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Jabra PanaCast 20 Review

Made for business, ready for more?

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

The world of 4K webcams is expanding and Jabra is joining the fray with the PanaCast 20. Retailing for $329 but featuring a suite of intelligent features, like AI auto-framing and intelligent lighting optimization, is this camera the right fit for you? Find out in our review.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $329 (Amazon
  • Video
    • Number of cameras: 1
    • Camera resolution: 13 megapixels
    • Image sensor: 1/3.2"
    • Zoom: Up to 3x lossless digital zoom at 720p
    • Field of view: Horizontal: 90°, Vertical: 75°, Diagonal: 117°
    • Resolution
      • 4k Ultra-HD: 3840 x 2160 @ 30 fps
      • 1080p Full HD: 1920 x 1080 @ 30 fps
      • 720p HD: 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps
    • Focal length: 2.26mm
    • Aperture: 2.25
    • Intelligent Zoom: Yes
    • Vivid HDR: Yes
    • Picture in Picture (PIP): Yes
  • Audio
    • Microphone type: MEMS
    • Number of microphones: 3
    • Microphone sensitivity: -37dBFS
    • Microphone frequency range: 100Hz - 8000Hz
  • Ease of Use
    • Manual Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ): Yes
  • Connectivity
    • Connectivity: USB-C
    • Supported USB versions: USB 3.0, USB 2.0 (supplying more than 500mA of current)
    • UVC versions: 1.1
  • General
    • Box contents: PanaCast 20, carry case, USB-C to USB-A cable 1.5m/4.9ft (USB 3.0)
    • Packaging dimensions (WxHxD): 160mm x 50mm x 130mm | 6.3in x 2in x 5.2in
    • Main unit dimensions (WxHxD): 44mm x 25mm x 80mm | 1.73in x 1in x 3.14in
    • Weight: 136g | 4.9oz
    • Warranty: 2 years
    • Certifications and compliance: Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Works with all leading UC platforms

Jabra PanaCast 20 - Design and Key Features

Personal video conferencing. Reinvented. 

Meetings. Reinvented. 

Picture perfect. Wherever you work.

Your next meeting calls for next-generation technology.

These are the slogans that appear on the product page for the Jabra PanaCast 20. Unlike most of the webcams we and other tech sites examine, this is a camera designed around the idea of remote work. Like any camera, however, putting it in too tight of a box is a fool’s errand. A great camera is a great camera, and if it offers a crisp picture and solid feature set, it’s going to work for multiple kinds of video work — including streaming.

The camera itself is small and very portable. It’s one of the lowest profile webcams I’ve ever seen, rising just over half an inch above the top of your monitor. The shell is made of metal and needs to be: high-resolution cameras with advanced features generate heat and this one is no exception. The PanaCast 20 gets warm, but that body does a good job of dissipating heat. 

There’s no mistaking the quality of this camera. The PanaCast 20 is crisp and detailed with a resolution that scales all the way to 4K, 30 FPS. It also offers HDR, which is extremely helpful for overcoming the most common pitfalls of webcams: over-exposed highlights and crushed shadows. Together, these two features combine to create a camera that is both exceptionally sharp and offers heightened detail in both bright and dark areas. 

In addition to recording at 4K, the camera can also record at 1080p and 720p and take 13MP stills. All of these resolutions are limited to 30p. This is a disappointing limitation I can’t view as anything other that a byproduct of it being a business camera. Even so, surely the framerate could be pushed to 60p at 1080p or 720p? Virtually all of the key competitors in the consumer space (Dell Ultrasharp, Razer Kiyo Pro, Logitech StreamCam) best it here. The camera also uses a fixed focus system, but the range is wide enough that you’re essentially always in focus.

On the plus side, the PanaCast 20 offers one of the widest fields of view you can find in a webcam today at an expansive 117 degrees. The Kiyo Pro comes close at 103 degrees but only with a terrible fisheye effect that renders the picture unusable. The PanaCast 20, on the other hand, has only a mild curvature you can see along straight lines. It’s not distracting and is completely usable. 117 degrees is enough to take in most of an average room, so if you need to get up and move around, your viewers will still be able to see you in full. When you don’t want to be seen, there’s a physical privacy cover that slides across the lens, turning the white recording indicator orange so you know you’re covered. 

They’ll be able to hear you well too. The webcam features an array of three MEMS microphones that do a good job of capturing your voice while canceling surrounding noise. They won’t compare to a dedicated microphone (no webcam mic does), but they’re a good fit for calls or times when you may not have a standalone mic or headset handy.

