With working from home now the default for many of us, it’s fair to say webcams have been in high demand. But with many of the best models sold out or in short supply, you might have been wondering if you can use your camera as a webcam stand-in – and the answer is most certainly yes.
Of course, your DSLR or mirrorless camera will be far more than a stand-in – its large sensor and superior lens will help take your Zoom, Hangouts or Skype game to a level that will leave your chat window colleagues feeling like low-resolution, green-eyed monsters.
Since we first put this guide together, most of the big camera manufacturers –including Canon, Fujifilm and Panasonic – have released beta software to help you use their cameras as webcams without needing any extra hardware, like a video capture card.
This is a real bonus for those who’ve found the best webcams hard to track down. But with many of these software solutions being beta releases, they come with quite a few limitations, including being Windows-only or only compatible with select models.
That’s why we’ve started this guide with the most foolproof way to use your camera as a webcam – by using an external video capture card like the Elgato Cam Link 4K. As long as your camera can output a ‘clean HDMI’ signal and you have a cable to connect it your computer, this method will work and avoids issues with issues like model compatibility.
But further down the page we’ve also included sections describing which camera manufacturers now have free software solutions and how to use them. It’s certainly worth going to the relevant section first and checking to see if there’s a free software solution that’ll let you use your camera as a webcam.
Before then, though, here’s how to use a video capture card to use your camera as a webcam…
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How to use your camera as a webcam: the foolproof method
Many camera manufacturers have now released beta software solutions to let you use their cameras as webcams without any additional hardware, but these come with various limitations – including only working with select models.
If the options further down this page don’t work for your particular setup, then there is a high-quality alternative – using a video capture card.
This approach comes with bonuses like being able to stream in 4K at 30fps and compatibility with all cameras that have an HDMI output.
To do this, you’ll need three main ingredients:
- A video capture card
- HDMI and USB cables
- Broadcast software (optional)
To really get the best quality video and sound, some other optional accessories include an external microphone, tripod and lights. We have more tips on that further down this page, but here we’re focusing on the basics needed to use your DSLR or mirrorless camera as a webcam.
Before we start, it’s worth noting that your camera needs both an HDMI output and the ability to output a ‘clean’ HDMI signal, which means one that doesn’t include graphic overlays like your frame-rate and autofocus mode. On many cameras, you can remove these either in the settings or just by pressing the ‘info’ or ‘display’ button on the back of the camera.
Ready to get cracking? Here’s how to build your setup.
1.) Get a video capture device
You’ll need a video capture card that supports UVC (or USB Video Class). This is the same protocol that allows webcams to work with the likes of Zoom and Skype.
We went for the Elgato Cam Link 4K, though this is currently quite hard to find right now – in fact, Elgato told us it’s selling out faster than it can make them.
If you can’t track one of those down, it’s worth considering alternatives like the Elgato HD60 S+, Magewell USB Capture HDMI gen 2, and Mirabox Capture Card. Here are some of the best deals available right now.
2.) Hook it up
Tracked down a capture card? Now it’s just a case of connecting it to your camera and laptop. Our Elgato Cam Link 4K didn’t come with the necessary micro HDMI-to-HDMI cable, so it’s worth checking before you buy.
Plug the HDMI output of your camera into the HDMI input on the video capture card, then the latter to your laptop via USB. Check the manual of your video capture device to see if you need any extra drivers. All done? Now you’re ready to move onto the final step.
3.) Get it up and running
If you simply want to turn your camera into a webcam for team meetings, then you shouldn’t need to install any additional software.
Whether you’re using a macOS or Windows computer, your laptop should recognize the camera as a webcam and make it available as an option in your chosen video conferencing app. In our tests, our Fujifilm X-T3 simply appeared as a source option in Google Hangouts.
But if you’d like to tweak your settings or add some effects, you can use OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), which manufacturers like Nikon and Panasonic recommend as the go-to choice for their cameras.
OBS is a free, open source app for Windows, Mac and Linux, and includes advanced features like an audio mixer. Some alternatives to OBS include Streamlabs or Xsplit.
How to use your camera as a webcam: the free options
Our guide above is a broad approach that’ll work with most cameras with an HDMI port, but many manufacturers including Canon, Fujifilm and Panasonic now have beta software available that lets you use your camera as a webcam without the need for any additional hardware.
These come with some caveats, such as only working with certain models, but we’ve included all of these details in each of our guides below so you can see if these free options will work for you.
How to use your Canon camera as a webcam
Canon has released what is probably the most comprehensive software of all the major manufacturers for using your camera as a webcam.
It works with 25 of its cameras (see the full list below) and is now available for both Windows and Mac computers.
While the EOS Webcam Utility Beta is ostensibly for those living in the US, it will work elsewhere – it just isn’t supported outside the US.
If you do have one of the 25 cameras above that the software is compatible with, then the process is pretty straightforward.
