If you’ve been in a lot of video conference meetings, or you live stream regularly, you’ve probably realized that the webcam mounted inside your laptop has poor image quality. If you want better video for your live streams, video chats, and webinars, then you need a better camera. Rather than buying a new webcam, why not turn the DSLR camera you already have into a webcam?

Since the 2020 pandemic and the soaring numbers of live streamers and video conference meetings that resulted, it’s become easier than ever to use your DSLR as a webcam. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the various options for setting up your DSLR camera as a webcam.

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What is the difference between DSLR and web cameras?

Before we dive into how to use a DSLR camera as a webcam, you should know the difference between the two. DSLR stands for “digital single-lens reflex,” and it’s a common type of digital camera. It combines the mechanisms of a single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor.

A web camera or webcam is a video camera that records or streams video in real time over the internet. They are less powerful than DSLR cameras and much smaller, usually sitting on a desk, attached to the top of a computer monitor, or built into laptops.

Although webcams are smaller and less powerful than DSLR cameras, they are less expensive. DSLR cameras also must be recharged when their batteries die down, whereas webcams are powered by the laptop or computer they’re plugged or built into.

Webcams are popular among live streamers, and there are high-quality webcams available that will enhance the quality of your live video. However, if you want even better quality or already own a DSLR camera and don’t want to buy a new webcam, then a DSLR camera is an excellent choice.

Why would you use a DSLR camera instead of a webcam?

Some use cases for DSLR cameras as webcams include:

  • Live streaming: You can easily use a DSLR camera as a source with your favorite live streaming software. A DSLR also enhances the video quality, enticing more viewers to watch your stream.
  • VOD content creation: For prerecorded videos and VOD content, a DSLR camera is easy to use and gives your videos a professional look.
  • Video conferencing: If you’re in a lot of meetings or find yourself presenting webinars often, it would be worthwhile to use a DSLR instead of a webcam, so the mediocre quality of your video doesn’t distract from your presentation.
  • Taking photos: If you use your webcam to take profile photos or selfies, swap out your DSLR instead. Webcams aren’t meant to capture photos, but DSLR cameras are. You’ll end up with a high-quality, professional photo you can use on your social media profiles, including LinkedIn.

What do you need to use a DSLR as a webcam?

There are three ways to set up a DSLR as a webcam. One involves the camera manufacturer’s software, one requires a capture card, and the last one uses broadcasting software.

1. USB connection

Several camera manufacturers, such as Panasonic, Canon, and Sony, have developed software that allows you to use their DSLR cameras for live video chatting and streaming on your computer. For this method, all you need is the USB cable that came with your camera and the software. Several brands have their own software available to download:

To use the manufacturer’s DSLR webcam software, download the software and follow the instructions for calibrating the settings. Note that for each software, only certain models of cameras are supported.

If the Canon, Fujifilm, Sony, or Panasonic webcam apps don’t work with your camera, you can try a webcam app such as Ecamm Live. All it takes is connecting your camera to your computer via USB cable. Once you have the webcam software up and running, you can change the camera settings.

2. HDMI connection

A second option is connecting your camera to a capture card. Before 2020 made all of us more concerned about webcam software, this method was the number-one way live streamers turned DSLRs into webcams. A capture card takes the video your DSLR records and converts it for digital streaming.

To set it up, connect your DSLR camera to your capture card with an HDMI cable. Then, stick the USB end of your capture card into your computer. If you’re planning to use a video conferencing tool with this setup, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, then you don’t need to download any other software.

3. Broadcast software

If you’re planning to live stream with your DSLR camera, you’ll need broadcasting software such as OBS or Restream. You’ll use the HDMI and capture card method above, then download your broadcasting software and add your DSLR camera as a source.

When you connect your DSLR camera to Restream Studio, you can customize how the video appears to your viewers. Restream easily lets you add overlays, graphics, and backgrounds to your live stream. In addition to camera settings, there’s a centralized chat hub where you can see messages from across multiple live streaming platforms. You can also bring guests onto your live show by simply sending them a link.

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How to get the best quality with a DSLR camera as a webcam

A DSLR camera usually has better video quality than a webcam, but you can enhance your live stream or video chat even more with a few simple tips.

1. Use accessories for better image quality

A few accessories will make your DSLR camera much easier to use as a webcam. A tripod can keep it steady and at the correct height throughout your live session or conference call.

When it comes to live video, never underestimate lighting. Just one light strategically placed behind your camera can add so much depth to your video quality that you’ll look like a professional. Read our video lighting guide to learn more about lighting and why you need it.

Another accessory that could make a difference to the image quality of your live stream is an ethernet cable. When live streaming, connect to the internet with an ethernet cable rather than over Wi-Fi. The connection will be faster and create a smoother viewing experience.

2. Use an external microphone

The internal microphone on your DSLR camera is probably better than the internal microphone on your laptop, but an external mic is better than both of them. Visual quality is important, but if the sound on your live stream or video call is scratchy, nobody will want to keep listening to you. Check out our guides to the top streaming microphones and top lavalier mics for streaming to learn more about external microphones.

3. Mute your microphone when you are not speaking

If you’ve been in several video conferences, you’ve learned proper video conferencing etiquette by now and know to mute your microphone when you’re not speaking. “You’re on mute” was probably the most used phrase of 2020. When you mute yourself, the others on your call won’t hear any random background noise coming from your end, and your abrupt sneeze won’t disrupt the meeting.

4. Check audio levels on your computer

The layout of the room you’re in can affect the sound quality of your live stream or video call. Rooms with hard flooring and not much furniture create an echo. To make your audio more precise, check the audio levels on your computer, and always run a few tests before live streaming or starting a conference call.

Let’s wrap up

Swapping out your webcam for a DSLR camera is easy if you have the right tools and software. It can also enhance the quality of your live streams and video calls. Once you start using a DSLR camera for live streaming, you’ll never want to switch back to a webcam!