Using a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera as a Webcam

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Zoom, Hangouts, BlueJeans, Slack, and Teams. These are words that have taken on a whole new significance over the past few weeks. With so many of us now relying on livestreaming, video chat, and video conferences, the quality of connection and the quality of your image is increasingly important. It may be time to upgrade from the camera in your computer or the basic webcam that has been dangling off the side of your monitor for all these years. Joking aside, appearing clear, in focus, and well-lit is crucial when impressions are being made, whether that be for work situations or catching up with family and old friends. Fortunately, it’s very easy to turn your compatible DSLR or mirrorless camera into a high-quality webcam.

EOS Webcam Utility Beta Software

Canon has made it quite simple to use many of its EOS DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and recent PowerShot cameras as a webcam for video conferencing with its new EOS Webcam Utility Beta Software. The free software, compatible cameras, and instructions to install are located here and you’ll only need your camera and a USB cable. After you install the software, you will have to restart your computer, but the plug-and-play set-up process is not complicated. Be aware that this beta software is not yet available for Mac systems and is supported only for U.S.- based users.

First, set your camera to Movie mode, and set the exposure to your liking (brighter for work meetings and dark and moody for a Zoom date?), then plug the USB cable into the compatible camera and into a USB port on your computer. Once the connection has been established, go to your preferred video meeting app, click camera settings, and open EOS Webcam Utility Beta and you are ready to go.

The improved imaging from a DSLR or mirrorless camera will be apparent immediately, but the advantages extend beyond just resolution quality. With zoom capability or with a selection of lenses and utilizing basic exposure adjustments, one can create a specific and more functional look. For example, use a wide-angle lens to include several folks in the screen image or a fish-eye lens for fun, or perhaps, macro to demonstrate details of an object. You can also adjust aperture for “cinematic,” shallow depth of field that will blur out the background and keep the viewer concentrated on your sharp features. Importantly, if your camera has tracking focus, the focus will adjust to stay on your face even when you lean back or move in.

One tip for EOS users, if your camera has “Highlight Tone Priority” built into it, turning it on while video conferencing or livestreaming could help bring out details when your overall scene is too bright.

Via HDMI

Canon doesn’t get to have all the fun. For any brand of camera that has clean HDMI output, there is another high-quality option. To clarify, “clean” HDMI refers to video output that does not contain any of the onscreen data indicators normally seen in the viewfinder or LCD, so your image appears on screen without all the setting numbers and letters surrounding your head.

To set this up, in addition to the compatible camera with a fully charged battery, you will need an HDMI cable, a video capture device or card, and the software that will recognize the signal from your camera and HDMI video-capture device. This part is crucial, because the capture device is what converts video signals into digital data compatible with your computer. And no, the HDMI output on your computer won’t work. Start by plugging in the HDMI cable to the video capture card, the other end of the HDMI cable into the port in your camera and the USB cable from the capture card into your computer.

Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder
Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder

After turning on your camera and switching it to movie mode, you will need to go into your camera’s menu and enable the clean HDMI, at whichever resolution you prefer or is compatible with your device. One thing to be aware of is to disable the “Auto Power Off” setting so your camera does not turn off in the middle of a conference. As mentioned, live video will burn through a battery charge, so, for long video conferences, either have a spare battery handy or use a compatible AC power adapter. Also, be aware that if your camera is in autofocus mode, the focus points might appear on your video feed.

Once your cables are hooked up, you will need to download and open a livestreaming software application such as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) or XSplit. The software should recognize your camera system and give you the option to establish it as the video capture device, do so and then simply set your web conferencing or livestreaming software to recognize your camera as the capture device, and you are set to go.

Using a DSLR or mirrorless camera with clean HDMI capability creates a high-quality image for live video and Canon now offers its easy-to-use beta software for using a USB connection. There is non-proprietary software available for other cameras from other manufacturers, as well.

Accessories to Improve the Image

Whether you are using Canon or another brand of camera, the imaging capabilities of a quality camera will outshine a typical webcam immediately. However, you should be cognizant of a few things to create a look that best suits your needs. For starters, where will you place the camera? If it’s possible to place the DSLR behind your monitor, this is one option, but be careful it’s not so high as to create an awkward angle. Some people prefer the camera slightly below or to the side of the monitor for a more flattering view of your face. Depending on the size of your camera, a tabletop tripod might serve that function easily—just check its weight capacity before purchase. For larger cameras and more adjustable placement, consider grip options such as a magic arm that can clamp to your monitor or a light stand next to your desk. There is a range of options for placing your camera near your computer, including devices that won’t scratch or damage wood, such as The Green Pod, but do not place the camera too low, no one needs to know how many nose hairs you’re sprouting.

