If you have been working from home in the past few weeks, you have probably had to participate in more than a few video conference calls. Or maybe you've used video chat apps to keep in touch with friends and family while socializing away. Either way, you've probably noticed that the webcam on your laptop is rubbish. It leads to blurry, grainy video calls and unflattering viewing angles.
There are a few ways to deal with this problem. You could buy a good webcam, but good luck finding a webcam in stock. You could reuse an old smartphone and use it as a webcam if you have one. Either might be slightly better than your laptop's webcam.
But if you really want to step up your video call, you can use a DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam for your computer and have the best looking video. from everyone in your group chat.
So the "easiest" method involves spending some money. Most people probably need some extra hardware that converts a camera's HDMI output into a USB input. These devices are called USB capture cards and generally have $ 100 or more. Thanks to the global pandemic, they are also very difficult to find in stock. But we tested this IOGear model and it works fine. Unlike the popular Elgato Cam Link, the IOGear model is now available at B&H Photo.
You also need an HDMI cable that can be connected to your camera, which probably means a Micro HDMI on the end going to your camera. You can get a full length Micro HDMI cable or an adapter that converts the larger HDMI plug into a Micro HDMI. Once the camera is plugged in, you'll want to enable the 'clean HDMI' output, which will remove all exposure information from the camera and give you an unobstructed video feed. Depending on your camera, you can do this by putting the camera in video mode or by switching an option in a settings menu. Refer to your camera's manual for how to do this on your model.
In addition to the USB recording device or software for your computer, you also want to have a way to mount your camera for video calls. This can be as simple as a standard tripod, but if you want to place the camera above a desktop monitor, like a traditional webcam, it can get a bit more complicated. There are mounts and clamps you can buy to mount the camera on your desk and bring it up to eye level, but you'll just have to figure out how to make it work for your own situation. I have been able to get a GorillaPod to get my monitor arm to work, but it is not the most elegant solution.
Finally, since using your camera as a webcam means that it is in fact on and constantly streaming video to your computer, you have & # 39; we want to buy an A / C adapter to power the camera instead of relying on the batteries. Some cameras can be charged via USB-C battery banks and chargers, while others require special A / C adapters from the manufacturer. You will also want to disable all auto power off functions in the camera. Consult your camera's manual to see what you need.
Other things to watch out for:
- Most webcams have wide angle lenses, so it's easy to stay in the picture. If you want to use this setup mainly for video calls, you will want to use the widest lens you have for your DSLR or mirrorless camera, otherwise your video calls will all be face and you will be constantly out of the picture.  You should also try to use the fastest lens you have. The lower the aperture (the number after the f / on the lens of your camera), the blurrier and more pleasant your background will look. You want to be at least f / 2.8, but if you can go lower, that's better. I set my 16mm Fujifilm lens to the lowest aperture of f / 1.4 for the best effect.
- Your camera probably has some kind of facial recognition autofocus, which you should enable. That way, if you move or move your chair, it will just follow your face to stay sharp. You will likely hear your lens refocus as it tracks you, but chances are people on the other side of your video chats won't hear it.
- Keeping the camera on constantly and feeding live video to your computer for long periods of time Over time, the parts in your camera may become hot and in some cases a camera may turn off if it overheats. It's smart to turn off your camera between calls.
Once you have all the parts, setting up the camera is as easy as plugging the cable into the side of the camera and plugging the other end into the capture card then plug it into your computer and turn your camera on . Both Windows and macOS automatically recognize the camera as a webcam and it is available as an option in Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime or whatever other software you use for video calling. From there, you can simply enjoy the glory of the image quality of your overpriced webcam.