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How to use your camera as a webcam: from Canon DSLRs to GoPro action cams

Step up your webcam game with these handy tips

How to use Nikon camera as webcam
(Image: © Nikon)

Webcams have been in understandably short supply recently, which may have left you wondering if you can use your existing camera as a webcam instead. The answer is most certainly yes – and in many cases, you don't need any extra hardware or accessories to set it up either.

With so many of us now working from home and swapping real meeting rooms for video conferencing software like Zoom, Skype and Google Meet, many of the big camera manufacturers have developed beta software that lets you use their cameras as webcams.

Your DSLR or mirrorless camera's large sensor will help take your video conferencing game to the next level, while your GoPro Hero 8 Black – which was recently given webcam powers – has a helpful wide-angle lens that's ideal for homeschooling or fitness instructors who need to get their whole room in shot.

So how do you set it up? This depends on whether you have a Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Fujifilm or GoPro camera, so we've included specific guides for each webcam software solution below. All of these do, though, have limitations of some kind, including the camera models they're compatible with or the platforms they support, such as Mac or Windows.

That's why we've started below with the most foolproof method for using your camera as a webcam – and the one that tends to guarantee you the highest quality –which is using an accessory called a video capture card. 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... 

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.

Elgato Cam Link 4K

(Image credit: Future)

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.

OBS

(Image credit: OBS)

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.

Canon camera as webcam

(Image credit: Canon)

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 software for some of its X-series and GFX-series cameras. Initially Windows-only, it's now available for Macs too, as long as you're running macos 10.12 or later.

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 GoPro camera as a webcam

GoPro is the latest camera manufacturer to join the webcam software party. It solution is a little limited right now, as it only works with the latest GoPro Hero 8 Black and is currently Mac-only (with Windows support "in development"). 

If that's your setup, though, then the process is pretty simple. You just need the camera itself (preferably on a mount), a firmware update, a USB-C cable and the new GoPro Webcam Desktop Utility software.

GoPro Hero 8 Black

(Image credit: Future)

It works with all of the major video conferencing apps too, including Zoom, Google Meet and Skype and Microsoft Teams, plus you can use it for the likes of Twitch via the free Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). 

For detailed instructions on how to install the software and set up your GoPro as a webcam, head to the official instructions 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.

How to use a Nikon camera as webcam

(Image credit: Nikon)

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.

Software setup

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.

Sound effects

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.