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How to use a digital camera as a webcam

  A woman films a video on a camera in front of a laptop.
Chaay_Tee / Shutterstock

Good webcams can be hard to find. Fortunately, you can use many digital cameras as makeshift webcams. If you have a high-end mirrorless or DSLR camera, you will even get a big boost in video quality for your online meetings.

Using your camera as a webcam

The ability to use your camera as a webcam largely depends on which camera you own. Some compact point-and-shoot cameras come bundled with first-party software and drivers that allow you to use them as webcams.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a less common feature nowadays. However, third-party software has surfaced that allows you to use many Nikon and Canon cameras for this purpose. As you might have guessed, this software is not free.

Modern mirrorless and DSLR cameras that produce a pure HDMI output (so no overlays on the screen) give you the best results. You will need additional hardware for this, but it should also work with future camera upgrades.

Required accessories

  A camera on a tripod films a speaking woman.
Flamingo Images / Shutterstock

If you are going to use a camera as a webcam, you need something to mount it on, like a tripod. You also need a way to power the camera, assuming power over USB is not an option. For many mirrorless and DSLR cameras, that means buying a & # 39; dummy battery & # 39 ;. Dummy batteries are in the battery compartment but can be inserted into the wall.

All of these methods require a micro USB to USB cable (such as the one that came with your camera) or a mini HDMI / HDMI to HDMI cable. For our latest (and most effective) solution, you also need a recording device.

Method 1: Use your camera's software

The first thing to do is to check if your camera supports this feature natively through the manufacturer's software or drivers. The best way to do this is to look at the manual and any included software. You may also find software downloads for your specific model on your camera manufacturer's website.

A cursory Internet search for your camera model and webcam (for example, "GoPro hero 3 webcam") should tell you what you need to know. If tutorials start to recommend recording cards and HDMI adapters, it is unlikely that your camera can be used as a webcam via regular old USB.

Once you have downloaded and installed drivers, your camera should be recognized as a recording device by your Windows. or Mac computer. You can then choose it as an input device in the applications you want to use, including Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype, Discord or FaceTime.

If your camera doesn't support webcam mode, don't fret. Some action cameras and compact point-and-shoots support this feature, but most mirrorless and DSLRs don't. You have other options.

Method 2: Use a third party app

If your camera is supported, you can use a third party application to turn your DSLR, prosumer or compact camera into a webcam. The Windows-only Sparkocam works with a wide variety of Canon cameras as well as a small number of Nikon cameras.

Unfortunately Sparkocam has its problems. A Redditor noted "it's bulky and full of bloatware." Another commented that he or she cannot remove "sparko cam (sic) demo" from the computer. Another said he or she "tried to use eos and Sparkocam, but I'm not satisfied with how slow the video is."

Based on our research, there are currently no alternatives to Sparkocam and it is pricey. There are separate versions for Canon and Nikon, one that supports both and another that focuses on the app's other features such as green screen and filters. A single user license for your system of choice is $ 50 ($ 70 if you want to use both Nikon and Canon systems).

It is difficult to recommend Sparkocam, but for some people there may not be an alternative. So if you are in this boat, you are using Windows and you have no other alternatives then Sparkocam is the best choice. Before buying the app, you may want to read on and consider the HDMI route first.

Method 3: Use an HDMI to USB Adapter

For a serious installation, you can't beat HDMI recording. This technique takes a raw, uncompressed video feed from your mirrorless or DSLR camera and turns it into a USB webcam feed. The quality is unbeatable, but you need a few extra pieces of equipment to make it work.

You must first ensure that your camera is compatible with your chosen capture device. Many cameras offer a clean HDMI output for use with external recorders, meaning no overlay or camera settings are visible on the screen.

If your camera has an HDMI output (or mini HDMI output), you're halfway there. To test this, connect your camera to a regular TV or monitor and try to find a "clean" output mode. If you're still not sure, search your model on the Internet and see what others have found.

To capture video, you need a capture device that converts an HDMI input to USB. The best known of these devices is the Elgato Cam Link 4K. This little dongle works with Mac and Windows computers and costs about $ 130. Once connected, the camera will show up as a recording device and you can use it as a webcam in your favorite apps.

Before buying, make sure your camera is on Elgato's list of supported cameras. You can also search the Internet for your make and model to see if others have been successful. The Cam Link 4K supports a resolution of up to 4K or 1080p at 60 frames per second. You can use almost any HDMI recording device for this, but the Cam Link 4K is purpose built (and cheaper).

Elgato is not the only company producing HDMI to USB recording devices. You can find all kinds of cheap knockoffs on Amazon (like this one); just search "HDMI to USB video recording" or something similar. Unfortunately, these cheaper devices lack the support and shine you get from a company like Elgato. They may be unreliable and have poor driver support, so be sure to read the reviews before saying goodbye to your money.

If you can afford the hardware, you will get the best results with an HDMI recording setting. Since you use a mirrorless or digital SLR camera, you also have the freedom to choose a flattering lens.

Don't Forget a Microphone

In-camera microphones are only marginally better than having no sound at all. They are tinny, poorly positioned, too quiet, and often pick up extra noise from the lens focus mechanism. Do yourself a favor and buy a microphone for your desk.

If that's too much, use headphones or earphones with a connected microphone. A bad microphone close to your face will sound better than the one mounted above your monitor. Some computers, such as Macs, come with passable microphones, which may also work. However, other computers have pretty bad built-in microphones with poor sound quality.

For best results, invest in an XLR microphone. Alternatively, a USB microphone can do the job well.

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