Whether you’re a content creator looking to take your live streaming to the next level or someone who wants to conduct online meetings with crisp, professional quality, swapping your webcam for a DSLR could be the answer you’re looking for. Today we’ll talk about the tools needed to use your DSLR as a webcam. This guide is intended for those who already own a DSLR, but those who are thinking about purchasing a DSLR specifically to use for streaming will also benefit from the information provided.
Why Use a DSLR as a Webcam?
While there are some great webcams on the market, such as the tried and trusted Logitech C920 or the popular StreamCam, professional creators are turning to DSLRs to achieve the desirable “blurred background” aesthetic (commonly referred to as “Bokeh”). But don’t throw out your webcam just yet - you can use it in conjunction with a DSLR to create multiple camera angles to add visual interest to your livestreams.
The video quality produced by a good DSLR is simply unmatched. However, there are some cons to using a DSLR instead of a webcam:
- DSLRs are very expensive when compared to standard webcams.
- DSLRs are bulky and heavy.
- Additional hardware or software is usually required.
- Older cameras may not be equipped for webcam use.
How to Check if Your DSLR is Suitable for Streaming
If you want to use a Canon camera as a webcam, the quickest way to check if your camera is compatible is to visit the EOS Webcam Utility page. This software allows you to use a Canon DSLR as a webcam and does not require a capture card. Scroll down until you see the listing of camera models and click on your specific model to go to the software download page. It’s important to note that at the time of writing, the Canon G7X Mark II (not a DSLR but a compact camera), once hailed as the most popular camera for vloggers, cannot be used as a webcam. The good news is that the EOS Webcam Utility software is compatible with Streamlabs Desktop. With the two applications, you can create beautiful, high quality streams with ease.
Like Canon, you simply need to download free software to use a Sony DSLR as a webcam. With the Imaging Edge Webcam Software and the USB cable that came with your camera, you can be ready to stream, host a live podcast through Talk Studio, or have a quick chat with a friend in a matter of minutes. You will need an external microphone, such as the bestselling Blue Yeti because you cannot use the camera’s built-in mic with the Imaging Edge Software. The software is compatible with both Windows and Mac systems.
To use a Nikon DSLR as a webcam, you guessed it, you need to download Nikon’s software - Nikon Webcam Utility. Currently, there are 21 Nikon cameras that are compatible with this software. You will also need an external microphone (required) and Nikon recommends a constant lightsource for optimum results. Like the other brands, you will only need a USB cable - no capture card required.
You’ll want to research your specific camera to see if it can be used as a webcam. Right now Olympus and Panasonic offer their own software and Fujifilm released a firmware update that allows you to use your mirrorless camera as a webcam without any additional software. A wide variety of DSLR and compact cameras, especially newer models, are coming equipped for webcam use without any special hardware. This is a trend that will likely continue as streaming and working from home are becoming more popular.
Cameras produce analog signals, which computers cannot read. Therefore, unless you have special software from your camera’s manufacturer, you need a device to convert the signal from analog to digital. If you’ve looked into streaming Nintendo Switch gameplay on your PC, you’re likely familiar with capture cards already.
Popular brands for capture cards include Elgato and Mirabox, with Elgato’s Cam Link being a strong favorite. These products aren’t necessarily cheap however, so it is really important to see if your camera is compatible before purchasing. If you aren’t absolutely sure your camera can be used as a webcam, we recommend doing further research for your specific model through Google or YouTube.
“Clean HDMI Out?”
When using a standard DSLR or mirrorless camera, you will notice all sorts of text on the camera screen, including ISO speed, aperture value, shutter speed, etc. If your camera has what is referred to as “Clean HDMI Out,” it means that you will be able to remove this text when streaming. If your camera does not have clean HDMI out, the viewfinder text will show up on your video feed. Since you’re likely using a DSLR to improve your video quality, having a bunch of random text on the screen would definitely defeat the purpose.
How to Stream with a DSLR
It is very easy to set your camera up for streaming, especially if you’re using Streamlabs Desktop.
- First, open the software and click the “+” sign to add a new source.
- Select “Video Capture Device” and then “Add Source.
- Click on “Add a New Source Instead” since this is the first time you’re setting up your DSLR or mirrorless camera. Then name your source.
- Since I’m using a capture card, I selected MiraBox Capture. If you downloaded software for your camera such as the Canon EOS Webcam Utility, you should see it listed as an option as well.
- Your camera is set up and ready for streaming!
As you can see, the camera I used (Canon G7X Mark II) gives a beautiful image, but it is not clean HDMI out. The white text will remain on screen while filming, meaning that I can’t really use this camera for live streaming. For set up demonstrations however, it does the job.
Important Things to Remember
- Be sure that your camera does not have an “auto off” timer otherwise it will shut off after a certain amount of time.
- Beware of overheating - this is a common concern when DSLRs are used as webcams.
- As mentioned previously, separate microphones are usually required.
- A desk clamp may be better than a tripod, as a tripod can easily be knocked over.
- Make sure your camera can be connected to AC power while you’re streaming, otherwise your battery may run out.
A DSLR or mirrorless camera is a substantial investment item and should be thoroughly researched before purchasing. If you’re looking to become a full time creator, a DSLR can really take your content to the next level. But if you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to whip out the credit card and buy all of the gear that your favorite creators use. Remember that it’s ok to start small (your favorite creator most likely did!). If you happen to own a DSLR already, now you know that with a few simple tools, you can easily incorporate it into your daily work and creative pursuits.