The Green Pod Camera Platform
The Green Pod Camera Platform

Lighting is also important. A flattering light set up can be created with household or desk lamps, but affordable LED options can really improve your look and enable brightness and color temperature adjustments that will serve you as the natural light in your home (or your mood) changes through the day. Small LED light kits can be placed on your desk or attached to your camera’s hot shoe mount.

Genaray LED-7100T 312 LED Variable-Color On-Camera Light
Genaray LED-7100T 312 LED Variable-Color On-Camera Light

Whatever lighting source you choose, consider the angle of the light and brightness. If possible, it’s better to avoid mixed lighting sources, for example, daylight on one side of your face and a warm incandescent bulb giving a yellow glow to the other side of your face. If you use a desk lamp that is very bright or directional, consider using a kind of diffusion for more balanced lighting or bouncing the light off of a nearby white wall. In general, placing the light or lights at eye level off to the side of your monitor is acceptable, and avoid lighting that is directly above your head or coming up from below unless heavy shadows or a horror film aesthetic is desired. Also remember that with longer cables and camera support, you don’t necessary have to sit in front of your monitor.

A final thought is to consider audio. Simple advice involves muting your microphone when you are not speaking to prevent folks hearing background noise or an inappropriate comment. Also remember that a hard floor and open space will create unwanted echo, so consider using rugs or rooms with drapes if that is problematic. Be sure to check the audio levels on your computer and within the apps you’re are using. In general, a mid-range setting is appropriate for standard conversations.

The audio provided by a DSLR’s built-in microphone is arguably better than that from your computer, but an external microphone will certainly improve the quality in each of these cases. Many DSLR cameras have an input for an external microphone and numerous desktop USB microphones are available and very simple to install. Also, a range of lavalier microphones, which can be clipped to your shirt, will improve your conversational audio output.

As we are realizing, the days of work from home, video conferencing, and livestream events will be common practice for the foreseeable future, so now is the time to consider using the quality cameras you have and perhaps investing in affordable accessories to create webcam solutions for improved communication with friends, family, and colleagues.

Use the Comments section, below, to suggest any solutions you have used to improve your video conferencing.

40 Comments

I have a Nikon D5600 that I bought from B&H. I am trying to use it as a webcam. The HDML output is working well with Camlink. I'm feeding it into Zoom on a Mac. The problem I'm having is that the camera shuts down after 30 minutes. I have not found a solution on the internet to keep it active for longer periods without having to press a button on the camera. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks.

We're sorry that you're having this issue. In the custom settings under c2, you can set the auto shut off to a custom time.

I contacted Nikon USA concerning your inquiry.  According to Nikon, this is normal when using the Nikon EN-EL14a Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery included with the purchase of the Nikon D5600 DSLR Camera.  In order to prevent the camera from shutting down, you need to connect and power it from an AC outlet using the Nikon EH-5d AC AdapterB&H # NIEH5D

Hi I have a Panasonic Lumix G9. I use a Macbook so can't get the teher to work. I have updated the camera firmware. I want to use the camera for live DJ streams. Can you advise what I would need to connect to OBS without the power going halfway through. What hardware and software would I need?

Hi Lee - 

Make sure all updates have been downloaded .

LUMIX Tether for Streaming (Beta)

Panasonic offers beta software program for PC to enhance the usability.
Updated(14, July, 2020) : Software for Mac is also available.
Updated (30 September, 2020) : An all-in-one LUMIX Webcam Software (Beta) for Windows/Mac has been released.

Panasonic releases “LUMIX Tether for Streaming (Beta)” software program for Windows/Mac
integrating new LIVE VIEW mode for live streaming purpose

Panasonic announced the release of “LUMIX Tether for Streaming (Beta)” on June 8, 2020. The beta software program for Windows/Mac is derived from conventional “LUMIX Tether (Ver.1.7)” with an additional display option for the cases where this software is used for live streaming purposes. It may help user convenience in the growing self-streaming opportunities.

As “LUMIX Tether” is a software program originally designed for tethered shooting, GUIs such as a focus area mark as well as control panels are displayed with live view images on the PC monitor during USB tethering. However, these graphic items become a hindrance when the software is used to capture camera view for live streaming. In response to the demands of customers to resolve this issue, LIVE VIEW mode has been added on “LUMIX Tether for Streaming (Beta)”. It enables displaying camera view only, making it easy for the separate streaming software to read it. Users can choose to show or hide these graphic items during USB tethering according to the usage purpose.

