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Webcams not in stock? Use your phone camera instead



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Coronavirus locks, quarantines, and on-site orders mean you're likely to spend a lot more time talking to colleagues, family, and friends through video chat and meeting apps such as Skype Microsoft Teams or Zoom (PS here are 1

3 top zoom tips but beware of the privacy and security concerns such as Zoombombing ). If the webcams you've viewed are out of stock or you just don't want to buy a new one, you can simply use your fancy smartphone camera and make your own.

As long as the smartphone you are using is no more than a few years old, image quality should be better than your laptop's standard camera, more functional and easier to place, so you don't film your double chin or your nose upright.

Here's how to turn your phone into a webcam for free.

You don't even need a webcam app

A dedicated webcam app (more below) has special features, but you don't need to use your phone camera for video chats.

You can also just launch the app of your favorite video chat service, such as Zoom, Skype or FaceTime and chat directly there. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that your video quality is the best possible. Read more!

Read more: Best home video chat kit: webcams, lights, microphones and more


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Search and download the right webcam app for Android or iPhone

There are dozens of free and paid apps that can turn your workhorse smartphone into a webcam.

Webcam Apps for Android Phones

Tried IP Webcam (Free or $ 4 for the Pro version), DroidCam (Free or $ 5 for the Pro version) and EpocCam Webcam (Free or $ 5 for the Pro version). DroidCam had the most clear instructions within the app, but only works with Windows or Linux machines. The same was true for IP Webcam.

Since I use a Mac, I chose EpocCam Webcam.

Webcam Apps for iPhones

I tried EpocCam Webcam (free or $ 8 or $ 20 for the professional versions), iCam ($ 5) and iVCam (free). They were all fairly easy to set up once you found the how-to pages on their websites. EpocCam and iCam work for Windows or MacOS machines, while iVCam works for iPhone users with Windows computers, not Macs. (Update: Another option is the NDI HX Camera app, which used to cost $ 20, but is now free and iPhones can be used as HD webcams.)

For any webcam app

Whatever you download , read the privacy policy, install it and follow the instructions to connect it to your computer (you may need to download a driver or run it through a browser or other viewer). You will be asked to allow the app to access your camera and microphone.

Caution

If you use the app regularly, your phone battery may run out so you may want to connect your phone to an external power bank or place your setup near a power outlet if you find you need a fee.

Read more: Ultimate webcam tips: looking great and sounding great online

Use your phone's main camera

Your phone's main camera produces a higher quality image than the selfie camera , and with more zoom and focus options. The iPhone 11 Samsung Galaxy S20 and many other premium smartphones have a sharper resolution at 1080p than the latest MacBook models which has a built-in 720p webcam. for best results when using your phone as a webcam, use that rear camera instead of the front camera.

The webcam apps and video chat apps often allow you to select options such as video resolution, quality and orientation, as well as focus, white balance and color effects.

Stabilize Your Phone

Avoid cramping your arm and don't hit an unflattering angle by stabilizing your phone on a tripod, stand or table base. This will give you the least shaky and most professional looking results. (CNET recommends this $ 37 mini tripod from Manfrotto.)

Provide some lighting

Whether you work in a home office, at your kitchen table or on your bed you'll have some need good lighting to make your face look bright, eliminate shadows and maybe hide some wrinkles. Consider buying a ring light. (CNET recommends this $ 30 base model, which comes with 36 LEDs, a clip stand, and three light modes.)

Invest in a microphone

Your AirPods ($ 159 at Apple) or a other headphones with a built-in microphone will get the job done, but if you use your new DIY webcam to record something professionally, you should invest in a good microphone. (CNET recommends this Blue Yeti USB microphone for $ 130 or this Shure MV88 + video kit with digital stereo condenser microphone for $ 249.)

These tips should help you create a better home office and video conference setup, now just about each meeting is a video meeting – and it may help you find a new use for your old phone. For more ways to repurpose your older phones, go to Turn your old phone into a home security camera for free and Find new applications for that old Android phone or iPhone .


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