Many people have a DSLR camera at home while using low-quality built-in webcams for video calls. That camera has the potential to gain additional functionality as a great webcam to improve your video quality.
Whether you’re looking your best on conference calls or while streaming live, here’s how to use your DSLR as a webcam.
Method 1 – Set up your DSLR as a webcam via USB
The easiest and most convenient way to set up your DSLR as a webcam is through a USB connection, but few cameras support this option.
How to set up a USB connection
Check your camera manufacturer’s website to determine if you can use this option, as well as what settings to adjust on your camera to do so.
If your camera supports this option, simply adjust the required settings, install any necessary software, and connect your camera to your computer via USB.
The benefits of using USB
First of all, you don’t need any additional hardware other than a micro USB or USB-C cable. Additionally, most USB webcam setups also allow for simultaneous charging, which simplifies your setup; just make sure your USB cable also supports data transfer.
Method 2: Turn your DSLR into a webcam with a capture card
Any camera with some sort of HDMI output works with a capture card, which is a device that converts a video signal like HDMI to a data standard like USB. Check out our detailed explanation of how a capture card works for more information.
How to set up a capture card with your DSLR
To use a capture card with your camera, first make sure the camera has a clean HDMI output, which means no text or interface on the HDMI output. Check your camera manual for exact settings, but below is a demo example using the Sony a6600.
Hit Menu, then go to the Setting section. On the third page, go to HDMI setup.
Place HDMI Information Show to Off.
Then set the camera to video or movie mode and make sure you have the correct HDMI cable. We have a full size HDMI to micro HDMI cable for the Sony a6600.
Finally, connect the HDMI cable to the camera and capture card, and connect the capture card to your computer via USB.
Most USB capture cards are UVC, or USB Video Device Class, which means that in most cases, your capture card is plug-and-play and requires no additional software or drivers. However, still consider checking the capture card manufacturer’s site for additional setup instructions or features that may require additional installation.
The benefits of using a capture card
First, unlike USB, capture cards do not allow loss of video quality. Many cameras are limited by USB data bandwidth, like the Sony ZV-1, which is capped at 720p over USB but can output its full 4K30 via a capture card.
Capture cards also allow for greater compatibility: many cameras can’t output video over USB, but can output video over HDMI.
The best capture card options
For any capture card you consider, make sure it meets the video specifications of the camera you plan to use. If you plan to use a 4K30 camera as a webcam, make sure the capture card supports 4K30 video inputs.
The most trusted capture card providers are Elgato and AVerMedia. Elgato’s CamLink 4K and AVerMedia’s Live Streamer CAP 4K are the two best, small and reliable options for most people at around $100 each.
There are numerous affordable but unreliable options in the $10-30 range on Amazon, but for their lack of customer support and unreliability, explore them at your own risk.
How to use your camera as a webcam in apps
If you connect your camera via USB, you should see the camera name as video capture or camera source in the apps. If you are using a properly configured capture card, you should see the name of the capture card.
Below is where to check Zoom, but you can use this setting in FaceTime on a Mac, or in any app that uses your webcam.
Also, if your camera has any camera settings related to heat sensitivity, consider disabling them to prevent premature shutdown; however, most cameras will not be damaged by heat indoors.
With the Sony a6600, click MenuGo to the Setting section, and on page two, state Automatic shutdown Temp. to High.
If you’re not sure which lens is right for this setup, start with a wide-angle lens.
The only major drawback to this setup is that the cameras are simply less convenient to install on a desktop than webcams, since you can’t mount your camera to your monitor like a webcam. You may need a small tripod such as a Joby GorillaPod to position it correctly.
Why you should use your camera as a webcam
This setup may seem cumbersome or unnecessary, but it does have some notable benefits.
First, a DSLR will completely dwarf almost any webcam in terms of image quality thanks to its larger sensor. For comparison, below is a 4K wide-angle webcam, the AVerMedia PW515:
And here’s the Sony a6600 with an 11mm f/2.8 lens at 4K:
Also, if you already have a DSLR camera, it’s more affordable to buy a $100 capture card for your camera than a $300 high-end webcam.
Bring your team to life
This guide to using your DSLR as a webcam is useful for creators looking to improve the quality of their webcam, but it’s more impactful for techies hoarding gear that might be out of use. This is one way to make the best use of the equipment you already have!