The PanaCast 20 has several other neat features. When used at 1080p, it’s able to intelligently track your face and zoom in to keep you centered in the frame. This allows you to move around the room without worrying about your viewers losing you. It also features an Intelligent Lighting system that’s able to balance exposure much better than a standard webcam. 

One of the most interesting features it offers is the ability to do picture-in-picture. At 720p, Jabra quotes “3x lossless digital zoom.” This is leveraged to allow you to punch in on one part of the screen and present yourself in another. It’s a useful feature if you like to present things on your stream, like demoing a new keyboard or playing a guitar. Typically, this would require two separate cameras, so it’s inclusion here is a genuinely pleasant surprise. 

Jabra PanaCast 20 - Camera Performance

The Jabra PanaCast 20 delivers an excellent picture. Only the Dell Ultrasharp really competes with it in fine detail, observable in areas like facial hair and skin texture, but the PanaCast wins in overall image quality. The color reproduction is also outstanding with an excellent natural white balance. It is the best-looking webcam we’ve reviewed yet and is the best I've personally encountered anywhere -- despite reviewing multiple 4K cameras across multiple websites.

If you’re not well versed in camera terminology, what that means is this: even in bright scenes where light might be bouncing off your forehead, it’s not going to lose detail unless that light is really bright. Conversely, if you’re dealing with shadows, the PanaCast 20 will allow you to see more than you would typically be able to. This is especially true when you’re looking at clothing. Enabling HDR makes the texture of fabrics pop back into existence when it would otherwise be lost. 

And look at this expansive field of view!

Here’s how it looks compared to a couple of key competitors:

Normal Lighting (lamp and window)

Between the three 4K camera in this roundup, the PanaCast 20 definitely delivers the most natural picture. The Brio comes close, but the PanaCast 20 wins in detail and realistic exposure. The Brio is brighter and looks quite nice, whereas the Dell UltraSharp struggled with the light from the overcast day coming in through the window and the wood paneling behind me to add too much contrast.

Well-Lit (lamp, window, key lights)

In well-lit scenario, all three camera do better and the results are much the same. The UltraSharp looks much better with an injection on 5000K light, but I still think the PanaCast looks best here. The Brio looks quite good also, but is less true to life. 

Low-Light (monitor only)

Finally, in low light settings we can see things tilt more toward the UltraSharp thanks to its STARVIS night-vision sensor. STARVIS definitely has less noise but also tweaks the colors so my shirt looks blue. The PanaCast 20 and Brio retain the shirt color but offer more noise. The Brio also adds an orangish hue to my skin. Overall, this is very good low light performance, even with a bit of grain in the picture. 

Taken as a whole, I think that the PanaCast is easily the best of the bunch. The Brio looks good, but its autofocus is borderline unusable if you wear glasses, making it a poor contender in the real world. The UltraSharp's added contrast doesn't look great in pictures but in actual use, really isn't that bad. Still, the PanaCast is the winner here, even if you're going to be paying extra for it.

And that's really the biggest problem facing this camera: its price. It’s obviously a very good camera but at $329, it’s too expensive to recommend against the competition. The Dell Ultrasharp is arguably better is a stellar camera, as is the Razer Kiyo Pro if you need 1080p, and both offer similar low-light performance and 60p recording. Both are upwards of $100 less, which is an absolute shame, because the PanaCast is really great. For most users, though, that price premium is just going to be too much to justify.

What’s happening here is that this camera is positioned toward a different type of consumer. If you’re buying a webcam for business (and probably writing it off as an expense or as a tax deduction), that higher price isn’t going to feel quite so painful. For personal use, however, it really does. To target mainstream users, it needs to come in at least $100 less and hopefully with more features.

Final Thoughts

The Jabra PanaCast 20 is one of the best looking webcams you can buy, period. It delivers a crisp, clear picture with very good low-light performance and excellent color reproduction. Unfortunately, as a business-oriented camera, its features (or lack thereof) are designed to match.  At $329, it lacks features competing webcams designed for streamers offer: autofocus, 1080p60, STARVIS to reduce low-light grain. If you must have a webcam and money is no object, this can be a good choice -- but this price point puts it in competition with used RX100s or GoPros and HDMI adapters that will undoubtedly offer better quality still.

What Jabra has accomplished here is impressive. It's just a shame it will be out of reach for so many people.

6.5Okay
Pros
  • Small and well-built
  • Great focus range
  • 4K resolution with plentiful detail
  • Auto-framing and picture-in-picture modes
  • Good low light performance
Cons
  • Doesn’t make sense for gamers and streamers at this price
  • No 1080p60 or 720p60
  • No STARVIS sensor


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight