How To Turn a Digital Camera Into a Web Camera?

Piper O'Shanassy05 Mar 2022

With web cameras in limited supply and the need for one increasing because of the rapid demand for remote work during the pandemic, you may be looking at your digital camera and pondering if it's possible to connect it to your PC and gain greater video quality compared to a webcam. The basic explanation is that most cameras don't support this feature on their own. Yes, they have USB connections, but additional software might be required to deliver a digital video signal to videoconferencing applications like Zoom.

The excellent news is that most major camera manufacturers have stepped up their game to fill the gap. You could download software for certain cameras like Sony or Cannon and utilize them as a webcam regardless if you have a Windows laptop or a Mac computer. If you're using a Mac, you'll most likely need Chrome as your browser because Safari does not allow you to select anything other than Mac's integrated FaceTime camera. For machines that aren't compatible, you could add additional hardware to your system, as well as install software or attempt hacks.

How To Use Digital Camera as a WebCam

Cameras, including those in phones, boast resolution and lens specs, but what about laptops? Hardly. There's a good reason why computer manufacturers don't disclose much about the cameras integrated into the bezels of their displays. The majority of these cams are of poor quality, with small sensors and low-cost lenses. Sure, they're adequate for basic videoconferencing, but they're not really outstanding.

Although you could just purchase a stand-alone web camera that plugs through USB, a DSLR or mirrorless camera would provide far greater production value. A few tweaks are required to have this sort of camera be detected as a web camera by your PC, but the effort is well worth it for the increased resolution, far improved low-light performance, and dramatic background blur. To do so, you would need some special hardware or software for your digital camera and PC to work together. Luckily, utilizing your digital camera as a webcam is a simple process if you have the right equipment.

Using Your Digital Camera's Software

The first step is to see if your camera allows this functionality directly via the manufacturer's software or drivers. Looking through the instructions and any accompanying software is the best approach to manage this. You might also be able to locate software downloads for your specific model on the website of your camera manufacturer. A quick online search for your camera model and webcam will tell you all you need to know. If instructions start recommending capture cards and HDMI adapters, it’s doubtful that you can use this digital camera as a USB webcam.

Your camera must be identified as a capture device by your Windows or Mac PC once you've downloaded and installed all necessary drivers. You may then use it as an input device in any program you wish, such as Zoom or Facetime. Don't worry if your camera doesn't support webcam mode. This function is supported by some action cameras and compact point-and-shoot cameras, but not by the majority of mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

Using a Hardware Capture Device

Most PCs are unable to interpret video from a camera's HDMI output. If your machine has an HDMI port, there is most likely an output port as well. Furthermore, although cameras have USB connections, they do not often provide a crisp video signal through these. You would need a device that switches the HDMI feed from your camera to a USB output that your PC recognizes as a linked webcam. The benefit of this configuration is that you could use any HDMI device as an input, from a camera to a gaming console, and also the output could be used for anything from video conferencing to live broadcasting.

However, do note that the device limits the video quality that your machine gets. Even if your camera is capable of shooting 4K video, the USB adapter might only support 1080p output. Considering that so many live streams and videoconferences are limited to 1080p, this is unlikely to be a major issue. There are a variety of hardware devices that can accomplish this. Elgato Cam Link 4K is one example.

How To Set Up Your Digital Camera as a WebCam

These days, webcams are hard to come by.  These unexpected necessities are sold out at major shops, with leftover stock demanding exorbitant rates from third-party vendors. Nevertheless, all is not lost. You could adopt a similar setup with your digital camera.

Here's how to set up your digital camera as a webcam:

  • Install your capture device. If it's USB-based, just insert the USB device into the USB port on your PC.  If it's an internal capture card, start your PC and select the correct PCIe slot for your card.
  • Get your digital camera ready.  Check that your battery is fully charged, or hook your digital camera into an AC adapter. Ensure that you have the right lens mounted to your digital SLR. Switch on your device or set it to Movie or Video mode for digital SLR and point-and-shoot cameras.
  • Connect the capture device and your digital camera.  Insert the HDMI adapter into the camera's micro or small HDMI port, and afterward attach a standard HDMI cable to the adapter. Connect the HDMI cable's opposite end to the capture device.
  • Install and run the program for your capture device. Usually, you'd be able to check if the video stream has already been picked up.
  • Configure your digital camera. Normally, your digital camera provides a plethora of information. If a face is in view, it will typically display a focus box. Since the capture device captures that same output to the camera's integrated screen, it must be decluttered to produce the same effect as a webcam.
  • Place your digital camera on a stand. Place the camera just above the level of your eyes. You could make your DIY stand or use a full-size tripod.
  • Connect your microphone.  Since the inbuilt audio on your digital camera isn't very good, you will sound clearer if you use another input. Plug your earphones, headset, or specialized microphone into your PC through a 3.5mm socket or a USB connection.
  • Change the settings on the videoconferencing application. You can now use video conferencing programs such as Zoom or Skype. All that remains is to test the program and ensure that it is configured to the relevant input and output devices.

Great web cameras might be difficult to come by. Luckily, several digital cameras can be used as improvised webcams. By using your digital camera as a webcam, you'll notice a significant improvement in video quality in your virtual meetings.

Piper O'Shanassy

Piper O'Shanassy

Piper grew up with a love of animals, which quickly turned into a love of photographing them. She shares her tips and tricks on photography, and hopes she can help you shortcut your expansion of a passion.

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