by other performers searching for Apple friendly webcams. While I haven’t gotten to test this for myself, I’ve scoured reputable tech reviews to bring you what information I could find. Could the Opal C1 webcam really be an alternative to DSLR streaming?
The Opal C1 webcam boasts the fastest lens ever on a webcam. It also uses the same computational photography as smartphones, meaning enhanced details and focused adjustments in real-time. This is great for people who want to focus more on delivering quality content while worrying less about more complicated tasks. And while I’m confident in my own ability to light up a room, the Opal C1 would be a great option for someone with less space for equipment or less experience in lighting fundamentals!
For Zoom calls and other video conferencing, the Opal C1 defaults to 1080p at 30 frames a second in order to prevent crashes. This slight reduction in resolution results in a smooth video call. Streaming and recording can be pushed to the coveted 4k resolution at 30 frames per second without concern. Especially at its price point, the streaming and recording quality of the Opal C1 outshines any other webcam currently on the market. Many people use DSLR’s for the same effect, but the Opal C1 doesn’t require the same complicated setup and expense as a DSLR camera.
Speaking of resolution, perhaps the Opal C1’s biggest accomplishment is its ability to enhance images in nearly any environment. While you can tweak the brightness, contrast, white balance, focus, and more, the C1 is more than capable of doing it for you in nearly any lighting. The app even includes a bokeh slider to add a cinematic blur to your background.
One of the coolest little features is the gesture control technology, where you can pinch your fingers in the frame and the camera will zoom, or you flash a peace sign to end a call. Opal is also working on software to coach its users on speaking skills and video readiness.
Flip the camera over and you’ll notice the heatsink, which is necessary for such a powerful camera that offers so much. It also has a single USB-C port on the back with compatibility for any USB 3.0 cables. Because it’s intended to be used with Macs (more on that in a moment) the included cable is C-port to C-port.
In thinking about the design and appearance of the webcam, a drawback comes up: the Opal C1 webcam is currently only Mac compatible*. Everything that comes with a purchase of the C1 – the camera itself, the Opalsoft Mac app, and exclusive access to Opal accessories – is built around the Mac ecosystem. The webcam is even reminiscent of the streamlined design of iPhones.
This sleek camera’s color options harken back to the days of Henry Ford: you can have it in any color, as long as it’s black (the Opal C1 can also come in white, but that’s where the options end). It has an attractive matte finish encasing the patented MicMesh microphone. Opal claims this beamforming microphone technology has intelligent noise cancellation so it will find and focus on your voice despite barking dogs, construction noise, or other nuisances in the background.
As of the publication of this article, the Opal C1 is in private, invite-only beta. You can sign up for the waitlist here. At $300, the Opal C1 is more expensive than other well-rated webcams. However, it will be worth the investment if it lives up to its promises:
Incredible 4k video quality
Intuitive noise cancellation
Easy to use innovative software
Sturdy footless monitor mount that can attach to both flat and curved monitors
Currently testing a voice quality feature to rival podcast-grade microphones
And most importantly...the bokeh
If the Opal C1 webcam can deliver all this and more past the beta phase, it will completely change the game in webcam technology. I could see this webcam being an attractive purchase for people with little room to spare for complicated lighting setups. Anyone that spends a lot of time in front of a webcam, CEOs on Zoom calls, content creators, or even educators, could benefit from higher quality streaming.
I’m looking forward to seeing more reviews of the Opal C1 webcam once it’s out of beta testing and officially on the market. What do you think so far – is the investment worth it?
*The Opal C1 technically can be used with Windows but loses performance quality.