I am about to start using my Canon EOS 80D as my webcam with a EF-S 17-55mm lens. I'd ideally like to be able to capture a bit more background in the shot and I'm wondering if there's a better lens for this. Thank you. 

Hi Sam,

A wide angle zoom would help in this case, such as the Tokina atx-i 11-16mm f/2.8 CF Lens for Canon EF, BH # TO111628CFC.

https://bhpho.to/2XnTeuA

 

How can I set up my old Lumix DMC-GX8 as a webcam? It's not on Panasonic's tether list. Will they be updating their list soon? Is there a good capture card for mac option?

While the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera is not supported by the new Panasonic Lumix Tether for Streaming software, the camera does offer clean HDMI output.  As such, you may use an HDMI capture card such as the Magewell USB Capture HDMI Plus, B&H # MA32040, the Elgato Cam Link 4K, B&H # ELCL4KGCD, or the Atomos Connect 4K, B&H # ATOMCON001, to connect your DMC-GX8 to your computer for use as a live streaming web camera.  You may use streaming platform software such as OBS Studio, Zoom, Whereby, or similar for your streaming usage needs.

Hello, i hesitate between a lumix fz82 or fz1000 for stream but i want to stream by the usb, not by hdmi, is it possible ? 

Panasonic does offer their Lumix Tether for Streaming software which will allow for connection via USB. However, compatibility for the the cameras you mentioned have not yet been added. It is possible that they may add this compatibility in the future, but no announcements have been made just yet on their end. 

can we use any dslr for day longer live streaming

If using a DSLR with specific webcam software like those from Canon for example, you can operate the camera longer than the battery would normally allow by using a specific AC adapter or a dummy battery connected to a USB power bank. These options vary greatly depending on the camera model. We suggest reaching out via our Live Chat feature on the B&H website today until 1PM or Sunday 10AM-5PM ET so we can go over your options. 

Is there a list of cameras that can be used as webcam and bypasses the 30 minute rule? This list does not have to be extensive but the latest Canon or Sony models? or where do I find if a particular camera model is limited or not?

Canon Mirrorless cameras tend to still have a 30 minute recording limit.  However newer Sony cameras, like the A6600, do not have such a limit.

https://bhpho.to/3ard4KI

Hello!
I have a Lumix-tz60 camera and I would like to use it as a webcam. Do you know if it is possible?
Thanks

That is an older camera, more than likely it is not possible.

Hi B&H,
I have an old LUMIX DMC-GH1. Is it possible to use it as a streaming webcam?
;-) /Benny

Hi Benny,

Unfortunately, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1 lacks a clean HDMI output, therefore it cannot be used as a streaming webcam. 

I have a Sony a6100.  I use it with Imaging Edge Desktop and Camtwist in order to provide video to Zoom (on a Mac).  I use a virtual background in Zoom.  The Sony a6100 is cropped so I think that is why I do not get the full background image.  Is there anything I can do to get more of the virtual image to show up (on right and left side at least)?

Hello.  I am using a Nikon Z6 with a Rode Video Mic and the Pengo 4k HDMI grabber for zoom.  The audio doesn't pass through the HDMI...  should it?  Does audio pass through in normal situations?  Thank you

We are sorry to hear about any issues you are facing.  Please email us at [email protected] so that we may better help you trouble shoot any problems you are facing.

Sony cameras overheat. Not suitable for this at all. A6000 or A7RII.

The overheating issue is a little overblown in this situation. Most of the heat generated is when the camera is actually recording and saving to the memory card, if you are using the HDMI output you can record for extended periods of time. Even an RX100 with it's native 5 minute time limit will record for well over an hour using it's HDMI output, I've done it. (I also tested overheating of the a7R III back at release and only had an issue on a 90 degree day leaving it recording in direct sun for 20 minutes after shooting with it for burst images and video for a couple hours).

I agree.  I use my Sony a6100 for more than 8 hours straight in a day on Zoom/Teams, etc.  and it is not even warm.  

The ability of Canon cameras to function as webcams is very interesting.  A number of the supported cameras accept audio input from stereo external microphones, or with appropriate cables, two mono microphones.  As far as I know, Zoom and Skype only accept mono audio signals. Does the EOS Webcam Utility Beta  software support mixing the stereo audio signal to mono?  Otherwise the audio from one channel will be lost.

Unfortunately the EOS Webcam Utility Beta doesn't support audio from the camera (at least not yet).

Meanwhile, instead of the 5D, I am using C100 Mk II as a webcam. I can stream the clean HDMI out to the BM Web Presenter all-day long, no problem. My audio has to be connected to the C100 line input (not the Web Presenter line in) in order to maintain lip-sync. This makes for a fantastic cinema-quality webcam. BUT, as Canon ALWAYS has to put up some kind of roadblock to move you up to more expensive models, for the C100 it is the face-tracking DPAF: as long as I use the plastic STM lenses with vignetting, I can enable real-time face-tracking which works really well (except for the vignetting part). If I put an L-series lens on the C100, it disables the real-time DPAF face-tracking.

Love the idea here, using a real cinema camera for a webcam.

The main problems I have had trying to use 5D iv as a webcam, is that it shuts-off after 30 minutes if there is no user interaction with the camera. Most of my video conference calls are longer than this.  In addition, Canon chose to block 29.97 FPS from the HDMI output. Only 23.98, or 59.94 are available. So I use a Blackmagic DesignWeb Presenter to create the USB stream from the 59.94. Now Canon releases firmware for this, but is not supporting Mac on the beta version?? come-on - they always mange to put up some kind of roadblock to usability. Will these other issues be addressed by the new webcam utility?

Eric... thanks for these hands-on comments, very useful. I'm keeping an eye on the Canon updates for news when Mac will be supported and will pass that on.  Is there not an "Auto-power Off" option on your 5D IV?

I've been wondering about the 30 min cutoff, too. It's not a function of auto-off...it's a function of 30 min limit on video recording, correct? Isn't this an issue with all DSLRs or mirrorless cameras? Or is it not an issue with direct streaming via HDMI?

The 30 minute recording limit is an issue with most DSLR/mirrorless cameras when shooting the video internally. There are some cameras that are able to record pass 30 minutes internally as well. Models with the 30 minute limit on them that have a clean HDMI output would get the unlimited recording when using an external recorder. It really depends on the camera model.

As a Mac user, what options are available?

I downloaded the Windows 10 64-bit EOS Webcam Utility Beta  software this evening and purchased a long USB interface cable at the Canon USA store.  It's Beta software, which means it's still a test version (some 'bugs'may remain to be found by the 'beta testers") so I expect they'll start on the Apple/Mac OS from the cleaned Windows version.  Keep poking around  the Canon USA Support site...  

My EOS 70D wasn't in the compatibility listing, but the 60D and 80D were, but the USB adapter cable lists all three so I'm crossing fingers and toes.   

Hi yo, Silver, away!  Who was that mask'ed man?  That was the Lone Ranger!     Good luck in your endeavors.  

What I use for a non-canon camera might be a bit overkill for you tastes, but I think you can find some more cost-efficient solutions.  I have a Magewell USB Capture 4K plus; zoom and Facetime find it just fine as a camera source.  I suspect the same would be true of the above-mentioned Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder .  The B&H page for an IOGEAR HDMI -> USB converter says that it's plug and play for the mac; B&H part number BH #IOGUV301.  I also have a professional audio interface, that I can mark as system input using audio-midi setup.  (The one I have is a metric halo ULN-8, but I've been doing professional sound recording work for 25 years; a much cheaper audient evo4 would work as well just for web streaming; or you could use one of the zoom recorders as a USB interface + mic.  The magewell also shows up in audio-midi setup as a candidate for system sound input; and my guess is that the IOGEAR device would also if your camera has a built-in microphone.

Thanks for helpful comment Keith.

I found instructions for using Camera Live and Camtwist to enable Canon DSLRs to be used as a webcam on a Mac:

The issue I've found is that Zoom 4.6.8 is the last version to support Camtwist. It appears that with Zoom 4.6.9 and newer versions, it simply doesn't recognize Camtwist anymore. Zoom 5.0+ is about to be required for all calls starting June 1st as it provides an important GCM encryption update, so don't rely on this solution if you are using Zoom. MS Teams still works with it, however.

It appears the article link by Jared Stanley that I posted has been removed. It can be found by searching online for "medium using dslr webcam mac".

Also, Zoom recently announced that they will be reinstating virtual camera support in Zoom 5.0.4 for macOS, but I tried that version and it still doesn't appear to work with Camtwist. If they are able to resolve this, then the combination of Zoom, Camtwist, and Camera Live would once again be a nice, free solution for using a Canon DSLR as a webcam on a Mac.

Arthur: A few livestreaming software compatible with Mac are OBS Studio, Telestream, and Wirecast.  Thanks

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