Just head to the EOS Webcam Utility Beta page, choose your camera model, select the ‘Drivers and Downloads’ tab followed by ‘Software’, then choose your operating system. You should now see an option to downloaded the EOS Webcam Utility Beta.
Once that’s downloaded, you’ll just need to restart your computer, plug your camera into your laptop via USB, then choose ‘EOS Webcam Utility Beta’ in your video conferencing software’s settings.
How to use your Fujifilm camera as a webcam
Fujifilm recently joined the webcam party by releasing some Windows-only software for some of its X-series and GFX-series cameras.
Called Fujifilm X Cam, it currently works with the Fujifilm X-T2, X-T3, X-T4, X-Pro2, X-Pro3, X-H1, GFX 50S, GFX 50R and GFX100, with the latter opening up the possibility of Medium Format-level Zoom chats.
To get Fujifilm X Cam head to its download page. Fujifilm has also published a full guide to how it works, along with the tutorial video below.
How to use your Panasonic camera as a webcam
The most recent newcomer to the ‘camera as a webcam’ fold, Panasonic’s update to its tethering software lets you use a small number of its cameras for livestreaming or webcam duty.
The Windows-only software – whose full name is ‘Lumix Tether for Streaming (Beta)’ – is only compatible with six of its most recent cameras right now. These are the Panasonic Lumix GH5, G9, GH5S, S1, S1R and S1H.
It’s also slightly more complicated than Canon and Fujifilm’s solutions because you also need to download the open source OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) and OBS-VirtualCam.
Still, if you own one of those compatible cameras and have a Windows computer, the process is relatively simple as the tutorial above shows. To give the software a whirl, head to its download page.
How to use your Nikon camera as a webcam
So far, Nikon hasn’t released any updated software to let you use your camera as a webcam without needing additional hardware. When we did approach Nikon for some advice on how to do this, though, it kindly sent us some detailed tips from Neil Freeman, Training Manager at the Nikon School.
The following tips are based on a similar method to our ‘foolproof’ approach at the top of this page, which means it involves grabbing a video capture card. But this does also mean you can achieve maximum video quality – Neil recommends going for a 4K setting, although it’s worth checking that your computer or laptop has the power to handle the processing.
Once you’ve chosen the video quality (and turned the camera mic off, if you’re going for an external microphone), Neil Freeman suggests switching your Nikon camera into manual mode and doing the following.
The best camera settings
“Choose a low ‘f’ number to give you good separation between yourself and the background. An aperture of f/2.8 or f/4 would be ideal for this,’ says Neil.
“Set the ISO to 64 or 100 depending on the native ISO settings for your camera and turn on Auto ISO. Your shutter speed will depend where you are in the world but will either be 1/50th or 1/60th of a second. You should also turn-off any power or sleep timers that are set on the camera. Focus the camera using either manual focus or face tracking if you have that feature on your camera,” he adds.
Choosing a lens
“This will be determined by the space you have available and the look you want in your broadcast. I would suggest starting with a 24-70mm f/2.8 or f/4 to give you flexibility with the composition and framing of the image,” says Neil.
“You could also consider maybe a 35mm or 50mm f/1.8, but you will need to be very accurate with your focusing if you use them wide open. And as with all prime lenses, you need to think carefully about the framing of the image,” he adds.
Picking a video capture card
Like us, Neil recommends using the Elgato Cam Link 4K, if you can track one down.
But if you can’t find one, there are good alternatives. “I’ve used both the Elgato Cam Link 4K or the Elgato HD60 S+ external video capture devices, which both work well with my Z7,’ he says.
And if you can’t find those, other video capture cards he recommends include the Magewell USB Capture HDMI gen 2 and Mirabox Capture Card.
Although there are alternatives like Xsplit and Streamlabs, Neil is also a fan of OBS for live streaming from a Nikon camera.
“I’m using OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) to process the live video feed from the camera. OBS is a very powerful piece of software which allows you to do a wide range of interesting things such as ‘green’ screen your background,” he says.
There’s not much point in going to town on the video quality of your streams, only to be let down by the audio.
Neil’s setup includes a Yeti USB microphone, the audio signal of which goes into the OBS software to be synced with the video signal. Our best USB microphones guide also recommends the Razer Seiren Elite.
Let there be lights
A DSLR or mirrorless camera’s video quality may be great, but it can only work with the available lighting. If you’re thinking beyond video conferencing towards pro-level streaming for the likes of YouTube and Twitch, then Neil has some lighting tips for you.
“A main front light to illuminate yourself is essential, a LED light panel with a diffuser works well in this situation. Just make sure the light source is large enough relative to you to ensure there are no harsh shadows,’ he says.
“A second light on the background could also be used, as this will add extra depth to the image. If you still have shadows or dark areas in the image, lightning those with small additional fill light is always an option,” Neil adds.
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