Good webcams can be difficult to find. Fortunately, you can use many digital cameras as improvised webcams. If you have a high-end digital SLR or a mirrorless camera, you will even get a huge increase in video quality for your online meetings.
Using Your Camera as a Webcam
The ability to use the camera as a webcam largely depends on the camera you own. Some compact cameras frame and shoot bundled with proprietary software and drivers that allow you to use them as web cameras.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a less common feature today. However, third party software has emerged that allows you to use many Nikon and Canon cameras for this purpose. However, as you may have guessed, this software is not free.
Modern mirrorless and DSLR cameras that produce a clean HDMI output (i.e. without screen overlays) will give you the best results. Additional hardware is required for this, but should also work with future camera updates.
Accessories You’ll Need
If you plan to use a camera as a webcam, you will need something to mount it, such as a tripod. You will also need a way to power the camera, assuming USB power isn’t an option. For many mirrorless and DSLR cameras, this means buying a “dummy battery”. The fake batteries are located in the battery compartment but connect to the wall.
All these methods require a micro-USB to USB cable (such as the one supplied with the camera) or a mini HDMI- / HDMI-HDMI cable. For our latest (and most effective) solution, you will also need a capture device.
Method 1: Use Your Camera’s Software
The first thing you should 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 all the included software. You can also find software downloads for your specific model on the camera manufacturer’s website.
A quick internet search for your webcam and webcam model (for example, “GoPro Hero 3 webcam”) should tell you what you need to know. If the tutorials start recommending HDMI capture cards and adapters, your camera is unlikely to be used as a webcam via an old USB.
After downloading and installing the drivers, the Windows or Mac camera should recognize the camera as a capture device. Then you can choose it as an input device in any app 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 worry. Some compact cameras for point and shoot support this feature, but most DSLRs and DSLRs do not. You have other options.
Method 2: Use a Third-Party App
If your camera is compatible, you can use a third party application to convert your DSLR, prosumer or compact camera into a webcam. Sparkocam for Windows only works with a wide variety of Canon cameras and also with a limited number of Nikon cameras.
Unfortunately, Sparkocam has its problems. One Redditor noted that “it is cumbersome and full of bloatware”. Another commented that “cannot remove the sparko cam (sic) demo” from the computer. Another shared that “tried to use eos and Sparkocam, but I’m not happy with how slow the video is.”
Based on our research, there are currently no alternatives to Sparkocam and it is expensive. There are separate versions for Canon and Nikon, one that supports both and one that focuses on the other features of the app, such as the green screen and filters. A single user license for your favorite system is $ 50 ($ 70 if you wish to use Nikon and Canon systems).
Sparkocam is difficult to recommend, but for some people there may not be an alternative. So if you are on this boat, use Windows and have no other alternatives, Sparkocam is the best option. However, before purchasing the app, you may want to read and consider the HDMI path.
Method 3: Use an HDMI-to-USB Adapter
For a serious setup, you can’t beat the HDMI capture. This technique takes a raw and uncompressed video feed from your mirrorless camera or DSLR and turns it into a USB webcam feed. The quality is unbeatable, but you will need some additional equipment to make it work.
First of all you will need to make sure that your camera is compatible with the chosen capture device. Many cameras offer a clean HDMI output for use with external recorders, which means that no overlay or camera settings are visible on the screen.
If your camera has an HDMI output port (or mini-HDMI output), it is halfway. To test it, connect your camera to a normal TV or monitor and try to find a “clean” output mode. If you are still not sure, search the web for your model and see what others have found.
Don’t Forget a Microphone
The microphones built into the camera are only slightly better than having no sound. They are tinned, poorly positioned, too quiet and often capture additional sounds from the lens focusing mechanism. Do yourself a favor and grab a microphone for your desk.
If it is too much, use a pair of headphones or earphones with a connected microphone. A faulty microphone near your face will sound better than the one mounted on the top of the monitor. Some computers, such as Macs, are equipped with passable microphones, which may also work. However, other computers include rather poor built-in microphones with poor sound quality.
For best results, invest in an XLR microphone. Alternatively, a USB microphone will also do the job well.