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Jabra PanaCast 20 review: Finally, a high-quality webcam optimized for hybrid work
When the pandemic hit, and people grabbed the available webcam to work from home, we accepted substandard video calling experiences. Two years later and it's time to up your game with a professional video camera from Jabra.
Prior to March 2020, my engineering firm supported occasional remote work schedules, with people often resorting to using the cameras in their laptops for video conferencing. When the pandemic hit and lockdowns were put in place, people scrambled to grab any camera they could to try to carry on work discussions from remote locations.
Global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic changed the face of work, with hybrid and remote work options becoming a standard for those whose sectors support working from a home office location. It's also time to up your game and consider a professional web camera that is optimized for enhanced video performance and yet can easily be used both at home and at the business location. Jabra's PanaCast 20is a good solution, and we've been using one for the past couple of weeks at home and in the office.
Even if you work from the office full time, the Jabra PanaCast 20 is a worthy accessory since you will likely participate in video calls with clients, contractors, vendors, coworkers, friends, family, and more. Video conferencing is a standard form of communication today, and the Jabra PanaCast 20 supports many services while also being fully certified for Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
The Jabra PanaCast 20 is available now for an MSRP of $329, and while that is likely higher than the camera you may have in front of you, it performs at a level that is worth it for a device that is essential to people's daily work environment. I went through a couple of cheap cameras during the pandemic, and it was a bit embarrassing. If you want to provide a high-quality and functional video experience for the people you interact with, you will appreciate what Jabra has to offer here.
4K Ultra-HD video is provided through a 13MP camera, advanced processors, and integrated AI. The PanaCast 20 weighs in at 139g with an oblong form factor that measures 80mm long by 44mm wide and 25mm high. The camera is positioned in the center of the front with a well-designed integrated privacy cover that slides open or closed as you move the switch on the bottom of the front. I like having a physical cover since I spend so much time in front of the computer and camera all day and appreciate having full control over what appears on the camera.
A flat piece taking up much of the bottom rotates via a hinge down from the bottom to serve as a clip for mounting the camera on the top of a monitor. There is a lip on the front portion, so the camera hangs over the monitor a few millimeters. The silicone material is attached to the front lip and on the edge of the flat clip piece so that the camera stays firmly in position. I've tried the camera on monitors of varying depths, and it works very well.
Jabra PanaCast 20 review: in pictures
A 1.5m USB-C to USB-A cable is included in the package, and the USB-C end connects behind the hinge on the bottom of the camera. It's a simple plug-and-play solution with a handy zippered carrying case included so you can easily transport the camera between your home and office to have a consistently great video calling experience no matter where you are working.
The 13MP camera supports 4K, 1080p, and 720p video at 30fps, with the default set to 4K. While you can attach and use your own microphones or headset, the camera has three MEMS mics that work well. I use a podcast mic in my home office, but I like using the camera's integrated microphones at the office since I am not a fan of wearing headsets all day long.
The camera is plug-and-play, so if you want, you can just connect it to your computer, fire up your video conference, and enjoy great quality video experiences. However, if you want to access the advanced features and keep the PanaCast 20 updated with the latest firmware, then you should download and install the Jabra Direct software that is available for Windows and macOS.
After launching the Jabra Direct software, there are two options for your PanaCast 20 camera. You can select to access the camera controller or settings. The camera controller opens up in another pop-up window with a camera preview and toggles for both intelligent zoom and picture-in-picture below the preview. Below this is manual directional arrows to move the camera and zoom buttons for manual zoom. You can save up to two presets as well.
At the bottom of the controller window are image quality options. Sliders and toggles here include brightness, video HDR, contrast, saturation, sharpness, automatic white balance, and manual white balance.
When you toggle on intelligent zoom, the camera will automatically zoom in and center your image at all times. You can immediately check this functionality by moving way off to the right or left to see the camera follow and recenter you. I always have this mode since I switch between sitting and standing at my desk and then like to move a bit while standing. The zoom also helps ensure my face doesn't appear to be back too far from the discussion.
The picture-in-picture option displays your image in a separate window in the bottom right corner while you can then manually adjust the main view to focus on another area of interest. This can be useful for whiteboard discussions or other video calls where you have more than one person or object to show in the call. The small window with your face also supports intelligent zoom natively with picture-in-picture enabled. You cannot toggle on both of these advanced options at the same time.
Device settings include a default toggle for intelligent zoom, video flicker settings, and field of view angles. 90 degrees is recommended, but you can also select 75, 60, or 45 degrees. A toggle is also available to enable or disable the camera microphones. Lastly, firmware updates are managed in the settings of the Jabra Direct software.
While my engineering office is well lit, I have lower lighting levels in my home office. I immediately saw improved clarity and colors when switching from my default Logitech camera to the PanaCast 20. Callers mentioned that I looked better with improved lighting and video quality. The PanaCast 20 uses its integrated AI to provide intelligent lighting optimization, and it clearly isn't just marketing, as callers have seen the improvement in my setup.
The people in the video tend to be far back and removed from the conversation on many calls. The PanaCast 20 intelligent zoom option ensures you are always in the center of the frame and close up to the camera to engage in the conversation actively.
The optional picture-in-picture option is interesting and has proven useful when I want to show people something I am testing or trying out in more detail. Product teams may find it useful, and I imagine people who I have been meeting with to view mobile tech demos would greatly benefit from this feature.
As we look ahead to more hybrid and remote work options, it's time to outfit our offices with gear that provides richer and more professional experiences. The Jabra PanaCast 20 is clearly a video conferencing camera that meets that need, and we highly recommend it.