I know that you have had to go onto Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet video calls recently. I just do. And how is that webcam of yours holding up? Is it working? Blurry? Making you look like a holdover from a mid-2000s music video?
If it is, then it might just be time to invest into a new webcam for your work/personal video calls, but if you already own a DSLR camera that your proud of and want to get more use out of in these crazy times of isolation, then you could be in luck, as its perfectly possible for you to hook your DSLR up to your PC to use as a webcam.
Want to know how? I bet that’s why your reading. So, here we go.
Alright, first things first is that you need to make sure that the camera you are planning on using as a webcam is actually compatible and capable of working as one. So, an easy way to check is by making sure that your camera has an HDMI out option available to use on it, as this is going to be vital in hooking up your camera feed to your PC so that you can establish a video link.
You might be surprised that some cameras even come with the inbuilt ability to work as a webcam with your PC. In fact, Canon cameras (the modern versions) are now capable of working with your PC and a new app to allow you to use the camera as a webcam with minimum fuss.
The thing is, if you have any camera that isn’t a recently released Canon, you are going to have to splash a little bit of cash to get your camera hooked up to your PC. Not a big deal, and in a lot of situations you’re going to pay a lot less than you would buying a webcam on its own – and as a bonus, the quality of your camera is going to be way better than anybody else’s on the call.
So, in order to get your PC hooked up to your camera, you are first going to have to make sure that your camera has an HDMI output on it. Not a big requirement, but this output is going to allow you to hook up your camera to a capture card. What is a capture card I hear you ask?
Well, if you are worried about what a capture card is, then all you need to know is that it’s a way of converting an HDMI signal into a USB signal, just so that it can easily be fed into your PC. Usually, these capture cards are a favorite with streamers and YouTubers because it lets them record with their PC easily, and if you are at all familiar with the caliber of some of the YouTubers and streamers out there, then you should know that if they can do it…you can do it.
There are a couple of popular brands of capture cards out there at the moment that you can rely on to deliver decent and consistent video quality. If you’re looking for recommendations, then we can safely say that the Elgato cam link, the Magewell Pro Capture card or the Blackmagic Design Decklink.
Outside of choosing the actual capture card though, there really isn’t a lot to consider when it comes to using your camera as a webcam. You are going to need an HDMI to micro HDMI connector, which isn’t too hard to pick up – then you run that from your camera to your capture card, then connect your capture card to your PC.
Dead easy, and, your PC should do the rest of the work for you, detecting the camera input as an option to use. Just head on into your settings and find the camera settings, and select your capture card as your desired input device. Done and dusted.
Once you have your camera working alongside your PC, you might want to start thinking about the other aspects of using your camera as a webcam that you might have forgotten about – like where the camera is going to sit.
I mentioned before that lots of streamers use external cameras as part of their setups, so you can be sure that there are lots of different options when it comes to positioning your camera. Sure, you can rely on an ad hoc, temporary setup to hold your camera, but there are plenty of other options out there to make sure that you have a professional-grade, steady camera filming you throughout whichever call you have going on.
So, if you want to attach your camera to the top of your monitor or laptop screen there are specialized clamps and attachments to do just that – you can get them off of Amazon, and are relatively easy to set up. Alternatively, you might already have a camera tripod that will work just fine as a camera stand, but in a perfect world, you will want to make sure that your camera is steady when you are using it for work.
Another thing to think about when you are using a DSLR camera as a webcam is that you are going to need a high shutter speed on your camera just to make sure that the image you are projecting out on the Skye, Zoom or whatever call is actually decent quality, and not stuttering slowly behind the audio of the call.
Speaking of video quality, you are also going to need to make sure that you are using a lens suitable for a close-up camera angle that we all use during these calls. And, if you aren’t going to be using a suitable camera lens, then you need to make sure that your camera is set up in a way that makes the best use of the lens you have. Wide-angle lenses are the best but just play around with your cameras framing to make sure you are looking your best on the call.
And then there is the call itself. We all know that sometimes they can drag – so make sure that when you are using your camera you either have a really long battery life on your camera or (probably the safer option) an AC adapter on hand to make sure that you don’t run out of charge partway through your call.
Just common sense really – but its worth remembering that your camera, just like your PC might run hot after extended usage, so be sure to keep an eye on how hot the interior of your camera gets as you use it because the last thing you want is to damage your camera from long calls. Especially if that camera is more expensive than the actual PC you are running it through.
Otherwise, that’s about everything you need to know about using your DSLR camera as a webcam. Got any questions about how to set it up, or on whether your camera is capable of working as a webcam? How about what to use for a microphone if you are depending on a dedicated camera? Let us know in the comments below!
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